Highlights of things to do and see in Bruges!

A lot of things are said about Bruges, Belgium. I think Bruges is a city that will win your heart. It lies in western Flanders in Belgium and only 20 minutes or so from the coast. Some say it’s like a ‘Fairytale’ and ‘charming’ and even heard you really feel like you are in a dollhouse. It has a reputation as one of the prettiest cities in Europe. Except there was one person who couldn’t find beauty in the city – it was Colin Farrell in the 2008 film In Bruges in his role as an Irish hitman who really couldn’t seem to find any beauty in Bruges. 🙂

The historic center of Bruges (known as Brugge in Dutch) is one of the biggest appeals for visitors. Because it’s quite small (barely 4 kilometers)l, you can see all the main Bruges attractions in a day or two. Of course, you can always stay longer and go inside all the attractions, but we didn’t.

We went the day before New Year’ Eve, so we were lucky enough to see Winter Glow. And lucky us, it was unseasonably warm at 12 degrees!

Bruges Glow, is essentially it’s a light show which extended across the whole city and includes an artificial ice staking rink at one end. Visitors just walk a route and enjoy the light trail passing 10 different locations. You can download the APP and some things were interactive using your smartphone.

Start off at the Rozenhoedkaai

Start your day at the Rozenhoedkaai – just around the corner from Tanner Square – Huidenvettersplein. This little corner, with its brick medieval houses and the Belfort in the background, is probably one the most photographed parts of Bruges. If you arrive early in the morning, you get the chance to get the perfect city ‘postcard’ photo before everyone else gets there! In the afternoon – this place is packed!!

Visit the Grote Markt – Home of the Belfort!

Before it becomes too busy, head over to the famous and beutiful square which has been at the center of this city’s life for over 1,000 years. There you’ll see many picturesque medieval buildings like the Cloth Hall, the Cranenburg House, and the Historium, all which are located right next to each other.  I think the most poular thing to do, visit the Belfort – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – a bell tower built in the fifteenth century. 83-metre bell tower and climb the 366 steps for panoramic views of the city. We didn’t go in but learned about the many fires, etc during our free walking tour.

Every Wednesday since the year 968, the square becomes home to traditional market with fruit, veg, flowers – etc. I’m sure it would be amazing to see especially with the cute buildings in the background.

Here is also home to many cafes where you can people watch if that is your thing. Over the past years, I have come to see that it is not uncommon to see dogs in little strollers – which are not really baby carriages but look similiar. But it’s not often you see a couple with a dog in a baby carrier. Yes, see for yourself! Maybe I’m wrong, but I cannot Imagine that is comfortable for the dog!


This palace-like building, Historium, is a great attraction to visit if you want to know more about what life was like in Bruges during the medieval period. Inside you have a special 8-minute virtual reality experience that will take you back in time to medieval Bruges. This experience is filled with dramatic music and special effects all of which are inspired by the iconic Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele painting.

The Burgh

Behind the Markt you will find another of Bruges’ charming squares, the Burg. Around it, you can see the splendid City Hall (Stadhuis) and the white and gold Brujse Vrije, where the city archives are stored.

The Burg is also home to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Inside the church, you’ll find a small cylindrical glass bottle made of rock crystal filled with blood that was brought to the city by Thierry of Alsace after the 12th century Second Crusade. This phial is believed to contain the blood of Jesus Christ and it’s brought out to be worshipped by believers every day. There was a mass going on and very busy when we went in, so I went quickly out.

Boat Tour of Bruges’ Canals

Bruges is a city of canals and it is one of many European cities to have been dubbed ‘The Venice of the North’. With so many waterways throughout this cute city, it is easy to see why a boat tour is one of the most popular things to do in Bruges. This will give you a unique perspective on the city and for sure some nice picture opporunities. Boat trips last around half an hour and cost €10. per person. Note: even in high covid they PACK THEM IN, so we skipped this altogether. I did take some photos so you can see what I mean about how many people were on the boat. Oh and note: unlike in Amsterdam, here they are all owned by the same family so you don’t get a discount on various boats.

See Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child statue. 

Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) is a 14th-century church. Its tower is the second-highest brick tower in the world (122.3 metres high).  Inside are the decorative tombs of Mary of Burgundy and Charles the Bold, but the most famous treasure of the church is the artwork Madonna and Child by Michelangelo. It was the artist’s only sculpture that left Italy before Michelangelo’s death. The entrance is free, but you have to pay to see the Madonna and Child.

Visit Sint-Janshospitaal

Sint-Janshospitaal, also known as St. John’s Hospital, is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. It functioned as a hospital from the 12th-19th centuries. A medieval hospital in Bruges, many nuns and monks worked here to help the sick with various medical instruments and modern techniques of the time.

The Groeningen Museum

The Groeningen Museum is a popular one with art lovers as it houses an impressive collection of Flemish and Belgian paintings by many great masters including Jan van Eyck and Hugo van der Goes.. The museum is located in the Groeninge district on the former site of the Eekhout Abbey.

Torture Musuem

Set in one of the oldest prisons in Europe, the Torture Museum is a collection of instruments of torture from centuries gone by. The museum explores the origins and significance of torture in society, with a series of pain-causing implements in chronological order. We did not visit this place!

Visit the Begijnhof

Just south of the Church of Our Lady, you will find the Begijnhof. This peaceful area is home to small and whitewashed one-story buildings and it is where beguines used to live. These were groups of women, usually widows, who lived together and devoted their lives to helping the sick and the poor. Even now only women can live here. You can only enter during the day, quietly, and at a certain time (I think 7 pm) the gates lock for the public.

Extra touristy things to do – Frietmuseum & Choco-Story Bruges

The Frietmuseum is a museum dedicated to the history of the potato and the production of Belgian Fries. There has long been a friendly debate as to whether it was the French or the Belgians who invented the French fry, and around these parts, the Belgians claim ownership and forbid you to say French Fries 🙂  It’s the first and the only one of its kind. The Choco-Story Bruges is what you expect – a chocolate museum located in the De Croone building, a former wine tavern.

The Minnewater

As you exit the Begijnhof you get to the Minnewater. Its translation literally means ‘Love Lake’ aka Swan Lake. When you see the romantic bridges and the swans swimming in the water you will understand why! Unfortunately with the bird flu all swans were removed and brought to a farm. I thought I took a photo here, but I cannot seem to find it. Well without the swans, it’s just a small bit of water.

Beer, of course!

If you like beer, when in Bruges you have to visit The Half Moon Brewery is an old and established name in Bruges, and it’s a place beer lovers won’t want to miss. Tours are organized daily between 11 am and 4 pm, and they last 45 minutes. The tour also includes a tasting of a Brugse Zot Blond. I had one at dinner – was a bit like Stella Artois.

In 2016, the brewery installed a 3.2-kilometer pipeline that leads to a bottling plant in the suburbs. Most of us have heard of oil pipelines, but whoever would have thought there would be a beer pipeline? This pipe was installed to fix a logistical problem that the business had run into. In recent years, De Halve Maan Brewery has become quite popular, which meant sending trucks of beer out through these cobblestone streets on a daily basis. To cut back on those costs, the pipeline was installed. Now all of their beer can be bottled in another location 3.2 kilometers away, allowing them to avoid all the traffic and tourism which comes into the downtown area. The current brewery at this location has been in operation since 1856, and it has been in the same family for five generations.

