Arnhem, the capital city of the Dutch province of Gelderland, is one of those unique cities that showcase both old and new. Even though Arnhem has many monumental sights and buildings, this does not mean it’s stuck in the past. In fact, it’s one of the most visited cities in the province. Due to its proximity to the German border, Arnhem is particularly popular with German visitors.
Read on below for our tips on which attractions to visit in Arnhem, written by an expat couple living in the Netherlands.
Is Arnhem Worth Visiting?
Arnhem is definitely worth visiting! It may not be on your shortlist if you’re an international visitor who’s visiting the Netherlands for a week. However, if you’re staying in the Netherlands for a few weeks or are living in the country as an expat, then this city is most certainly worth your time.
Arnhem is a great place to visit for young people and families alike. It had several interesting museums, a vibrant city center, beautiful nature and the famous Royal Burger’s Zoo. In addition to lush green parks, the city is surrounded by vast green areas, as it borders the Hoge Veluwe National Park.
Sightseeing in Arnhem
We’ve visited Arnhem a couple of times in the past few years. Below is a list of the best things to see in Arnhem. Note that the order of items isn’t based on most interesting to least interesting. The order of items is from north to south, allowing you to easily combine the sights according to your preferences.
1. Open Air Museum (Openluchtmuseum)
Let’s begin the list of things to see in Arnhem with the sight that surprised us the most. If you’ve read some other articles on our Holland blog, you might remember that we’re not particularly fond of museums. However, there are certain museums that have truly amazed us and the Open Air Museum Arnhem is definitely one of them!
The Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region. It’s among the 10 most visited museums in the Netherlands, attracting well over half a million visitors a year. And that’s for a good reason!
With about 100 historic buildings, farmhouses and mills spread across 44 acres, it’s not surprising if you spend a whole day here! As the name suggests, the open air museum is mostly outdoors. Each building across the huge park is a small museum on its own.
Established in 1912, the museum showcases Dutch culture and daily life from the 1900s. For example, you can enter an old-fashioned farmhouse, peek into its rooms and get an idea of how people decorated their homes and lived many years ago. There’s also an old Freia dairy factory where you can learn all about milk and cheese production in the olden days. For children, there are plenty of playgrounds and interactive activities such as workshops on site.
What truly adds to the charm of Netherlands Open Air Museum is the tramway that goes around the park. That way, you can hop on and off between the different sections of the park or simply take a full round (takes about 15 minutes) to enjoy the drive. Although the tram line was open about 20 years ago, the tram itself is over 100 years old.
When we first visited Arnhem years ago, we got to the museum 1.5 hours before their closing time. Of course, that wasn’t even close enough to see everything but we got a really good first impression. That’s why we decided to spend a full day here on one of our next visits. And it was totally worth it!
If you’re visiting Arnhem for a weekend (two days or more), we recommend that you plan a full day (or at least 4-5 hours) to visit the Netherlands Open Air Museum. That’s especially true if you’re traveling with kids, as there are plenty of interactive activities and workshops for them to attend. However, if you only have one day in Arnhem and would like to squeeze in as many activities as possible, you could plan 2-3 hours for the Open Air Museum, and the remaining time for the sights in the center.
2. Royal Burger’s Zoo
Another popular place to visit in Arnhem is the Royal Burger’s Zoo. Burgers Zoo is one of the biggest zoos in the Netherlands, and among the most beautiful ones. Established in 1913, the zoo is popular for their concept of showcasing animals in their natural habitats, which Burgers Zoo calls “ecodisplays”.
With animals coming from different parts of the world, you’ll get to see a variety of landscapes here. For example, the zoo recreated an actual jungle (the Burgers’ Bush) to house exotic jungle creatures. Other ecodisplays that we particularly enjoyed during our visit to Burger’s Zoo were the Mangrove, Desert and Safari ecodisplays.
Nature conservation is also an important objective of the zoo. For this purpose, the zoo sponsors various nature foundations that aim to protect various endangered species and habitats.
Visiting Burger’s Zoo is definitely a full day activity. You can easily spend 5-6 hours in the zoo. If you have some time and energy left, head to Arnhem’s city center after your visit to enjoy a meal or a drink.
3. Sonsbeek Park
As mentioned before, Arnhem is a perfect blend of urban feeling and nature. Arnhem was known as the Green City on the Rhine and Park City as early as the 17th century.
One of the largest and most popular parks in Arnhem is Sonsbeek Park. It’s situated between the Open Air Museum / Burger’s Zoo (in the north) and the city center.
