Hilversum is a medium-sized city in the Gooi area of North Holland, the Netherlands. Once called the Garden of Amsterdam, most travellers still come over to cycle and hike through the surrounding forests and heathland. The city is also known for its modern architecture, with Dudok's Hilversum Town Hall being the most significant design. For Dutch people, Hilversum became synonymous with the Dutch media industry.
Unlike most of the Netherlands, Hilversum is actually in a hilly area on sand soil. The town is between the major cities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, and most travellers visit it as a relaxing day off from the urban mayhem. The forests, lakes and heathland surrounding the town can best be explored by bicycle or on foot. Most of these lands are property of the Goois Natuurreservaat Foundation (GNR), a non-profit organisation dedicated to protecting the nature reserves. Another goal is to connect nature reserves that have been separated by motorways and other human-made structures. For this end, the wildlife crossing Zanderij Crailo was completed in 2006, and it is currently the largest wildlife crossing in the world. It connects the Spanderswoud and the Bussumerheide, and is part of a larger programme to connect nature reserves from the Utrechtse Heuvelrug to Naarden.
The city itself is also green and breezy with trees pretty much everywhere. A total of 660 different types of trees to be exact, the largest variety of species in the Netherlands. Typical for the city is the way forests and city building naturally blend into each other. Hilversum is called a villadorp (villa village) because of its many villas with large surrounding gardens. The botanical garden Pinetum Blijdenstein is the most remarkable one with an enormous collection of rare and endangered trees and plants, some of which are exotic. It is home to one of the most complete collections of conifers in the world. Hilversum is nationally known as the media city, and goes by its nickname Hillywood. It is home to the country's broadcasting industry and has the two largest television studios in Europe within its borders. Many Dutch celebrities moved into the area, and their decadent daily lives are often a topic of national interest.
Hilversum is one of the firstly inhabited areas of the Netherlands, as shown by earthenware from the early to mid-Bronze Age (1800-1200 BCE). This prehistoric civilisation is called Hilversum culture and is characterised by the use of barrow cemeteries. The urns show similarities with the Wessex culture of Southern Britain, where the population might have migrated from. This people lived in the area from Hilversum to northern Belgium and spoke an Indo-European language of unknown origin, not related to the Germanic language spoken today. In the early Middle Ages, Hilversum was an agricultural area. Around 900, the first bricks were laid, but no official mention of Hilversum was made until 1305. Then called Hilfersheem, ethymologists explain the name of Hilversum to derive from Hilvertshem, which means 'houses between the hills'. First the town was a part of Naarden, which is also worth a visit for its medieval remains, but it received an official independent status in 1424. Daily life was characterised by farming, raising sheep and wool manufacturing.
Economic growth came in the 17th century when Holland became one of the richest trading nations in Europe. Canals were built to indirectly link Hilversum with Amsterdam, though fires in 1725 and 1766 destroyed most of the town. A railway link to Amsterdam in 1874 aided a substantial textile and tapestry industry. Rich traders from Amsterdam built themselves large villas in the wooded surroundings of Hilversum, that still characterise the town. Many of these wealthy families were Catholics, giving Hilversum a relatively Catholic demographic (compared to the Protestant surroundings). As Hilversum never got city rights, locals still refer to the town centre as het dorp ("the village"). In the early 1900s, modern architects W.M. Dudok and J. Duiker from the New Objectivity School placed many remarkable buildings here (and even entire neighbourhoods). Dudok's masterpiece, the Hilversum Town Hall from 1931, features in many architecture textbooks. The transition to a media economy started in 1920, when the Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek (NSF) established a radio factory. Many radio broadcasting organisations settled in the large villas in the leafy areas of the town. The textile industry had by then declined and the last factory closed in the 1960s. Television gave a renewed boost to the local economy and the number of inhabitants grew to 103,000 in 1964. Hilversum became the media capital of the Netherlands, and Dutch television celebrities moved in the leafy neighbourhoods surrounding the town centre. Hilvertshof was opened in 1973, when it was the first shopping centre of the Netherlands.
In the next decades, there was a decline in the number of inhabitants till an all-time low of 80,000 in 1999. The renovation of the Town Hall, which took place during 1989-1996, almost plunged the municipality of Hilversum into bankruptcy. It took five years to restore the building to its original state, and it was much more costly than originally anticipated. There is a permanent exposition about this renovation in the Dudok Dependance at the Hilversum Town Hall. The decline was further caused by suburbanisation, the economic downturn, smaller households, and the inability to expand as the town is surrounded by protected nature areas. As of the 2000s, there has been a renewed interest in Hilversum. With financial issues a matter of history, many new infrastructure projects and parks have been built. Its main train station has expanded from 3 to 5 tracks and regained Intercity status. Urbanisation has made Hilversum an attractive target for yuppies, who appreciate the town's new hip bars and boutiques, and its image as a green and affluent media town. Nowadays, Hilversum scores highly on national "best town to live in" polls.
- VVV Hilversum, Kerkbrink 6, ☎ . M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 12:00-17:00. Visit the tourist office if you have plans for biking or hiking as plenty of useful maps for the area are on sale. It's not necessary to understand Dutch as the routes are clearly marked. They also have other leaflets available, either free or for a few euros.
Because of the central location of its train station, Hilversum can best be reached by the NS railway service. Trains run roughly every 15 minutes between 05:00 and 01:00 to and from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Utrecht, Amersfoort and Almere. The smaller train stations Hilversum Media Park and Hilversum Sportpark are within walking distance of the main train station.
Every day, six international trains to and from Berlin and Hanover stop in Hilversum. You can reserve seats at NS International. This is not required, but can be advised as prices are lower and rush hours can be crowded.
Hilversum can be reached by motorways A1, A2 and A27. From the northwest and east (Amsterdam and Amersfoort), take A1 exit 9 at Laren, drive south on N525 and follow the signs. From the west (Schiphol Airport and Leiden), get on motorway A2 and take exit 4 at Vinkeveen. From there, drive east on N201. From the north and south (Almere and Utrecht), take motorway A27 and exit 33.
The provincial roads can be used to get to Hilversum as well. By driving on these smaller roads, you see more of the forests and rural areas around the town. N524 is a ride through the Spanderswoud from Bussum in the north. Two other forest rides are N525 from Laren in the northeast and N415 from Baarn in the east. From the south, the rural road N417 makes its way through farm fields and villages. N201 from Vinkeveen in the west goes through flat farmlands as well.
Hilversum Airport is the town's airport in the southwest. It's only used for recreational flying and training purposes. The closest international airport is Schiphol Airport. From 06:00 till 00:00, a train leaves for Hilversum every 15 minutes from platform 3. The journey takes about 30 minutes with the direct Intercity train. The Sprinter train takes about 45 minutes and a transfer at the Weesp train station is required. You can also come to Hilversum from airports in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, but expect train journeys to be 1.5 to 2 hours.
As nearly all stores, restaurants and bars are in the centre, walking is a good way to get around Hilversum. From the main train station, it's a short walk through the Leeuwenstraat to the centre and most of the attractions. The streets in the centre are pretty much free of cars and bicycles, except for the Groest on which bicycles and a limited number of cars are allowed.
If you want to see more of the city than just the inner city core, cycling is the way to go. Hilversum is very safe to explore by bike, as all arterial roads have designated bike lanes, which can be recognised by their reddish-purple appearance. Bikers should follow the red and white signs for directions. Bicycles can be rented for €3.15 per day at all three train stations.
- OV-fiets Hilversum, Stationsplein 1 (at the main train station). M-Th 04:45-01:50, F 04:45-02:45, Sa 04:45-02:50, Su 04:45-01:50. €3.15 per day.
