In order to further build this website, I decided it would make sense to combine a Sunday afternoon walk with a visit to a military site nearby. So I just googled ‘fortress’ in combination with the province I live in ‘Noord-Holland’, and soon I was shown a long list with fortresses to visit and ‘Fort Spijkerboor’ was one of them. I wanted to combine it with a visit with ‘Fort Velthuis’ in Heemskerk (Dutch Air Warfare Museum), which was closed when we got there (I did not read the opening times well enough).
Fort Spijkerboor is the biggest fortress of the Amsterdam fortification works called Stelling van Amsterdam. In 1874 the ‘Fortress Law’ (Vestingwet) was imposed as a result of this law For Spijkerboor was built between 1887 and 1913 in order to protect multiple access ways to Amsterdam both the roads and canals. At the time it was considered a state of the art defense work, which was heaviliy armed with 10,5 cm guns. At the start of the First World War it was home to 300 soldiers. In 1917 it was rebuilt to serve as a prison. In 1939 it was used to lock up foreign prisoners. After the Second World War it was used to lock up traitors from the Dutch National Socialist movement (NSB). When the so called ‘Police actions’ in Indonesia (then called Dutch Indies) started it was used to lock up conscientious objectors. From 1951 till 1961 it was used as a beacon by the Dutch Air Force (Klu) as well as the RAF. Now the fortress is on the Unesco world heritage list. Nowadays it is managed by Natuurmonumenten, a trust preserving of nature.
There are two floors, because of the height of the dikes the fortress protects. This is one of the few fortresses with two floors of that era.
There is a small walking path around the fortress of approx. 1,1 km.
Nearby you can find SPY VOR/DME, one of the major navigating beacons on the approach to Schiphol airport.
Since I decided to visit Spijkerboor last minute and I did not have any expectations, I was pleasantly suprised. The fortress itself was in reasonably good state and it allowes access to most areas. There are some items displayed like weapons, uniforms and old aviation communication equipment. The most important items and displays are about the usage of the fortress as a prison. You’ll see the old cell blocks, the kitchen and the armory. On the walls you can find some paintings made by prisoners and these paintings give the forts its unique character. In one of the corners you may find a small chapel.
It took app. 1,5 hours to walk through the fortress, including the roof.
I was lucky to meet Mrs Prijs, whose family used to be in charge of looking after the fortress and who was so kind to point out the most interesting parts of the fortress. The volunteers taking care of the entrance and the bar were very friendly which made this a memorable visit.
Compared to other national museums, such as the Imperial War Museum, the collection and the amount of items is small, but Fort Spijkerboor is worthwile a visit.
Only the guided tour gives access to the main gun turret.
Time: 11:30, 12:00, 14:00, 14:30 o’clock
For kids there is a special puzzle tour (Tested and approved by my daughter and a friend)
Small bar with snacks and toilet.
1464 PC Westbeemster
Open from: Sundays (mostly) April to September and some public holidays
Please check Fort Spijkerboor website for any last minute changes.
Some parts can be accessed with a wheelchair (Corridors in general are small!)
Dogs are not allowed.