Are you looking for things to do in Arnhem? Arnhem is one of those Dutch destinations that can transport you back to the middle ages at first glance. The architecture, art scene, and cultural heritage point back to bygone years of kings and queens. Visitors are in for a treat. Get to know this intriguing city and discover the 10 best things to do while in Arnhem.
There is evidence that ancient people have lived here as far back as the Stone Age. A formal settlement emerged at Arnhem in the middle ages, and a network of fortifications came into existence.
Located in the east of the Netherlands near the German border at Emmerich, Arnhem is the capital of the Gelderland province, with a population of about 151,000.
Today, Arnhem is a thriving city whose sights and attractions await local and international travelers.
Travel back in time at the Open-air Museum
The Open-air Museum depicts how farmers, fishermen and craftsmen in the old days used to live here. Founded in 1912, the museum displays what these people went through on a daily basis to survive.
The traditional lifestyle and ways of the Dutch people living in a rural population was preserved for visitors to experience and appreciate. You will see actors in costumes demonstrate age-old techniques of constructive windmills, workshops and other buildings. The experience is very educational.
Located 4km to the north of Arnhem, the open-air museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city.
Walk through the old town centre
Arnhem’s old town centre is the market region in the heart of the city, next to the river Nederrijn and the Eusebius Church. (More about this magnificent church below.)
Next to this magnificent church is Duivelshuis, or the Devil’s House, a city castle that was built in the 16th century. It’s named after the devil because of the demonic half-goat-half-human statues that line its archways. The original owner was Maarten van Rossum. The house is now part of the town hall.
Don’t miss walking down the river promenade to see the John Frost Bridge, the beautiful Musispark, and the stunning Musis Concert Hall.
Take your time exploring the surrounding streets on foot and discover cool places to go shopping and sightseeing. Take a break and grab a meal or a drink in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
Like all the lovely cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Arnhem is best enjoyed while simply strolling or biking around its lovely old streets. Doing so will help you really see what this city is all about.
Celebrate history at Doorwerth Castle
Don’t we all want to live amongst kings, queens and royalties? Quaint castles and palaces are some of the reasons why the Netherlands is such a unique tourism destination. In Arnhem, the ancient castle of Doorwerth is a representative of fairy-tale-like structures that still exist today.
Located about 15km to the west of Arnhem, Doorwerth is an idyllic building dating way back to the 1200s. It was made entirely of wood but was later rebuilt in stone.
What makes this castle even more magical is the surrounding moat on all sides. Beyond the moat is a forest with many trails to walk through. Taking a quick hike allows you to imagine how the ancients used to travel through this forest and hunt animals.
Standing proud in the centre of the moat, Doorwerth has been restored so that the small iron-framed windows, archways, shutters and other unique features could allow you to relive Arnhem’s glorious past.
Honour the brave at Arnhem War Museum
Another important museum in the city is the Arnhem War Museum, one of the many war museums here. Being close to Germany, this part of the Netherlands played a significant role during World War II. Several scrimmages involving English, Polish, and German troops took place, culminating at Arnhem’s Battle.
This museum is one of the top sights in the city for its fascinating collection of war memorabilia and artefacts, including vehicles, tanks, transporters and gun platforms. You will learn a great deal of information about how the war was conducted.
From here, it is a good idea to visit Museum Bronbeek, a museum and a home for elderly soldiers at the same time. This museum mainly looks into Dutch colonial history, educating visitors of the nation’s exploits in India and the activities of the East Indies Army.
Bronbeek used to be a royal palace originally constructed in 1945 by King William III. It is a beautiful structure located east of Arnhem and surrounded by parkland. Museum Bronbeek houses a wide variety of artefacts, including cannons, soldier’s uniforms, weaponry and military equipment.
Visit Airborne Museum
Another museum dedicated to warfare and the military is the Airborne Museum, which focuses specifically on the Battle of Arnhem and what happened here and in the surrounding villages during Operation Market Garden.
Airborne Museum displays an intriguing collection of military memorabilia and artefacts. Hartenstein, the building that hosts the museum, served as the HQ for the British 1st Airborne Division. This tells you that everything you see in the museum is authentic and has seen their time in battle.
