Netherlands Open Air Museum: Arnhem’s Little Secret

netherlands open air museum arnhem

Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem

I don’t think the little city of Arnhem gets a lot of love from the travel set, given its out-of-the way location in the province of Gelderland far to the east of the big cities like Utrecht and Amsterdam. There’s at least one reason to visit, however, and quite a nice one at that: the Netherlands Open Air Museum.

netherlands open air museum traditional buildings

Though admittedly a popular stop for school groups, the Open Air Museum in Arnhem is entertaining for not only the young but also the young at heart. (Hat tip to the Dromomaniac.)

big bikes at the arnhem open air museum

Aside from plenty of opportunities to channel your inner child, the museum is also full of idealized classic Dutch-style things like stroopwafle and windmills and several varieties of livestock. There was even an AMAZING movie that I couldn’t understand, with perhaps the most impressive presentation of any I’ve ever seen. Many of the buildings in the museum have been brought here and rebuilt from all over the Netherlands, with windmills and blacksmiths and ‘Indonesian backyards’ giving a look into historical lifestyles in the country.

blacksmith at the open air museum in arnhem

There are also, deliciously, traditional Dutch foods. Poffertjes (buckwheat pancakes) and an old-school candy shop are the big draws, but my money is on the bakery next door and all the delicious things that live within.

traditional dutch apple pastry

Whether you’re looking for an escape from Amsterdam or just something to do en route from the Dutch capital to Germany, Arnhem and the Netherlands Open Air Museum are a decent diversion. Other than the occasional school group, you might just be the only international tourist in town.

shopkeeper at the netherlands open air museum

nature in the arnhem open air museum

Maybe the best thing about Arnhem is the actual quiet. Amsterdam is great, of course, but the constant stream of boobs and bikes and bongs can be a bit much. Arnhem is the total opposite: quiet and calm and not a red light in sight. Plus, it makes a good jumping off point for the excellent Hoge-Veluwe National Park.

Operating hours and admission fees vary depending on the season in which you visit. The park is open daily from 11:00 – 16:30, with extended hours during the busier seasons. Full-price admission is €15.70 in the high season and €5.00 in the low season, with discounts for children 12 or younger. For more information, visit their official website

The Netherlands Open Air museum is, conveniently, located a short walk away from the only hostel in town. If you’re looking for something more upmarket, there are also a number of hotels in the city


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    Bishkek’s Kyrgyzstan State Museum of Fine Arts

    bishkek fine arts museum

    Bishkek’s Kyrgyzstan State Museum of Fine Arts

    In an assuming building on a busy Sovietskaya, opposite the beautiful Bishkek Opera and Ballet Theatre, is one of the (actually very few) proper tourist sites in the Kyrgyz capital: the State Museum of Fine Arts.
    bishkek museum of fine arts
    Though the presentation is not always top class, the various exhibitions on both Kyrgyz folk and applied art and Russian/Soviet era art are well worth the small price of admission and the time it takes to visit. The museum can be frustrating at times, with staff having even ignored requests to turn on the lights in remote halls on one of my visits, but most of those frustrations can be pinned down more to the limited operating potential of the museum/building itself rather than to any deficiencies with their collections.

    kyrgyzstan artwork figurines

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      Lost in the Louvre Museum: Paris’ Most Crowded Moments.

      louvre pyramid at night

      Lost in the Louvre Museum:
      Paris’ Most Crowded Moments.

      If you’ve ever visited Paris’ Louvre Museum, perhaps you can recall a moment that looked a little like this:

      louvre crowds at the mona lisa

      My first visit to the museum, on my first trip to Paris back in 2006, was very much like that. An all-out sprint to the Mona Lisa via the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo, with perhaps a brief glance into the Salon of Apollo to see the Crown Jewels. It was great and miserable, all at the same time.

      inside the louvre museum

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        Aquarium de Paris: the Cineaqua In Trocadero

        aquarium de paris

        L’Aquarium de Paris: The Cineaqua in Trocadero

        Some things are delightful, regardless of where they happen to be. Good coffee, fresh baked bread, or a beautiful sunset are something to be enjoyed wherever in the world you happen to stumble upon them. It was with that sense, then, that of all the ways to spend a morning in Paris I was informed that we would be going to the Cineaqua Paris aquarium given the opportunity.

        fish at the cineaqua paris

        There are two aquariums in the city (Cineaqua at Trocadero and Aquarium Tropicale at Porte Doree) and another not far from town (Aquarium Sea Life Paris at Val d’Europe), but for a tourist in town the Cineaqua is by far the most convenient. Located in the Trocadero Gardens, this is just moments away from the Eiffel Tower AND one of the most popular overlooks in the city for taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower.

