Exploring Hoge Veluwe National Park: A Visitor's Guide
Hoge Veluwe National Park (Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe), one of the most popular attractions in the Netherlands, lies just eight kilometers north of Arnhem. Occupying an area of 13,750 acres, Veluwe National Park is the largest continuous nature reserve in the country and is notable for its diversity of scenery, from dense forests to high sand dunes. It's also unique in being a privately owned national park, one of only two such parks in the Netherlands (and the only one that's fully enclosed). Built as a hunting park between 1909-1923, it's now the country's largest nature reserve and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including deer, wild boar, and mouflon. It's also an important sanctuary for birds and has long been a popular destination for bird watchers. Other popular activities include cycling and hiking on the many well-marked trails, and the reserve is also home to a sculpture park and art gallery, the Kröller-Müller Museum.
Back to Nature: Hoge Veluwe Highlights
Hoge Veluwe National Park is famous for its tremendous diversity of landscape, a mix of thick forest, heath, and even sand dunes. Perhaps the best preserved and certainly the most interesting geologically of the country's national parks, Hoge Veluwe consists of a large area of sandy soil formed during the Ice Age. This fascinating scenery is interrupted in the south and east by moraines standing between 80 and 100 meters high. Once completely covered in trees, the park gets its present look from the Middle Ages when patches of forest were cleared for cultivation and expanses of heathland were used for sheep grazing. Over time, the sand was blown off these bare patches, sometimes burying whole villages, with dunes building up and leaving some areas reduced to wasteland. In the 19th-century, reforestation schemes were launched to prevent further drifting, while some depressions filled with rainwater, forming lakes.
Hoge Veluwe's Birds and Beasts
From well-placed observation points in the center and northwest sections of Hoge Veluwe, visitors can watch animals including red deer, roe deer, and wild pigs, as well as moufflon, a species of wild sheep originally from Sardinia and Corsica. In winter, a variety of birds congregate in the park, including marigold finches, titmice, chaffinches, woodpeckers, jays, magpies, and thrushes. If you're here for the wildlife, the best times to do some animal spotting are early morning and late evening, so plan your visit accordingly. Be sure to pick up a park map upon arrival (available from the entrances, visitor center, tea house, or park shop) for details regarding locations of wildlife observation posts and refuge areas, some of which are accessible by car.
For those with an interest in flora, the park is home to some 500 different plant species, many of them rare, as well as numerous fungi, mosses, and lichens. Plant highlights include the protected common juniper, a small insect-eating plant called a sundew, dwarf viper's grass (one of the country's rarest plants), and the lovely marsh gentian, well known for its beautiful blue flowers. The park also boasts dense woodland areas consisting of conifers (particularly pine) along with rhododendrons and numerous species of deciduous trees, including red oaks.
Hiking and Biking
As with so much of the Netherlands, Hoge Veluwe National Park is predominantly flat, making touring by bike one of the best ways to enjoy its magnificent scenery. And as the Netherlands is one of the most bike-friendly nations on the planet, it seems only natural that more than 1,700 of the country's famous White Bikes have been made available for use throughout the park (free with admission); simply turn up, ride as far as you like, and drop it off at one of the distribution points or park entrances when you're done. Specially designed children's bikes are also available, as are versions with front or rear child seats. For those wanting to hang onto their bike for the duration of the day, lockable Blue Bikes are available for rent from the Bicycle Workshop next to the visitor center (tandem and electric bikes are also available). For those with special needs, free wheelchair bikes and trikes are available free of charge, as are bikes designed for easy mounting. In addition to the three main entrances, White Bikes can be collected from the Marchantplein, the Kröller-Müller Museum, and Jachthuis Sint Hubertus.
For those wanting to take things at a slower pace, the park has numerous well-marked rambling routes and footpaths. These easy-to-follow routes are clearly marked (just look for the wooden posts) and take in the park's most picturesque spots, including the wildlife viewing stations. Routes range from three to eight kilometers, and a number of self-guided themed walks are available (be sure to collect a map when purchasing your ticket). Longer routes of up to 20 kilometers are also available for serious hikers, while those with toddlers can rent special rugged hiking strollers.
Home Sweet Home: St. Hubertus
Built as the main residence for Hoge Veluwe's wealthy owners, Anton and Helene Kröller-Müller, Jachthuis Sint Hubertus was designed by one of the Netherland's leading architects, Hendrik Berlage, and was completed in 1923. Named after St. Hubertus, an accomplished huntsman, this magnificent mansion contains numerous references and symbols relating to the legend of the great saint, most noticeably its antler shape (the masonry also incorporates a cross). The home was also built with modernity and comfort in mind and contains a number of technical innovations that were new for the time, including central heating, central vac, and an electric elevator. Highlights of a visit (available only via guided tours) include displays relating to the building's design as well as a chance to view the original furnishings.