There are various reasons why Sonsbeek Park should be on your list of things to visit in Arnhem. First of all, there is plenty of free parking near the park (more on this at the end of the post). Secondly, the park is truly beautiful and has numerous small sights to offer.
What’s special about Park Sonsbeek are the hilly landscapes. The elevations in the park were made by nature during one of the ice ages, making the park unique. You almost won’t feel like you’re in the Netherlands (a mostly flat country) when strolling through Sonsbeek Park.
The park is especially beautiful during late spring, summer and early autumn, when nature is in full bloom. The park consists of several lakes, some forest areas, walking paths and large meadows. There are also several interesting sights inside the park, such as an ice cellar from the 1810s and a wooden tower from the 1820s.
With its size of almost 70 hectares, Park Sonsbeek is the place to be for locals and visitors alike. Many people run here, walk their dog (must be kept on leash), or do BBQ. If you’re into longer walks, you’ll find several marked routes here.
Watermuseum Arnhem is located in one of the oldest buildings in Arnhem (built in 1404) and is located off Park Sonsbeek. For this reason, you can perfectly combine your visit to the watermuseum with a stroll in the park.
Watermuseum is particularly interesting for families (with children). While we were curious to see what the museum has to offer, we think that the museum should be on your list of things to do in Arnhem if you’re visiting with kids. As an adult without kids, you’d probably feel a little too big and too old here. For kids, it’s a great place to play interactive games and to learn about water.
In addition to the regular games, the museum also has an escape room and organizes several activities (quests) for children.
Situated in the center of Arnhem, Korenmarkt is known to be the best place to go out in Arnhem. The large square is surrounded by beautiful historical buildings and is probably one of the most photogenic places in the city center.
From early spring to late autumn, the square is jam packed with people enjoying food and drinks at the cafés and restaurants. If you’re familiar with Dutch culture, you surely know that this is one of the things that the Dutch are famous for: terrasjes. As soon as the sun is out, everybody wants to go out and enjoy a coffee or a beer in the sun.
As the capital city of the Gelderland province, Arnhem offers a beautiful historical city center. It’s roughly comparable to nearby Nijmegen, but bigger and more vibrant.
The city center is popular for strolling and shopping. The most popular shopping areas in Arnhem are:
- Ketelstraat and Vijzelstraat are the main shopping areas in Arnhem. These two streets are pedestrian zones and are always well visited, especially on Saturdays. There is a mix of well-known stores that you’ll find in all major cities in the Netherlands (Van Haren, Only, Zara – you name it).
- Bakkerstraat and Koningstraat are quieter than Ketelstraat and Vijzelstraat. You’ll find a lot of independent shops here, from small fashion boutiques to specialty food shops.
- 7straatjes (7 Streets): Similar to Amsterdam, 7straatjes is an area consisting of seven narrow streets (Bentinckstraat, Eiland, Grote Oord, Kerkstraat, Pastoorstraat, Vijzelstraat and Walstraat) filled with numerous shops and cafés.
- Rijnstraat: Is the place to be if you’re looking for luxurious brands and high-end fashion.
7. Eusebius Church & Viewpoint
The Eusebius Church (Eusebiuskerk) is a notable landmark in Arnhem. It’s named after Saint Eusebius, the 4th-century bishop of Vercelli.
The original church was built in the 15th century. Although the church has undergone several modifications and restorations over the years, the Gothic architecture can still be clearly seen in its pointed arches, ribbed vaults and elaborate ornamentation.
Eusebius Church holds great historical significance as it was heavily damaged during the Battle of Arnhem in September 1944. After the end of World War II, the church including the heavily destroyed tower was restored.
A highlight of Eusebius Church is the observation deck. There are several levels for visitors to access: the glass balconies at 73 meters offer beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding city center. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of heights here, as the balconies have glass on its fours corners. The highest point is on the floor above the glass balconies.
Visiting the church (ground floor) is free of charge. Access to the viewpoint is €15 per person as of 2023.
Foodhall Arnhem is a must-see if you like food or anything related to it. The food hall has 13 food stands from around the world. What makes this place special is that each kind of food is shown in its own real kitchen. The goal is to give visitors the right “cultural atmosphere” as if they were ordering the food in the country where it comes from. Foodhall Arnhem, located on the Rijnkade in the city center, is open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 12:00 to 22:00 pm (as of 2023).
Note that Foodhall Arnhem is different from Markthal Rotterdam. While in Rotterdam, you can buy mainly fresh produce, Foodhall Arnhem is basically a collection of international restaurants under one roof.
