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National Park Hoge Veluwe, the Netherlands, definitely worth a Visit

National Park Hoge Veluwe, the Netherlands, definitely worth a Visit

Years ago my husband and I were finally able to take a day off (we had the worst bosses ever – we were both solo-entrepreneurs) and decided we wanted to have a combination of culture, nature, exercise and fun. Preferably all in one place.

We could have gone to Insel Hombroich just across the border of Germany, but another great place where you can have it all is National Park Hoge Veluwe. It’s located in the east of the Netherlands and even on that winter’s day it was beautiful.

Cars are allowed in the park, but are strongly discouraged by an additional charge on the entrance fee. If you have no difficulty moving, it is easy to park the car at one of the entrances and continue on foot or by bicycle. This way you save nature and you see more details of the park.

Free use of bicycles

The one thing people always remember from this park are the white bicycles that are parked all over the place. The park is 55 square kilometers, so if you want to get back to your car before closing time, it’s pretty handy you can just grab one.

White bicycles are a project of the Provo movement in the sixties. It was a bike sharing system, meant to solve traffic problems and air pollution in Amsterdam. Because they were white they were easy to recognize and you were not allowed to put a lock on them. The same rule applies in the park.

A friend of mine saw 20 yellow bikes in Middelheim, a sculpture garden in Belgium. Being used to the white bicycles in the Hoge Veluwe she took one to cycle around. It turned out to be an authority bicycle, so the guard came running after her to get her off. 🙂

Map of the northeast part of the park
Map of the northeast part of the park
Trowel by Claes Oldenburg
Some entrance routes will lead you past this huge Trowel by Claes Oldenburg
No waiting time for a bicycle to use in wintertime

Three entrances of the National park Hoge Veluwe

The park is 55 square kilometers and has three entrances. You can leave your car at a parking lot and take one of the white bikes. It’s not just nature:

  • The Kröller-Müller museum houses (mostly) modern art and has a big sculpture garden. The museum’s design is by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde;
  • Visitor Center, where you can get information about the park and maps with hiking or cycling routes;
  • Museon, the first underground museum about nature and its wonders. It’s located in the Visitor Center;
  • Hunting Lodge Sint Hubertus, built by the Dutch architect H.P. Berlage;
  • Several big sculptures throughout the park.

If you don’t want to take a bike, you can pay an entrance fee for the car as well and drive around. For this freezing cold February morning of our visit we chose to pay the extra fee, so we could take a different gate out and see another part of the park as well.

I have described our morning dwellings in this article on my art website “Appreciating the beautiful Kroller-Muller Museum“. By the time our visit inside the museum was completed the temperature was above zero Celsius and we went outside to the sculpture garden.

A huge sculpture garden where you can walk for hours

Statue garden in National Park Hoge Veluwe
Some areas of the garden are crowded with statues, in other parts it’s just trees and bushes

Wildlife such as deer and wild boar, can not enter the sculpture garden of the Kroller-Muller Museum which is located in the middle of the Hoge Veluwe because of a solid fence. Thank goodness. Especially wild boar could be quite an attack on the lawns.

There are classical statues by Maillol and Rodin. Modern statues by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Installations of all sorts. And best of all, there are two pavilions packed with statues.

Aldo van Eijck designed one pavilion, the other one is of the more famous architect, Gerrit Rietveld. A lot of statues were packed in straw that winter day. Maintenance after a snowy and wet winter is a necessity and a difficult task in the wet Netherlands.

A highlight of the sculpture garden is the “Jardin d’Email” by Jean Dubuffet. Usually you can’t touch pieces of art, but this one you are even allowed to walk on. It was closed in wintertime, so we couldn’t get in that day. I used to go on an excursion with my students to this place and occasionally took my son with me. So in the old (analog) photo albums I found a picture of 1981.

