- 1 Hilversum — known as the "media city" with forests and modern architecture to explore
- 2 Bussum — low-key destination, but has some quality restaurants
- 3 Huizen — interesting for the Gooimeer, a popular beach for surfing
- 4 Laren — the rich and famous, luxurious villas and the Singer Museum
- 5 Muiden — well known for the Muiderslot as well as other medieval remains
- 6 Naarden — its 17th-century fortifications are among the best preserved in Europe
- 7 Weesp — partially fortified town close to Amsterdam
- 1 Vechtstreek — castles, estates, buitenplaatsen, gardens, tea houses and other remnants from the Dutch Golden Age
While pretty much unknown to foreigners, Het Gooi is easily the most well-known region of the Netherlands among the Dutch population. It's known for the wealth of its inhabitants, the broadcasting industry and its high property values. Hilversum, nicknamed Hillywood, is the media city of the country and home to the two largest television studios in Europe. Laren and Blaricum are particularly well known, due to the hit-series Gooische Vrouwen, perpetuating stereotypes of the rich and famous living in the region.
A conversation with the average Dutchman about the region will probably bring up adjectives like "arrogant" and "snobby". The typical Gooi "r" is not rolled as it is in standard Dutch pronunciation. This is not a historical dialect, but a modern speech trait that was brought in during the 19th-century by affluent newcomers. Many Dutch people don't like this speech pattern as it would reveal a certain arrogance to the general populace, but it is influential among the upper class nonetheless. Another saying that shows a negative association with the region is Gooisch parkeren ("Gooi parking"), the casual parking of high-priced SUVs outside permitted parking places.
Unlike most of the country, the Gooi area is a slightly hilly area on sand soil. The landscape is characterised by forests and heathland. The Vechtstreek has a more traditional Dutch landscape with polders, flat grasslands, rivers and lakes. On hot summer days, many locals hit the lakes here with their boats.
The Gooi area is well-connected by the NS railway service. Hilversum is the largest city of the Gooi area and the hub of the region, as it is the only town with an Intercity station (and six international trains from Berlin also stop in Hilversum every day). Weesp, Naarden and Bussum also have a railway station and can easily be visited with so-called "Sprinter" trains. The Vechtstreek is connected to the Amsterdam-Utrecht line, but only Sprinters stop here.
The other areas do not have direct train connections, so you'd need to continue your route by bus. Laren-Blaricum and parts of the Vechtstreek can be reached by bus from Hilversum (though it might be easier coming with your own transport). Huizen is best visited by bus from Naarden-Bussum, while Muiden is best visited taking the bus from Weesp.
By far the fastest way to get around is by car. Hilversum is an exception as it has limited parking space and there are often traffic jams. A bike is more useful to get around in that town.
- This is a great area for cycling. Many visitors spend a full day and cycle from village to village. Hilversum is an obvious starting point, but you can pretty much start anywhere in the area. The Vechtstreek has is particularly scenic with estates, castles, rivers and freshwater lakes. Hilversum and Laren-Blaricum have forests, heathland and affluent, leafy neighbourhoods. Naarden, Muiden and Weesp are known for their fortresses and medieval structures.
- Some surfing can be done at the Gooimeer in Huizen.
- Plenty of water sports activities in the Vechtstreek.
- Play golf on world class courses in Hilversum and Laren.
The Gooi area has plenty of high-end restaurants. According to the Iens.nl Restaurant Guide, Bussum has three of the best restaurants of the area. Hilversum, as the media city, and Laren and Blaricum as towns for the rich and famous, also offer plenty of quality restaurants. If you're on a budget, you're in for challenge — but there are some budget restaurants in Hilversum for a quick snack.
For nightlife, Hilversum is the place to go. The bars there differentiate by having different kinds of audiences. There's something for everyone, including hip-chic bars, dive bars, youth bars, alternative bars, all grouped together at the Groest. Bussum has a small community of bars near Naarden-Bussum train station. The other villages have less than a handful of neighbourhood bars.
You can easily cycle to the towns outside the Gooi area. Baarn is closeby in the east and includes 'Kasteel Groeneveld, a castle open to the public. You can also visited the sand drifts at the Soester Duinen in Soest. The historic cities of Amersfoort and Utrecht are also not too far.