Things to do in Arnhem
One of the largest cities in the Netherlands, Arnhem is located on the right bank of the Lower Rhine, a few kilometers below the point where the IJssel branches off into the Rhine. While it’s a great place to explore this beautiful little country, be sure to first spend at least a day or two visiting Arnhem’s many historic sites and attractions, as well as its pleasant green spaces, such as Sonsbeek Park, popular for its former mansion and tea room.
First mentioned around AD 893, the city occupies the site of the ancient Roman colony of Arenacum and, thanks to its advantageous position on the Rhine, has been an important place of commerce since the Middle Ages, of which one can still see the evidence in the historic center of Arnhem. As well as its many memorials, Arnhem has many other interesting things to do, including shopping, dining, and visiting museums and cultural attractions such as the excellent Netherlands Open Air Museum with its displays of traditional ways of life.
Netherlands Open Air Museum
Spread over 82 wooded acres just four kilometers from the heart of Arnhem, the open-air museum of the Netherlands Nederlands Openluchtmuseum is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Founded in 1912 by ordinary Dutch citizens who wanted to preserve traditional ways of life and folk art from different parts of the country, this excellent museum focuses on the living and working conditions of the rural population – farmers, craftsmen, and fishermen – as well as city dwellers until the early 1900s.
Highlights include typical farmhouses and fishermen’s houses, windmills of all kinds, and a variety of craft workshops staffed by costumed guides demonstrating traditional skills. Visitors will also see a Groenlo steam sawmill; a steam dairy in Veenwouden; and a group of houses from the Zaan region, all brought here from their original sites. There is also a fun heritage tram line that can be taken, including a large collection of old vehicles from around the country.
A new addition is the multimedia exhibition, The Canon of Dutch History, which allows visitors to delve into fascinating details about the country’s rich culture. Regular events are also held here, including concerts and educational workshops.
Address: Hoeferlaan 4, 6816 SG Arnhem
John Frost Bridge and Airborne Museum
Arnhem Bridge over the Rhine, immortalized in the film A Bridge Too Far, was held by British paratroopers for four days against all odds during the Market Garden Airborne Operation in 1944. Renamed John Frost Bridge John Frostbrug in the honor of the commander of the paratroopers – also commemorated by a monument at the north end of the bridge – it is a poignant reminder of the strategic importance of the city through the centuries. There is also a small information center, which features details of the Battle of Arnhem. Regular celebrations are held to commemorate the significance of the bridge, including music and fireworks.
Also of interest is the Hartenstein Airborne Museum in the Arnhem suburb of Oosterbeek, housed in the former 19th-century villa that served as Frost’s headquarters. There is a large collection of memorabilia on display, as well as exhibits on life in the Netherlands during World War II. Guided tours and audio guides are available, and a cafe and shop are located on-site. A visit to the privately run Arnhem War Museum further adds to this fascinating wartime narrative.
Another interesting site to visit is the nearby Airborne War Cemetery and War Memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives for freedom This site and other World War II related sites can be visited as part of the Liberation Route, a fascinating self-guided tour around Arnhem and neighboring Nijmegen.
Address: Nieuwe Kade 23, 6827 AA Arnhem
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Just eight kilometers north of Arnhem city center, the Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the largest such parks in the Netherlands and is a must-visit in the region. Covering some 13,800 acres, Hoge Veluwe is also the country’s largest nature reserve, home to a variety of flora and fauna including deer, wild boar, mouflon, and many species of birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
It is also a popular destination for cyclists with over 1700 free white bikes available for visitors and walkers, with many trails leading through stretches of dense forest, heather, and sand dunes.
Fun activities to do at Hoge Veluwe in winter include the free tobogganing provided, as well as skating. It is also a popular camping location, with camping facilities located on-site. Other highlights include a sculpture park with works by Rodin and Noore, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, a top-notch collection of 19th- and 20th-century European art.
A very similar outdoor experience can be enjoyed at nearby Veluwezoom National Park, which shares many of the same geological features, fauna, and flora.
Address: Koningsweg 17, Schaarsbergen
Explore the center of Arnhem’s Old Town
After exploring the city’s main shopping districts, including the famous Modekwartier Arnhem, known for its chic boutiques and galleries, head to the center of Arnhem’s Old Town. As you follow the narrow Rijnstraat and Roggestraat, you will notice many small streets moving towards the Rhine and the older parts of the city. Starting at the spacious Market Square Markt you will see St. Eusebius Church Grote Kerk, a 15th-century church with a splendid tower offering lovely views over the city other highlights include its carillon and the imposing marble monument of the last Duke of Gelderland, Charles of Egmond, who died in 1538.
Other highlights include the 16th-century Old Town Hall, known as the Devil’s House after the three evil figures guarding its entrance. The remains of the even older city walls, from the 14th century Sabelpoort, are also here. Finally, from John Frost Bridge, a ring of gardens stretches north along the line of the old city walls and passes Basiliek St. Walpurgis, the oldest church in the city, consecrated in 1422.
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