While we on the topic of beer there are TONS of beer shops scattered throughout the city for you to take home some bottles.

You can also visit, the Brugge Beer Experience which is more than just a beer museum – it is a combination of interactivity, innovative technologies, and the stimulation of all senses! Like a lot of things – it closes at 6 pm. So we didn’t visit this either. In addition, you can visit another Brewery, Bourgogne des Flandres, which returned to Bruges after being away for 60 years.

Belgian Waffles

While we didn’t have any, another popular thing for tourists to eat are Belgian waffles. I think I saw over 10 places just serving these treats with long lines! They are larger and fluffier than the waffles you’d find in US. And instead of syrup, you can add a number of toppings including Nutella, cream, icing sugar, strawberries, and more. And of course, there are Waffle making workshops too!

Chocolate – Eat it or take some home as a gift!

Chocolate lovers will be in heaven here in Bruges! Everyone knows the Belgians have a long history of chocolate-making and in Bruges, you’ll find an abundance of chocolate shops showcasing the tastiest of treats. I stayed clear of them – well took a few photos from the window, but I would be in trouble if I went inside. If you want to learn how Belgian chocolate is made, you can join a workshop.

Horse & Carriage Ride

Another way to see the city of Bruges is to take a horse-drawn carriage tour through cobblestones streets. Warning, horses have the RIGHT OF WAY! So if you hear clomping coming down the cobblestone streets, GET OUT OF THE WAY! They will not stop!! The price set by the city of Bruges is €55 for a half-hour ride.

Book a FREE historical walking tour!

While it’s technically FREE, you have the option to buying a ticket for €3 per person. This guarantees a spot on the 2.5 hour tour and only covers the cost of the booking. If you didn’t have time to book your tour online, you could take a chance and ask the guide with the red umbrella before the start of the tour if you can tag along if there is space. Unike all tours I’ve taken before, they use earphones and an electric device around your neck, you really hear first-hand what he says while keeping distance. Of course, the tour is FREE, but be sure to give a tip! That is how the guide makes their money! Our guy Jonathan, who is a local, did the tour in English. You can also do the tour in Dutch, French & Spanish with other guides – though Jonathan speaks those too! If you don’t want to join a group, you can follow this self-guided walking tour online.

Best time to visit Bruges

Because it’s so cute, there will be touristy all year round. In fact, each year over 3 million people visit the city. And after spending a night there, I can say there is a good reason. I would say the summer months are the most popular and you’ll find long lines at some Bruges attractions – especially the boat tours. No matter what season you go, start your sightseeing early in the morning, right after breakfast, which will help you dodge most of the tourists and allow you to get some great pictures. Unfotunately some delivery trucks will be out and about and can obstruct some pics.

Planning a trip to Bruges soon, then I suggest you visit the offical tourist offfice online for a more in-depth look at the City of Bruges and all it offers.

Have you been to this cute city? I am sure I’m missing some must-see attractions. I purposely left out where to stay and where to eat as that is so personal depending on budget and wants/needs. But I do recommend, especially in COVID times to make a reservation for any restaurant LUNCH or DINNER!! Oh and I left off the Fish Market, as it was winter when we visited, so you only saw an artist selling goods there.

Of course, if you know anything that is a must-see or hidden treasure do share as we’ll certainly be back in the warmer months.

Keukenhof Gardens – After Over 20 Years Waiting – I finally visited!

TWENTY ONE YEARS AGO – August 1999 an American girl who never left the country (well except for many trips to Montreal, Canada) left for a two-week trip to Europe with her Dutch boyfriend. As I only had 14 vacation days, we planned to spend a a week in the Netherlands and and then a week on Ibiza. When we arrived in the Netherlands, I was so excited to visit the Keukenhof Gardens and see the tulip fields but I was quickly informed that that was a seasonal thing and that I would have to wait and return another time. Disappointed we headed to the Zaanse Schans instead to be tourists – check out this photo! It’s been now 21 years that I’ve waited to visit – and now I finally visited and it was AMAZING! I’m convinced my experience now was better than it would have been had I been in the past – I’ll elaborate why below.


Typically this time of year the Keukenhof would be open for eight weeks late March to early May and millions of tourists from around the world would be jamming the roads and walking around admiring the 7 millions flowers meticulously planted and maintained at the world-famous gardens. But with the corona pandemic it was forced to remain closed for the second year in a row.

FACT: Keukenhof is not the world’s largest garden – that is actually Dubai’s Miracle Garden which looks spectacular too.

However, the gardens have been allowed by the Dutch government to participate in a trial to test how locations could be safely opened during the corona pandemic. They are also doing trials at museums, theatres, parks and zoos. They are allowing 5,000 visitors a day to enjoy the flower park on a two weekends in April and how lucky was I that I was able to enjoy it this way!?  Of course, all applicable corona measures such as the 1.5 metre distance rule apply in the park. The restaurants were closed but takeaway food & drink options were available.

When you see my photos, you’ll won’t see that many people which is one thing I LOVED about this experience. Friends even made comments about this how they had visited in the past and not a photo didn’t have tons of people in them. They limited the number of visitors to 5,000 in one day between 8 am and 7:30 pm. Previously, on normal days they can receive 50,000 in one day!

Also the main difference with normal opening days is that anyone who wants to visit Keukenhof during the trial days must have a negative corona test that is not older than 40 hours upon entering the park. The corona test is free of charge and must be taken at one of the 100 special corona test facilities. There is also a test site close to the entrance of Keukenhof. The one location which is in Noord Brabant, closest to my house, is is the middle of nowhere so without a car, it would require a long bike ride on Friday evening and that wasn’t in my ideal plans. I don’t mind the bike ride as that is my main method of transport but I chose to get mine done in Rotterdam’s Ahoy – which is the home of this year’s Eurovision Song Festival so it was set up perfectly.


I personally have not yet had to take a test. My kids both took one and I was there with them so witnessed first-hand that long swap and dreaded the thought of having it done to myself. But going to the Keukenhof was well-worth the test so I knew it was time for me to “put on my big girl pants” and just do it. Yet it wasn’t without some anxiety the days before. Looking back it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Would I like to do it again no, would I do it again just to visit the movies… no unless the new Top Gun was playing on the big screen. The worker was wonderful – the instructions were 100% in Dutch but easy to follow. And as it was a “sneltest” we had our results emailed to us before we even got back to my friends’ apartment. Both our results NEGATIVE – as expected! You then put your code into a special Corona Check app on your smartphone which you would be required to show before entry into the Keukenhoff. We were not allowed to take photos inside but I took a few photos of the waiting area, etc.

When you arrive at the park you have your QR code scanned proving your are negative and then you can scan your tickets, enter and enjoy!! We arrived for our slot which was between 10 am and 11 am. When we booked, the earlier slots were already sold out. So at 9:50 am, we parked right in front of the entrance and had to queue for about 1 minute. We wore out face masks in line but apart from that one time and then when you are in the toilets or inside the one open indoor exhibition area, you are free to remove them in the park. Tip: For furture visitor, if you want to beat the crowds you should know that Keukenhof is less busy before 10:30 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. When we left just before 1 pm, the parking lot was very full and there was a line to get in.

Here is my first photo – I was finally inside, we set off to explore.


