Arnhem is a Dutch city in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. This part of the country is actually well-known for its abundant share of historic cities, charming villages and scenic landscapes. More than 150,000 people live in the city of Arnhem and there are a lot of things to do and places to see!
Arnhem is one of those Dutch cities with lots of history. One of the first written notifications of the city dates back to the year 893. It has grown to become one of the most important cities in the Eastern part of the Netherlands. Arnhem is well known for its green surroundings with beautiful (national) parks and estates all around. Families love to visit the city because of two big kid-friendly attractions: Royal Burgers’ Zoo and the Dutch Open Air museum.
We will help you with your plans to visit Arnhem with your kids. So whether you want to visit the city over the weekend or just visit for a day, here’s some guidance based on our recent stay.
We start at the end of the day when you have just arrived in Arnhem.
Day 1 – 17.00h
Quick dinner Dutch style
After your trip to Arnhem you probably want to grab a quick dinner with your kids. In the area you find various pancake restaurants (Pannenkoekenhuis in Dutch – try to pronounce that as non-Dutch speaker) that serve a tasty pancake with either sweet or savory filling. We had a great one at the Pannenkoekenhuis in Schaarsbergen (just outside Arnhem). This one is typical Dutch style: the red and white checkered table cloths, sugar and syrup in Delft Blue pottery style, it’s all there. There is no need to book a table in advance. The pancakes are served quickly so you can be in and out within the hour if you have to.
We spent our first night at the Buunderkamp Bilderberg hotel near Wolfheze (near to Arnhem, not far from the pancake restaurant). The hotel isn’t spectacular looking and some of the furniture in the rooms need a modern upgrade, but with very friendly personnel, peace and quiet in a rural location we did enjoy our stay. Your kids will love the swimming pool while you are having drinks in the bar next door or take a sauna or steam bath yourself….
During the week this hotel is used as a conference hotel mostly and in the weekend it caters to people who are looking to rent bikes or go hiking in the forest. It sure has all the facilities you need. We liked the Buunderkamp Bilderberg for the generous breakfast buffet, the beautiful green surroundings and the relaxed atmosphere.
I mentioned earlier that the Eastern part of the Netherlands has some very scenic landscapes. This picture was taken on the road from Arnhem to Wolfheze: beautiful!
Day 2 – 09.00h
Travel the world at Burgers’ Zoo
After a lovely breakfast it’s time to pack and really start exploring Arnhem. You know that almost every kid loves a good zoo. Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem recently (2013) celebrated its 100th birthday and the zoo offers you a chance to travel around the world in just a couple of hours: The Bush (jungle forest), the Desert, the Safari plains, the Ocean, the Mangrove, etc. And these are not just your standard zoo areas. Burgers’ Zoo was one of the first in the world to offer a real experience: the Bush was opened in 1988 and was the first tropical rain forest eco system.
The (indoor) Desert was opened in 1994 and is connected to the Bush by an underground tunnel in the shape of a deserted mine! You do notice some of the areas to be a couple of decades old, but it for sure is one big adventure for your kids. For your reference: the zoo attracts over 1 million visitors a year…
Our kids loved the Ocean the most. Watch the stingrays, sharks and other beautifully colored fish gracefully move from left to right (or right above you in the ocean tunnel). Of course your kids will try to find Nemo as well as Dory en they will succeed! The pride of this aquarium is the large living coral reef.
City center with the funny Aardvark
It’s time to head to the city center! Make sure not to rush but to enjoy the surrounding areas of Arnhem. The hilly area is full of stunning estates and castles. For example, this Huis Zuypendaal is worth a stop.
Park your car right outside the historic city center and start exploring. Some of you might not be able to withstand the shopping area (with beautiful shops like Loft on the picture below) but there is much more to see.
If you are interested in architecture you have to visit the Rozet building. This is the center point of culture and education in Arnhem. The Rozet building is actually on the shortlist of RIBA (Royal Institute of Britisch Architects) for the 2016 Best Building in the World. That’s quite an achievement.
In 2014 it already won the award for Best Dutch Building. Entrance is free and you can even go up the roof for a nice view over the city.
From the Rozet roof you can see another great structure (although from a totally different kind): Aardvark! This Party Aardvark (it really wears a partyhat…) was a gift to the city from Burgers’ Zoo celebrating their 100th birthday.
This climbable Aardvark, from artist Florentijn Hofman, draws a lot of kids. Right across you can have a drink at one of the cafés while watching your kids have fun.
If you by any chance pass by the Eusebius church and the weather is nice, your kids can cool down in the square water fountain.
Architecture lovers also have to visit the brand new Central Station. It’s a modern piece of art if you ask me. By now you know that the Arnhem area is a hilly one (if you haven’t noticed it yet, you will tomorrow when we visit the Sonsbeek park….). That hilly landscape inspired the architect to create this wavy design that has made this train station one of the most impressive ones in the country.
Drinks & Dinner
Now it’s time to relax after a very busy first day! Arnhem offers some great bars and restaurants. Find those little squares where you can choose from multiple bars. For your dinner I have a special surprise: what about a mean and tasty hamburger? Or to be more specific: what about the best burger in the country?!
That’s exactly what Iveau Burgers & Wine has to offer. Iveau has reached new heights in hamburger design by winning the Best Burger 2016 award in the category finest. For the culinary experts amongst my readers: the meat is prepared specifically for this burger and is a combination of 75% rich Gascon beef and 25% Baambrugs pig. Unique combination of some of the best meat around.
