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 an do is 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. 

BRIEF HISTORY OF ARNHEM

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.

GETTING TO ARNHEM FROM DEN BOSCH

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.  

SHOPPING IN ARNHEM

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 – 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.    

TK MAXX

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!

DINNER AT SONSBEEK PARK

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 🙂

LOCAL ITEMS TO BUY WHEN IN ARNHEM

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.

WHERE TO EAT?

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.

WALKING TOURS OF ARNHEM

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.

SOME TOURIST THINGS TO DO IN ARNHEM – Outside of COVID LOCKDOWN

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
https://historischekelders.nl

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.

MUSEUMS OF COURSE

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. 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.