Of all the cities on the eastern border with Germany, Arnhem (population: 150,000), the provincial capital of Gelderland, has the most to offer visitors; steeped in World War II history, loaded with arts and culture, and convenient to the Veluwe - one of the Netherlands' most beloved national parks - this border city abundantly rewards travelers who make the 70-minute trek across the country from Amsterdam.
How to Reach Arnhem:
To reach Arnhem from Amsterdam Central Station, travelers can take a direct train or transfer via Utrecht. Travel time is about 70 minutes. See the NS (Dutch Railways) web site for the latest timetables and fare information.
What to Do & See in Arnhem:
While much of the city's historic architecture was razed in the war, the Late Gothic Eusebius Church (Kerkplein 1) escaped with several of its features intact; as the church was reconstructed, these pieces - such as a mausoleum, tombstones and fresco from the 16th century - were reincorporated into the restored church. This endowed the characteristically Lower-Rhenish church, set in the center of the city, with an authentic ambiance that recalls its prewar days. The church tower offers panoramic views of Arnhem.
Below the streets of Arnhem is an extensive network of medieval cellars, which laid undisturbed for many years until the city moved to restore them and put them to use. Now, the Historische Kelders (Historical Cellars) (Oude Oeverstraat 4A) are the site of concerts, exhibits and other cultural events; visitors can also tour the cellars either on their own or as part of a tour.
Arnhem has its own museum of modern art, the Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem (Utrechtseweg 87), whose motto - ruimte voor realiteit, "room for reality" - underscores its focus on different streams of realist art, from the late 19th century to the present. Arnhem's role in the history of Dutch ceramics has also endowed the museum with an impressive collection of modern ceramics, as well as other applied arts.
Arnhem claims nationwide fame as a fantastic city for shoppers, with dozens of boutiques and studios that trace a route from the Hommelstraat to the Sonsbeeksingel and northward up the Klarendalseweg - the so-called Modekwartier (Fashion Quarter).
Side by side on the northern border of the city are two of Arnhem's most prized attractions, both imminently child-friendly. The Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (Dutch Open Air Museum) (Schelmseweg 89) has collected 200 years of traditional architecture from all corners of the Netherlands, from the far north to the deep south; a historic electric tram line, just like the one that operated in pre-WWII Arnhem, circles the vast museum. The museum has even "preserved" domestic animal breeds which once proliferated in the Netherlands - cattle, chicken and rabbit breeds - but have since become rare. Immediately to the west of the Openluchtmuseum is another stop for animal lovers - the Burgers' Zoo (Antoon van Hooffplein 1), where diverse animal species can live in the same 110-acre space thanks to the zoo's ability to simulate the biomes, or habitats, each species needs to thrive. The result is an appreciably modern zoo with an impressive diversity of animals that attracts 1.5 million visitors a year.
A number of lesser-known, often specialistic museums also help to enrich Arnhem's culture. Museum Bronbeek (Velperweg 147) takes an informative look at the Netherlands' colonial past in the Dutch East Indies from the 16th century to World War II, and the effect of Dutch military presence on the colonized society. The museum is part of a picturesque estate dotted with fine architecture and memorials to those who perished in Southeast Asia in World War II and the Indonesian National Revolution. Another fine estate, Huis Zypendaal (Zijpendaalseweg 44) (open summer only), is noted for its own classic 18th-century architecture and impressive period furniture, as well as the expansive parklands that surround it.
For military history buffs, Arnhem is one of the 75 points on the Liberation Route, a downloadable audio tour that features true accounts of the liberation of the eastern Netherlands from German occupation in 1944 and 1945. Several notable military museums lie in the vicinity of Arnhem, such as the Airborne Museum Hartenstein (Utrechtseweg 232) in Oosterbeek, just 4 km (2.5 mi) west of Arnhem.
Where to Eat & Drink in Arnhem:
- De Stenen Tafel (Weg Achter het Bosch 1) - Situated in a picturesque 1920s water tower built in the Amsterdamse School style, this restaurant treats diners to refined cuisine in its superb Art Deco interior. Locavores will surely notice the meat options plucked from the adjacent Veluwe national park and seafood from the IJsselmeer; note that the meatless options are scarce.
- Bavaria Restaurant (Willemsplein 31) - One of the most beautifully appointed restaurants in town, Bavaria visually stuns with an interior that transports diners to Indonesia. Some tables are intimately cordoned off with carved wood screens, while others are fashioned into mini-"huts" of bamboo. The cuisine is typical Indonesian, or rather Dutch Indies, with options such as the ubiquitous rijsttafel and its assortment of classic dishes.
- Grand Cafe Arnhemse Meisje (Broerenstraat 41) - This restaurant, which shares the name of the cookie that is one of Arnhem's local specialties, weaves international flavors into a fine selection of dishes for lunch and dinner; its attractive location is also ideal for drinks and bar snacks.
Arnhem Tourist Information Center
Open Mon - Fri, 9.30 - 5.30 p.m; Sat, 9.30 a.m. - 5 p.m.