Keukenhof is a great outing for the entire family. While didn’t take my two kids this year, there were tons of kids there. The garden has a petting zoo, has scavenger hunts, a maze, playgrounds for both small and big kids. There is a prominent presence of Nientje, the beloved bunny, created by the late Dick Bruna, is on display throughout Keukenhof. I think the kids would love walking over the stones and even taking their shoes off and walking in the water on the stepping stones and eating poffertjes!


As you have read, I was a HUGE fan of the Keukenhof, but I’m also a huge fan of the nearby tulip fields. In the past years you could buy a ticket for a whisper boat tour through the fields

The entire region is called the Bollenstreek and you can read all about it on the following website – see maps, info on our & bike rentals, etc. Many people were out on rented bikes and electric scooters taking in the sites, standing in the fields and taking photos. Of course, we had to join one time for some photos. A bit windy but had to do it once. While I live in the Netherlands, going to the flower fields is not a common thing for me so why not do it.

Afterwards we drove over to the seaside specifically Langevelderslag in Noordwijk where one could spend hours walking in the dunes or playing on Longfield Beach. The area with the beach cafes and Natuurspeeltuin NederzandT, was only open for takeaway but was packed with people, like us, out enjoying the sunshine. We had brought some 0.0% beers which we fully enjoyed in the sunshine on a bench mostly out of the wind. Then a short drive by Noordwijk Beach to see what it was like. It is far more built up than Katwijk but a lovely area nonetheless. As I love the sea, I know I’d enjoy a holiday there. Again as it was VERY windy, we didn’t walk the beach. It’s also worth noting that the city of Leidin is also nearby, so you could combine a visit there the same day. I’d say you would stay at max of 4 hours at the Keukenhof and feel you’e had seen enough.


You can take home fresh flowers from one of the many local stands in the area. We stopped to adjust our navigation and coincidentally we saw a farmer selling freshly cut bunches of tulips out the back of his farm and at €1 a bunch, I bought 5 bunches! I always love having fresh flowers around my home especially tulips this time of year!


Last year 22 million people visited the garden virtually. So while I know most of you reading this would have liked to go see the 7 million flowers too, it’s worth mentioning they do a great job on their socials. So for those of you who want to see what Keukenhof looks like at the moment can see this via @keukenhof on Facebook and Instagram, and take virtual tours on YouTube or visit www.keukenhof.nl


Absolutely, but… ONLY if I had an out of town friend or family in visiting (during the right time of year) but I would not find myself returning each year. I was TOTALLY spoiled this year with the opportunity to attend this test day – limited people, amazing weather, an extremely patient companion who didn’t mind me stopping for over 300 photos of flowers from all different angles and was so kind enough to join me on this adventure! He even took some photos of me as I’m always the one behind the camera so photo credit is due to him. 🙂

Oh and of course, I bought a magnet!

A day out in Arnhem, Netherlands

Last Saturday a girlfriend and I explored the city of Arnhem.  Well, when I say “explored” we essentially picked a Dutch city neither of us has visited before and walked around.  This was the first of many cities we plan to do. There are some others who want to join us on our city trips here & there so I’ll update when I do them.

Here in the Netherlands, we are still up to our necks with COVID restrictions, all the terraces & restaurants (except some which offer takeaway), museums and interesting tourist attractions like zoos are still closed for the public – with some exceptions of test trials – and I’m doing one this coming weekend – but more about that later! What we COULD do was book an appointment to shop at some stores – but there are also rules around that.  Need to book at least four hours in advance, wear face masks, social distance, etc  So when walking down the street you see a nice shop, you cannot go in.  We even asked at the door, but were turned away.  [I so look forward to the day when we can look back and read these restrictions and all this be in the past]. We had an appointment at TK Maxx (Europe’s version of TJ Maxx!) and a Kringloopwinkel located on the outskirts of the city. So our plan was to wonder around, take in the city, admire the Dutch architecture, I would take some photos, find what, if anything, makes Arnhem special and chat – which is what we did.   We had a LOT of laughs along the way.    I downloaded a walking city tour in Dutch on WalkMyCity before we visited, but we didn’t end up following it. 


Situated on the banks of the Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek rivers in the eastern Netherlands, the city of Arnhem – capital of the Gelderland province – is a home to a number of notable sights – some listed below. In the current area of the town of Arnhem, there were signs found of human habitation that dates back to 70.000 years ago!! Which seems that Neanderthals had populated the area. The oldest remains of the modern human in the area of Arnhem dates back to 5000 years before Christ. In the towns of Warnsborn and Schaarsbergen near Arnhem traces were found from farmers, which means that they had a permanent residence there, that date back to 2400 before Christ. Of course it’s famous in WW2 with the Battle of Arnhem – for more info you can visit this wiki site here. It’s also surrounded by nature reserves, such as the Hoge Veluwe National Park. That is worth it’s own trip in a future.


Originally, we had planned on taking the train which would take just about an hour to get between Den Bosch & Arnhem Centraal Stations but in the end, she decided to drive as I don’t own a car so it worked out perfectly.  That was handy for our shopping and for the “avondklok” – the evening curfew which is still in place.  Essentially everyone has to be off the streets at 10 pm (it was 9 pm but recently moved to 10 pm).  We parked the car in the lot of Centraal Station – an easy drive and parking cost €15 all day.   

When we arrived, we stopped by the VVV (Tourist info desk at the station) but there you also needed to pre-book an appointment 4 hours in advance to talk to them.  How dumb is that? A tourist office not to be open representing their city – so the two employees stood there chatting the entire day.  So we left on our own to explore the city without anything from the VVV.   Having already read a few great blog posts about the city, I had a bit of an idea of what to expect and just went with the flow.  


As with all large Dutch cities, they have main shopping streets which criss cross have every store possible – here was no different.  One after another you see all the big shops including some big ones we don’t have here in Den Bosch – such as Primark and TK Maxx. But what Arnhem does have is a reputation for unique shopping and fashion aka “MODE”. It’s home to the top design school in the Netherlands. So many of the man had a very trendy look – which of course, I liked 🙂

Seven Streets – Unique!

While Amsterdam has the ‘Negen Straatjes, Nine Little Streets’ the fashion & vintage heaven for fashionistas, Arnhem has its own version, called the Zeven Straatjes, Seven Little Streets, where interior lovers can shop to their heart’s content. The Arke Noachstraat, Bentinckstraat, Eiland,Kerkstraat, Pastoorstraat, Wielakkerstraat and the Zwanenstraat offer a different shopping experience to the main high street stores on and around the Ketelstraat, Bakkerstraat and Koningstraat. You enter this area under two bronze gates – super cute!

We wandered through here a few times – super cute shops – again couldn’t simply go in any of them – Why? Simple = Covid – so you needed an appointment which again needed to be booked 4 hours in advance – unless it was an essential store with food – then you can go in.    

While we wandering that is when we discovered the store Medikamente Die Grenze Parfumerie!   It was crazy – it was a German discount store which offered a bit of EVERYTHING for cheap.  Some things had a short shelf lives though not all. I think we were in here for at least an hour.    I bought Thai shrimp soup starter mix which has been discontinued at the AH. I love this soup and used to get it all the time. At AH was over €2 but here is was 3 packages or €1 so bought 6. In hindsight, I should have bought more! I grabbed a box of Starbucks coffee (which turned out to be the WRONG pods again – how did that happen again?! – thankfully I put them on a Gratis Facebook site & a local lady came and picked up them yesterday so not wasted. I bought Knorr bullion, a variety of make up from Douglas, etc.   Cognizant of the fact we’d have to carry our purchases until we got back to the car hours later, I didn’t go overboard. Not that I would ever buy them but look at those giant cans of beans!   But I will certainly look up this store again on future trips to the East of the country as it was brilliant and worth visiting.    


