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Paleis Het Loo, or Het Loo Palace, is a historic palace located in Apeldoorn, about a bit more than an hour’s drive east of Amsterdam. One of the grandest in The Netherlands, this Dutch royal palace was originally built in the 17th century as a hunting lodge for Prince Willem III of Orange and his wife, Princess Mary II of England. They commissioned the construction of the palace in 1684 and it was completed in 1686. The palace was closed in 2018 for major renovation and restoration work, and was only reopened in April 2023. I decided to visit Het Loo Palace about a month after the reopening and I was very impressed with the result! In addition to the palace and museum itself, there are other things to see at Het Loo Palace such as the ornamental gardens.
A brief history of Het Loo Palace
First, a bit of history about the palace. Designed by Jacob Roman and built in the 17th century, the palace is renowned for its symmetrical Baroque architecture, typical of French and Dutch architectural styles of the time. Willem and Mary used Het Loo Palace as their summer residence. The palace was expanded when Willem and Mary became King and Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1689. Mary returned to England to reign as Queen Mary II and never saw the palace again.
After Willem III’s death in 1702, the palace remained in the possession of the Dutch royal family. It was occasionally used by subsequent generations of the House of Orange-Nassau. A notable occupant was Louis Napoleon, who had been appointed King of Holland by his brother Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806.
In the late 19th century, extensive renovations were carried out under the supervision of King William III. The palace was expanded and modernized, incorporating elements of the Neo-Classical style. Het Loo Palace continued to be used as a royal residence until 1975, when Queen Juliana of the Netherlands donated it to the Dutch state. The palace and its gardens were subsequently transformed into a museum and opened to the public in 1984.
In 2013, the palace and museum closed to the public to undergo extensive renovations, and reopened in April 2023.
Het Loo Palace (map) is an easy day trip from Amsterdam. You can take the train to Apeldoorn and board a bus to the palace (journey time <2 hours), or you can drive (<1.5 hours). If you opt to drive, there’s ample parking and I recommend purchasing a parking ticket along with your entrance tickets to the palace. Check here for tickets.
From the parking area and main entrance, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the palace itself. Along the way, you’ll pass the royal stables. The stables were built in 1907 for Queen Wilhemina and Prince Hendrik and now house a beautiful collection of cars and carriages used by the Dutch royal couple.
The walk continues along a tree-lined boulevard to the palace and museum. Once inside the palace gates, you’ll have a beautiful view of the resplendent palace fronted by reflecting pools.
Inside the palace
The main entrance into the palace is to the right, where a staircase/elevator transports visitors to a lower floor. This new addition to the palace is truly impressive. Light streams through via the reflecting pools above, creating soothing moving water patterns on the marble floor and walls in the central hallway.
From this hallway, there are exhibition halls on both sides: one showcases the history and lifestyle of the Dutch royal family, and the other tells the fascinating story of the renovation work.
The palace interior
The hallway leads into the palace via a series of staircases. There are two wings (East & West) which can be explored separately. From the central foyer, visitors can explore the opulent interiors of the palace, admire the extensive art collection, enjoy panoramic views from the rooftop and wander through the meticulously landscaped gardens. There are elevators and wheelchair lifts.
One detail I absolutely loved is the carpeting. Designed to mirror the original flooring, be it wood or marble, the carpets protect the floors and provide directions for visitors.
View from the rooftop
It’s a bit of a climb (via a series of staircases) but if you can, I recommend visiting the rooftop. The views from there of the gardens and surrounding forests are absolutely beautiful.
Another thing to do at Het Loo Palace is a stroll around the stunning ornamental gardens. There are numerous fountains, statues and waterfalls to admire in addition to the different plants and flowers. At the end of the gardens is a shady café located at a colonnaded terrace.
Het Loo Palace doesn’t boast the scale and opulence of other famous palaces like Versailles but I’m excited about this latest tourist attraction in the Netherlands. The architects and designers did an incredible job with the revamp. Today, the palace stands as a prominent cultural attraction, combining historical significance, architectural grandeur, and beautiful gardens to offer visitors a glimpse into Dutch royal history.
Consider a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum
If you have a car, consider a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum, about a 30-minute drive away. This beautiful museum in the forest has a stunning collection of paintings and sculptures, including the second-largest collection of Van Gogh artworks in the world!