Arnhem is one of the largest cities in the eastern half of Netherlands, also serving, from an administrative point of view, as capital to the history-laden province of Gelderland. Its history was one of fast and impressive development, partly due to the fact that it has two rivers crossing through it: Nederrijn and Sint-Jansbeek. The population itself contributed to said development and the numbers didn’t lag behind, so that, today, the city counts about 150,000 inhabitants, according to a January-1st-2012 estimate. That number, though, accounts for less than a quarter of the total number of residents in the metropolitan area Arnhem-Nijmegen that the city of Arnhem is part of.
And speaking of history-laden places, the city of Arnhem, first recorded as early as 893 under such names as Arneym or Arentheym, is certainly no stranger to them. With traces of human inhabitation going back in time even further, it would be safe to say the city is actually of ancient origins, or even older, considering that the most impressive archaeological finds date from the stone age, making what is today Arnhem the likely residence of Neanderthal humans.
And from that point onward the history of the town has had many episodes worth mentioning, starting with its establishment as a full-fledged city, back in 1233 and ending with the famous battle of Arnhem in September 1944. Said battle is a landmark of both the city’s history and its culture, as, in addition to being officially commemorated every year on September 17th, it was also skilfully dramatized in the highly-acclaimed, award-winning 1977 film A Bridge Too Far.
Still, history is by no means the only point of attraction in this charming town turned glamorous city. As early as the XIX century, Arnhem had earned the reputation of a peaceful, quiet, and altogether idyllic place of retirement or holiday, appropriately dubbed “The Little Hague of the East”. In addition to its regular population, the place was also home to rich people, most of which had earned their fortunes either from trading sugar or from having had plantations in the Indies. When such people decided to make Arnhem their home, naturally they contributed to its development and prosperity, visible even today in such contrasting aspects as the abundance of parks and green areas versus the pronounced urbanization of its northern part, a feat that is rather rare in the Netherlands.
Similar contrasts also occur with the most important tourist attractions in the town. Some of them are vestiges of the city’s history and have retained only some of their former glory, whereas others are displays of an open-minded attitude combining with state-of-the-art technology. The former includes the XVI century St Eusebius church and the house of Maarten van Rossum, currently serving as town hall. The later category boasts such items as the Netherlands Open Air Museum, the Burgers’ Zoo, and the Gelredome, a football stadium that ended up serving as a model for other cities too, both in Europe and the US.
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