Us two were just like most American’s living here in Europe, when we see a TK Maxx we are like YES, we need to go in there – we just love the store. But this one wasn’t the best.   We had an hour-long appointment booked.  Of course, I went straight to the shoes – but nothing – not a single pair that I’d buy.  I had my eye on a a travel Triominos game, and one pair of city sneakers but they were too bling bling.  I think I’d be sick of them after a few wears.   So I ended up with some night face cream , a kitchen thong gadget, and some nie olive oil which yes was heavy in the backpack. I did like the o Bags there too but even with the discount out of my price range and not the colors I’d choose. Oh and by the way, the Dirty Vegan – Matt Pritchard is quite unique – check out his insta page as currently rowing in the Atlantic ocean!

Kringloopwinkel 2 Switch

After our hour-long shop at TK MAXX, we had to get across town walking to the next appointment which was at a kringloopwinkel – it was HUGE!  But we didn’t factor in travel time so it cut down on our shopping time there, but that was fine.  I ended up getting a little mustard jar which reminded me of the time we lived in in North Norfolk UK (north of Norwich – home of Coleman’s mustard) and a small jacket for working out. 

I saw this really nice large glass jar (probably used for pickles or something years ago) and if I had a car outside in the parking lot, I would have bought it). But that I was not walking 20 minutes back into the city with that and my bags, etc. I soo wished I bought it. But I’ll be on the lookout for something similar next time we go closer to home!


We ended up meeting up with another girl from the US who lives in Arnhem for dinner.   We ordered takeaway Poke Bowls at Poke House Arnhem, grabbed a couple of nice Brouwerij Ijwit beers from the SPAR (which I continue to pronounce incorrectly as “Spaaaa” with my Boston accent) and headed up to Sonsbeek Park – overlooking the city.   What a beautiful park and upmarket neighbourhood. The houses are pretty lux (many 30’s style – my type of house but updated a bit inside with a mix of old and new. I know this because, as with most Dutch homes, myself included, we leave our curtains wide open all day long ha ha) and just on the edge of the city. Of course, here we didn’t a have beer bottle opener here either, so had to ask a man here too if he could open for us hilarious! Once again grown giggling women looking for a person to assist in opening our beers.

Speaking of beer – if the terraces were open we saw some from which looked great including the ‘t Taphuys.  They have over 80 different wines and 100 beers – I’d be I heaven.  It’s one of those places where you get a card and pour your own beer. I’ve NEVER done that before – on my list!!  Just look at this photo from their site – HEAVEN for me! The building is amazing too – the old post office – the details! 

foto credit: Taphuys Arnhem

A couple others we saw were Cafe Meijers and Cafe ‘t MoorgatAnd this little place Oranje Koffiehuis is a cosy brown cafe which you know I’d have to visit if open. 

And here I am with one of my Brouwerij Ijwit beers outside on our self-made terrace in the sun! I also suggested we order takeaway and have the bike driver bring it to us at this picnic table but was overruled by the other two ladies – I found it a good idea but it was pretty windy – looking at my hair 🙂


Arnhemse Meisjes – local cookies at Bakker Hilvers

At Bakker Hilvers in Arnhem, you can buy Arnhemse Meisjes, which are traditional cookies only made in Arnhem. And in fact, this bakery makes the only original ones.  We did NOT try these but I do regret not bringing some back for the kids.

foto credit: Bakker Hilvers

Grofjes at Arnhemse Bakkertje

At the Arnhemse Bakkertje, you will find something that is called ‘grofje’. This is bread that you can tear apart and is filled with raisins & currants. It was already made before the Second World War and they luckily brought this delicious bread back. When we were walking we walked by the shop so we went in and bought 4 each – and of course, I took a few photo outside.  So cute, right!   I popped them in my freezer and gave to the kids to try.  They thought they were okay – too many calories for me so sad to say not a huge hit in our house but they do look amazing.

The walk back to Centraal Station was really nice – Sonsbeek is a great neighbourhood!  I was also was told that Klarendal is the most fashionable and hipster neighbourhood in Arnhem but we didn’t make it there but I would have liked to see it.   We did a lot of walking that day 26,000 steps per my Fitbit but I know it was more as my arm was holding two bags for our 20 minute walk back to the city so that part wasn’t registered.


I LOVE Food Hallens (viisited Rotterdam, Amsterdam & Eindhoven) so we decided to go there.  As their website was not updated, we were not 100% sure if it was open or closed.  We thought perhaps it would be just takeaway from one of the 13 vendors, so we walked up to see.  Clearly it was VERY much closed!  Located on the river Rijnkade, this place is where we would have certainly had our dinner but yep – COVID!   A future trip back to Arnhem, I’m going here for sure.   Read about my visit to the Amsterdam Foodhallen. Never made one for the other two.

During the day when we were walking around, we were both a little hungry and we saw an Indian & Pakistani Street food vendor, so we had to stop and get a portion of something he was selling.  I choose the Vegan Pakora and my friend chose the samosas.   So yummy!  

Again all the terraces were closed but we had a takeaway Verse Munt thee and sat on a bench outside what would be a bustling terrace, but there were so many cool looking places from Vegan restaurants to Café Dudok like the one in Rotterdam.   Like all large Dutch cities, when open you have so many choices. As I am far from local, I cannot recommend a place unfortunately. During the walk, I did see three super cute benches which I had to take photos.


There are various origanized tours offeredin Arnhem. LIke all big Dutch cities, they tend to be advertised as FREE a contribution at the end is grately appreciated. Petra Dielman from Arnhemlife.nl offers various tours from walking, bus, bike, street art, Battle Field, etc – the list goes on… but you can also use your smart phone and do it yourself walk. Two major players in this spare are GPSMyCity and WalkMyCity. The later only offers Arnhem in Dutch. Just a simple google and you’ll find options if walking tours are your thing.


Cellars of Arnhem – Experience the city from below!

As it sounds, you can enjoy the city from below. There is a part of the city of Arnhem, under the shopping streets, which you can visit. The 30+ Historische Kelders or historic cellars in Arnhem were restored in 2001 and the Stichting Gilde Stadswandeling organises guided tours of these cellars throughout the year for a small fee.  Unfortunately, almost entirely not accessible for wheelchair users and yes closed now with Covid! But I would have loved this tour!

Oude Oeverstraat 4a
6811 JX Arnhem

St. Eusebius Church (SINT-EUSEBIUSKERK)

St. Eusebius Church also known as the Eusebiuskerk or the Grote Kerk, at 93 metres is the largest church, and the largest building in Arnhem. It is named after the 4th-century saint Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli. Notably the building contains an elevator that was added to the church in 1994, which allows visitors to travel to the top of the spire and view the city of Arnhem from its highest point. The glass balconies – completely made of glass! – are on the east and west sides of the tower. Constructed at a height of 60 meters, they offer a phenomenal and unobstructed view of Arnhem and the surrounding area. It is the selfie place par excellence. Each balcony weighs around 2,500 kilograms and is attached to the tower by a variety of methods including steel cables. The glass plate that forms the bottom can easily carry up to six people at a time

Visitors to the church are also able to enter the crypt below the building. This part of the building has only very dim light in a central part. By carefully exploring a number of darkened cavernous areas, most of which are either barred as if being a part of old gaol cells, or in some cases as clearly exhumed shallow graves, the visitor can find ancient human bones which have been left in the state of their burial or death

View their website for booking details corona restrictions and see photos of the glass balcony – not sure I’d stand on it. Part of me says yes – live a little and be adventurous, but the sensible side says NO WAY!!