- OV-fiets Media Park Infocentrum, Sumatralaan 45 (opposite the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision). M-F 08:30-16:30. €3.15 per day.
- OV-fiets Media Park Noordzijde, Leen Jongewaardweg (close to Parkeerterrein C between NOS and RTL). 24 hours daily. €3.15 per day.
- OV-fiets Sportpark, Soestdijkerstraatweg 33 (at train station Hilversum Sportpark). M-F 09:30-22.00, Sa Su 11:00-22:00. €3.15 per day.
Connexxion offers bus connections from Hilversum's main train station to the surroundings. You can plan your trip door-to-door using 9292.nl, though results vary. Especially in the evening, buses run infrequently and, for close destinations, walking is often faster than waiting for the bus to arrive. Bus transportation can best be used if you want to visit sights in the outskirts or in the surrounding villages. Fares are €3 for city trips, €5 for regional trips. Having an OV-chipkaart saves money.
The road network of Hilversum used to be a nightmare, and still is difficult to navigate through with its one-way roads, traffic congestion and limited parking space. Roads and directions often change, which make old maps unreliable. The roads operate in a double ring system. The outer ring around the city has two-way traffic, while the inner ring around the centre only has one-way traffic. If you miss an exit, you will have to drive around the whole inner ring again for a second try.
Free parking options are available between the inner and the outer ring, but it's a 10 to 15 minutes walk to the centre. The closest free parking area can be found at the Wandelpad between the main train station and train station Hilversum Sportpark. Be careful not to leave any valuables behind in this area. Parking at the parking lots is more convenient. Signs along the inner ring display which of the following parking lots have space available:
- City Parking, Noordse Bosje 19-21, ☎ . M-Th 08:00-22:30, F 08:00-19:30, Sa 08:00-18:00. €1 per 30 minutes, €9.50 for a full day.
- Parkeergarage Gooiland, Koningshof 1, ☎ . 24 hours daily. €0.10 per 3 minutes, €8 for a full day.
- Parkeergarage Gooische Brink, Brinkweg 1. 24 hours daily. €1 per 30 minutes, €8 for a full day.
- Q-Park Hilvertshof, Groest 86, ☎ 0900-4466880. 24 hours daily. €2 per hour, €20 for a full day.
- Q-Park Silverpoint, Schapenkamp 12, ☎ 0900-4466880. M-W 07:00-19:00, Th F 07:00-21:30, Sa Su 07:00-18:00. €1 per 24 minutes, €19 for a full day.
There is one car rental agency in Hilversum:
- Europcar, Stationsstraat 2c, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M-F 08:00-18:00, Sa 08:00-12:00, Su 09:00-11:00. €45-190 per day.
Like elsewhere in the country, taxis in Hilversum carry a hefty price tag. The first 2 km will be around €7.50 with each additional kilometre €2.20. A 10-minute ride from the centre to the outskirts is around €14. Longer distances are more dramatic, a 35-minute ride to or from Schiphol Airport costs around €85. Taxis are generally available at the main train station and at night around the Groest. If you are elsewhere in the town, you will need to call the taxi company to pick you up. There are two taxi companies operating in Hilversum, which generally only accept cash:
- A.C.H. Taxi, ☎ .
- R.R. Taxi, ☎ .
Willem Marinus Dudok
With a total of 75 designs in Hilversum alone, Dudok is the only Dutch architect to put such a personal stamp on one particular town. Hilversum has been called his life's work. In 1905 he started his career in the Dutch army, but he spent most of his spare time designing buildings. When Dudok became director of Public Works in Hilversum in 1915, he started designing hundreds of buildings and even entire neighbourhoods. His job was his only passion and every detail was carefully thought through. At first Dudok followed the rational style of Hendrik Berlage, but later designs show a distinct mix of styles with influences from Frank Lloyd Wright.
There are many modern architectural masterpieces in Hilversum, but finding these buildings scattered across the town can be a frustrating experience. The modern architect W.M. Dudok shaped most of 20th century Hilversum and approximately 75 buildings still bear his stamp. Dudok's distinctive mix of styles is heavily influenced by the New Objectivity style, a radical movement in urban architecture in the Netherlands, Germany and France in the period 1915-1960. The best way to explore Dudok's designs is by walking or biking the W.M. Dudok Architectural Route, as explained in the Do-section. Start your journey in the world of modern architecture with his masterpiece, the Hilversum Town Hall.
- Costerustuin, Zonnelaan 4z, ☎ . During daylight. As early as the 1920s, biology scholar Jan Costerus wanted to educate the public about native flora found in Het Gooi and the surrounding area. He founded Hilversum's first educational garden in 1920, and it moved to its current location in 1930. Unlike most gardens, plants are not arranged aesthetically or by flowering season, but by family, on the basis of the Eichler plant taxonomy system. About 1200 wild plants, flowers and trees from all over the Gooi area and its vicinity are on display with name tags.
- Hilversum Town Hall (Raadhuis Hilversum), Dudokpark 1, ☎ . F Su 13:00-15:30. This is unquestionably Dudok's masterpiece. Built in 1928-1931, this building has wide international fame and features in many architecture textbooks. The building has a remarkable shape and feels like a combination of 'blocks'. It's built with specifically designed yellow bricks that have a slightly different size than traditional ones. Dudok is also responsible for the interior, the furniture, the decorations and even the font used. If open, visit the Dudok Dependance, a permanent overview of Dudok's life and work organised by Museum Hilversum. Every Friday and Sunday at 13:30, there is a guided tour through the building for €8.50. You can just show up, you don't need to register beforehand. The tour takes 90 minutes and is given in Dutch, but the guide will also talk in English upon request. It gives you the chance to view some of the rooms that are closed to the public, such as the marriage room and the mayor room. If the weather allows it, you will climb the 46 m tower for an overview of Hilversum and the surrounding area. There are special arrangements possible for groups. For bookings, call the listed phone number or inquire at the Museum Hilversum.
- Landgoed Zonnestraal, Loosdrechtse Bos 17 (bus 104 to Zonnestraal), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Zonnestraal is one of Duiker's architectural marvels, and among the best examples of the New Objectivity style. The estate was submitted to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, and is currently on the tentative list. Zonnestraal was built as a tuberculosis sanatorium in the 1920s and 1930s. It consists of one large main building, two smaller pavilions and some additional buildings that were added later. The buildings are made of concrete and glass, in the colours white, black and a specific kind of light-blue called 'Duiker blue'. Start at Brasserie Zonnestraal (Loosdrechtse Bos 15, +31 35 538-5402), buy the walking guide there for €5 and follow the 4,5 km walking trail around the estate. If you want to see the interior of the building, you can only do so by taking the guided tour that is given every last Sunday of the month. You need to register for the tour beforehand by calling the listed phone number or by sending an e-mail. The tour starts at Brasserie Zonnestraal at 12:00 and 14:00, and costs €8, to be paid in cash to the tour guide. The tour takes 90 minutes.
- Museum Hilversum, Kerkbrink 6, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. F-W 11:00-17:00, Th 11:00-21:00. Now home to Museum Hilversum and the tourist office, the building used to function as Hilversum's town hall in the period 1881-1931. It's a typical 19th-century building in neo-renaissance style. The museum's permanent collection is about the history of Hilversum after 1850. They also have temporary exhibitions, usually about photography, modern architecture or the cultural history of the Gooi area. €5, free entry on Wednesdays.
- Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid), Media Parkboulevard 1 (bus 107 to Beeld en Geluid or train to Hilversum Media Park), ☎ . Tu Su 10:00-17:30. An architectural marvel. Designed by Jaap Drupsteen and completed in 2006, this block-shaped building became an instant landmark and won the Dutch Golden Pyramid award for its architectural significance. Don't be fooled by its size: it's actually twice as massive, as half of the building is underground! A century of Dutch television, film and radio archives are stored in the underground vault, to be protected for future generations. The glass windows depict important moments in Dutch television history. You can walk inside and have a cup of coffee at the restaurant. It is also home to an interactive museum with a display of Dutch audiovisual archives in 15 different theme zones. However, you must have a profound interest in the Dutch cultural heritage to be able to enjoy that as a foreigner. Adults €15, children 6-12 €8.
- Pinetum Blijdenstein, Van der Lindenlaan 125 (bus 105 to Trompenbergerweg), ☎ . 1 Nov-31 Mar M-F 09:00-16:00, 1 Apr-31 Oct M-F 09:00-16:00, Sa Su hols 12:00-16:30. The Pinetum is a botanical garden founded by B.W. Blijdenstein in 1911. It is famous around the world among those knowledgeable on the subject. The Pinetum has one of the world's most important conifer collections, with many species rare and endangered in the wild. Besides conifers, there are gatherings of cycads, palms, ephedras, Tasmanian flora and rhododendrons. A notable tree is the sequoia sempervirens, the largest tree in the world. Get a map at the visitor's centre and walk along the advised path. €2.50, free entry on Wednesdays.
- Zanderij Crailo. Zanderij Crailo is the largest wildlife crossing in the world. Construction started in December 2002 and it was officially opened by Queen Beatrix in 2006, costing approximately 15 million euro. With 800 metres in length and 50 metres in width, it connects the Spanderswoud in the west with the Bussumerheide in the east. It is a remarkable engineering feat, as it crosses over a railway, a road, a train maintenance area and a sport park. By connecting the forests of the Gooi area and the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the crossing created the second largest connected nature area in the Netherlands, strengthening biodiversity in the region.
- Boombergpark, Boomberglaan 57. Between 1831 and 1841, painter Jan van Ravenswaay bought several farmlands west of Hilversum with financial support from friends in Amsterdam. Together with his cousin and hiking partner, the notary Albertus Perk, he created a leafy hiking trail from Hilversum to the forest area in the west. In 1848, the area of the trail was transferred to the municipality of Hilversum. It was one of the first public walking trails outside a town's built-up area. In the late 19th century, the Boombergwijk was constructed, and since then the trail is inside the town's built-up area. The Boombergwijk is among the wealthiest neighbourhoods of town with beautiful free-standing villas. Since 2006, the Boombergwijk, together with Trompenberg, has been declared a protected cityscape by the Ministry of Housing and the Environment. The park starts at the Rosarium, a rose garden with a monument dedicated to the victims of World War II, designed by V.P.S. Esser. The Boombergpark is best visited as a part of the Peerlkamproute hiking trail.
- Laapersveld, Laapersweg 1 (train station Hilversum Sportpark). The Laapersveld was created in 1919 as a public works project. The sand extracted to create the pond has been used for its hilly terrain. The park is designed by W.M. Dudok and J.H. Meijer. Dudok's influence is most clearly seen in the design of the pumping station, which is in Amsterdam School style. It was used to drain rain and sewer water into the pond and from there to the Oude Haven. The park has a calm ambiance. You can relax, feed the geese or work out.
- Grote Kerk, Kerkbrink 4, ☎ . The medieval tower of this church is the oldest remaining structure in Hilversum, as it originates from 1481. The base of the church was built in 1891 in neo-renaissance style. It has been a victim of fires a number of times. The last fire was in 1971, after which the church was completely restored. It can only be entered during religious ceremonies.
- Oudkatholieke kerk, Melkpad 12, ☎ . This church was built in 1889 from a design by architect Weeldenburg. Its front is in a neo-baroque style with a dome on top. The interior features stained glass windows and painted panels. It can only be visited on Wednesdays during summer holidays, between 12:00 and 14:00.
- Regenboogkerk, Nassaulaan 22, ☎ . Although a church, it doesn't remotely look like one from the outside. It's a huge grey block made of glass, designed in 2000 by architects Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos, who were also responsible for the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam. Glass was used so the inside and the outside of the building don't feel separated, and the inside retains its intimate atmosphere during religious ceremonies.
- Sint-Vituskerk, Emmastraat 5-7, ☎ . Completed in 1892, this Roman Catholic church devoted to Saint Vitus is one of the last works of P.J.H. Cuypers. It's one of the few buildings not touched by the modern architecture wave of the 1920s and kept its neogothic style. With a height of 98 metres, it is the tallest neogothic tower in the Netherlands. The previous church on this location, also called Sint-Vituskerk, did not have enough space for important ceremonies. The new church has a maximum capacity of 1800 people. Its acoustic quality has been praised and it was often used as a studio for television shows.
Once called the Garden of Amsterdam, most tourists come to Hilversum for a relaxing day off from the hectic city. The best way to spend your time is by hiking or biking in the forests and heathlands surrounding the city.
Forests and heathlands
- Anna's Hoeve is a hilly area between Hilversum and Baarn offering forests, ponds, heathland and grassy areas. It is currently in a process of reconstruction, but is still accessible for the public. The lakes and hills are created by large masses of unemployed people in the Great Depression, as the municipality of Hilversum tried to combat the high levels of unemployment at that time. If you're up for it, go on to Baarn or the Soestdijk Palace.
- Bussumerheide, Westerheide and Zuiderheide are heathlands in the north of Hilversum. The remains of a prehistoric civilization called Hilversum Culture come from this area. Clearly visible in the landscape are the 3000 to 4000 year old burial mounds. The Aardjesberg, formed in the penultimate ice age, can be recognised by a group of trees. In the last ice age, the Netherlands probably was an arctic tundra. Remains of a levallois arrow have been found here, which were probably used by Neanderthals for mammoth hunting. Consider continuing your way to Laren.
- Corversbos, the closest forest on the west side of town. It's a bit bland and plenty of high school pupils use it as a shortcut to school. It was created after World War II with conifer trees and robinia flowers, which were widely available back then. Interesting is a beekeeper place from the 19th century, where you can see 40 to 60 beehives and the beekeepers' tools. You might come across buzzards, green woodpeckers, goshawks and tawny owls. Easy to combine with Gooilust or the Pinetum Blijdensteijn.
- Hilversums Wasmeer is a forested lake with interesting fauna. During warm days, insects from the odanata order can be seen, like dragon flies and damselflies. There are plenty of birds, like hobbies (falcons), as well as coots, tufted ducks, pochards, shelducks, and, if lucky, eared grebes and little grebes. From the south east side, you can have a great view on the lake.
- Hoorneboegse Heide is a heath that makes up for most of the south. Its slightly sloping landschape was formed in the penultimate ice age 150,000 years ago. The estate (and conference centre) Hoorneboeg is located on a hill and gives great vistas over the heath. Sundays is a great day to head through the Maartensdijkse Bos to Lage Vuursche for traditional Dutch pancakes. Further options are the artificial lakes and dykes in Loosdrecht and Loenen.
- Laarder Wasmeer (Laarder Waschmeer) is a protected area and can only be partly accessed (in a guided tour, see the Do section). It has a combination of lakes, groups of trees and limited sand storms. There are plans to open larger parts of the area to the public in the future.
