Hilversum has one public library, two swimming pools (Van Hellemond Sport and De Lieberg), a number of sporting halls and several shopping centres (such as Hilvertshof, De Gijsbrecht, Kerkelanden, Riebeeck Galerij and Seinhorst). Locally, the town centre is known as het dorp, which means "the village".
Hilversum is often called "media city", since it is the principal centre for radio and television broadcasting in the Netherlands, and is home to an extensive complex of radio and television studios and to the administrative headquarters of the multiple broadcasting organizations which make up the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system. Hilversum is also home to many newer commercial TV production companies. Radio Netherlands, which has been broadcasting worldwide via shortwave radio since the 1920s, is also based here.
The following is a list of organizations that have, or are continuing to, broadcast from studios in Hilversum:
Earthenware found in Hilversum gives its name to the Hilversum culture, which is an early- to mid-Bronze Age, or 800–1200 BCE material culture. Artifacts from this prehistoric civilization bear similarities to the Wessex Culture of southern Britain and may indicate that the first Hilversum residents emigrated from that area. The first brick settlements formed around 900, but it was not until 1305 that the first official mention of Hilversum ("Hilfersheem" from "Hilvertshem" meaning "houses between the hills") is found. At that point it was a part of Naarden, the oldest town in the Gooi area.
Farming, raising sheep and some wool manufacturing were the means of life for the Gooi in the Middle Ages. In 1424, on 21 March at 6:30 am (the hour at which people got up, as the farm was full of restless and loud animals), Hilversum received its first official independent status. This made possible further growth in the village because permission from Naarden was no longer needed for new industrial development. The town grew further in the 17th century when the Dutch economy as a whole entered its age of prosperity, and several canals were built connecting it indirectly to Amsterdam. In 1725 and 1766 large fires destroyed most of the town, leveling parts of the old townhouse and the church next to it. The town overcame these setbacks and the textile industry continued to develop, among other ways by devising a way to weave cows' hair. In the 19th century a substantial textile and tapestry industry emerged, aided by a railway link to Amsterdam in 1874. From that time the town grew quickly with rich commuters from Amsterdam moving in, building themselves large villas in the wooded surroundings, and gradually starting to live in Hilversum permanently. Despite this growth, Hilversum was never granted city rights so it is still referred to by many locals as "het dorp," or "the village."
The Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek (NSF) company established a professional transmitter and radio factory in Hilversum in the early 1920s, growing into the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, and in 1948 being taken over by Philips. By then the textile industry had started its decline; only one factory, Veneta, managed to continue into the 1960s, when it also had to close its doors. Another major industry, the chemical factory IFF, also closed by the end of the 1960s. In the meantime, almost all Dutch radio broadcasting organizations (followed by television broadcasters in the 1950s) established their headquarters in Hilversum and provided a source of continuing economic growth. The concentration of broadcasters in Hilversum has given it its enduring status as the media city for the Netherlands.
In 1964, the population reached a record high – over 103,000 people called Hilversum home. The current population hovers around 85,000. Several factors figure into the decline: one is the fact that the average family nowadays consists of fewer people, so fewer people live in each house; second, the town is virtually unable to expand because all the surrounding lands were sold by city architect W.M. Dudok to the Goois Natuurreservaat (nl). The third reason for this decline of the population was because the property values were increasing rapidly in that moment of time, and many people were forced to move to less expensive areas in the Netherlands.
Some sources blame connections in the television world for attracting crime to Hilversum; the town has had to cope with mounting drug-related issues in a community with higher than average unemployment and ongoing housing shortage.
Hilversum was one of the first towns to have a local party of the populist movement called Leefbaar ("liveable"). Founded by former social-democrat party strongman Jan Nagel, it was initially held at bay for alderman positions. In 2001, Nagel from 'Leefbaar Hilversum' teamed up with 'Leefbaar Utrecht' leaders to found a national 'Leefbaar Nederland' party. By strange coincidence, in 2002 the most vocal 'Leefbaar Rotterdam' politician Pim Fortuyn was shot and killed by an animal rights activist at Hilversum Media Park just after finishing a radio interview. This happened, however, after a break between Fortuyn and Nagel during a Leefbaar Nederland board meeting in Hilversum on Fortuyn's anti-Islamic viewpoints.
The town of Hilversum has put a great deal of effort into improvements, including a recent renovation to its central train station, thorough renovation of the main shopping centre (Hilvertshof), and development of new dining and retail districts downtown including the "vintage" district in the Leeuwenstraat. Several notable architectural accomplishments include the Institute for Sound and Vision, and Zanderij Crailoo (nl), the largest man-made wildlife crossing in the world.
Most local and regional buses are operated by Connexxion, but two of the bus routes are operated by Syntus Utrecht and three others by U-OV. In addition, regional bus route 320 is operated by both Connexxion and Pouw Vervoer.
In 2018, major road works started to make room for a new BRT bus lane from Hilversum to Huizen, set to open in early 2021.
The section between Hilversum and Blaricum is operated 2x per hour with buses running through to Huizen 1x per hour.
Hilversum Station - Laren - Blaricum Dorp - Huizen
Hilversum Station - Eemnes - Laren - Blaricum Ziekenhuis (Hospital) - Naarden-Bussum Station
Hilversum Station - Oud-Loosdrecht - Loenen aan de Vecht - Vinkeveen - Wilnis - Mijdrecht
Operated by Syntus Utrecht, Mon-Sat during daytime hours only. Only runs between Hilversum and Loenen aan de Vecht on Saturday.
Hilversum Station - Blaricum Bijvanck - Huizen - Blaricum Ziekenhuis (Hospital) - Naarden Gooimeer - Muiden P+R - Amsterdam Amstel Station
Operated by both Connexxion and Pouw Vervoer. During weekday daytime hours, Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings, part of the buses only run between Hilversum and Huizen. During morning rush hours, 4 extra buses run between Hilversum Station and Hilversum Arenapark.
Utrecht Central Station → De Bilt → Bilthoven → Maartensdijk → Hilversum Station
Operated by U-OV. Only runs on Saturday nights (between midnight and 5 AM).
Hilversum Station → Eemnes → Blaricum Bijvanck → Huizen
Operated by Pouw Vervoer. Only runs on Saturday nights (between midnight and 5 AM).
After the 2018 elections, the municipal government was made up of aldermen from the political parties Hart voor Hilversum, D66 and VVD.
The mayor of Hilversum is Pieter Broertjes, former lead editor of the Volkskrant, a nationwide distributed newspaper.
It was the first city with a "Leefbaar" party (which was intended as just a local party). Today, Leefbaar Hilversum has been reduced to only 1 seat, but some other parties have their origins in Leefbaar Hilversum:
Hart voor Hilversum. Originated from a Leefbaar Hilversum separation party called DLPH, which won 1 seat in the 2006 elections. Leadership was taken over in 2006 by Leonie Sazias, a TV celebrity. Leonie Sazias later changed the party name to Hart voor Hilversum. She won 3 seats in the 2010 elections and increased her influence to 6 seats in 2014. They won the 2018 elections and have 8 seats now.
Hilversum 1. Was founded by Hans Roos, originally a council member for Hart voor Hilversum, but due to disagreements with the party on the list of candidates for the elections in 2014, decided to split and start his own party in 2013.