Sabre Gate (Sabelspoort)

Sabre Gate (also known as Eusebius Gate). The gate was first mentioned in 1357 and that is considered to be the period when it was built. The main function of this gate was initially to defend the city. Later it was also used to guard the prisoners and the insane people. Before the WW2, the gate was surrounded by houses, but during the war years these houses were so badly damaged that after the liberation they were demolished. The tower itself was damaged but restored. The gate was restored 2 times, once in 1642 and then in 1952. After the restoration the second gate part of the Province House became the province of Gelderland.

Devil’s House (DUIVELSHUIS)

This is a city castle from the 16th century. The house was owned by Duke Charles of Gelre and was sold to Martin of Rossum after his death. Then it came into the hands of the municipality and got the name: Maarten van Rossum Huis. Yet the name Duivelshuis is still used, which is derived from the satyrs (beings where the lower body is a goat and the upper body is a human). There are several folk tales about the Duivelshuis. The house is still part of the town hall where many marriages are closed.


Located in Sonsbeek Park, this museum has been on my to visit list with the kids for a long time.  So when things open up again we’ll have to return and visit it.  Then I have an exuse to stop in that crazy shop and eat the FoodHallen.

Airborne Museums Arnhem

Two museums belong to the Airborne Museum. The first one ‘Airborne at the Bridge’ can be found inside the city of Arnhem near the John Frost Bridge. This museum in Arnhem will mostly give you information about the battle on the John Frost Bridge and in this area of Arnhem.

There are other museums in the area – including the very popular Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum), which you can find on the Museumkaart website.

Burgers’ Zoo & Safari Park

Also on my list to visit is this one Burgers’ Zoo – I hear it’s huge and would be a great day out for both adults & kids.

Rent a bike and explore the surroundings of Arnhem

The area of Arnhem is lovely for cycling. You can cycle to the Hoge Veluwe National Park or The Netherlands Open Air Museum, for example. But cycling along the Nederrijn river is also a perfect idea. Renting standard city bikes in Arnhem can be made at City Bike Experience (note there is also always a deposit which must be paid in cash, and you need to bring an id/passport).

Walk the bridge to bridge route in Arnhem

Every September there’s a running event in Arnhem that is called the ‘bridge to bridge’. You can participate in this running event that exists out of several routes, but if you’re not there during that time, or don’t want to run you can just walk the bridge route.

To walk the bridge to bridge route in Arnhem you have to walk from the John Frost Brug to the Nelson Mandela Brug. You could walk a full route and walk on the side of the centre of Arnhem one way and along the park on the other side the way back.

Go for a ride on the trolley bus

Trolleybuses in the Netherlands are very rare! Arnhem is the only city in the Netherlands and the Benelux that still has a trolley bus network and it is one of the biggest networks of trolleybuses in Western Europe. If you want to know more about the trolley bus, then you can visit the Trolley Bus Museum in Arnhem. This is one of the free things to do in Arnhem. You can see what they look like in the photo behind me and my friend – nothing special to look at truthfully. I think the old trams in Den Haag are much nicer!

Of course, as stated above as most things were not open, so we didn’t go inside the famous tourist things mentioned above so this post is not the most insightful but rather a place to capture my memory of our trip to Arnhem. 

Do you have a tip or suggestion of a great place to see, restaurant to try, or something off the beaten path to do in Arnhem for a future visit?  I KNOW there are tons of things to do in the city that I have not touched upon here.  Send me a message and let me know any hidden gems or off-the-beaten-track things worth seeing on a return trip – I can update my blog post for readers to check out once COVID goes down and things open again. I know for sure that I will go back and visit again when things open. Plus as my Taalmaatje is originally from there she offered to show me around a bit too.

Book Review: “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys”

Over the past couple days, I binge listened on the Libby App to an entire audio book – Decoding Boys.   Written by Dr. Cara Natterson, a board-certified pediatrician and the NY Times bestselling author of American Girl’s Care & Keeping Of™ series for girls. I first came across her when I was searching about puberty and what to do for my son.  It was in her Ted talk and all her books, the one thing she keeps reiterating is that the world talks to girls about puberty and that as parents we need to keep talking to our boys!   Because they shut down and get quiet and retreat does not mean they don’t need us to talk to them!

So as a mom of a soon-to-be 13 year old, whom I think has begun puberty, I needed all the facts and NOW! I don’t ever recall having conversations with adults about body changes, periods, etc. and when I asked couple friends, they too had very limited talks (some not at all) – so I figured, I’d get out in front of it now. Also being that we live in the Netherlands and Europe for the past 9+ years, they see/hear and are given information a lot differently than they would had they been growing up in Boston.

Puberty doesn’t have to be scary. so I bought her book “Guy Stuff the Body Book for Boys– to help guide him (AND ME) through this awkward rite of passage. When I saw she wrote a boy edition, I thought I’d buy it asap. The paperback book is nicely illustrated and divided into 7 chapters:

Chapter 1 – BODY BASICS
This is a general overview – how important it is for you develop healthy habits now which will set you up for healthy habits in your life!  It stresses the importance of asking questions and talking to various trusted adults in your life not a computer. Breaks down basic facts about boys’ bodies and explains the common changes of puberty – you will: grow taller, sprout hair, sweat more, develop muscles, see changes in skin and hair texture, get a deeper voice, see changes to private parts, and experience new emotions. 

Chapter 2 – HEADS UP
Literally covers everything boys need to know to care for their head & neck.  Including hair care, eyes, oral hygiene (like braces), skin care – acne and importance of using sunscreen.

Chapter 3 – REACH
How to care for arms & chest – hands, nails, how to wash and use deodorant, underarm hair that develops.  Managing Stink – controlling body oder, and possible temporary breast enlargement.

Chapter 4 – BELLY ZONE
All about the abdomen – the fact that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Shares detailed info on healthy hydration, food, nutrition, and essential vitamins and minerals. Especially the importance of drinking water and other drinks – both positive & negative and a lot about pee – how to use urine color as an indicator. 

Chapter 5 – BIG CHANGES
Starts out that some changes are clear and some are super private.  Talk about hormones start to circulate in the body and that causes – changes in pubic area and even talks about circumcised penises, different types of underwear – pros & cons.  Erections and nocturnal omission – a wet dream. It even covers shaving – changes in voice and mood.

Chapter 6 – GET GOING
Talks about legs and height.  Growth spurts, pains and importance of exercise and enough sleep, bed-wetting & rest.  Foot care – like athletes foot, blisters and foot odor.  Sports safety and the importance of physical activity.

Chapter – 7th YOUR INNER YOU
This section delves into new feelings and emotions boys may be experiencing during puberty, including topics on peer pressure and bullying, plus letting guys know that it’s not only okay, but healthy, to express their emotions – not bottling up feelings.   