- Spanderswoud is an interesting forest on the north side of town. Authorities have not interfered in natural processes of the forest since the 1980s, which make it more authentic. Several summer residences are at the west side of it, while Trompenberg, one of the wealthiest and leafy neighbourhoods of the country, is at the south side. You can continue to the Bussumerheide, Westerheide and Zuiderheide by taking the Wildlife Crossing Zanderij Crailo, the largest wildlife crossing in the world.
If you want to explore these areas, first head over to the tourist office for some quality maps. It can be found at the Kerkbrink, which also happens to be the beginning point for most hiking and biking routes.
If you want to go hiking, buy a map of a particular hike you are interested in for around €1.50 at the tourist office. You can always ask the staff for help, or let them choose a particular hike for you. There are plenty of hiking trails available through Hilversum or its surroundings:
- W.M. Dudok Architectural Route — 10 km; 3 hours. The best way to explore Dudok's highlights is by taking this route. It is just a couple of hours and shows some important buildings of the famous architect. Instead of re-doing everything here, be sure to take a look at the brochure , print it and bring it with you during the route. White signs showing 'Dudok' show the way, but keep in mind that the route of the signs is slightly different from the route of the brochure. The route starts at Hilversum Town Hall. If open, visit the Dudok Dependence for an overview of Dudok's life and work. Then start the route, which shows the following buildings in this order: Multatuli School, Snellius School, Rembrandt School, Fabritius School, Bosdrift, Geranium School and Bathhouse. Other buildings are listed as optional in the brochure. They are just as interesting, but are located slightly further away. They are best visited separately by bike: Northern Cemetery, Laapersveld Pumping Station, Wildschut Sports Pavilion, Grandstand and Zuiderhof Cemetery.
- Corversbos Route — 5 km; 1 hour. Probably the easiest route, and even accessible for wheel chairs. Signs show the way, you will see a 19th-century place with beehives.
- Goois Natuurreservaat Hiking Trail — 25 km; 6 hours. This trail is basically a large circle around the entire town. It was designed in 1938 as going through forests and heath only, but as Hilversum expanded, it also goes through a limited amount of urban areas. More information in the guidebook Voetstappenpad, available for €1.60 at the tourist office.
- Laarder Wasmeer Guided Tour — 5 km; 2 hours. Probably the only way to access the protected area of Laarder Wasmeer. It's organised every first Sunday of the month at 10AM. It starts at the Meerweg and will take you to lakes, limited sandstorms and an old bird hut for birdwatching.
- Peerlkamp Route — 7 km; 2 hours. This trail is steeper and thus slightly more challenging. It's a hilly route through Hilversum itself and combines parks, gardens and the Corversbos. If you want, you can walk back to the centre through the Old Harbour Park.
For cycling, the easiest map is the Toeristische Fietsroutekaart Gooi en Vechtstreek eo (Touristic Biking Route Map Gooi and Vecht Region and Surroundings) for €4. It covers 4 cycling routes through Hilversum and the Gooi area. Unfortunately, the map misses out on the popular towns Baarn and Lage Vuursche, as they are not a part of North-Holland. Another map is the Utrechtse Heuvelrug en Vechtse Plassen (Utrecht Hill Ridge and Vecht en Plassen) map for €8, which features a wider area, but does not include any pre-made routes, so you have to make your own route (most locals do this, it can easily be done with a little research). Of course you can get both maps if you want to be well-prepared. Both are in Dutch and in English, and the routes are clearly marked. Just as with hiking, you can also ask the staff for advice, as they have dozens of different maps for sale. Most biking routes do not just feature Hilversum, but also include many other villages in the Gooi en Vechtstreek:
- Lage Vuursche Royal Cycle Route. Royal palaces and pancakes in the woods. Distance: 20 km. Also suitable for children.
- Gooi Richness Route (Gooise Rijkdomroute) — 33 km; 3 hours. Start cycling at the Kerkbrink in the centre of Hilversum. You will cycle through heathland to Blaricum and Laren, two of the wealthiest villages of the Netherlands with plenty of villas, wealthy society, expensive cars, expensive brands and the like. Then cycle over the wildlife crossing Zanderij Crailo to Spanderswoud, and go on to 's-Graveland with plenty of expensive summer residences from the Dutch Golden Age (such as Gooilust with an impressive garden). Then go back to Hilversum via the Corversbos forest. The route is featured in the Toeristische Fietsroutekaart Gooi en Vechtstreek eo.
- Lakes Route (Plassenroute) — 41 km; 4 hours. This route shows artificial lakes, most of them created through the extraction of peat for fuel. From Hilversum, cycle through the Corversbos and Kortenhoef on to Vreeland, passing the Loosdrecht Lakes (Loosdrechtse plassen). Cycle north along the Vecht to Nigtevecht and on to the historic centre of Weesp. The route further extends south through the Ankeveen Lakes (Ankeveense plassen), and from there head back to Hilversum. The route is featured in the Toeristische Fietsroutekaart Gooi en Vechtstreek eo, though this one is slightly modified.
- Royal Route (Koninklijke route) — 25 km; 3 hours. The 'royal' route goes through forestland and shows the Soestdijk Palace, the former residence of Queen Juliana. The route also passes Queen Beatrix' castle Drakensteyn, but unfortunately it cannot be seen as it is not open to the public. Start in Hilversum and cycle east, passing the Laarder Wasmeer and Anna's Hoeve, to the wealthy town Baarn. Then cycle south to the Soestdijk Palace, and from there, west to Lage Vuursche through the castle Drakensteyn area. Eat a pancake in one of the quality restaurants, and go west, pass the A27 motorway and make your way back to Hilversum through the Hoorneboegse Heide. This is a custom route not featured in any guide, but you can plan it yourself with the Utrechtse Heuvelrug en Vechtse Plassen map.
- Villages Route (Dorpenroute) — 30 km; 3 hours. This route shows forests, heathland and the traditional villages Laren and Lage Vuursche. It starts in Hilversum and goes through Corversbos, Spanderswoud, wildlife crossing Zanderij Crailoo and the Westerheide to Laren. Laren is one of the wealthiest villages of the Netherlands, with large villas and high society passing by. From there, cycle on through Zuiderheide to Lage Vuursche, which is a popular village among cyclists for its quality pancake restaurants. Then head your way to Hilversum through the Hoorneboegse Heide, passing over the A27 motorway. This is a custom route not featured in any guide, but you can plan it yourself with the Utrechtse Heuvelrug en Vechtse Plassen map.
When cycling in the outlying forests and heathlands, follow the mushroom-shaped signs for directions. In 1919, the first mushroom-shaped sign was placed in the forest between Hilversum and Baarn, but now they are placed in nature areas all over the country. Also bring some food and drinks with you, especially when it's warm, as there are no restaurants or coffee houses in protected nature areas.
- De Vorstin, Koninginneweg 44, ☎ . W Th Su 16:00-01:00, F Sa 16:00-04:00. When De Vorstin opened in September 2010, it became an instant fan favourite. A strikingly modern interior, lively ambiance and acclaimed acoustics make it worthwhile to catch a live concert here. With a variable schedule, it's best to check the website for upcoming performances and times. While it's usually possible to book tickets at the door, tickets are more expensive and might be sold out, so it's better order in advance. Because of the acoustics, it regularly hosts televised singing competitions, such as the original first season of "The Voice of Holland", a television programme that originated in Hilversum and subsequently became popular in other countries. Free entry, €7.50-22.50 on special events.
