Located in the province of Gelderland along the banks of the Sint-Jansbeek and Nederrijn Rivers, Arnhem is a city known for its historic military sites and proximity to Hoge Veluwe National Park, the Netherlands’ largest nature preserve.
Recorded human history in the region that is now the city of Arnhem dates back at least 70,000 years ago, according to the discovery of Neanderthal firestones and archaeological remains of hunter camps. By 2400 B.C., the Neolithic Revolution had brought farming activity to nearby Schaarsbergen, and by 1500 B.C., human settlement had developed on the Hoogkamp, near the present-day Van Goyenstraat. Though the first mentions of the town’s existence as a settlement for the abbey of Prüm date back to the late 9th century, official rights were conferred on Arnhem in 1233 by Zutphen’s Count Otto II. In 1443, Arnhem became part of the Hanseatic League, and in 1473, it was conquered by Burgundy’s Charles the Bold. Following the Eight Years War, the city joined the Union of Utrecht in 1579 and was incorporated into the Republic of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands in 1585. Following the city’s late 18th and early 19th century occupation by French revolutionary forces, the city underwent significant expansion after the dismantling of military fortifications. Throughout the 19th century, the city developed a reputation as a resort town, commonly referred to as “The Little Hague of the East” for its population of former sugar barons. The city played a key role in several battles during World War II, including a battle to secure the city’s bridge that was depicted in the 1977 feature film A Bridge Too Far.
Today, Arnhem is home to more than 150,000 residents and is part of the Arnhem-Nijmegen Metropolitan Area, which is one of the largest metropolitan statistical areas within the Netherlands. The town is located within the province of Gelderland in the country’s eastern region, situated along the bands of the Sint-Jansbeek and Nederrijn Rivers. Railway stations connect the city to a number of popular European urban areas and tourist destinations, including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, and Cologne.
The city is noted for its cultural attractions, including the Netherlands Open Air Museum, which is one of the country’s most-visited museums. The 82-acre outdoor museum, which was founded in 1912, preserves the country’s traditional trade and artistic culture, showcasing replica historic farmhouses, fishermen’s houses, and windmills. Major artifacts include a steam sawmill relocated from Groenlo and a steam-powered dairy relocated from Veenwouden. Costumed demonstrators also showcase traditional Dutch trades, immersing visitors in historic regional life. For military enthusiasts, the city’s John Frost Bridge and Airborne Museum serve as stops on the Liberation Route trail and document the region’s World War II history, preserving the famous bridge that played a central role in the 1944 Market Garden operation. Nearby, the Bronbeek Museum preserves historic weapons, uniforms, and medals, and the Airborne War Cemetery honors area WWII soldiers who lost their lives in battle.
Hoge Veluwe National Park is located eight kilometers from the city’s downtown area, encompassing more than 13,800 acres and serving as the Netherlands’ largest natural reserve. A wide variety of native flora and fauna is showcased at the park, including wild boar, deer, mouflon, and a large number of bird species. Complimentary visitor bikes are offered for exploration of the park’s trails, which traverse woodland, heath, and sand dune terrain. A sculpture park highlights works by legendary artists such as Rodin, while 19th and 20th-century European art is displayed at the Kröller-Müller Museum. Nearby, the Royal Burgers’ Zoo serves as one of the largest zoological parks in the Netherlands, housing more than 2,000 international species, and the Museum of Modern Art, located within the Reeberg gardens, transforms a historic mansion facility into a showcase of contemporary figurative art.
The city’s Old City Center, located adjacent to the Rijnstraat and Roggestraat shopping district, preserves historic church, market, and town hall facilities along with the remains of military fortifications from the 14th century. A variety of European and international fare is offered at restaurants throughout the city, including the vegetarian and vegan-friendly Restaurant Karakter, the seafood-focused Mediterranean restaurant La Rustica, and the Graave contemporary bar. Overnight accommodations are available at the Landgoed Hotel Groot Warnsborn country estate and the Antonius Bed and Breakfast.
Ongoing Programs and Events
Every September, Arnhem hosts the annual Airborne March, which is held in remembrance of the 1944 Battle of Arnhem. In April, the King’s Day celebration honors the Dutch Royal Family with a variety of independent events and festivities. Other annual events include the State of Fashion sustainable fashion festival, the Free Your Mind electronic music festival, and a summer showcase of 3D street art held between July and September.