The Rijnkade is also great for a stroll, especially during spring and summer. It’s situated parallel to the River Rhine, and it’s made lively by the numerous cafés and restaurants that line the boulevard.
Many of the cozy cafés and restaurants are located between the two bridges Nelson Mandelabrug and John Frostbrug. In fact, that’s also where the Arnhem Foodhall is located. From here, you can go for a walk along the river.
If you’re looking for a more quiet place to enjoy, you can use the ferry boat that crosses the river (at the time of writing, it’s €1 per person). On the other side of the river, there’s a beautiful sandy beach and nature to enjoy. Instead of taking the ferry, you can also choose to continue your walk along the river towards John Frostbrug, and return to the city center through Sabelspoort, a historic town gate.
If you’re into museums, you’ll find a small Airborne Museum at the Bridge (free entry) a few minutes from John Frostbrug (bridge).
10. Stadsblokken Meinerswijk
Last but not least, Stadsblokken Meinerswijk is a picturesque area located in the south of Arnhem, along the southern bank of the Rhine River.
Stadsblokken Meinerswijk is a great place to visit if you spend multiple days in Arnhem, or even live in the area. It’s not a place that we would recommend during a first visit.
The vast area consists of diverse landscapes, from riverine forests, floodplains, meadows, wetlands to sandbanks. It’s a wonderful place to go hiking or biking, as there are several walking and cycling trails across the site. As such, Stadsblokken Meinerswijk is a great alternative to Park Sonsbeek if you’d like to walk/bike in a larger and more quiet place, a little away from the vibrant city center.
In addition to nature, there are some historical sights located here. It’s one of the many places across Arnhem where you can see the reminiscents of World War II. Examples are the former military fortress Fort Westervoort and an old bunker.
The city aims to add more recreational and cultural activities at this location in the future. At present, Stadsblokken Meinerswijk serves as a venue for various events and festivals. There is also an underground gym and a paintball court on site.
Hiking & Biking
With 26 parks of various shapes and sizes, it’s no wonder that hiking and biking are favorite activities in Arnhem.
Our recommendation is to explore the area around Sonsbeek Park on foot, as it’s very scenic and has a lot of small sights to be explored. As for biking, we have opted for a trip towards the Veluwe area, which is one of the greenest areas in the country. We often use the free app “Fietsroutenetwerk” to plan our cycling trips.
If you’d like a physical map, head over to Molenplaats Sonsbeek, which is a visitor center located on the edge of Park Sonsbeek. They have walking and cycling maps there to get you started. If you don’t want to bike or hike alone, you can also learn about group activities at Molenplaats Sonsbeek.
Parking in Arnhem
Although parking is not as expensive in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, parking rates in the city center still run at €2.90 per hour.
If you’re staying over in Arnhem, your accommodation might include free parking. Be sure to check out whether parking is included in the room rate when booking. Depending on the location of your hotel, you might be able to start your visit to Arnhem by foot, instead of taking your car.
Staying for a few hours or a day? There is paid and free parking in Arnhem. In the city center you’ll find numerous parking garages. Location wise, Parkeergarage Rozet or Q-Park Broerenstraat are good options if you’d like to explore the city.
In addition to paid parking, there is plenty of free parking in Arnhem too. The good thing about the free parking in Arnhem is that it’s not too far from the city and the attractions. There are several free parking lots at Park Sonsbeek, and many of the streets right next to the park have free parking. For this reason, it makes sense to park your car here, start your sightseeing at Sonsbeek Park and then walk towards the city center. During our last visit, we parked our car at Van Heemstraat (close to the large lake at Sonsbeek Park) which was the perfect place for us to start our day.
Accommodations in Arnhem
Below are some of the hotels in Arnhem we stayed in during our visits and that we would recommend.
- Ibis Styles Arnhem Center: Great quality-price ration, located in the city center, right next to the central station. Best option if you travel by public transportation.
- Van der Valk Hotel Arnhem: A wonderful place to stay a little outside of Arnhem. We stayed here when we visited the sights a little away from the center. Good place to stay if you have a car (go to the city center by car, see our recommendations for parking above).
- Bastion Hotel: Located near the Rhine river, at the southern part of the center. A great place to explore Arnhem by foot.
Here’s an overview of all available hotels in Arnhem and surroundings.
Share Your Thoughts and Questions!
Have you ever been to Arnhem or are you planning to visit soon? Share your experience and questions in the comments section down the page. We’d love to hear from you!