Of the National Parks in the Netherlands, Hoge Veluwe is the largest and the most well known among the Dutch. Hoge Veluwe is situated on higher, sandy and pretty infertile grounds. That’s why hardly anyone ever lived there and nature could grow wild, leaving space for wild boar, different species of deer, foxes and many kinds of reptiles and birds. It also houses the second biggest collection of Vincent van Gogh artworks worldwide. So plenty of reasons to visit Hoge Veluwe National Park during your trip to Holland.
What’s so special about Hoge Veluwe National Park?
Dutch people are attracted by the emptiness of the landscape and the relative wilderness of it. Holland is a densely populated country, so it’s rare to find such empty areas. If you’re not from a city or if you are from a much wilder country, this might not be so special to you. Still, there are plenty of reasons to visit Hoge Veluwe National Park:
- to visit the Kröller Müller museum, that owns the second largest collection of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in Holland, and has an amazing sculpture garden;
- to spot wild animals;
- to go hiking or biking in a landscape that differs from the kind of polder landscape that you may associate with Holland.
What can I see and do during my visit to Hoge Veluwe?
Kröller Muller museum
Are you a lover of the art of Vincent van Gogh? Then you will be happy to learn that the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam isn’t the only place in Holland to see van Gogh’s art. The second biggest Van Gogh collection is owned by the Kröller Müller museum in Hoge Veluwe National Park. The museum owns 90 Van Gogh paintings and about 180 of his drawings, next to a huge collection of art by Van Gogh’s contemporaries. It also has a massive sculpture garden.
All this artwork was collected by a rich lady called Helene Kröller Müller, who lived from 1869 to 1939. She lived in The Hague, was interested in art and had a lot of money to spend. When she started collecting art, in the early 20th century, Vincent van Gogh was an unknown artist. Helene was one of the first to recognize his genius and helped to make his art more popular. Unfortunately Vincent had already died by that time, so it didn’t really help the artist.
In the 1930’s Helene and her husband bought a huge piece of land in Gelderland province. They planned to use it as hunting grounds and built a massive hunting lodge, which doesn’t look like a hunting lodge at all by the way, rather like a 20th century castle. Helene eventually donated both the art collection and the ground to the Dutch people, how cool is that? The museum opened in 1938. The museum is well worth your time, especially if you love the art of Vincent van Gogh and his contemporaries. Don’t miss the sculpture garden!
Address: Houtkampweg 6, Otterlo
Website museum (in English)
Closed on Mondays and January 1st
Spotting wild animals
Holland is not the classic destination for lovers of wildlife. So you might be surprised to learn that there are wild animals in Hoge Veluwe National Park. Think of deer, wild boars, mouflons, foxes, badgers, different kinds of reptiles and amphibians and lots of birds. Even the wolf is said to have returned here. However, it’s not as if you see those animals all over the place all day long. To be honest, I have never spotted any of the larger animals at all.
One of the reasons that I didn’t spot them is that I visited at the wrong times. To see the animals you’ll need to plan your visit to Hoge Veluwe in the early morning or late afternoon/evening. This isn’t easy, as the park has opening hours that make it impossible to visit at extreme hours. Another tip is to look for the quiet spots, as far away from the roads and the bicycle paths as possible. And of course to be very quiet!
You could also join an organized tour with a ranger. The national park organizes some tours, check out the activity scheme on their website. A special time of the year to take a tour is during the mating season of the deer, in September or October, when you can hear the strange bellowing of the deer stags.
Enjoying nature, hiking & biking
Last, but not least: the hiking and biking opportunities in Hoge Veluwe are endless. You will cross wide open sandy spaces, moors and forests. Visit the Visitor’s Information Center for suggestions about hikes. This Information Center is about 1 km removed from the Kröller Müller museum.
If you know how to use GPS tracks, you can download free trails at the Wandelnet-website, for example:
- Otterlose Zand en de Plijmen, a 16 km round trip that starts at the Otterlo entrance of the National Park;
- Mouflon trail, a 12 km round trip that starts at a parking place called Bosje van Staf. If you came by public transport you can reach this point by bike. You may see wild sheep (mouflon) during this trail, though they advise you to stay stationary and quiet for a while to succeed! This trail is closed off in September (the mating season).
There are free bikes available in the park. These bikes are basic bikes without gears. If you are planning to go for a long tour you may want to rent a good bike, for example in the nearby village of Otterlo.
Practicalities for your visit to Hoge Veluwe National Park
Where is Hoge Veluwe National Park?