Jardin d’Email in 1981
Jardin d’Email in 1981
Rietveld Pavilion
Rietveld pavilion
Giuseppe Penone (1943) – The tree lover
Giuseppe Penone (1943) – The tree lover

Temporary exhibitions

Giuseppe Penone
Foggio di Otterlo – Giuseppe Penone

We were lucky that the temporary exhibition was about the movement “Arte Povera”, a critical art movement in Italy during the seventies. One of the members was Penone. He is known for finding his inspiration in trees.

Sometimes he uses parts of real trees in his sculptures; the birch, the branches, the leaves. Or he makes a statue that is like a tree. When we walked in one of the lanes, I did see something was different, but I only noticed it was a bronze tree, when I was closer by.

As you can imagine I always had a lot of discussions with my students about “Is something art, or not”. I loved it if they were critical as well and wanted to know or understand what they saw.

Hiking and biking

In the afternoon we hiked and cycled. From the museum we started walking to the north. There is a visitor center that resembles the visitor centers in the American national parks. With the Museon and lots of explanation of the surroundings and – a very important detail – a restaurant where we had lunch.

Tom at a white bicycle
We liked the alternation between walking and cycling
St. Hubert Hunting Lodge
St. Hubert Hunting Lodge by H.P. Berlage
Wild boars were here
Damage caused by wild boars

The Kröller family hired the architect H.P. Berlage to design the St. Hubert Hunting Lodge. It was under construction at that time. That was a bit of a disappointment after the 4-mile walk we did. We sure have a good reason to go back again once we are allowed to travel.

For the way back to the parking lot at the museum we took a bicycle. The hiking and cycling routes are partly separated giving us the opportunity to see yet another kind of landscape. The variety in National Park Hoge Veluwe is fantastic.

I never knew that wild boars make a real mess of the ground. It was unbelievable how damaged the soil looked. Although bushes and trees flourish with this natural overturning of the earth. Wild boars are both a protected species and a pest in the Netherlands. Because they cause damage to crops and traffic accidents, their habitat in the Netherlands is limited to a number of nature areas.

Have you ever seen a landscape, visited by wild boar? Tell us in the comment box.

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16 thoughts on “National Park Hoge Veluwe, the Netherlands, definitely worth a Visit”

  1. Hi Hannie, what an interesting article. I live here very close to the park, and I didn’t know so many things you are describing. But it might be because I am more someone who walks a lot in the forest, or otherwise in Nature. I even didn’t know that there is a white bicycle to take and cycle around. Thank you very much! It is really amazing what I learn from you. I see so many new things. Thank you!

    You are right! We have many boars here in the forest, and they destroy the ground very much. You can see it everywhere you walk. They love to do that, looking for food.

    Did you stay in a hotel nearby? They have lovely hotels around the park.

    Reply
    • Hi Sylvia, I guessed you would like this article. 🙂
      No, we didn’t stay in a hotel. We lived only an hour’s drive from the Hoge Veluwe, so it was simple to take the car and go whenever we felt like it. The only time we did try to get into a hotel in that area everything was booked, LOL, so if we would go nowadays we would make reservations beforehand!

      Where we live now, at the foot of a mountainous nature park, there are jabalí, wild pigs. They look like the smaller sisters and brothers of the wild boars. The damage they make is less, at least, the areas are smaller, but they like to root in the ground in the same way.

      When the lockdown was more strict, last March, April and May, the jabalí descended farther from the slopes and ventured closer to the houses. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Hannie!
    As always, very interesting to read, thanks for sharing this post! I didn’t know about the Hoge Veluwe National Park, despite I have been to the Netherlands four times! Is it accessible by car only, or I can take a train, for example, from Amsterdam? What city is nearby?

    I like to walk in a big parks, especially if it has a good infrastructure, like this one, museums and visitor centers. Thank goodness that we still have such a wonderful pieces of nature and we should protect them. I never met a wild boar, but I heard it is not nice to meet them – it is pretty dangerous.