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          Hiking Kyrgyzstan’s Chon-Kaindy Valley

          hiking kyrgyzstan's chon kaindy valley

          Hiking Kyrgyzstan’s Chon-Kaindy Valley

          No matter the route, no matter the preparation, the simple truth is that not every hike will go as planned. Add into this a rarely-traveled route with a guide who has only visited once before, and its bound to be an adventure.

          hiking into chon kaindy

          Such was the case on a TUK trip to the Chon-Kaindy Valley.  Gathering into another minivan with yet another one-day ‘family’ of hikers, we met at 7:30 in the morning to leave for Kara-Balta in the west of the Chuy Valley (nearly to the border with Kazakhstan). Despite a call the night before to pack extra socks for a couple of river crossings, I’m unsure any of us knew quite what we were in for!

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            Beylerbeyi Palace: The Boshphorus’ Forgotten Ottoman Residence

            Beylerbeyi Palace: the Bosphorus’ Forgotten Ottoman Residence

            Quick, name three palaces in Istanbul! There’s Topkapi and Dolmabahce and… and….

            beylerbeyi palace istanbul

            Beylerbeyi, for one. Constructed in 1865, Beylerbeyi Palace was used as a Summer Residence by the Ottoman Sultans and final residence/prison of the last autocratic ruler of the Ottoman Empire after he was deposed by the Young Turk movement. It has beauty, it has history, it has a sweet little teahouse inside the Bosphorus-front gardens. The only thing it doesn’t really have is tourists.

            beylerbeyi palace from bosphorus

            Compared to places like the Topkapi and Dolmabahce Palaces, Beylerbeyi may as well be located in the wilds of eastern Turkey. It certainly isn’t hard to visit, but on the Asian side of Istanbul by the foot of the Bosphorus Bridge it certainly isn’t located such that you’re going to accidentally stumble across it. If anything, most tourists will see it in passing from a Bosphorus cruise and then promptly forget about it as soon as they leave the boat.

            beylerbeyi palace tunnel

            As a matter of fact, even if you did stumble across it from the tourist entrance you probably wouldn’t think twice. Rather than the Bosphorus reserved entrance for Sultans and Otto-men, the modern visitor must approach from the coastal road on the back side. Past a large wall, through a long tunnel, and then suddenly you emerge into a peaceful garden that even the Bosphorus bridge looming just overhead can’t break the calm of.

            beylerbeyi palace and bosphorus bridge

            Entrance is only with a guide (included in the cost of admission) and photos are not allowed inside, but the interior is as lavish and impressive and comfortable as an Ottoman Summer Palace should be. This was built before the days of air conditioning and widespread refrigeration, remember, so the entire building was designed with comfort and cooling in mind. The main hall, all marble and nautical themes, includes a large fountain that served as both a calming distraction and a cooling element. The floors throughout are covered with reed mats imported from Egypt. If those touches inside aren’t enough, the shaded gardens that surround the palace serve as a further retreat from summer’s heat.

            beylerbeyi palace with boat

            Aside from a Sultan running around, the only thing really missing is the tourists. If you happen to be on the Asian side of Istanbul looking for a nice quiet palace, this isn’t a bad place to aim for!

            Essential Info

            Hours: Open daily 9:30 – 17:00, closed Monday/Thursday
            Admission: 20 TL (which includes the mandatory guided tour)
            Photography: Totally not allowed inside.

            Getting there: Ferry from Eminonu or Kabatas to Uskudar.
            From Uskudar, Bus 15 (any of them: 15A, 15H, 15ETC) goes to
            the Cayirbasi stop just nearby.