Hoge Veluwe is situated in Gelderland province, more or less in between the cities Apeldoorn, Arnhem and Ede. It has 3 entrances, near the villages of Schaarsbergen, Hoenderloo and Otterlo. The entrance in Otterlo is the most well known one.
How to reach Hoge Veluwe National Park by public transport?
One of the downsides to this park is that it isn’t easy to reach by public transport. None of the 3 entrances has a railway station nearby, so you will need to catch a train to Apeldoorn, Arnhem or Ede-Wageningen railway station first. All of these are about 1 hour from Amsterdam. From here you have to change on a bus, and then change on another bus that drives into the park. Find more info about your route on the website of Hoge Veluwe National Park, that strangely omits the route via Arnhem on its English language website.
Check your schedule on the public transport website 9292.nl and read my tips about using public transport in Holland. Mind that there are extra rules for users of public transport during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example: you have to wear a face mask when using public transport.
When checking your travel schedule use “Kroller Muller Museum Otterlo” as your destination. That will get you right into the middle of Hoge Veluwe National Park. If you wish you can also get off the bus at one of the entrances of the park and grab a (free) bike there.
How to get around during in the park?
Hoge Veluwe National Park provides free bikes for its visitors. These are white basic bikes. You can find them near all of the entrances and at the Kröller Müller museum. You can’t reserve such a bike, just grab one. The bikes are not assigned to anyone personally, and you can’t lock them either. So when you’ve arrived at the museum for example, you just leave the bike there, and grab another if you want to continue later.
Opening hours of the park
The opening hours of the park differ per month. Check them out at the website of Hoge Veluwe National Park.
How much is the entrance fee for Hoge Veluwe National Park?
Check out the most recent admission fees at the website of Hoge Veluwe National Park. Mind, these prices are for the park only. If you want to vist the museum too you will need to buy a combined ticket.
You can buy your ticket in advance or at one of the entrances. If you arrive by bus, the easiest thing to do is buy the combined bus/park/museum ticket as this will save you the hassle of getting off the bus at the park entrance.
Are there any restaurants in Hoge Veluwe National Park?
As a trip to Hoge Veluwe will probably be a day trip, you may get hungry. There are a couple of places to eat in the park:
- the museum restaurant, called Monsieur Jacques that serves mainly sandwiches and cake
- the Park restaurant that has a more diverse menu with sandwiches, snacks and a couple of simple hot meals.
I expected these places to be pretty expensive, considering the fact that they are the only two in the park. Prices are not too bad though. Reviews of both places are a little critical when it comes to the (quickness of the) service. That sounds typical for a Dutch restaurant though, I’m sorry to say!
Of course you are free to bring your own picnic and eat it in one of the designated areas in the park. Just take out the garbage. And don’t BBQ. There are many restaurants in the nearby village of Otterlo too.
Are there accommodations in Hoge Veluwe National Park?
No, there are no hotels in the park and you aren’t allowed to camp there either. However, there are plenty of options close to the park, for example in Otterlo, Hoenderloo and Schaarsbergen, the villages close to the 3 entrances. Are you looking for a more urban place to stay? Of the 3 cities that are closest to the park (Ede, Apeldoorn and Arnhem) I would (strongly) advice you to pick Arnhem, as this is the liveliest of those 3 towns.
Spending the night close to the park will make your trip a bit more relaxing than a day tour from Amsterdam. It will also give you the possibility to get to the park early, just after opening hours, for an opportunity to spot wildlife.
What’s the best time of the year to visit Hoge Veluwe National Park?
Hoge Veluwe is beautiful year around.
- In summer a lot of Dutch tourists come over to stay in the area, so it will be more crowded. You will notice a lot of cyclists, as Dutch people like to cycle during their holidays.
- Autumn is always a good season to go hiking in the forest, and in September/October, you may be able to spot deer stags performing their mating rituals, which include a lot of noise.
- In winter you may find the place more desolate and if it snows, you’ll have amazing photo opportunities.
- Spring is a great season as well. As I said, you can go here year around.
Should I book an organized tour to Hoge Veluwe?
Honestly, I don’t think you should. I understand that if you are staying in Amsterdam for example, it may be tempting to have a transfer from your hotel directly to the park, and to have your own guide. However:
- In the end, these tours are quite expensive, much more expensive than if you would go individually.
- The guides may not live up to your expectations, especially if you book a “wildlife tour“. That sounds as if you would have a biologist on board helping you to spot wild animals. In reality your guide may just be a driver, who drops you of at the museum. Make sure you check who will be your guide before you book an expensive tour and check reviews!.
- You will be bound to a tight time schedule.
I think that the only people who should book an organized tour are people who have difficulties walking, as going by public transport includes a couple of changes from train to bus, to another bus etc.