On Friday 14 April, one week before the grand reopening of Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, by King Willem-Alexander the media was invited to have a look at the new underground expansion of the 17th century palace. Proud members of the staff led the journalists, photographers and cameramen around. Between March 2018 and April 2023 14,800 m2 of the palace was renovated and made sustainable. There were wishes granted for a new entrance and visitor facilities, more space for the permanent collections, temporary exhibitions and children’s activities. Access to the gardens also needed improvement.
The challenges were huge. Tens of palace rooms – and its contents – were renovated and modernized, the climate control system replaced, 4,300 m2 of asbestos removed, elevators, LED lights and WIFI added. Outside the parking spaces were renewed and the trees on either side of the paths leading to the palace were replaced if necessary. The restaurant in the ballroom in one of the wings was completely renewed and modernized, which is a bit of a pity as I loved the old one. Furthermore 5,245 m2 was added underneath the forecourt. The unique design of this expansion by Dikkie Scipio of KAAN Architecten was realised within the planned time frame of five years. The palace rooms itself already opened in April 2022, now also the expansion has been completed.
Walking through the gates of the palace the first you see is a fully changed forecourt. Instead of grass and a fountain there is now a wonderful water bassin, most of it underneath the forecourt, reflecting the palace. The fishes of the old fountain are now placed on a silver coloured base, adding another modern touch to the courtyard. The sky and the palace are also reflected in this base.
The description of the inside as a “crematorium” by people online, that haven’t seen the reality yet, doesn’t do the new spaces justice. The design exploits the symmetry of the palace. After entering the building visitors can walk down the stairs – or take the elevator -, and then first arrive at the counters and cloakroom. From there, visitors can take a first look at the grand foyer, a spacious and impressive space created from white natural stone from Spain, with oak floors and beautiful walnut doors. Also added are 20 benches made of oak, derived from 300-year-old oaks that stood in front of the palace. The space functions as a huge red carpet into the palace.
The ceiling consists of 24 glass panels, and at some points you can see glimpses of the palace through it. It also adds lots of daylight to the grand foyer. I advise everyone to use the cloakroom and leave your coat there, as I thought it was pretty warm inside. Also part of the grand foyer is a brand new palace shop, that looks much better than the packed rooms from the past. Lighter, more spacious and certainly much better organized. There are books, cards, souvenirs, children’s stuff like clothing and tiaras, food, works of art, jewelry. The prices vary from a few euros to several hundreds of euros
The presentation “De Oranjes” (The Oranges) shows the history of the House of Orange-Nassau in objects, photos and animations. From the present heir to the throne Princess Catharina-Amalia, The Princess of Orange (born 2003), it goes all the way back to Prince William of Orange (1533-1584). Added also is the first king of Holland, Louis Napoléon. There is also a video explaining how orange became the national colour of the Netherlands.
One starts visiting on the side of the grand foyer, and then it goes upstairs to the east wing, via wonderful stairways. You’re also passing a small coffee corner. Notable upstairs are the many statements about and by the royal family that are projected on the walls in large letters. Also space is given to criticism. Don’t miss the objects and have a look at the photos, are some of them were rather new to me.
Another permanent exhibition in the east wing will be the knighthoods and decorations from the large collection of the museum. The west wing contains the Junior Palace for children.
Masterpiece – Photos and videos show how the renovation of the palace was done.
Orange Blossom – Artist Linda Nieuwstad created a huge artwork featuring life-size orange blossom and leaves. Her design uses remnants of wallpaper from the palace, truck tarpaulin and gleaming white silk. She was inspired by the painting “Vivat Rex” (long live the king) by Elias van den Broeck, painted around 1689 and part of the collection of the museum.
Together with fragrance developer Sebastian Fischenich, the palace has developed its own scent, highlighting both outside and inside. People working at the palace helped, telling him about their experiences. When near the blossoms the fragrance can be smelled. Furthermore the international music agency Massive Music wrote a composition that can be heard in the room. They were inspired by the baroque composer Henry Purcell, who in the 17th century composed music for King-Stadtholder William III and Queen Mary II, the royals who were responsible for the palace being built 1685-1686, just before they inherited the British throne.
As back then the palace remains a wonderful place to visit. The palace opens its doors again on Saturday 22 April 2023. Also the gardens are still a place to enjoy the sun, the flowers and much more. Michel van Maarseveen, the managing director of the museum, says:
I am proud of the result. There is now a museum ready for the future. I hope everyone, no matter what their age, will have the opportunity to visit Het Loo Palace and discover the history of the royal family and the Netherlands.
Palace Het Loo
Koninklijk Park 16
7315 JA Apeldoorn
The palace is open on Monday 1pm-5pm, and from Tuesday to Sunday 10am-5pm.
Apeldoorn has a railway station, easy to reach from Amsterdam. From the railway station several busses go to the palace (see 9292.nl)