- Filmtheater Hilversum, Herenplein 5, ☎ . 13:00-00:00 daily. The local art house cinema with European and international film productions. English language films are subtitled in Dutch, not dubbed, so can be watched by English speakers. However, many films are in French, Spanish or Scandinavian languages, so do some research before ordering tickets. It's in a recent building with a modern interior and the newest technologies. It can be advised to book ahead on Sunday afternoons, as tickets are quickly sold out at this time. The café is a popular wine bar in early evenings, especially among females, couples or for a date. €8.50.
- Golfpark Spandersbosch, Sportpark Crailoo 26, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 1 Apr-30 Sep 08:00-sunset, 1 Oct-31 Mar 09:00-sunset. While a bit less fancy than the Hilversumsche, it is still top-notch. The Boschbaan has NGF B-status and to play on it, you must make a reservation by e-mail at the caddiemaster. The Crailoobaan is 'pay and play', a reservation in advance is not required. You will play 2 times 9 holes, so 18 holes in total. The driving range is illuminated at night and has free entry. €22.50 daily, €15 after 17:00.
- Hilversumsche Golfclub, Soestdijkerstraatweg 172, ☎ . 1 Apr-30 Sep Su-F 08:00-17:00, Sa 08:00-13:00, 1 Oct-31 Mar Su-F 09:00-16:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Opened in 1910, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf clubs in the Netherlands and has hosted the Dutch Open 26 times. Famous players like Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Miguel Ángel Jiménez won the tournament on these fields. In 2003, Maarten Lafeber became the second Dutch player to win the Dutch Open, and the first and yet only one to do so in Hilversum. If you want to play here, you must adhere to the strict regulations. If you're not a member, you can only play here a maximum of six times a year. You must be a member of an NGF-affiliated golf club in your home country and show proof of a maximum exact handicap of 24. Always make a reservation beforehand at the caddiemaster. On weekends, holidays and Tuesdays before 14:00 the course is closed for non-members. €125 daily.
- JT Hilversum City, Herenstraat 12, ☎ . M Tu 18:00-22:00, W F Sa 13:00-22:00, Th 15:00-22:00, Su 10:00-22:00. A small cinema with the newest Hollywood films on display. It's an old cinema, but has been renovated recently. Air conditioning and 3D films are available. €8.
- JT Hilversum Euro, Naarderstraat 8, ☎ . M Tu Th 19:00-21:00, W Su 15:00-21:00, F 18:00-22:00, Sa 15:00-22:00. This cinema has the largest auditorium and usually gets the Hollywood premières. It's quite dated, but 3D films are available. Do not visit on hot summer days as there is no air conditioning. A new cinema is under construction next to it and will soon take its place. It will open on 27 October 2014 with seven screens, and will feature the newest technologies, such as laser projection and Dolby Atmos 3D. €8.
- Theater Achterom, Eemnesserweg 7a, ☎ . M-F 10:00-15:00. Probably the best theatre of Hilversum with cabaret, dance, music and drama performances. All performances are in Dutch. The theatre opens in the early afternoon for tickets sales, the performances take place in the late afternoon or evening. You can order tickets on the website of De Vorstin. €8-€13.
Shopping in Hilversum is generally uninspiring, but if you know where to go, there are some interesting shops to be found. Expect a heavy emphasis on clothing and accessories, mostly for women. Due to the upscale demographic, most clothing stores are relatively expensive with luxurious brands. Most stores have similar hours (M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00), but some are closed on Mondays. All stores are closed on Sundays, except for the last Sunday of the month, which is called a Koopzondag ("buying Sunday").
The easiest entry point is Hilvertshof. It was opened in 1973 and was the first shopping centre of the Netherlands. Adjacent to Hilvertshof is the Kerkstraat. The shops in this area are similar to those found elsewhere in the country. You can find the department stores V&D and Hema, and world-wide chain stores such as H&M, Mango and Zara. From the Kerkstraat, you can stroll to the Gooische Brink and the 's-Gravelandseweg for some upscale boutiques.
- BBarbarella by Trees, Kerkstraat 63-39, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. Voted the best shop of Hilversum in 2013. This boutique has a wide variety of clothing styles and a knowledgeable staff. Some of the brands on sale: Articles, Christina Gavioli, Mary Mero, Michael Kors, Rino Pelle, Sao Paulo, Ruth Mastenbroek and Spanx shapewear.
- De Bunker, Kerkstraat 63-3/4, ☎ . M 12:00-18:00, Tu W F 09:30-18:00, Th 09:30-21:00, Sa 09:30-17:00. This boutique has an industrial interior, with a high ceiling and a lot of iron, therefore the name De Bunker. It's a very trendy shop, especially for wealthier younger audiences in the age range 15-25. Its focus is on jeans, but they also have handbags, belts and shoes. De Bunker-branded clothing is worn by youngsters all over the region. Some of the brands on sale are G-Star, PME Legend, Diesel, Scotch & Soda, Maison Scotch, Diesel, Superdry, Hilfiger Denim, Levi's and Replay.
- Differenza, Kerkstraat 63-38, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 09:30-18:00, Th 09:30-21:00, Sa 09:30-17:30. Following the latest fashion trends, it's a typical women clothing boutique for the area. It features trendy clothing brands like Geisha, Mavi, YaYa and the Brazilian flip-flops from Havaianas.
- Duetz Menswear, Kerkstraat 63-6, ☎ . Tu W F 09:30-18:00, Th 09:30-21:00, Sa 09:30-17:00. Upscale store for men's fashion, mostly suits. Tommy Hilfiger, Gant, Burberry, Corneliani and Ralph Lauren are some of the brands.
- Fastenau, 's-Gravelandseweg 5a, ☎ . Tu-F 10:00-17:30, Sa 10:00-17:00. A Finnish and Scandinavian clothing and design shop for women. Very trendy with brands like Skandika, FinnFashion, Annikki Karvinen en Aïno.
- Toute Fabienne, 's-Gravelandseweg 14a, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu-F 10:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. This is the best place if you want to go home in style. Some of the country's most famous stars are known to browse here, such as Froukje de Both. The Dutch fashion show Passion for Fashion also visited here. Some of their brands are particularly exclusive, such as Atos Lombardini, Lotus London, Malene Birger and PRC.
- De Globetrotter, Groest 29, ☎ . Tu-F 11:00-18:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. This store sells small handmade tribal objects, like instruments, paintings, accessories and furniture. The focus is on Aboriginal Australian, Native American and Far Eastern cultures. Some of the gypsy clothes they sell are considered trendy.
- De Hilversumse Boekhandel, Leeuwenstraat 36, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. This book shop is regarded the best in town for its history books, especially those on the Gooi area. For English speakers, there is a travel and an English literature section.
- General Market, Langgewenst. W Sa 08:00-16:00. The general market in Hilversum dates back till 1745, when the first horse and cattle market took place. Since 1931 the market has operated from Langgewenst, a central square near the Groest. It is a genuine and authentic local market. Wednesdays have a focus on non-food products, such as books, textiles, leather goods and flowers. Saturdays have a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, fish, cheese and other fresh groceries. A visit is not complete without a fresh raw herring from a stall.
- Platenhuis 't Oor, Leeuwenstraat 44, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. Used record store with mostly urban music, like reggae and hiphop. Also has a limited selection of vinyls. You can ask the staff if you are looking for a specific cd or vinyl.
- Wereldwinkel, Schoutenstraat 3, ☎ . M 13:00-18:00, Tu W F 10:00-18:00, Th 10:00-21:00, Sa 10:00-17:00. As the name suggests, this is a 'world store'. Instead of focusing on mainstream products, this store sells gifts and souvenirs that were made with care for mankind and the environment. It only buys fair trade products, mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America. With this philosophy, buying here is supposed to contribute to improving living standards around the globe.