    Is one day enough to walk around?
    Alex

    Reply
    • Great, isn’t it Alex, to learn about each other’s country this way?
      To answer your first question: by car is the easiest way, but you can also get there by public transportation. The link is in Dutch, but if you look in the browser Chrome it is quite simple to get it translated.

      Bus lines are described from either Arnhem or Apeldoorn. A couple of buses go to one the entrances from where you can take a white bicycle. And one is even going into the park to the museum. It requires just a little bit more planning.

      Like all wild animals they can be dangerous, but I have never felt uneasy in the park. As long as we don’t bother the animals, they don’t bother us. I have only seen them from far away, because usually they will flee once they spot us, humans. The biggest chance of seeing any animal is at dawn or dusk. During the day i’t rare to encounter them.

      One day is enough to get a real good impression of everything the park offers. Yet, it is marvelous to spend more days there. It depends on what interests you most and for how long. I could spend a whole morning inside the Kröller-Müller museum and the afternoon in the sculpture garden. But just as easy I could spend a whole day walking and cycling around.

      When we still lived closeby enough we always let it depend on the weather. Nice weather meant more time spent outside, rain definitely meant roaming inside the museum or the Museon.

      Reply
  3. Hi Hannie,

    I have heard of the Hoge Veluwe, but I have never been there. I should go one day, when I find myself in the vicinity again 😉
    I love the tree art by Penone, it looks very interesting, and I like the art in the park in general. There are some works of famous artists there.

    It’s a good thing that the wild boars live in contained areas. In other countries they would not find such a simple solution for it, but just shoot them or find other means of destroying them … Instead, in the Netherlands, they give the boars a designated area. I just love that! I wish more countries would follow that example.

    Reply
    • You and me both, Christine, mankind is so arrogant at times in their relationship to animals. But I don’t have to tell you this – you know all about that, working like you do in a dog shelter. Last weekend 2 brown bears were shot in Spain. “Oops, an error, we didn’t mean to”. Yeah, right. The brown bears are almost extinct, so this is disastrous.

      Isn’t Penone’s tree magnificent? It was for the temporary exhibition, but I sure hope they left it there after the end of the expo. We have to go back to check! 😉

      Reply
  4. Hi Hannie,

    I absolutely love the Netherlands. I used to go there once or twice a year with my old job. I would visit Utrecht train depot where they maintain the huge double decker trains (I work in the railway). There we would discuss new ideas and innovations. Then as a treat for our visit, we would go to Amsterdam for the next two days. One of the most amazing cities I have ever visited. It was there that I discovered how important biking was to the dutch.

    In your article you talk about biking a lot, and I must say visiting this national park does sound like it will be a lot of fun. Especially for the biking.

    I will let you know if I ever do make it over there again, I am pretty sure I will.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Maybe you know what they say, Tom: the Dutch are born on bikes. 😉 Everyone owns at least 1 bicycle, most of the time several. One to do shopping, one for sports, one for recreation. And Amsterdam is notorious for their bikers that act almost anarchistic. Which makes it funny that the Amsterdammers are so opposed to foreigners renting a bike when they don’t keep to any rule. They are giving the wrong example themselves. 🙂

      Nevertheless, I do find it a pity that all visitors go to Amsterdam – and yes, unfortunately they cause a lot of inconvenience to the inhabitants – where there is so much more to be seen in the Netherlands. It would be like only visiting London and not be interested in all the beauty the UK has to offer.

      Your brainstorms sound like fun! It’s marvelous, isn’t it, when there is a like-minded group of people all intenting to make things better. Have you seen the Train Museum in Utrecht? I bet you did.

      Thanks for your encouragement.

      Reply
  5. Hi Hannie, I really appreciate you have recommended this place. It seems to be really suitable for nature lovers, hikers, and bikers. I really do love hiking and I am sure I will give it a go. Great bonuses are the sculptures and the museum. I think I would get there in the summer, I really don’t like winters. I was really amazed that the whole park is 55 square kilometers long.

