Hilversum

Travel Guide Europe Netherlands North Holland Hilversum

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Introduction

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 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 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 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.

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Sights and Activities

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. Start your journey in the world of modern architecture with his masterpiece, the Hilversum Town Hall.

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Events and Festivals

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity.

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Getting There

By Plane

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.

By Train

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.

By Car

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.

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Getting Around

By Car

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-minute 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.

By Public Transport

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.

By Foot

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.

By Bike

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.

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Drink

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.

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Sleep

  • Amrâth Hotel Lapershoek, Utrechtseweg 16 (bus 3, 59, 70, 101, 156 or train to Hilversum Sportpark), ☎ +31 35 623-1341. 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.
  • Grand Hotel Gooiland, Emmastraat 2 (bus 3, 58, 59, 70 or 101 to Schapenkamp), ☎ +31 35 621-2331. 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), ☎ +31 35 621-0685. 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), ☎ +31 35 621-4760. 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. €100-135.
  • Tulip Inn Media Park Hilversum, Koninginneweg 30 (bus 107 to Javalaan), ☎ +31 35 623-2444. 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.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.

Post

The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 13:41 on May 3, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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