So in may ways the book is very inclusive. The illustrations show a good representation of difference races. Talks well about different rates of development.  Body sizes, explains that all people have hormones – and reviews testosterone and a bit of others. But… it does leave out some things which are essential and need to be discussed in the future. Perhaps because it was written by an American doctor it takes a more medical fact-based approach, but it doesn’t cover gender identity of sexual orientation, masturbation and does not explanation reproduction, consent, pornography, sexual desires – the emotional and/or physical attraction you’ll have with another person. As said above, it does talk about an errection and nocturnal omission – the wet dream, however!

Overall I do think it’s a good first book for boys to get to know about the body and emotional changes – perfect for the younger age range (10-13). I think it’s a good book to have in his room where he can refer back to what is happening to him.  When my 10 year old daughter saw it, she asked if she could also read it. I’ll certainly allow it but want to her also be informed, so I’ll look at getting her the Care & Keeping Of™ series or a different type book which overs things relating to her.

Some takeaways I took from Decoding Boys and Dr. Natterson’s TedX talk include: ask them questions but let them talk.  A tip she gave was don’t make eye contact (makes them more comfortable and be sure no screens are in their hands – they will be 100% distracted!  A little prodding, they’ll open.  In fact, I think my first “talk” went quite well… he was very curious.  I know this is not going to be the norm – but I know I should NOT GO AWAY!   I’ll give him privacy, knock before entering (have to work at that one).  I understand he’ll be moody and needs his own space, lots of food and we all need patience!   

Do you have any books (or sites) which you recommend for helping guide boys (and me) through puberty?

Update: I was taking with a Dutch friend here about getting a book for my 11 year old daughter and she recommended to me Het Puberbook – written by Sanderijn Van de Doef. I’ve attached a few photos for you see – how it is VERY detailed and also very factual. It touches on a lot of the things the above book doesn’t. One catch, it is only in Dutch, so wouldn’t work well for those who cannot read it.

The Dutch Museumkaart: A Must For Museum Lovers!

Depending on where in the world you are from you might be used to having free entry to government-funded museums.  I know in the UK and Ireland that was the case, but not in the US.  But then again, back in Boston, you could borrow museum passes at your Boston Public library – many giving you FREE entry and others giving a significant discount.  But here in the Netherlands you have to pay for entry and warning the prices can be quite steep – around €6-10 for small, local museums to €16-25 per adult for some of the larger, more popular national museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage, Maritime Museum, NEMO and Stedelijk.

If you live in the Netherlands it’s definitely worth investing in the Museumkaart if you enjoy museums and expect to go several times in the year. While the actual museum card isn’t that cheap at (€64.90 for adults and €32.40 for children), but once you’ve bought it, you can freely enter as many museums over the year as you want. After just three visits to major museums in the year you’re getting the full return on your investment. There’s no information on the Museumkaart website in English. You can buy the card online, but will have to pay €4.95 admin costs – which includes insurance against theft or loss. When you renew your card online the next year, you don’t have to pay the €4.95 fee.   It’s also important to note that it’s personalized with your photo.  Occasionally the museum will charge an additional small fee for special exhibits. This fee is the same for every visitor. 


My kids (at 10 & 12) both have their own cards and really enjoy visiting museums too.   Some can be very crowded on the weekends during the heavy tourist season like NEMO their favorite – so consider going on a Study Day when they are off school.    My kids haven’t done this but kids can become a “Museum Inspector” where they can tell about the museum during and after a visit. Completing the questionnaire, they let other children know how much fun they think this museum is for young people. The museums uses the answers to devise even better children’s programs. Plus they have a chance to win great prizes. Oh and there are games online too!


If you don’t have a Dutch bank account or want the card asap, some museums allow you to buy a temporary card at the ticket desk.  The “temporary card” is valid for a month and only allows 5 museum visits. Dutch and EU residents can now officially register the temporary card (photo required) to upgrade to the full annual validity.  So with that said you could technically buy the card, use it 5 times and then re-sell it on for a discounted rate and someone, who lives locally, can then register it online for themselves. Once you register your “temporary pass”, you’ll receive a standard pass within five working day which will then be valid for one year from the date of purchase.  With Covid, some locations stopped selling in person – to limit person-to-person contact, so check before you go!


Normally you just queue up as usual and present your museum card at the ticket desk. The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum both have a fast-lane entry for Museumkaart holders though pre-booking online is mandatory; the Maritime Museum has a special desk for Museum cards and pre-booked tickets; at the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk you just get your museum card scanned at the main gallery entrance – no need to queue at the sales desk. Each time the Dutch government has shut down entry to the museums due to the lockdown/Covid restrictions, valid cards have been extended for the periods. In addition, to control the number of guests, pre-booking time slots have become mandatory.  Same day is fine for most museums. Some of the more popular ones – especially the Anne Frank House you should know that you have to book WELL IN ADVANCE. Your pre-booked ticket gives you a specific entry time. Museumkaart holders get free entry but need to pay a €0.50 fee during the online booking process. You only need to show the card (with ticket) when you arrive at the museum. Also one point to note: that many museums have online virtual viewing components now with COVID – click here for Anne Frank House.


While I try to blog about my trips to the various museums, for one reason or another, I don’t always find time to update the blog. Some previously visited include Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Van Abbe in Eindhoven, Noord Brabants Museum in Den Bosch, Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem, Photography Museum & Mauritshuis both in Den Haag and the Nationaal Militair Museum in Soest. Some also do not allow photography inside like the Anne Frank House which Maebh and I visited during our outing in Amsterdam.

Panorama Mesdag  – Den Haag
Philips Museum – Eindhoven
DAF Museum – Eindhoven
Van Gogh – Amsterdam
Royal Delft Museum
TU Botanic Gardens – Delft
Spoorweg Museum – Utrecht
Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) – Amsterdam
Groninger Museum – Groningen
NEMO Science Museum – Amsterdam
Museum Giethoorn – Giethoorn
Oorlogsmuseum – Overloon
Natuurmuseum – Tilburg
Louwman’s Museum – Den Haag
Naturalis – Leiden
Maritiem Museum – Rotterdam
National Monument Kamp Vught


In this tiny country, there are over 480 museums, on almost every topic including water, science, WW2, cars and art and so much more. There are of course museum about sex industry, marijuana, houseboats and cheese – but those are not included in the free entry so you’ll have to pay an additional fee. Just having a look at the SMALL list below there are SOOO many more museums for you to make the most of your time in the Netherlands. I didn’t include them ALL but you can go on the site and search by region, subject – art, history, technical, etc and find what interests YOU! And if, like me, you sometimes need a bit of an incentive to get you out more (especially if it’s cold and wet), once you’ve bought the card, you really feel like you should make the most of it! If we visit a city we have never been, we try to combine it with a museum visit.

Amsterdam (and suburbs)



Den Haag



Other parts of the Netherlands


For residents it offers a fantastic value over the course of the ENTIRE YEAR. The card is great for the ability to just pop into a museum for 30 minutes and visit a new exhibition – and you won’t feel the pressure to see everything.  The Museumkaart has always been aimed at the local Dutch market and never really been promoted for use by foreign tourists staying a few days.

That said, it is an option but if you are a tourist visiting Amsterdam for a couple days, I think you might find more value in one of the city passes:  iAmsterdam.com pass, Holland Pass or Amsterdam Pass all offer additional discounts which might suit you better like entry to Artis – the zoo, canal boat tours, bike rentals (if you dare) and SOME museums, etc.