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- Delicatezze Italiane, 's-Gravelandseweg 3, ☎ . Tu-F 10:00-18:00, Sa 11:00-17:00. Eat-ready deli for Italian countryside meals. Federico is a qualified chef with a good knowledge of Italian cuisine. Just ask for a recommendation.
- Apolonia, Spoorstraat 20, ☎ . Su-Th 14:00-01:00, F Sa 14:00-03:00. A cheap Argentinian steak house. Don't expect anything remotely luxurious, just good meat for a low price. Besides Argentinian steaks, they have many small Middle Eastern dishes, such as spare-ribs, shawarma and döner kebab, often served with pita. You can also order Italian pizzas and pastas, and even the Dutch specialty snack kapsalon (high on calories). €10-17.
- Chiang Mai, Havenstraat 20 (bus 1 to Boomberglaan, then walk), ☎ . Tu-Su 17:00-22:00. Proper Thai restaurant in the area, which is specialised in northern Thai cuisine. The place has the usual Thai dishes, but also some original ones with rabbit and turkey. Good service and relatively cheap prices, but expect a bland interior with fluorescent lamps. €15-25.
- De Jonghe Graef van Buuren, Laanstraat 37, ☎ . 16:00-22:00 daily. William V was a young prince and the last stadtholder of the Dutch Republic in the late 18th century. As believed, he was riding his horse on his way to Amsterdam to deliver an important message. Due to lightning and heavy rain, he was forced to spend the night in Hilversum, in what is now restaurant De Jonghe Graef van Buuren. As was usual, Prince Willem V was travelling incognito, using the name "Van Buuren". The owner of the inn quickly found out that the man had a royal background. He was honored and asked if it was allowed to name the inn after him. Since then, it bare the name 'De Jonghe Graef van Buuren' (The Young Prince van Buuren). It's a good place to have an easy dinner with fries and mayonnaise. The bed Willem V spent the night in is still on the exact same location. €17-25.
- De Kei, 's-Gravelandseweg 12d, ☎ . Su M 12:00-01:00, Tu-Th 11:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-03:00. A bruin café known for its simple and tasty menus. It's especially recommended to visit their wine tasting sessions. Late in the evening you can have a beer as the place turns into a bar. It is named after de Kei, the 10,435 kg boulder on the square in front of the bar. De Kei was found on the heath between Laren and Hilversum, and was carried here from Scandinavia during the Pleistocene. In 1921, a festive parade was organised when it was moved to its current location. €17-30.
- Lorenza, Langestraat 134, ☎ . 16:00-22:00 daily. A small Italian restaurant, not at all trendy or stylish, but that just gives it a nice unpretentious atmosphere. The staff takes life easy and comes along for a casual chat. Try the pizza Lorenzo. €15-20.
- Kimono, Kampstraat 41, ☎ . M-Th 17:00-22:00, F-Su 17:00-23:00. Entertaining Japanese restaurant, as the chefs really do their best to put up a good show. That makes it a good place to bring children. Nice staff, good food. €25-55.
- Las Tapas, Havenstraat 18b, ☎ . 17:00-23:30 daily. Very popular Spanish tapas restaurant. The menu is in Dutch, so hard to read for foreigners, but the staff will gladly help you with ordering. The garlic bread, artichoke and feta salad, garlic prawns, sautéed mushrooms, bruschetta with feta and pine nuts are tasty. The bill is cheap for the amount of food served. They only accept cash. €20.
- Lust, Langestraat 94, ☎ . 17:00-22:00 daily. This restaurant with international menus is based in a historic building from 1902. Go upstairs to lounge or downstairs for an interior like a small village in France. Try the "Lusterijen", a plate filled with a couple of smaller dishes, served with a suitable wine. €35.
- Mangerie, Diependaalselaan 490-494 (bus 104 to Zuiderheide), ☎ . W-M 16:00-22:00. Among the better Chinese restaurants in town, and not a typical one. It's definitely high class with the French wine list as one of its features. The staff is professional and the food is delicious. Try the Peking Duck. €35-55.
- Parc, Havenstraat 58 (bus 104 to Oude Haven), ☎ . 1 Apr-31 Oct 11:00-00:00 daily, 1 Nov-31 Mar Tu-Su 11:00-00:00. A restaurant for lunch, dining or drinks. It has a striking design, that complements the sand and salt bunker next to it, that was designed by Dudok in the 1940s. The outdoor terrace overlooks the Oude Haven, a park around a canal dug in the 18th century by affluent Amsterdam traders to connect Hilversum with the Vecht river. €25.
- Proeverij De Open Keuken, Laanstraat 31, ☎ . 16:00-22:00 daily. An excellent "open kitchen" restaurant with an international cuisine. Good service and a wide array of tapas to choose from. Sit outside on warm summer days. €30.
- Robert, Spanderslaan 1, ☎ . Tu-F 12:00-22:00, Sa 17:30-22:00. An interesting French restaurant in the middle of a forest, only accessible by car, bike or taxi. The food is not original, but has a good quality and taste. Sit outside when the weather allows it. €35-50.
- Surya, Langestraat 126, ☎ . Tu W Su 17:00-00:00, Th-Sa 17:00-01:00. Indian and Nepalese restaurant with a stunning interior. Everyone is sitting on benches with pillows, which makes for a very warm atmosphere, and the walls are decorated with Buddha images. The staff is friendly, lots of menus to choose from and the food is served in large quantities. Try the Gulab Jamin, it's good. €20.
- Tokyo, Havenstraat 1, ☎ . 16:00-22:00 daily. The best Japanese restaurant in town with impressive paintings on the walls. The staff are friendly and dressed in Japanese style. Try the Californian handroll or the teppan yaki meals. €30-60.
- Warung Adinda, Langestraat 85, ☎ . Th-Su 17:00-22:00. Well-known and appreciated Indonesian restaurant that has more than 35 years of experience. Very friendly service. It has dinner à la carte or in a traditional buffet form. €25.
- Zilt & Zo, Laanstraat 35a, ☎ . 17:00-22:00 daily. Excellent restaurant with a French-international cuisine. The focus is on Mediterranean seafood, but meat menus are available as well. The interior is remarkable, it resembles a harbour, even with sand on the floor. The staff serve the dishes with care and seem to love their job. Finish it with a choice from their world-wide wine list. €33-50.
- Déjà Vu, Vaartweg 33, ☎ . 11:00-23:45 daily. This is an all-in-one restaurant, wine bar and lunchroom. The restaurant is specialised in French and Mediterranean cuisine. They know what style is, as seen in the trendy interior, which gives a warm atmosphere. They also have nice outdoor seating with comfi couches. Excellent wine list. €40-50.
- Heren Spyker, Kerkbrink 17-19, ☎ . Tu 18:00-22:00, W-Sa 12:00-22:00. These houses are known as the Spijkerpandjes and these used to be the oldest remaining buildings in Hilversum. Unfortunately, the original buildings were torn down in the 1990s, so these are reconstructed. The one on the right was a residential house built in 1770, while the one on the left was a smithy built around 1880. Jacobus Spyker lived in these buildings, whose sons later founded the 'Spyker' car brand. Now a restaurant, the focus is on contemporary French and Mediterranean dishes, very well presented on a wide array of china. Very original dishes, prepared with love by a very enthusiastic chef. Lots of wines served by the glass. Excellent value. €40-50.