The museum also showcases videos, photographs and interviews with Allied soldiers to better educate you about the war and how it shaped the city and the entire country.
Wonder at the Eusebius Church
Other than museums and quaint castles, the Netherlands is also famous for preserving old and majestic cathedrals. In the centre of Arnhem, you will find Grote Kerk or St. Eusebius Church, which has stood here since its construction in the 1500s.
Located in the centre of the city in the Kerkplein, Eusebius Church towers over Arnhem with its magnificent Gothic style architecture. Its central bell tower is 93m tall and is clearly the tallest structure in the city. You can take an elevator up to the top of the tower to get an amazing view of Arnhem in all its glory.
Curiously, you will see a paratrooper memorial hanging from the ceiling in the main aisle. This is a reminder that the church was extensively damaged during WWII.
Another attraction here is the crypts that remain open to the public. There are several shallow graves, and human remains.
Have fun with your family at Burger’s Zoo
Burger’s Zoo is very popular among local and travelling families. It is home to a huge variety of interesting animals, reptiles and marine life. The zoo boasts an ocean environment exhibit, complete with coral reef, and a desert exhibit featuring snakes, African cave crickets and bighorn sheep.
This zoo also has a mangrove with botanical plants. Take a peek down into the tree roots to see archerfish and King Parrots.
Burger’s Zoo is located next to the Open-air museum, and visiting both attractions on one go is a good idea.
Another reason Burger’s Zoo is well-loved by people is Feestaardvarken sculpture park, which Burger’s Zoo donated to the citizens of Arnhem. You can’t miss the park as it is marked by a giant red Aardvark wearing a party hat and lying on its back in a sand pit.
The giant aardvark is a hit. There is a lift that people can take free of charge to see the giant sculpture from above and really appreciate this monumental structure.
Children love coming here to explore, enjoy some climbing or play in the sand.
Discover Sonsbeek Park
Sonsbeek Park is the most famous and visited park in Arnhem. Your stay in the city would not be complete if you didn’t spend some time in this vast expanse of the open natural landscape. Sonsbeek has over 200 hectares of woodland, fields and park.
People love taking a stroll through stunning trees and admire some hidden ponds and fountains. There is also a waterfall with a rock face you can climb up to, but very carefully.
In addition to the forests, this nature park is made lovelier by the landscape garden, manicured lawns and the beautiful white house building, which gives this park an air of decadence and grandeur.
Go on an adventure at Hoge Veluwe National Park
Another park to check out is Hoge Veluwe National Park. This is the largest continuous nature reserve in the Netherlands, which uniquely has sand dunes. It is home to various wildlife, including red deer, wild boars, mouflons, badgers, and foxes.
This national park is perfect for outdoor adventures. It has an abundance of trails and well-developed walking paths.
Established in 1935, Hoge Veluwe National Park is primarily a hunting ground, and it has never ceased attracting hunters and adventure-lovers from all over Europe. The St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge was constructed to accommodate hunters.
Cross the John Frost Bridge
The John Frost Bridge is an impressive arch bridge that spans the lower Rhine. It is named after Major-General John Frost, who led British forces in the Battle of Arnhem to capture and defend the river in 1944. It was actually the Germans who rebuilt the bridge for their troops during WWII.
Here’s a simple trivia, after the war, a new bridge was constructed in the same style and design as the original to honour the liberation of Arnhem.
Walking across the bridge to admire the lower Rhine River is just lovely.
Getting to Arnhem
Here are some quick tips for traveling to Arnhem. Take the train from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, around 110km away. There are fast train links from Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Den Bosch, Zwolle, Tilburg and Roosendaal.
You can also fly into Eindhoven Airport, which is only about 85km away. From here you can take the bus or train for approximately 1hr 40mins.
Come anytime of the year. You will not run out of cool things to do in Arnhem.
Above are the ten best things to do while in Arnhem. There are plenty more to discover. The city offers fun nightlife, appetizing restaurants and other attractions that will make you fall in love with this Dutch city.