The Bridge at Arnhem on Avalon Visionary
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Located at the Rhine's intersection with the Nederrjin (or lower Rhine), Arnhem is a city in the Eastern Netherlands that is most famous for its role in World War II, particularly toward the end of the war when the Allies started to push the Germans back.
The Battle of Arnhem, part of Operation Market Garden, was fought in September 1944 and involved three Allied infantry airborne landings aimed at taking control of three key bridges. The first two, in Nijmegen and Eindhoven, were successful. But in Arnhem it did not go according to plan, and the Allies suffered a major defeat. The 1977 movie "A Bridge Too Far" was based on the events that happened here.
If you're on a European river cruise that includes this port stop, you'll find yourself sailing under the famed bridge, since reconstructed and renamed. Near the bridge is a small information center detailing some of the key events that happened there, including moving audio testimonials from surviving soldiers and residents.
Mostly destroyed during the war, Arnhem was rebuilt and most buildings in and around the city are fairly modern. A few key standouts, like the St. Eusebius and Walburgiskerk churches, still exist.
Arnhem is also a popular city for shopping. A frequent haunt of the early middle class in the Netherlands, the city had some 100 fashion boutiques as far back as the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the narrow streets in the city's center are dotted with trendy clothing and shoe shops.
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World War II history buffs will want to pick up a book or two about the Battle of Arnhem.
Dutch is the official language of Arnhem but almost everyone speaks English. Just say hello first and you'll be greeted in English.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Netherlands is part of the European community, and the euro is the official currency. For up-to-the-minute conversions, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.
While credit cards are accepted in many stores, in almost all cases you need a card with a chip and pin, so cash is still the best way to pay. The best way to get money is at an ATM. There are a handful of banks in Arnhem, including two ING banks (just look for the bright orange lions on the sign) with ATMs; the larger of the two is on Willemsplein about two minutes away from the information center.
Where You're Docked
Only riverboats can visit the small city of Arnhem, with all boats mooring along the Lower Rhine (or Nederrijn) between the Nelson Mandela Brug (Bridge) and the John Frost Brug (what was once the "Bridge Too Far").
There are no port facilities and no parking lot. You just walk off the boat, up the stairs and onto Rijnkade, a small street dotted with Turkish and Indian restaurants right along the water. From here you can make your way by foot further into city center. There are no buses in the immediate vicinity.
All boats dock along the river, within walking distance of the city's main shopping district, as well as the Battle of Arnhem Information Center at the foot of the John Frost Bridge. There are a handful of restaurants in the immediate vicinity and on a sunny day their terraces are a nice place to sip a drink and look out over the water. But for a larger selection of restaurants, bars and shops, you'll need to walk about 10 minutes further into the city.
Most of Arnhem's main attractions are too far afield to walk; an organized tour is your best bet as most itineraries do not spend a full day in the city and so your time is tight. A short walking tour through the city will take you past the Historic Cellars and St. Eusebius Church.
If your riverboat doesn't have bikes and you're interested in renting one for a few hours, head 10 to 15 minutes into the city to the central rail station and look for the "Fietsenstalling" sign where you can rent a bike for the day.
Watch Out For
In Arnhem, as in the rest of the Netherlands, it is imperative that you watch out for bicyclists and cars when walking around. Pedestrians do not have the right of way in the Netherlands. This is especially true where bicyclists are concerned. They do not slow down and they can come from any direction unexpectedly, so be sure to look every which way before stepping onto a bike lane. Additionally, cars and trucks will drive on many of the narrow streets -- and even in squares -- so always keep an eye and ear open for oncoming traffic.
As Arnhem is most well-known for the World War II battle that took place nearby, most of the city's main sightseeing attractions are military in nature.
There are numerous Battle of Arnhem-related sites to see in and around Arnhem including the John Frost Bridge, previously known as the Bridge of Arnhem and memorialized in the 1977 movie "A Bridge Too Far." At the foot of the bridge is the Battle of Arnhem Information Centre where you'll find images and audio fragments of witnesses to the battle.
For a more in-depth dive into the famous battle visit the Airborne Museum. Housed in what was once the headquarters of the British forces fighting in the area, the museum features an extensive collection of original weapons, uniforms and equipment. But most compelling are the pictures, audio interviews and videos about the battle. (November - March: Monday through Saturday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sundays:noon - 5 p.m. / April - October: Monday through Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sundays: noon - 5 p.m.)
A short walk away is the Airborne Cemetery, where an estimated 1,700 World War II soldiers are buried from countries as diverse as England, Poland, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.
Perhaps one of Arnhem's most popular tourist attractions, the Open Air Museum has absolutely nothing to do with World War II. Instead, the outdoor museum displays a range of traditional Dutch home styles, including cottages and farms from all parts of the Netherlands. Related structures like schools and factories have been relocated here as well. Employees in costume dress complete the experience. Hours vary by season.