- Lakes, Vreelandseweg 50 (bus 1 to Zeverijnstraat, then walk), ☎ . Tu-F 12:00-14:30, 18:00-22:30, Sa 18:00-22:30. Based in one of Dudok's designs, French restaurant Lakes is one of the most luxurious of Hilversum. The black and silver colours give the interior a stunning hip-chique atmosphere. Its location at the water enhances the experience, as well as the excellent service and winelist. €45-60.
- Royal Mandarin, Emmastraat 9, ☎ . 13:30-23:00 daily. This Chinese restaurant is interestingly based in a historic Dutch farm and is widely considered among the best Chinese restaurants in the country. The staff is really friendly and very knowledgeable. The restaurant might seem expensive but price-quality ratio is in perfect balance. A good suggestion is the surprise menu, with good value you will taste what the chef is capable of. Also, let the waiter pick the wine. You will be impressed. €40-50.
Entering bars is legally allowed from the age of 16. However, many bars and nightclubs in Hilversum have their own policies and do not allow people under 18, 21 or even 23 to enter. Keep in mind that those under 18 are not allowed to drink any alcoholic drinks.
Most bars and nightclubs in Hilversum are centred around the Groest. There is something for everyone's taste, from youth bars to bars for older ages, and from dive bars to upscale cosmopolitan places. On weekdays and Sundays, bars are open till 01:00, while some nightclubs will be opened till 03:00. Fridays and Saturdays have longer hours, bars will be opened till 03:00, while nightclubs will be opened till 05:00.
Always bring your passport or official identity papers, as many bars and nightclubs require you to show it upon entry. Also keep in mind that smoking is only allowed in designated smoking areas, and that bar employees won't serve drinks in these areas. Be aware on the streets when the bars close as people are drunk and some might be looking for trouble. Walking around with an alcoholic beverage on the Groest can get you a fine of €60.
- De Jonge Haan, 's-Gravelandseweg 62, ☎ . M-F 09:00-00:00, Sa Su 12:00-00:00. This is the most upscale "brasserie" of Hilversum and the best place to run into Dutch celebrities. It is listed 57th in the Top 100 Best Dutch Cafés of the magazine Horeca Misset. At any time of the day you can walk in for coffee or tea, accompanied with a muffin or pie. The interior looks professional and the Dutch word gezellig (nice and cosy) definitely applies here. Sit outdoors on warm summer days, as the café is in a breezy green neighbourhood. Having dinner is possible, but it is generally not worth it due to long queues and poor food quality.
- Doppio Espresso, 's-Gravelandseweg 14, ☎ . M-Sa 08:00-18:00, Su 09:00-18:00. A stylish and modern coffee house with a wide variety of coffee and sandwiches. The cappuccino is worth it, as are the latte macchiato or iced coffee. They also serve breakfast. Free Wi-Fi is available, so it is a good place to get some work done or surf the net. Most seats have electrical outlets, so you can charge your mobile phone or laptop.
- Dudok, Larenseweg 1a, ☎ . M-F 10:00-01:00, Sa 12:00-02:00, Su 12:00-21:00. The interior of this café is in a similar style as the famous architect W.M. Dudok. Lunch and dinner are served, and are not expensive. At daytime, the music is a combination of classic, like Chopin and Vivaldi, and jazz. At nighttime, the music is more diverse, with a combination of salsa and rock. Sunday afternoons have tango as the style of choice. One of the main attractions of this café are the bi-weekly live jazz sessions. Led by guitar player Kai Von Rosenberg, the session attracts musicians from all over the country. Jazz greats like Benjamin Herman, Jos Machtel and Ilja Reijngoud all have played sets here.
- 't Tolhuis, Soestdijkerstraatweg 2, ☎ . M-Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 11:00-22:00. Opened since 1901, this café has a long history. The building dates from 1792 and in 1834 it started as a toll booth to finance road construction costs. As toll did not exist anymore since 1898, it turned into a shop for milk trade. Due to its strategic location, at the main road from Utrecht and Baarn to Hilversum, it became a road café for thirsty horse riders. It has been a road café ever since and is still a nice place to order a coffee or beer. It used to be the only café in town closed on weekends, but nowadays opens seven days a week.
Bars and pubs
- Cafe 1890, Biersteeg 10, ☎ . Tu-Th 16:30-01:00, F 16:30-03:00, Sa 14:00-03:00. Quite a traditional dive bar for older audiences. On weekdays, it's possible to play darts. On Saturdays, it's one of the few bars with plenty of seating available.
- Café Burger, Herenstraat 2, ☎ . Su-Th 15:00-01:00, F 15:00-03:00, Sa 11:00-03:00. A stylish pub that serves good burgers. There is a vegetarian burger available. Plenty of beers on tap, including special ones like Vedett or Gulden Draak. Outdoor seating available, even in winter as there is outside heating.
- Cartouche, Stationsstraat 22, ☎ . Su-Th 15:00-01:00, F Sa 15:00-03:00. This is a typical Dutch bruin café, an excellent pub with a relaxing atmosphere for young and old. Several kinds of Dutch and Belgian beers op tap. Dinner is served, like meat, fish and vegetarian dishes, particularly the satay is good. The music style can be characterised as Dutch "folk" music.
- De Baron, Spoorstraat 47, ☎ . Su-W 14:00-01:00, Th 14:00-02:00, F Sa 14:00-03:00. A rock bar with billiards and darts. Important football matches are displayed on the big screen. Bar food is served. If you're visiting on Saturdays, there is plenty of seating available.
- De Doelen, Groest 42, ☎ . M-Tu Th 11:00-01:00, W 10:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-03:00, Su 18:00-01:00. This bar has young audiences (ages 16-18), often with an affluent background. Music is mostly pop, and it's extremely crowded on weekends.
- De Dokter, Groest 44, ☎ . M-W 09:00-01:00, Th 09:00-02:00, F Sa 09:00-03:00, Su 16:00-01:00. It's possible to have lunch here. At night, the bar has a similar young audience and music style to De Doelen. Pool can be played when it's not too crowded.
- Felix II, Herenstraat 9, ☎ . Su-Th 15:00-01:00, F Sa 15:00-03:00. Typical bruin café, mostly popular among older audiences. The music is rock and blues, and sometimes live bands play. Food is served in a separate building in the back.
- The Guardian, Groest 33, ☎ . M 12:00-01:00, Tu-Th 11:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-03:00, Su 11:30-01:00. The only English pub in Hilversum. It has a beautiful interior and Guinness is on tap. You can order lunch or diner all day, the kitchen closes at 21:30. Thursday nights have live music and special beers available. Sky Sports is on, so go here if you don't want to miss any Premier League matches. Avoid on Saturday nights if you don't like crowds or very loud music.
- Le Journal, Groest 21, ☎ . M-W 10:00-00:00, Th 10:00-02:00, F Sa 10:00-03:00, Su 12:00-00:00. Based in a former printing press building, Le Journal turned into a hip bar-restaurant. It's a good restaurant with international cuisine, €21.50 for three courses. The outside seating is particularly attractive on warm summer evenings. From 22:30, it turns into a bar popular among visitors in the age range 18-25. At the ground floor you can chill on the couches, upstairs feels more like a nightclub with a dance floor and loud music. Ordering beer here is generally cheaper than elsewhere, around €1.75 each. Unlike other bars, Le Journal is open till 02:00 on Thursdays. On Saturdays the music is particularly loud, even at ground floor, so forget about having conversations that night.
- Karroesel, Spoorstraat 44, ☎ . M-Th 12:00-01:00, F Sa 12:00-03:00, Su 15:00-01:00. A hard rock and metal bar that caters to alternative audiences. A great place to have a casual chat and meet interesting people. Popular among foreigners that permanently live in Hilversum. On warm days, people tend to stand outside. There is a pool table, but it is not used on Fridays and Saturdays as the bar can be crowded on those days. The back of the bar has been designated a smoking area.