Do you have a Museumkaart? What are some of your favorite museums here in the Netherlands which you have visited?

Inburgeringexamen – My Experiences & Tips On Passing The Dutch Integration Exams! “Ik Ben Klaaaar… But Am I “Ingeburgerd”?

My heading is a bit of a joke – Ik Ben Klaar! Back story was that a younger woman (I’d say early 20’s) in my first Dutch course would irritate the sh!te out of me and the person who sat next to me. Mainly because she had a workbook which was already filled in (clearly by someone else). When the instructor assigned us quiet work, she’d slam her pencil down and scream aloud – “Ik Ben Klaar“! Then when it was time practice time, she couldn’t speak Dutch and would contribute NOTHING! Then would be absent for a few days and then re-appear and begin shouting “Ik Ben Klaar” again – gosh we hated when she’d be assigned to our group. Anyway, wish her all the best … I really do!

I can still remember back to my first days here in the Netherlands – I was one of “those Americans” who didn’t think they had to “inburger”.  Married to a Dutchman, living together for so many years (even inside the EU, I thought I was in the clear until a few weeks after our arrival – a letter came – staying I was, in fact, inburgeringsplichtig!    Wait what?  Me?! I mean, I did agree to start “learning” Dutch but I now have to take actual exams within a period of 3 years and pass them to be allowed to stay.  I was truthfully a bit scared at this… could I do it?!

Not living in Amsterdam where you could literally never speak Dutch and be fine, I wanted to learn Dutch – or at least basic communication. It gets old quickly to always ask if they speak English! Of course, they do, they are the most English-speaking foreign land in the world and begin at a very early age. But do they want to speak it, is the real question. Some will some won’t or say they don’t know it. Sure there are a few who don’t speak it for whatever reason or haven’t used it in many many years (normally older folks who lack confidence in their English skills. You will FREQUENTLY experience and I re-iterate that some people will immediately switch to English when they hear your accent – just keep replying to them in Nederlands.

What if you on’t pass my exams in the time frame?

Well, if you don’t you can receive a substantial fine ((boete) €1,250 and then given two more years to pass. But really after being through it, I really think you need a very valid excuse to not pass! You have THREE years and it’s a level A2 as of now. Well if you are completely illiterate and have never learned to read or write – than I do think that would be the only real issue. But you can first take a literacy course and then go on to learn Dutch, etc. I met a woman who went this route and she was given a LOT of extra time.

You keep hearing American’s are exempt – Is it true?

Turns out American’s are only exempt from taking the “basisexamen inburgering buitenland” – which is an exam that some people (depending on which country you come from) have to take BEFORE arriving in the Netherlands. This exam is mandatory for non-EU/EEA nationals from countries who require an authorization for temporary stay (MVV); nationals from an EU/EEA country, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, United States of America, and Vatican City are exempt.

That is the ONLY thing we are exempt from.  Well – actually unless, of course, you are not here on an EU/EEA family visa and are here on DAFT or a Highly Skilled Migrant visa (aka 30% ruling) than you also don’t have to take the exams. But but you don’t have the same rights and permanent visa that we have.  If you end up coming on one of those visas and changing, then you will, in fact, have to take the exams too.., so fair warning don’t wait – start learning Dutch.

Essentially the civic exam “diploma” is needed for some nationals to have the right to live and work in the Netherlands, to obtain a permanent residence permit and to apply for a Dutch passport. You may need to renounce your current citizenship when you apply for your Dutch citizenship. Again – exceptions and exemptions to that too.

How long – THREE years to pass all required inburgeringsexamen!

Once you become inburgeringsplichtig in the Netherlands, you have three years to pass all the exams.  “Inburgering” is simply this – integration into Dutch society.  It covers an elementary level of Dutch language (it’s really so you can get around, interact with people, answer simple questions and pretty much survive here), as well as, an understanding of Dutch culture and society.  It’s also a requirement for a lot of people who wish to stay in the Netherlands who are not a part of the EEA/EU.  Due to the ever changing status of the laws, I can’t say whether you will, or will not ever need to sit an Inburgeringscursus.  If you’re like me, and considered to come from a ‘civilised’ country, you’ll probably just have a recommendation to take a couple Dutch courses and take the exams within 3 years of registering with the IND.

What level of Dutch is required?

As it stands today, end of Dec 2020, to pass the tests your Dutch should be at a high A2 level.  Well actually you only have to get a 60% to pass so you could do it with a lower level but if you are like me and you want to have a good score you need a bit more knowledge.  And I say bit loosely – you DO NOT NEED too be fluent in Nederlands to pass.  If you’re starting from scratch, I would advise taking an elementary Dutch course.  You need to understand the gazillion rules (so much I still don’t understand and mix up especially when speaking) …. Things like sentence structure, irregular verbs, word order, etc will make your head spin unless you consistently use it.   

When should I take the exams? 

As I said above and often talked about in the new news – it is worth noting that the Dutch government is planning to raise the level of the inburgering exams to level B1. They have been saying this for a while, so I don’t know when it will take effect. I DO, however, really understand why. A2 level is really low to truly function in society.  However, if you have been living in the Netherlands between 2013 – up to July 2021 you do stay in the A2-level inburgering category.  Click here on this link from DUO with a bit more information.   This information changes and there is even talk that even if you passed your A2 level exams, you must be at a B1 level to receive Naturalization!  But just today, December 4, 2020 – I read they are not going to B1 – YET!

Let’s talk about the actual exams.

The Inburgering exam consists of several parts: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Knowledge of Dutch Society (KNM), Orientation to the Dutch Labour Market (ONA) for those who came to the Netherlands after 1 January 2013 and Participatieverklaring for those who came to the Netherlands after October 2017.

I wrote out the order which I personally took my tests.  Note: You don’t have to take them in any particular order, and yes, you can take them all on the same day.  Some take this approach, but I wouldn’t do that. Some procrastinate and have no choice but to cram them all in at the end, others, cannot take time off work and find one day suits them best. For me, spreading them out worked best. 

This is essentially knowledge of the Netherlands – including history, some laws, job hunting, buying houses, famous landmarks, politics, Dutch education system, geography and social behaviour of the Dutch.  All multiple choice. I am certain that one I got wrong was relating to social welfare and education streams depending on which middelbare school level attended – I now know all the ways thanks to my oldest going off to middelbare school in September.   

Listening exam – basic reading comprehension.   You read a paragraph, answer questions . Again – multiple choice. 

Listening exam – a bit like the reading comprehension – only listening.   You watch a scenario – normally two people talking and you answer questions.   Again – multiple choice. 

To do the speaking test, you have to respond to short videos using a few sentences of spoken Dutch for each video. Like the practice exams, after the recorded speaking part you then watch videos and you pick the answer based on the question asked. Look at the practice exams online – they follow the same format. You are in a shared room with other candidates. You wear a headset with a microphone which is hooked up to a PC. Your spoken Dutch response is recorded and played back later for assessment.  This was all okay but I found it REALLY distracting when the worker is walking around and stood behind me a lot – talk about embarrassing!  TIP: Answer in SHORT complete sentences.  Don’t babble on as you’ll have greater chances of mistakes.

Written exam – you are given a booklet and a pen with four different exercises which tests your writing skills.  It is important to re-read the question twice to be sure that you write about everything that is asked; do not miss any point asked of you or you lose points.