    Reply
  6. Another great article, Hannie. I am really getting anxious for all these restrictions to be lifted so we can resume our travels. This place sounds wonderful and I can picture Rick and I cycling around to see the sights. After seeing the photo of the damage caused by the wild boar, I hope not to meet one up close. Thankful they are contained to another area. The art you have shown really intrigues me and I would love to see it for myself. What is the best time of year to visit the Netherlands, in your opinion?

    Reply
    • Thanks Deborah. I like Spring the most. The Netherlands is a wet country and the summers can be very humid and lately every summer is an ongoing heatwave, which isn’t pleasurable with that humidity.

      I need to go over my text again, because I seem to have given the impression that the wild boar are completely separated from the visitors, which is not the case. They can’t enter the Sculpture Garden, which is just a little part of the National Park. The rest of the park is their area and we are just visiting their habitat. However, don’t worry too much, they are just as afraid of people as we are of them. As long as you don’t deliberately arouse them, you won’t even notice them!

      Reply
      • Thanks for clarifying about the wild boars. I went back and reread the article and you did in fact state that they were only prevented from visiting the sculpture garden. I am sure they will choose to remain hidden from humans as much as possible much like our black and brown bears here when we walk the trails. Spring does sound wonderful. I love the smells of spring as the earth awakens after a winter’s slumber.

        Reply
        • Oh, great Deb, so I don’t have to alter the text. 🙂
          We saw a bear once when we were in an American nature park. If I recall well it was in Shenandoah, but I am not sure. He wasn’t very big, and probably the wind was coming from the right direction, because he hasn’t noticed us and occupied himself examining the ground. A marvelous sight.

          Unfortunately 2 brown bears have been shot last weekend here in Spain. They are a protected animal, but that doesn’t mean much to ‘true’ hunters. Bah. I am glad they are examined to investigate if it were really accidental errors.

          Reply
  7. This is a beautiful park to visit and like you said it’s all in one and most suitable for a day out. I feel highly motivated to get free access to the bikes. We are planning on visiting Netherland after when this Covid-19 crisis is over, and will definitely visit this amazing looking Hoge Veluwe National Park.

    Thank you for sharing this information with us all.

    Reply
  8. Yes, Penone’s tree is stunning. I’m going to do a search to check out some of his other works.

    It’s fantastic that there are bicycles available everywhere in this park for the use of visitors. It’s a great concept and one that has been copied in my city, Auckland, New Zealand. Although the bikes are not free, they are relatively inexpensive and are paid for and unlocked with a smartphone app. You can park them anywhere when finished and they are then available for someone else to use.

    Zero degrees???? Ohhhhh. I can imagine the low temperatures cause unique problems to some of the artworks.
    I was in the Netherlands in late 1996 and the temperatures went down to -20 degrees. It was sooooo cold and my feet were numb to the point that I almost cried, haha! We were able to ice skate on the lakes in Apeldoorn where I was staying with friends, (a very memorable experience).

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • In the past the winters in the Netherlands could be really cold, Andrew! Did you notice anything of the national madness around the Elfstedentocht, when the temperatures are that low? I think the winter of 96/97 was the last one this famous skating tour has been completed.

      The last winters we were still living in the Netherlands it hardly ever froze at night, let alone during the day. Skating for me is connected with my youth. I did it a lot back then. It is great, you are right. Especially on natural ice. I can’t remember I have ever been on artificial ice, even though there are several indoor skating tracks in the Netherlands. 🙂

      This rent-a-bike is brilliant, isn’t it? A lot of the bigger cities have that possibility nowadays. The only reason it can be for free in national park Hoge Veluwe is because it’s a fenced terrain. The original project in Amsterdam was terminated at some point by lack of bicycles. They were either stolen or thrown in the canals. Such a pity.

      Reply

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