            I visited the Beylerbeyi Palace while working as a photographer with GetYourGuide’s Bosphorus and Asia tour. Though expensive, it does make the process of getting to Beylerbeyi and the Camlica Hill a lot faster. However, with some patience and spare time you can visit both independently as well. Alternately, if you happen to be doing one of the Big Bus Tours this is one of the stops on the Asian side. 

            Are you traveling through Istanbul soon? When I’m in town I generally stay at the Agora Guesthouse in the Sultanahmet area, but there are plenty of hotels in Istanbul to choose from.

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              Hoge Veluwe National Park: Netherlands au Naturel

              hoge veluwe national park

              Hoge Veluwe National Park: Netherlands au Naturel

              The biggest little park in the Netherlands, Hoge Veluwe is one of those places that you probably haven’t heard of but certainly ought to visit. I’d wager that if you’re familiar with any part of the park, it would be the outstanding Kröller-Müller museum that lies therein. Perhaps the single most impressive part of the park, the interior is stacked with the amazing collection of Helene Kröller-Müller (who incidentally was one of the first people to recognize the value of Van Gogh’s works).

              museum at hoge veluwe national park

              Well apart from the museums, however, is the expansive Hoge Veluwe National Park itself. When I think of the Netherlands I don’t tend to first think of images of open green spaces, so to my surprise (and delight!) this privately-owned National Park is largely natural space: forest and grassland and even a little arid area that calls to mind the velds that any Boer would be familiar with. And indeed there are even memories of such old-school Dutch history, notably a lonesome statue of Christiaan de Wet perched just off from one of the bike trails that circle through the park.

              de witt statue at hoge veluwe national park(Photo credit: Sabrina Iovino)

              Biking in the Netherlands is one of the highlights of the country no matter which part you’re visiting, but this is especially true at Hoge Veluwe. With lots of open spaces and well built bike paths, you could cruise through here for hours without having to re-ride the same tracts. If you ever do get bored, a stop at the historic hunting lodge or to try and spot the wildlife that roams the park isn’t a bad way to spend time either. With around 1700 free-for-the-taking White Bikes around Hoge Veluwe, it should never be too hard to find another when you finish your break.

              white bikes in hoge veluwe national park

              deer at hoge veluwe


              Headed to the Netherlands and want to get somewhere a touch less touristy than Amsterdam? Coming for museums and need more Van Gogh than Museumplein can provide? Or are you just aching for a bit of natural space as a reprieve from the citified atmosphere of the Benelux? Check out Hoge-Veluwe, and you may be well impressed.


              From Amsterdam, a train to Apeldoorn (the nearest station) is about €15 each way. From there, public busses are available to get to the park. Alternatively, the national park is accessible by bike from Arnhem. 

              Hoge Veluwe is open throughout the year, from 9:00 – 18:00 in the low season and 8:00 at the busiest times. Admission to just the park is €8.70 per adult, or €17.40 including the Kroller-Muller museum. You can ride your own bicycle to the park or borrow one of the ubiquitous white bikes for free, but car parking costs extra. For more information, visit the official website

              The Hoge Veluwe National Park is fairly large (and the Kroller Muller Museum worth quite a bit of time on its own), so rather than making a daytip from Amsterdam you would do better to stay in the area. There are hostels in Arnhem and Apeldoorn, the two closest towns to the park itself. There are also a bunch of proper hotels in Arnhem, if you prefer.  If you’re really not comfortable getting all the way out to Hoge-Veluwe and back on your own and have too much money, you can also check out the Amsterdam Daytrip to Hoge-Veluwe.

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                Hiking in Kyrgyzstan: Chunkurchak Valley

                hiking in Kyrgyzstan's Chunkurchak

                Hiking in Kyrgyzstan:
                Chunkurchak Valley


                There are moments when I want to hike for days on end, climbing a new mountain pass every morning and exploring a new valley each afternoon. There are also moments when I want to get out of the city for a day and take a leisurely walk somewhere beautiful. Perhaps one of the best things about living in Kyrgyzstan is that there is, in fact, an endless number of places to do either!

                wildflowers in kyrgyzstan
                On another recent trip with the Trekking Union of Kyrgyzstan, this time to the Chunkurchak Valley in the mountains near the Tatyr Ski Base, I was reminded not only how many options there are for hiking even just near Bishkek but also how beautiful the country can be and how much it changes visually throughout the year.

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