The Duchy of Brabant once encompassed parts of Belgium and the Netherlands affording the dukes some wealth. As a result this castle, built in the 12th century, which stands in a moat in the heart of Turnhout, Belgium, allowed the dukes and their contemporaries some luxuries while residing in the area. It’s said that in her day, Mary of Hungary, Governor of the Netherlands, created a renaissance palace within these walls, entertaining such notable guests as King Phillip II of Spain. Philip would later be at war with the Netherlands and Turnhout Castle would on the front line. The war would last eighty years, hence the name ‘the Eighty Years War’ and result in an independent Dutch Republic and the division of the Duchy of Brabant. Over a century later Turnhout Castle would fall into French hands and come into use as a courthouse and prison.
Throughout history, the castle remained, and today it’s one of the primary attractions in the border town of Turnhout. Though it is closed to the public and used primarily as the city’s courthouse, it is still part of the daily life of the residents. On the day of our visit, there were people fishing along the moat surrounding the castle, and a crew of workers was busy setting up tents, booths and sound equipment for the DVV Running Tour, an 11 km marathon that would begin that same evening at the castle square.
Turnhout isn’t a city that we’d recommend visiting on its own, but if you happen to be passing by, and have an hour or two to spare, stop in and see the medieval castle that is now the city’s courthouse.