10 Top Tourist Attractions in Arnhem & Easy Day Trips
One of the largest cities in the Netherlands, Arnhem - on the right bank of the Lower Rhine, just a few kilometers below the point where the IJssel branches off the Rhine - is an ideal spot from which to explore this beautiful little country. Before doing so, be sure to spend at least a day or two visiting Arnhem's many historic sites and attractions. First mentioned around 893 AD, the city occupies the site of the old Roman settlement of Arenacum and, thanks to its advantageous position on the Rhine, has been an important place of trade since the Middle Ages, evidence of which can still be seen throughout Arnhem's old city center. In addition to its many memorials, Arnhem boasts numerous museums and cultural attractions, including the excellent Netherlands Open Air Museum with its displays of traditional lifestyles, and the Hoge Veluwe National Park, one of the country's most important conservation areas and a fun place to explore either on bike or on foot.
1 The Netherlands Open Air Museum
Spread across 82 beautiful wooded acres just four kilometers from the heart of Arnhem, the Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum) is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions. Founded in 1912 by ordinary Dutch citizens wanting 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 both the rural population - farmers, craftsmen, and fishermen - as well as townsfolk up to the start of the 1900s. Highlights include typical farmhouses and fishermen's homes, windmills of all kinds, and a variety of craft workshops occupied by costumed guides demonstrating traditional skills. Visitors will also see a steam sawmill from Groenlo, a steam-driven dairy from Veenwouden, and an entire group of houses from the Zaan area, all brought here from their original sites.
2 Editor's Pick The John Frost Bridge and the Airborne Museum
Arnhem's bridge over the Rhine, immortalized in the film A Bridge Too Far, was famously held by British paratroopers for four days against overwhelming odds during 1944's Market Garden airborne operation. Renamed the John Frost Bridge in honor of the commander of the paratroopers - also commemorated by a monument at the north end of the bridge - it's a poignant reminder of the strategic importance of the city through the centuries. Also of interest is Airborne Museum Hartenstein in the suburb of Oosterbeek, housed in the former 19th-century villa that served as Frost's headquarters. On display is a large collection of memorabilia, along with displays regarding the Netherlands during WWII. Another worthwhile attraction is the nearby Airborne War Cemetery and the war memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives for freedom (this and other related WWII sites can be visited as part of the Liberation Route, a fascinating self-guided tour around Arnhem and neighboring Nijmegen).
Address: Utrechtseweg 232, Oosterbeek, Gelderland 6862
3 Hoge Veluwe National Park
Just eight kilometers north of downtown Arnhem, Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the largest such parks in the Netherlands and is a must-visit when in the area. Encompassing some 13,800 acres, Hoge Veluwe is also the country's largest nature reserve, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including deer, wild boar, mouflon, and numerous species of birds, making it a bird watchers' paradise. It's a popular destination for cyclists (more than 1,700 complimentary white bikes are available for visitors' use) and walkers alike, with numerous trails leading through expanses of dense woodland, heath, and sandy dunes. Other highlights include a sculpture park with works by Rodin and Noore, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, a first-rate collection of 19th and 20th-century European art.
Address: Koningsweg 17, Schaarsbergen
4 The Bronbeek Museum
In the Bronbeek suburbs between Arnhem and Velp, the Bronbeek Museum (Museum van het Koninklijk Tehuis voor Oud-Militairen) lies in a retirement home once occupied by army veterans from the Dutch East Indies. Consisting largely of artifacts brought back by these soldiers stationed in far-flung Dutch colonies, the museum was established in 1863 and is one of the oldest in the Netherlands. Along with its displays of weapons, uniforms, and medals, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the often-tough conditions these soldiers faced in their daily lives when they were posted overseas.
Address: Velperweg 147, Arnhem
5 Exploring Arnhem's Old City Center
From Arnhem's main shopping streets, the narrow Rijnstraat and Roggestraat, numerous smaller streets fan off toward the Rhine and to the oldest parts of town. Starting at the spacious Market Square (Markt), you'll see the Grote Kerk, a 15th-century church with a splendid tower offering fine 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 Devils' House after the three devilish figures guarding its entrance. The remains of the even older town walls, the 14th-century Sabelpoort, are also here. Finally, from the John Frost Bridge, a ring of gardens runs north along the line of the former town walls and passes St. Walpurgis Basiliek, the town's oldest church, consecrated in 1422.