In addition to the tests mentioned above, you will also have to create a “portfolio” as evidence of your orientation on the Dutch job market. Once you have completed this task, you send your portfolio in online.   Once it has been approved, you then have to come and speak about your portfolio. One or two examiners will ask you questions about your portfolio, mainly to test whether your answers are authentic. All this of course in Dutch. This takes around 35-40 minutes and this was the most nerve wracking to me. Unless you take a specific course (€€€€€) on this topic, you have to have an end interview to review your portfolio.

If you have a permanent paid job contract (which you work so many hours in the past 6 months  you can apply for exemption). I don’t currently have a paid job so I had to do this.  Also they have recently added some additional reasons for exemptions as they have a real backlog in this test for interviewers so maybe you can be exempt from this process. Truthfully I put this one off to the end as I thought it was the hardest and most difficult but when you actually set your mind to it and look what needs to be done, it’s not that difficult – especially if like me you are legitimately looking for a job.   You have to show that you know the Dutch labor market, can make a CV, cover letter, know how to search for jobs, and have a plan.

Same with all the tests, when you arrive at your test center, you check in and you must leave all things in your locker.  Jacket, watch, telephone, etc. You are not allowed to bring anything into the room with you except your ID.  NOTHING! In past exams, they walked around the room with a special hand-held device to test if someone had any electronic recording equipment taped to them. Apparently there was a big scandal some years back.

When you register at the local Gemeente, you are supposed to immediately get a letter that says you have to learn what is important in the Netherlands and are invited to a two-day workshop. After a 2-day, 3-hour workshop, you have to sign the declaration. This piece of paper is called the participation statement. By doing so, you state that you will actively participate in Dutch society and that you respect what is important here in the Netherlands. 

  • Everybody in the Netherlands is equal.
  • Everybody may choose their own partner.
  • Everybody may choose their own religion.
  • Everybody is allowed to go to school.
  • Everybody can say what they think. But it is not allowed to discriminate against somebody else.
  • We take care of ourselves. But we also take care of each other. The government helps when needed.

My class was very interesting to say the least – we had a mix of different cultures and religions and values so at times conversations became intense.    Largely aimed at Middle Eastern societies as the workshops emphasized the difference between Dutch and Muslim beliefs/practices. For example, here in the Netherlands, parents cannot force you at 16 year old to get married; it is acceptable to wear a bikini on the beach; you don’t have to wear a headscarf (many continue to do so – some don’t); kissing in public is normal; Dutch society accepts same-sex relationships, and so forth.

Results – How & when do you know if you passed?

Typically you know your results in a few weeks for the computer-based exams. You can log into the website and check if you passed, but you’ll always get a letter in the mail with the grade (cijfer). The ones where a human must correct – Speaking & Writing can take up to 8 weeks. (And now with Corona up to 12-15 weeks). Again, you only need a 60% score to pass the exams. You can keep retaking the exams, if you don’t pass, BUT you need to keep paying. I paid a total of € 290 for the tests.

Actually I joked that now that I passed my exams, I need to actually learn real Dutch now.  Which while I’m joking, my intent is there… Not sure what my exact plan is yet, but improving my Dutch and most importantly my speaking is essential.

How do you get your diploma?

Outside of the current “corona time” you would have had to pick it up. But now, once you are finished with the exams, it is automatic. So you don’t have to do anything special to receive your diploma, it will just be sent via registered post and arrive at your house. It is supposed to requires a signature, but I found mine in my mailbox without a signature. Don’t care – just happy I have it in my hand.

Costs & Preparing for the exams.

In the past, the courses for Inburgering were subsidized by the city councils but now you are on your own. Costs are really all over the place. To give you an idea, my first course was €1,300 for 8 weeks (9 hours a week)! DUO offers loans for select schools – but that I was not interested in doing. Truthfully in this day and age of the internet, you can do a lot (if not the entire exam preparation) self-study, if you wish. I think if you know zero Dutch, it’s best to start first with a beginners course (A0-A1) to get the fundamentals down. Check with your local library for free classes and Spreektaal groeps normally it’s for people with A2 or above but that is the level you should be at for the exams so it’s yet another place for “oefenen” practice! Then read, listen to podcasts and use the internet for additional resources if you don’t / can’t take a class.

There are also plenty of resources available on the internet which will help you to prepare and determine if your level is high enough to pass the tests. Just go to Google and see what suits you. The most important place is the OFFICIAL site = inburgeren.nl The practice tests here look EXACTLY as the format of the real exams so that is a huge help.  Of course, the questions differ – but it gives you the score at the end.  Very helpful in preparation. If you pass these exams consistently, then you’ll do okay with the actual exams.

I think Ad Appel is the second-best place to go for help.  They are a language school in Aerdenhout with an online-based classes. But they also have so much valuable FREE information on the internet including Facebook groups and loads of Youtube videos!

Curious how YOU would do on these tests? 

Click here and you’ll see all the practice exams on the official site.   They take about 20-40 minutes each and you don’t need a login try them. I’d love to hear how you did if you tried one. HINT: Listening is the easiest!

My Top Tips!

Write & Speak in SHORT sentences.
Don’t Wait – take the tests now before the level goes up!
Practice, Practice, Practice on Inburgeren.nl and speak as much Dutch as you can.
Follow Youtubers online which may you learn Dutch: Dutchies To Be – Learn With Kim. Learn Dutch with Bart de Pau

Final thoughts.

Just because you pass your “Inburgering Exam” doesn’t mean you are Inburgered or does it? 🙂 There is a funny blogger – AmsterdamShallowMan which I highly recommend posts some funny things. Here is a post about 10 Ways To Fit Into Dutch Society.

For example – as I don’t own a car, I use my bike. So I take my PMD bags to the dump – yes it looks funny but I’m not the only one who arrives with yellow bags hanging on their handle bars. I try to shove them in my saddle bags as I have issues using my hands to signal 🙂 That big blue thing is toilet paper shoved under the seat as the bags were full with my shopping.

Keep in mind – this is all based on my personal experience. In the end I am glad to have it done over with. My level of Dutch is somewhere between A2-B1 based on the tests I’ve taken. But speaking continues to struggle because I just don’t do it often!! I attend a weekly library spreekgroep and I have a Taalmaatje whom I meet with once a week and talk Dutch – both help tremendously!

The benefit of the Inburgering is that you know more about Dutch society – so it is all about Integration – hence the name of the exam itself. But the Staatsexamen NT2 is a better choice for those who purely want the language without the fuss of integration and will go on to study here! I guess it all depends on your budget, time and visa requirements. I’ve recently signed up for an intensive NT2 course, following the Delfse Methode, so I hope it helps accelerate my Dutch even more where I can find a job. I’ll update this post about the course at the end. English-only jobs are hard to come by in my area and knowing a bit more Dutch will only help me in my future here in the Netherlands.

I personally think the Dutch government should invest a bit more in immigrants and offer them packages or a ways to incentivise them to learn the language at a higher level. You are basically left on your own to sink or swim. I do know that they do offer some support for people who never had the opportunity to learn to read and write even in their language, or for people who do not know the Roman alphabet. While I’m sure it’s not perfect, but I think Germany does something great by subsidizing the courses – everyone pays less than €2. per session. So much more affordable than the courses offered here – which can cost several thousand.

What do you think? Did you try the exams above? How did you do? Have you also passed (or in the process) of doing your Inburgering exams here in the Netherlands?