Netherlands // The eastern Netherlands //

Arnhem and around

On the south side of the Nationaal Park de Hoge Veluwe, about 25km from Apeldoorn, Arnhem was once a wealthy resort, a watering hole to which the merchants of Amsterdam and Rotterdam would flock to idle away their fortunes. All seemed set fair until World War II, when, in what was an unmitigated disaster for the town, hundreds of British and Polish troops died here during the failed Allied airborne operation codenamed Operation Market Garden. Much of Arnhem took a pasting and although some of the key buildings were subsequently rebuilt, today’s city centre can’t but help seem a little dreary: only on its leafy outskirts do you get much of a sense of what Arnhem was like before the war. Perhaps inevitably, the city is still something of a place of pilgrimage for British visitors, who congregate here every summer to visit the crucial sites of the battle, including Arnhem’s John Frostbrug. Despite this, it’s also a lively town with a good selection of restaurants, bars and hotels. What’s more, Arnhem makes a first-rate base for visiting a number of neighbouring attractions, most memorably the Airborne Museum Hartenstein at Oosterbeek, the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum, the country’s largest open-air museum, and Burgers’ Zoo, with its sizeable menagerie of animals housed in sensitively re-created habitats.

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