Tuesday found me with another free and husband-less day to fill, so I decided that I would stick closer to our hotel and check out the Het Loo palace, which is just around the corner. I was very glad to have access to this attraction and as I went through the exhibits and grounds, I thought about how this is a perfect place to go as a solo traveler and also as a family with children. The Het Loo Palace is an attraction that everyone can enjoy.
Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your visit there:
- Mid-April is the beginning of tourist high-season and I needed to duck around tour groups of retired people in order to read materials posted.
- The opening times are 10–17, but the east wing of the palace does not open until 13.
- The entrance fee is €14,50 and I believe it is well worth it.
- The garden and park are breathtaking, so I’d recommend going there when the weather is great and the grounds are open, usually April-October.
After buying my ticket, I enjoyed walking through the old stables and seeing the many versions of sleighs and cars that are stored there. Next to the stables, there is a self-service cafe where I enjoyed a delicious pain au chocolat with a decaf coffee. It was a beautiful Spring day, so finding opportunities to stay outside was one of my goals. I enjoyed my late breakfast on the terrace.
By 11:30 I made my way to the main palace, but knew I wouldn’t be able to see the Easy Wing, featuring all of the rooms the royal family had lived in, until 1300 (that’s 1pm). I was very pleasantly surprised by a visiting exhibit in the West Wing about Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, also known as “Sisi.” Her story is amazing, dramatic and very tragic and has been romanticized by two very popular films named Sisi. As I was walking around, I got the sense that a lot of Europeans know about her, but she is a public figure I some how missed in my history classes in the United States. As I went through the exhibit, it was hard not to fall into some state of interested intrigue, because her life had all of the components of a romantic drama, enough to put modern reality TV to shame. She was engaged by 15 years old, thrust into royal city life in Vienna with a mean mother-in-law, her first daughter died at the age of two, she was obsessed with sports and maintaining her figure, her hair fell to her ankles, and she loved travel and wrote poems. Her son, the crowned prince, killed both his mistress and himself in 1889, and she never recovered. Unfortunately, she was brutally murdered by an Italian anarchist in 1898 as she was stabbed in the heart while walking along Lake Geneva. Drew and I found this to be ironic, since we spent the weekend in the same area where she died, not even understanding the connection. Photography wasn’t allowed in that exhibit, but I will mentally remember the gorgeous replicas of her jewels forever. I think the U.S. Film industry needs to get on this story, because it had all of the things a great story needs to be a successful movie!
By the time I was finished with the Sisi exhibit, it was lunch time. I made my way onto the terrace and enjoyed sitting in the sun as I ate a delicious smoked salmon salad. Prices in both the self-service cafe and the restaurant were very reasonable, especially considering that we came from Switzerland, where breakfast is at least $20!
It was now time to get on to the East Wing, where you can still read about and see the lavishly decorated rooms of Willem III and Mary II, Willem IV and Anne, Willem V and Wilhelmina, King Willem I and Wilhelmina, King Willem II and Sophie. As you can see, there’s lots of history here! This is one of the most fascinating castle-museums I’ve visited because all of the time periods collide from room to room. You could begin your tour with a few rooms from the 17th century, then move five rooms later to the 18th century, back to the 17th again before moving on to the 18th and 19th centuries. You can even walk through examples of 20th century rooms amidst it all, and you’ll see Queen Wilhelmina’s bathroom as an example of 20the century architecture! As a result, keeping all of the time periods and families and events sorted in your mind will be a challenge, but I kind of just tried to nod through everything. It was the most interesting castle tour I’ve been on in that respect; it shows change over time, something you can’t always observe.
On to my favorite portion of my visit: the gardens and park. The gardens are simply stunning and it would be an absolute shame to miss them, which is why I’d recommend going there in the spring or summer. You can see a resemblance to Versailles as you walk in the garden, with fountains and embroidery-like patterns in the flower beds. You could easily stay to enjoy this wide expanse, but there is a large park behind the garden that is a gem and would be a shame to miss. This park features a more wild atmosphere and is very peaceful to walk through. You can observe geese and ducks as you stroll near the large pond. If you’re traveling with young children, this would be a great place to let them run around to let off some steam (and hopefully tire out before a nap time).
Het Loo Palace could be a whole or half day trip depending on your stamina. I am now convinced that this attraction should be “on the radar”, and if you’re ever in Apeldoorn, it should be on your list!