6 The City of Nijmegen
Nijmegen, the largest town in Gelderland, is only seven kilometers from the German border (and 24 kilometers south of Arnhem) on the left bank of the River Waal, the southern branch of the Rhine as it approaches the sea. One of the cities targeted by Operation Market Garden in 1944, it's a delightful place to explore on foot thanks to its many parks and pleasant pedestrian zones. One of the most popular is the Valkhof, an attractive park on a low hill above the Waal on the site of an imperial stronghold built by Charlemagne in 768 AD. All that remains of the original stronghold is the palatine chapel of St. Nicholas, consecrated by Pope Leo III in 799 AD. To the southeast are the ruins of a Romanesque apse, St. Maartenskapel, believed to date from the time of Frederick Barbarossa around 1155 and offering superb views. Also of interest is the Belvedere, an old 16th-century watchtower, and the Grote Kerk (St. Stevenskerk) dating from around 1260.
7 The Royal Burgers' Zoo
A short stroll from the Netherlands Open Air Museum, the Royal Burgers' Zoo is also well worth a visit, especially if you're traveling with youngsters. Home to more than 2,000 animals (it's one of the largest zoos in the Netherlands), this splendid attraction is noted for its collection of chimpanzees and gorillas; a large collection of birds; numerous magnificent rock enclosures; and the recently added Rimba, a realistic copy of a Southeast Asian rainforest. Also of interest is a fun walking safari through an African-style savanna providing up close views of lions, giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs.
Address: Antoon van Hooffplein 1, 6816 SH Arnhem
8 Museum of Modern Art
Arnhem's Museum of Modern Art (Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem), set in the splendid gardens of the Reeberg, occupies an old mansion that once housed an exclusive Gentlemen's Club. Established in 1918, the museum boasts a large collection of both modern and contemporary figurative art, along with early 20th-century decorative arts and temporary exhibitions. Other highlights include collections of visual arts from the 1980s onwards, as well as applied arts and design, including glass and ceramics.
Address: Utrechtseweg 87, 6812AA Arnhem
9 Doorwerth Castle
The lovely moated Doorwerth Castle, just 11 kilometers west of Arnhem, is a wonderful example of a Dutch medieval fortress. Entered via a drawbridge, the castle was originally built in the 13th century and was later enlarged in the 15th and 16th centuries to its present impressive dimensions. Almost completely destroyed during the heavy fighting of 1944, the building has been carefully restored to its former glory and is as popular with tourists as it is with ghost hunters (special ghost tours are occasionally offered).
Address: Fonteinallee 2b, 6865 ND Doorwerth
About 50 kilometers west of Arnhem, the lovely old town of Amersfoort is an easy excursion by car or public transport. Particularly pleasing is the well-preserved Old Town, surrounded by a double ring of canals and home to many fine historic buildings. Highlights are its old churches, including St. George's in the Hof, the town's main square. Dating from 1243, the church boasts a beautiful Gothic rood screen from the 15th century and the tomb of famous Dutch architect Jacob van Campen. Also of interest is the nearby Late Gothic St. Mary's Tower (Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren), almost 100 meters high and with a carillon of 47 bells that's considered one of the finest in the Netherlands. Be sure to explore the 15th-century Koppelpoort, connected to the old town by the outer ring canal. This spectacular water and land gate spans the Eem in the outer ring of fortifications and can still be closed with the aid of a windmill.
Day Trips from Arnhem
Enschede and the Twente Museum
Given its central location, Arnhem is the perfect place from which to venture out and explore the many delights of the Dutch countryside. A particularly pleasant day trip is Enschede, an hour's drive east of Arnhem on the Twente Canal near the German frontier. Long a center of the country's cotton industry, Enschede is also an important cultural center, and is home to the Twente Museum. The museum's collection covers the main periods of art in Flanders and the Netherlands from the 15th century to the present day, including a fine collection of antiquities and paintings, old manuscripts, woodcarvings, Delftware, and tapestries.
Address: Lasondersingel 129-131, 7514 BP Enschede
About 30 minutes' drive from Arnhem, the old Hanseatic town of Deventer lies on the right bank of the IJssel. The town has preserved a number of beautiful old houses in its center and is famed for its sweet and moist honey cakes (kruidkoek). The most striking building on Deventer's main square is the Late Gothic Weigh-House (Waag, 1528-31) with a handsome external staircase. The Weigh-House, together with the adjoining House of the Three Herrings (De Drie Haringen, 1575), has been occupied since 1915 by the Municipal Museum of Antiquities with a variety of exhibits illustrating the history of the town and surrounding area. On the outside wall hangs a copper cauldron once used for gruesome executions - a counterfeiter was reputedly boiled to death in it long ago. Other town attractions include the Gothic Grote Kerk (Lebuinuskerk) and the delightful Toy Museum (Speelgoedmuseum), a family favorite.