While I feel like I've been working nonstop for the past two weeks, my current exhaustion is well worth it since I got to spend the past long weekend in Arnhem. It's one of the many perks of my day job that I get to travel on school trips when the kids need chaperoning! I've been to Arnhem, which is just across the German border in the Netherlands, twice over the past couple of years on school trips. You may recognize the city for the battle that took place there during World War II and that was dramatized in the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far.
Despite the historical significance of the city, I'm not sure I'd make a trip just to Arnhem on my own unless I was already in the neighborhood. Still, I've enjoyed my time there on both occasions. The city is small, and has some beautiful examples of the typical Dutch architecture with its long, slender row homes. I also appreciate the variety and quality of the restaurants and shopping in Arnhem, which always seem to offer so much more than Stuttgart.
Even though I was chaperoning school trips for both visits, I feel like I was able to see enough during the day with the students or on my own during the evening that I can offer some good suggestions for anyone wishing to visit Arnhem or traveling through the area on their way to other locations in the Netherlands.
What to See
Old City Center - The old city center of Arnhem lies southeast of the main train station along the banks of the Lower Rhine. It's a beautiful area filled with shops and restaurants. I really enjoyed just wandering the streets, and stopped in many cute stores (including a great kitchen store called Dille & Kamille) for odds and ends. The area is pretty easy to find: you just have to look for the giant St. Eusebius' Church in the center. Sadly, this 15th century church was under restoration when we visited, and so we didn't get a chance to go in.
Outdoor Market - On Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings the area around St. Eusebius' Church turns into an outdoor market, with everything for sale from antiques and clothing to phone cases and fresh fruits and vegetables. I particularly liked the English fudge stall where I picked up some lovely clotted cream fudge (it tasted like vanilla), which is hard to find in Germany, and the bread stall where I purchased a kind of dark cookie bread filled with almond butter called Roomboter Amandel Gevuld speculaas (yum!). Also of note is the cheese stall where you can sample all different kinds of Dutch cheeses before you buy a wedge (or two).
Water Museum - Our first time in Arnhem, we took the students to the local water museum, which I really enjoyed. I previously had no idea that so much of the Netherlands was under sea level, and it was really interesting to learn about all the ways that the Dutch work to keep the country dry. While most of the plaques were in Dutch, the major ones were in English, and there were lots of interactive exhibits that our older students enjoyed even though the target age range was probably 7-13.
Burgers' Zoo - I usually don't like zoos because I don't much like seeing animals in cages, but our Dutch host insisted that this zoo was different. I was pleasantly surprised to find huge, sprawling ecosystems that attempted to mimic each animal's natural environment. During our limited time there, I saw zebras, giraffes, and rhinos on the large savannah, as well as the six baby cheetahs that were born over the summer. A brief trip into the ocean tank environment also revealed various kinds of stingrays and sharks. While I'm still not sold on the idea of zoos, this one was a step in the right direction.
Where to Eat
't Nieuwe Plein - I've eaten here three times over the two trips that I've taken to Arnhem. The restaurant offers an international cuisine with a three-course menu for just 27€, which is a real deal considering the quality of the food. This last time I ordered a delicious appetizer of goat cheese baked in pastry with honey, followed by beef tournedos cooked perfectly medium-rare with a port sauce and fries, and ending with a sweet crème brûlée. Just be forewarned: though the wait staff is very nice and accommodating (they happily brought us English menus), they've never been particularly fast or attentive.
De Lunchclub - I've been to this tiny café twice for just one thing: their freshly made stroopwafels. This Dutch specialty consists of two thin cookie-like wafers filled with a caramel-like syrup. The window in De Lunchclub sells them in convenient packets to go, but also be sure to get one made fresh and hot from the waffle iron.
Tip: Though I've only mentioned restaurants here, be sure to also check out the many bars and cafés around the Korenmarkt. I was in heaven to see so many Belgian beers and to eat bitterballen again after our summer trip to Amsterdam.
Iveau Burgers & Wijnbar - We went to this new burger place quite by chance on our second night in Arnhem. We were attracted by the really cool interior with wooden chairs, small café-style tables, and even couches sitting in front of wood stoves backed by bookshelves. Though they were very busy, the wait staff kindly found a table for us and made sure we had great service all evening. For my "burger", I ordered a delicious wrap with duck confit, red berry and apple compote, and homemade Waldorf salad. My colleagues ordered the lamb burger on a pita and the Angus burger with goat cheese. To share, we got an order of fries with mayonnaise, of course.
Arneym Lunch & Bites - I found this "tapas" place on TripAdvisor, and thought it was worth a visit. The restaurant is located on a lovely square with both indoor and outdoor seating. Upon sitting down, I was presented with a small paper menu on which I simply placed check marks next to the tapas I wished to try. I decided on the fried calamari, the filet American (beef tartare) with pepper jelly mini roll, the crab cake with lemon mayo mini roll, and the brie with pine nuts and honey-thyme syrup mini roll. At 2-4€ each, the tapas were very affordably and beautifully presented on a wood cutting board. My favorite was definitely the crab cake, which I hadn't had since I'd left the States a little over two years ago. Overall, I really enjoyed lunch at this place with its casual atmosphere, freshly-baked rolls, and savory combinations.
Cantina - On our last night in the city we took the students to Cantina for some Mexican food. We'd seen the restaurant earlier in the day and thought it might be a nice alternative to the old reliable pizza. My nachos with homemade tortilla chips and chorizo and fresh guacamole were delicious, as was my warm and cheesy quesadilla. However, the students were a little disappointed with the portion size of the "street food" tacos, quesadillas, taquitas, and tostadas. I would definitely go back again as its probably the best Mexican food that I've had yet in Germany or the Netherlands, but I probably wouldn't take a hungry group of teenagers next time.
Have you even been to Arnhem? What was your favorite site or place to eat?