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A Day-Trip to Arnhem: History and Fashion

Posted on May 24, 2022 by

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Dutch Provinces: Gelderland

”Discover the Netherlands, Province by Province” project – each month of 2022 is dedicated to one Dutch province.

Arnhem, the capital of the Gelderland province, is located on the shores of the rivers Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek, and right next to the Hoge Veluwe National Park. It’s a city best known for a fierce battle in World War 2, Operation Market Garden: the British 1st Airborne Division were given the task of securing the bridge at Arnhem. There was a movie made about this, called “A Bridge too Far”, although the movie was filmed in Deventer, as the Arnhem area changed too much to represent WWII-era Arnhem.

A day-trip to Arnhem might involve an emotional encounter with the city’s turbulent history, a nature escape and a shopping session. Arnhem is a fashion city, offering a great shopping experience. That was obvious when I visited, as the streets in the city centre were packed with shops and people, more than I’ve seen in any Dutch city centre. Arnhem is not your typical pretty Dutch city, with old architecture. The city was rebuilt after the WWII destruction, in a more modern way. There are old houses in the city centre, as well as other old structures here and there, in the city, but the vibe is mainly a modern one. I visited Arnhem on an overcast day, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the city. Au contraire! The streets were buzzing with people going around shopping and enjoying a Sunday afternoon. The city was pretty much alive. The feel was more of a residential city than a tourist destination, a thing I think many of us admire nowadays.

I would recommend Arnhem for a chill day-trip, for an experience of the local Dutch life and as a starting point for a nature adventure (given the proximity with the wonderful Veluwe).

Arnhem city centre

What to do and see in Arnhem

  • Arnhem Central Station. The main train station has a unique architecture which will capture your attention for sure.
Arnhem Central Station

  • Walk around the city centre. Coming from the central station, make your way through the shopping streets and walk around the old city centre. Have a drink in the main square, Markt, with a view over the impressive Eusebius Church.
  • Eusebius Church is free to visit, and it’s a beautiful 15th century church, Gothic style, with a tower offering great views over the city. Inside the church, you can see the marble monument of the last Duke of Gelderland, Charles of Egmond, who died in 1538.
Eusebius Church Arnhem

  • The Devil’s House (Duivelhuis). This is a 16th century city castle, which had many occupants through the centuries, including a few mayors. The name of the building comes from the satyr statues on the facade. In the WWII, during the Operation Market Garden, captured British paratroopers were held in the basement of this building. Most of the market square was destroyed during the war, including a part of the Duivelhuis. When the reconstruction of the town hall was done, this house was incorporated into the new building. The office of Arnhem mayor is now in the Duivelhuis and many marriage ceremonies are held there. This was my favourite building in Arnhem, and it was impressive to see the old and new combined to create a new city.
The Devil's House detail

  • Netherlands Open-Air Museum. The Dutch Open-Air Museum covers an area of around 44 hectares and it’s an amazing place where you can learn about the Dutch history, about how people lived in the past and the struggles they went through in their every day life. From mills and farmhouses to summer houses and bakeries, there are all kind of buildings you can see in the park. Some are actual reconstructions of houses brought here from their original location. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit it during my day-trip, because I arrived too late in Arnhem, but it’s a place I want to come back to, as I love open-air museums!
  • Arnhem War Museum. Because WWII played an important role in the history of Arnhem, there are a few museums dedicated to the war in the city. One of them is the Oorlog Museum, which exhibits an important collection of war memorabilia, artefacts and vehicles.
  • Airborne Museum. Dedicated to the battle of Arnhem and the Operation Market garden.
  • The John Frost Bridge. While this bridge might not impress you with its architecture, it has a historic significance. This was the bridge that the paratroopers of the Operation Market garden held for four days against the unfavourable odds, and it was renamed the John Frost Bridge (John Frostbrug) in honor of the commander of the paratroopers.
  • Walk along the Nederrijn river. Explore the Rijnkade promenade, have a drink at one of the restaurants or take the ferry to cross over to the other side of the river.
The Promenade

  • Sonsbeek Park. Sonsbeek covers a vast expanse of open natural landscape with over 200 hectares of woodland, fields and park, including two waterfalls. In the park you can visit also Huys Zypendaal, a country estate with gardens. Part of this house is a museum, and the other part is home to the central office of Geldersch Landschap & Kasteelen.

If you want to see the best of Arnhem, I recommend a full day, to have enough time for everything. You could do a weekend trip and combine it with the Veluwe Park and beautiful Zutphen. It’s easy to get to Arnhem by train — check out your best options on the NS website.

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