The bread is prepared by a local bakery for use with this burger only. The burger (carrying the name ‘Ere Burger’) is completed with homemade mayonnaise, chili pepper pecorino cheese, vegetables and iberico chorizo ketchup…. This place for sure a hotspot in town!
We had the pleasure of tasting the winning Ere Burger, woohoo! So tasty (and same goes for the appetizer and the lovely dessert)! This award burger normally has to be ordered two days in advance, but don’t worry, the menu is full of other great burgers too. And who knows, maybe Iveau has a surprise for you by having one or two Ere Burgers available…just ask!
Enjoy a Burger 2.0 at Iveau, of course in combination with a good glass of wine. He has a cozy outside area in the back as well. Iveau and his personnel know about hospitality and have a passion for honest food with fresh ingredients. No hurry, but slow food is their motto. No wonder we spent a couple of hours and almost were the last ones to leave the restaurant. Thanks Iveau!
Back to the ho(s)tel
What a first day in Arnhem this has been. I know we dragged you from one place to the other, but I’m sure you have selected the things that suit you and your family the best. But now it’s time to relax and prepare for tomorrow!
Visit Arnhem booked our second night in a different hotel, in order to compare experiences. So here we suddenly found ourselves at the check-in desk of the Stayokay hostel. Stayokay Arnhem is situated just north of the city, in a wooded area called Alteveer. They offer separate rooms with 4 (or more) beds (bunk beds!) specifically for families, which also include a private shower and toilet.
This was our first hostel experience. I know some of my friends love the hostel concept: the informal atmosphere, no unnecessary luxury and a great way to meet other travelers easily. But although personnel were friendly and breakfast was good, we wouldn’t pick a hostel again in the future. Maybe timing was not perfect: Saturday evening during festival season. The hostel was packed with large groups of young people attending the festival. Add your bachelor party and you can imagine the scenes at night and in the morning at breakfast. Another day of the week would make a difference?
Sunday morning at around 10.00 we checked out and started our program for our last day in Arnhem. Come and join?
Day 3 – 10.00h
Relax at Sonsbeek Park
Sonsbeek park is the most popular park in Arnhem. It’s huge! We loved it, especially on this sunny and quiet Sunday morning. It’s a very expansive place with forest, lawns, a beautiful 18th century mansion (Sonsbeek villa), a tea house with a watermill and facilities for kids to play.
Throughout the year the park hosts events. Check the Sonsbeek website to find out what’s going on.
Until the 18th of September (2016) you can enjoy transACTION, an international modern art exhibition that showcases installations all around the park. I love these kinds of interventions; don’t hide art inside museums only but make it part of public life.
One of the installations we visited is called ‘Bakehouse’, made by Alphons ter Avest. The structure contains a bread oven where bread is being baked every Sunday afternoon. The funny thing is that the Bakehouse uses its frame as fuel for the oven…. Yes, until there is nothing left of the house. The Bakehouse is built from ornamental patterns used in various religions like Christian, jewish, Islamic, hindu and Buddhist.
Filipino artist Louis Cordero brought a two-meter high head to the Sonsbeek park. The head suffers from progeria, a rare genetic condition that causes a child’s body to age fast. One part of the head is missing its skin, as reference to that terrible condition. Visitors can stick pieces of clay and gumball to the face in order to reconstruct it… The installation creates awareness of the syndrome. Gumballs are provided at the scene.
We were impressed the most by the star-shaped structure made completely out of life jackets worn by refugees: VVestLife. It’s an alternative EU parliament and a special way of putting the current immigration crisis in Europe in the spotlight. The installation questions the inclusion and exclusion of people in general. It also triggers the debate about one European identity and raises questions on how to approach integration.
Enjoy the park and have some coffee at the Villa, the Tea House or the Sonsbeek pavilion before you head out for our last destination in Arnhem: the famous Dutch Open Air museum (“Nederlands Openluchtmuseum”). You don’t want to miss out on that one!
Dutch history at its finest
The Dutch Open Air museum is actually one of the museums that our family likes the most. I always recommend it to visitors from abroad who are interested in Dutch culture and history.
The Open Air Museum brings Dutch history to life: windmills, traditional Dutch farmhouses, old Dutch workers’ houses and even an old dairy factory. Almost every day people in traditional clothing show and explain you how life in Holland was like in days gone by. We visited the museum before, check it out by clicking here.
You can spend a whole day, but make sure to at least have 2-3 hours to explore the museum. Historic trams are running a circle line through the park so you don’t have to walk all the time!
The Dutch are proud of their heritage. There is great stuff to do with your kids. You can climb the stairs of a windmill, learn about traditional craftsmanship, listen to storytellers and much more. People in traditional clothing demonstrate how to make wooden shoes, how to extract oil from seeds, how to produce paper, brew beer, etc. Some of these demonstrations are really fascinating, especially for your kids.
Don’t expect fake buildings. Everything in the park is real, re-built on site which makes the museum so interesting. With its 44-hectare the park is one big travel through the last two hundred years of the Netherlands.
And that marks the end of our 48 hours in Arhem with kids! We hope you have enjoyed the itinerary. Are you inspired to travel to the Eastern part of our country? If you do, please also consider visiting the nearby “green treasure of the Netherlands”: National Park de Hoge Veluwe.
We were invited by VisitArnhem. We had a wonderful stay and would like to thank VisitArnhem for the opportunity! Of course all opinions are ours and ours only.