The Kröller-Müller Museum and Sculpture Garden
Built to house the private collection of the Hoge Veluwe's art collector owners, the Kröller-Müller Museum (Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller) is home to numerous fine examples of 19th- and 20th-century European art. Built in 1938, the building was designed to bring art and nature together, a concept continued in the impressive glass extension added in 1977. Highlights of the collection include some 4,000 drawings, 275 sculptures, and several hundred paintings. Work from the late 19th and early 20th centuries predominates, including 280 paintings and drawings by Vincent Van Gogh from his time in The Hague and Paris. Other treasures include Art Nouveau works by Odilon Redon, James Ensor, and Jan Toorop; Impressionism and Expressionism paintings by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, and Auguste Renoir; and Cubism, including examples from Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger. The extension to the museum displays sculpture, reliefs, and drawings since 1950, while the superb Sculpture Garden has works by Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth, and Aristide Maillol. The museum also runs a series of fun art programs for kids, as well as concerts. (English language guided tours are available.)
Going Underground: The Museonder
Europe's first underground museum, the Museonder opened near the Kröller-Müller Museum in 1993. Visitors are taken on a unique journey through a series of subterranean pathways providing displays and information related to the area's natural history and geology as well as once-native wildlife, including the skeletons of mammoths, rhinos, and giant stags. Some exhibits focus on organisms that live underground, including burrowing animals and insects and the root systems of trees.
The Visitor Center
The visitor center at Hoge Veluwe National Park is the best place to begin your adventure. In addition to providing useful, practical information about exploring the park, its numerous displays include a fascinating glimpse at the park's stunning landscape, its wildlife, and other features you'll see along the way. The majority of the park's themed walking and cycling tours also start here, and be sure to check out the movies showing in the auditorium, including special films just for kids. The park shop is also here and offers everything from unique gifts and souvenirs to food items such as honey and truffles.
Touring Hoge Veluwe National Park
Access to Hoge Veluwe is via one of its three entrances: Koningsweg 17, Schaarsbergen; Houtkampweg 13, Hoenderloo; and Houtkampweg 9, Otterlo. Once in, head for the visitor center for maps and other information. Guided tours can be purchased here or at the entrance gates, along with English language audio guides.
Tips and Tactics: Making the Most of Your Visit to Hoge Veluwe National Park
The following tips and tactics will help ensure you get the most out of your visit to Hoge Veluwe National Park:
- Dining: A number of excellent on-site dining opportunities are available in the park, including De Koperen Kop, offering a variety of self-service meals (lunch and dinner), along with a pleasant terrace and a playground for the kids. Lunches and snacks are available from the Monsieur Jacques Café-Restaurant in the Kröller-Müller Museum, while light refreshments are available from the Tea House Jachthuis Sint Hubertus.
- Shopping: The park shop is in the visitor center and sells local crafts, clothing, and souvenirs.
- Camping: On-site camping is available for tents and caravans, with wash and shower facilities provided for a small additional fee (optional electric hook-ups are also available).
- Animal Tips: If visiting mid-September to mid-October - rutting season for deer and mouflon - access to certain areas that the animals frequent may be restricted. Also, feeding of animals is not permitted.
- Plant Tips: It's forbidden to remove any plants or flowers (even breaking of branches is a no-no).
Getting to Hoge Veluwe National Park
- By Bus: Buses run regularly from Apeldoorn train station (Route 108 to Hoenderloo; change to Route 106 to Otterlo). Buses stop in the park near the visitor center and the Kröller-Müller Museum.
- By Train: Hoge Veluwe is served by trains to Apeldoorn.
- By Road: Hoge Veluwe is an easy drive from Arnhem and Apeldoorn, with entrances at Schaarsbergen (south), Otterlo (northwest), and Hoenderloo (northeast).
- Parking: Parking is available on-site as well as outside park entrances.
- Koningsweg 17, Schaarsbergen
The majority of tourist attractions within an easy drive of Hoge Veluwe National Park are in or around Arnhem, just eight kilometers away. Must-sees include the Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum), an 82-acre site including traditional farms and homes, and the popular Royal Burgers' Zoo, home to more than 2,000 animals and one of the largest zoos in the country. In Arnhem itself, highlights include the city's famous John Frost Bridge, named after the commander of the paratroopers who held the crossing against huge odds, and Airborne Museum Hartenstein, housed in the 19th-century villa that served as Frost's headquarters. If you're heading north from Hoge Veluwe, toward Apeldoorn - and you're traveling with smaller kids - make sure you visit Koningin Juliana Toren, a fun amusement park built around the historic Queen Juliana Tower from 1910. Highlights of the park's 60 attractions include roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, and wet rides.