In Arnhem's town center about 36 centuries-old cellars have been restored and interconnected to create the Historische Kelders, or Historic Cellars. Displays trace the history of Arnhem from its earliest days to today. Guided tours are offered on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday afternoons; afternoon self-guided tours are available Tuesday to Saturday and the first Sunday of each month.
Not far outside of Arnhem is the Da Hoge Veluwe National Park, with its three museums and numerous foot paths and bike trails. If you're an art lover, you won't want to miss the Kroller-Muller Museum with its impressive collection of 19th- and 20th-century art, including a large collection of Van Goghs. A lovely sculpture garden is also there. (Tuesday - Sunday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.) If you have a little extra time on your hands, take to one of the 1,700 "white bicycles" provided free of charge, and pedal your way around the park.
Been There, Done That
For a taste of the Netherland's modern art movement, head to Museum Arnhem -- also called the Museum voor Moderne Kunst. Four collections display a diverse selection of Dutch artists from the surrealism, neorealism, figurative expressionism and other realism genres of modern art. (Tuesday - Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Burgers' Zoo, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2013, is the largest and most visited zoo in the Netherlands. It features an indoor tropical rainforest, an East African savannah complete with zebras, antelopes and lions, a rock desert habitat for desert animals and a walk-through aquarium. Other areas showcase a chimpanzee colony, gorillas, panthers, elephants, tigers, bears and more. (summer: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m., winter: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
The small Dutch Wine Museum is housed in an old wine cellar and showcases a variety of winemaking-related artifacts. (Saturdays: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
With much of Arnhem destroyed during World War II, the only prominent relic of older days is the gothic-style St. Eusebius Church. Originally built between 1452 and 1560, much of what you see today was rebuilt after the war. Work is often being done on some part of the church or other and it is often encased in scaffolding. A panoramic glass elevator takes visitors to the top of the church tower for a stunning view of the city. Admission to the church is free, though a ride in the elevator will set you back a few euros.
Head a little further afield along the Waal River and you'll find the medieval Doorwerth Castle. First built in the 13th century but expanded several times over the years, the castle as it stands today dates back to 1637, though it, too, was damaged during the war. (Tuesday to Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
Admittedly, when compared to Amsterdam, the smaller city of Arnhem comes up lacking in terms of restaurant variety, but there are still more than enough choices for most visitors to find somewhere they'd like to eat. Most eateries, open during lunchtime hours, are fairly casual with a selection of soups, salads and sandwiches. And of course, it's not a Dutch lunch without pancakes on the menu.
Quick and Easy: In the city's small fashion district (Modekwartier Arnhem) you'll find Caspar, a casual bar and cafe perfect for a quick lunch stop and a pint of Dutch beer. Freshly made soups, salads and sandwiches are on the menu. (Elly Lamakerplantsoen 2; daily from 9:30 a.m.)
Centrally Located: Next door to St. Eusebius Church in a converted bank is Dudok, a cafe and brasserie, which in summertime spills onto a large terrace. Stop by for lunch or afternoon tea and choose from a menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, focaccia and fresh pastries baked in the onsite bakery. An English language menu is available. (Koningstraat 40; Monday - Saturday: 8 a.m. - 1 p.m., Sunday: from 10 a.m.)
For Pancakes: For Arnhem's largest selection of pancakes you'll have to go to Lizzy's Pannenkoekenhuis. This kid-friendly restaurant serves up traditional Dutch pancakes, as well as more modern variations like gyro or lasagna pancakes. Diners requiring gluten-free, lactose-free or egg-free variations can be accommodated. (Rijnstraat 79b; Monday - Friday: from 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: from noon.
Where the Locals Are: Located near Arnhem's theater district, Grand Cafe Metropole is the place for artists, actors and theatergoers to congregate. During the day you might not see as many artistes gathered for conversation, but you will find a nice selection of soups, salads and sandwiches, reasonably priced. On a sunny day, choose a sidewalk table for some great people-watching. (Steenstraat 68; Monday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., and Sunday: noon- 4 p.m.)
Staying in Touch
It's easy to get onto the Internet in Arnhem, as numerous cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi to customers. You don't even need to go inside, just set your phone to scan for a hotspot and walk towards it until the signal is strong enough to use.
Most river cruise lines offer two excursion choices when visiting Arnhem.
Best for History Buffs: Visit the battlefield where much of the Battle of Arnhem took place, then tour the Airborne Museum. (Half day)
Best for Nature- or Art-Lovers: Head to the De Hoge Veluwe National Park and the Kroller-Muller Museum with its extensive Van Gogh collection. (Half day)
For More Information
On the Web: Arnhem Region
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
IndependentTraveler.com: Europe Travel Guide
--By Dori Saltzman, News Editor