Worth a Trip: Muiden

Only 20 to 30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal by train, or a more leisurely ferry ride from IJBurg, Muiden is an unhurried historical town renowned for its fairy-tale red-brick castle, the Muiderslot. Life otherwise focuses on the busy central lock that funnels scores of pleasure boats out into the vast IJsselmeer.

Built in 1280 by Count Floris V, son of Willem II, exceptionally preserved moated fortress Muiderslot is equipped with round towers, a French innovation. The count was a champion of the poor and a French sympathiser, two factors that were bound to spell trouble; Floris was imprisoned in 1296 and murdered while trying to flee. Today it's the Netherlands' most visited castle. The interior can be seen only on 30-minute guided tours. The I Amsterdam Card (www.iamsterdam.com; per 24/48/72 hours €49/59/69) is valid here.

Off the coast lies a derelict fort on the island of Pampus. This massive 19th-century bunker was a key member of a ring of 42 fortresses built to defend Amsterdam and is great fun to explore. The huge defences were designed to be flooded if the city came under attack. Unfortunately, airplanes came into the picture and the fortifications were never used. Rescued from disrepair by Unesco, Pampas is now a World Heritage Site. Ferries to Pampus depart from Muiderslot port on a varying schedule in season. Usually there's at least one morning departure, which allows a couple of hours to prowl the fort before a mid-afternoon return.

In warm weather the clientele of little bar Café Ome Ko, with large green-striped awnings, turns the street outside into one big party. When there's no party on, it's a perfect spot to watch the comings and goings through the busy lock right outside. It serves lunchtime sandwiches and classic Dutch bar snacks (croquettes et al).

Muiden is easily reached from IJburg: it's a pleasant signposted 7km cycle route (you can also walk it in around 1½ hours). Alternatively, ferry is the best way to reach either Muiden or Pampas from IJburg. Veerdienst ferries depart from the marina and include admission to either site. Bicycles travel for free.

Alternatively, buses 320, 322 and 327 link Amsterdam's Amstel station (20 minutes, twice hourly) with Muiden. The castle is then a 1km walk.