Gelderland is the largest of all the 12 Dutch provinces. It’s located at the center east of the Netherlands and, if the legend is to be believed, the province got its name from a story that involves a dragon.

It’s said that in 878 AD, two noblemen brothers set out to kill a fire-breathing dragon for fear that it would wreak havoc in the area. They were able to locate the dragon, stab it with their spears, and on its dying breath, the dragon cried out, “Gelre! Gelre!” The brothers named the place where they killed the dragon Gelre and throughout the centuries – past various battles, wars, and foreign invasions – Gelre has changed to Geldern and finally to Gelderland in 1815.

Luckily, there are no longer any fire-breathing dragons prowling in Gelderland. Instead, you’ll be treated to massive natural park reserves and forests, various museums, and medieval castles.

Sights and Activities in Gelderland

#1 Veluwe

The Veluwe, considered “the finest area of visual beauty in the country” by the Dutch, is a nature lover’s dream. It covers 55 km2 and features beautiful forests, extensive natural landscapes, lakes, and beaches, as well as the EU’s largest sand drifts. The Veluwe is also where you may catch a glimpse of the Dutch equivalent of the ‘Big Five’ (red deer, roe deer, wild boar, badger, and fox). The flora is diverse, with over 500 plant kinds to choose from.

Due to its immense size, the Veluwe offers plenty of recreational activities for everyone. There are walking and hiking trails, biking and cycling routes, and plenty of water-related activities (e.g., swimming, paddling, canoeing, etc.). As a result, the Veluwe is also a popular place for a brief staycation. Hotel rooms, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and numerous cottages and bungalows in the woods are available as lodging alternatives.

If you want a quick break from all that nature, visit the Kröller-Müller Museum. It’s located in the Hoge Veluwe National Park and displays many works by the popular Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh. However, the museum is unique because, true to its ‘art and nature’ philosophy, works of art are displayed outdoors in the museum’s scenic park.

#2 Arnhem City

Arnhem, the capital city of Gelderland, is known for the WWII Battle of Arnhem, which destroyed the city. (In fact, restorations continue to this day.) Currently, the city is known for its many family-friendly, cultural, and sports locations.

The 45-hectare Royal Burger’s Zoo is a popular tourist destination. It’s one of the biggest zoos in the country, and it’s known for showcasing animals in simulated habitats. The zoo is also famous for its numerous conservation projects.

As for museums, the city boasts the Netherlands Open Air Museum (showcasing Dutch culture and daily life), the Museum for Modern Art (featuring Dutch artists), and the Bronbeek Museum (highlighting the lives and finds of Dutch soldiers posted in remote Dutch colonies).

The city also offers green spaces such as Park Sonsbeek, Immerloo Park, and Park Angerenstein.

In spring and summer, de Rijnkade (Rhine quay or Rhine boulevard) comes to life. Running from Nieuwe Kade to Nelson Mandelabrug, it’s a lengthy stretch of cafes, terraces, and restaurants where you can enjoy a hot or cold drink, a quick snack, or a full meal while enjoying a view of the Rhine river.

#3 Nijmegen

Nijmegen, situated on the Waal river close to the German border, is the oldest city in the Netherlands (first mentioned in the 1st century BC). It’s home to the Valkhof Museum, an archaeology and art museum with a large collection of Roman archaeological artifacts from the area and contemporary art. It’s on the outskirts of the Valkhof Park, a magnificent and attractive park perched on a low hill above the Waal on the site of an imperial fortification established by Charlemagne in AD 768.

There are many other notable museums in the city but if you’re looking to experience something different, try the sensory challenge presented by MuZIEum. You’ll be blindfolded and asked to go through various activities and tasks here.

However, join the world-famous De 4 Daagse (The 4-Day March) if you want a more energetic activity. Every July, over 45,000 local and international participants meet up in Nijmegen to walk 30, 40, or 50 km each day for four consecutive days. Due to its immense popularity, the event has been dubbed The Walk of the World.

#4 Het Loo Palace

The Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn is a palace built by the House of Orange-Nassau. It’s currently a state museum with authentic furniture, artifacts, and paintings from the House of Orange-Nassau on display. Don’t forget to go through the gardens while visiting here. The well-kept grounds feature many fountains and sculptures that are sure to be a treat.

#5 Julianatoren

Next to the Het Loo Palace is Julianatoren, a massive amusement park for young children and those young at heart. With over 65 rides and attractions, the whole family will surely be entertained and occupied throughout the day.

#6 Doorwerth Castle

Doorwerth Castle is a medieval castle with a history that dates back to the 13th century. Today, a visit to the place treats you to a 17th-century castle complete with an armor room where kids can try on a chain mail suit. The grounds are extensive, featuring a gatehouse, coach house, stables, and a sizable vegetable garden.

Doorwerth Castle is also one of the castles along a cycle route covering nearly 50 kilometers! Take the route, and you’ll see various estates and other castles in the area.

#7 Airborne Museum Hartenstein

The Airborne Museum Hartenstein, located in Oosterbeek, features the Battle of Arnhem in WWII (1944). The museum itself, a former 19th-century villa, used to be the headquarters for British soldiers and features various uniforms, weaponry, and other war-related paraphernalia. Apart from a visit to the museum itself, other activities in this location include boat tours, guided walk tours, and seasonal events such as lectures from renowned authors worldwide.

Getting Around Gelderland

Biking/Cycling

Due to its massive size, it’s no wonder that biking and cycling routes abound in Gelderland. There are at least 20 cycling routes to try in the province. And you won’t be bored with the scenery because Gelderland is divided into three distinct areas: the woodland Veluwe, the relaxing countryside of Achterhoek, and Rivierenland, which includes the Maas, Waal, Rhine, and Lek rivers.

Walking/Hiking

If you prefer to explore Gelderland on foot, you won’t be disappointed. You can try the Veluwezoom-Posbank walking route, the Rijn Loop from Heveadorp hiking route, the De Duivelsberg Loop from Wyler trail, and many more.

The Trolleybus

The Trolleybus in Arnhem is something you might want to try. The trolleybus is an electric bus that uses spring-loaded trolley poles to collect power from two overhead lines. This mode of transportation is only available in Arnhem and nowhere else in the country. It covers a decent area, but please check out active routes and schedules before hopping into one.

Accommodations in Gelderland

Just like elsewhere in the Netherlands, accommodations in Gelderland are varied. You can find 5-star hotels, budget accommodations, vacation houses for rent, bungalows in the woods, wellness lodges (complete with sauna amenities), and caravans and campsites throughout the province.

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