- Crystal Club, Koninginneweg 84-86, ☎ . Th 23:00-04:00, F-Sa 23:00-05:00. This night bar often has theme parties, like 80s and 90s music every first Saturday of the month and house music every third Saturday of the month. €10.
- G-Spot, Groest 57, ☎ . Su-Th 00:00-04:00, F Sa 00:00-05:00. A popular night club with a central location, late hours and it's open every night. There are often queues in front of it, especially around 03:00 on Saturday night. There are couches to sit and a small dance floor in the back. The DJ plays different styles of music with an emphasis on dance, house and R&B music. The audience is in the age range of 21-35. Free entry, cloakroom €1.
- Let's Get Down, Emmastraat 2, ☎ . F Sa 11:00-05:00. Only opened on weekends, the target audience is in the age range 25-35. Music is mixed, but mostly dance and techno. Bring identity papers, as a strict age limit of 18+ is enforced. Free entry.
- Rex, Groest 23, ☎ . Bar-restaurant M-Th 11:00-01:00, F Sa 11:00-03:00 Su 12:00-00:00, nightclub Th 10PM-3AM, F-Sa 11PM-5AM. Once a cinema and casino, now Rex is split into two separate venues: a bar-restaurant downstairs and a nightclub upstairs. The bar-restaurant is a hip and cosmopolitan place with lounge music, visited mostly by up-scale audiences (but open to anyone). It has a sharp interior with soft seats and couches, where you can have a glass of wine or beer. The night club has a similar exclusive vibe. Inside is a VIP balcony that overlooks the dance floor. It can only be accessed with permission from the staff. Permission is usually granted by coming in a group and ordering full bottles of drinks. The music is eclectic with a mix of house, electro, rock, pop, hip hop and commercial music. Special events are regularly hosted by international record labels like Defected and Latin Lovers. Nightclub entry €7.
- 't Pakhuys, Kolenstraat 5, ☎ . Sa 11:00-05:00. A nightclub that has been through a couple of renovations and policy changes. Nowadays it's the only nightclub in Hilversum that allows those in the age group 16-18 to go out till 05:00 on Saturdays. Bring identity papers as the age limit of 16 is strictly enforced. Those 16-18, while encouraged to enter, are not allowed to have any alcoholic drinks. The music style is pop. Free entry.
- Amrâth Hotel Lapershoek, Utrechtseweg 16 (bus 3, 59, 70, 101, 156 or train to Hilversum Sportpark), ☎ . Quite a luxurious hotel in a green location. Comfort and superior rooms feature a shower, bath tub, hairdryer, phone, television and internet. Junior suite rooms also have a jacuzzi, bathrobes and mini-bar. €80-150.
- Amrâth Grand Hotel & Theatre Gooiland, Emmastraat 2 (bus 3, 58, 59, 70 or 101 to Schapenkamp), ☎ . As Hilversum is a city of architectural highlights, Gooiland is a chance to spend the night in one of these beauties. Designed by Jan Duiker and Bernard Bijvoet and completed in 1936, Gooiland is an exceptional example of the 'New Style' architectural movement as seen in architecture textbooks. All the rooms have a shower, hairdryer, phone, television and free Wi-Fi. €70-120.
- Hotel Ravel, Emmastraat 35 (bus 58, 59, 70, 101 or 156 to Hollandselaan), ☎ . This wonderful villa is quite close to the centre. All rooms have a phone, television, clock radio, writing desk, private shower/toilet and free internet access. €75-175.
- Hotel Villa Trompenberg, Christiaan de Wetlaan 1 (bus 105 or 206 to Trompenbergerweg), ☎ . A villa in the most affluent neighbourhood of Hilversum, it feels a bit like a B&B. Tranquillity, warmth and ambiance are key values for this hotel. Children, pets and smoking are not allowed. No services or answering of phone calls after 12:00. €90-135.
- Tulip Inn Media Park Hilversum, Koninginneweg 30 (bus 107 to Javalaan), ☎ . The Tulip Inn is between the town centre and the Media Park and can be used as a place to stay for both areas. It is in the same neighbourhood as the Town Hall. Wi-Fi is accessible free of charge throughout the building and there's a sauna, fitness room, conference rooms, restaurant and bar. Bicycles can be hired upon request. €69-130.
There is not much to worry about in Hilversum. The town does often make headlines with cases of vandalism. Youth groups often hang around the town centre or near the main and Sportpark train stations, especially late at night. As they are often bored and drunk, they may destroy rubbish bins, benches, bicycles, bus stops and other public property.
Another safety issue occurs after the bars and nightclubs close, particularly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 02:00 and 05:00. Large amounts of intoxicated people gather on the streets, which can lead to fights and confrontations with the police. Do not get involved, as the police sometimes uses dogs to temper the masses. Also avoid snackbars and other eating facilities at this time, as they are usually packed and are not allowed to sell food after 03:00. This causes anger with the hungry crowd waiting outside, thus a fight is easily initiated.
Staying healthy is probably the least you have to worry about. Tap water in the Netherlands is among the cleanest and safest in the world, and tap water in Hilversum tastes even better than elsewhere in the country. Research from consumer authorities have shown that customers get tricked when ordering mineral water in bars or restaurants. One in three of them actually serve tap water instead of mineral water!
If you are hiking or biking in the forests surrounding the city, be careful of ticks and tick-carrying diseases. It is advisable to wear long sleeves and long trousers. If you want to be completely safe, tuck your trousers inside your socks. If you discover a red ring on your body in the weeks after, be sure to visit a doctor to check for Lyme disease, which can be lethal without proper medical care.
The country calling code for the Netherlands is 31, the area code for Hilversum is 035. If you want to surf the net, Doppio Espresso has free Wi-Fi and most seats come with electrical outlets for charging your mobile phone or laptop. Most hotels and bars nowadays offer free Wi-Fi.
- Bibliotheek Hilversum, 's-Gravelandseweg 55, ☎ . M-F 10:00-20:00, Sa 11:00-16:00. The most convenient and cheapest place that has internet terminals. You need to insert coins in the machine before using the computer. You can also read regional and national newspapers, as well as papers from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Turkey and the Arab world. There is also a diverse selection of magazines (The Economist, Time, der Spiegel and ParisMatch to name a few), travel guides and English books. This building was the headquarters of the German Wehrmacht in the Netherlands during the German occupation in World War II. €0,15 per 15 minutes.
Listed by distance, the surrounding area has plenty of interesting towns and villages.
- Baarn is about 15 minutes east on N415 or by train. A forested area with some castles open to the public, such as Kasteel Groeneveld.
- Laren is about 15 minutes north on N525 or bus 108. You can visit the Singer Museum and have a bite at the restaurants at the Brink.
- 's-Graveland is about 15 minutes west on N201 or bus 105.
- Amersfoort is about 20 minutes east on A1 or by train.
- Soest is about 20 minutes east on N415 or by train.
- Naarden is about 20 minutes north on N524 or train. Its 17th-century fortifications are among the best preserved in Europe.
- Weesp is about 25 minutes northwest on N236 or by train.
- Muiden is about 30 minutes north on A1 or by train and bus. It has a magnificent 13th-century castle and other medieval structures.
|Routes through Hilversum|
|Amsterdam ← Laren ←||W E||→ Amersfoort → Enschede|
|Almere ← Laren-Blaricum ←||N S||→ Utrecht → Breda|