The Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum) in Arnhem is a large outdoor park with antique houses, farms and factories from as far back as the 16th century. The buildings originate from many different parts of the Netherlands and have been reconstructed at the park. Focusing on the culture associated with the everyday lives of ordinary people, the museum’s slogan invites you to come and “experience Holland in a single day”.
I visited the park with my family last Sunday on my 22nd birthday. Everybody had a day off and the weather was pretty great, so I’d say it was a success! Since the park is quite large, this will be a bit of an extended post, but I hope you won’t mind since I have a lot of interesting stuff to tell you.
Windkorenmolen, Delft. Mills like these would usually be found in villages and cities. The mills would be quite tall so the blades could safely catch the wind up above the houses. Before the invention of the telephone, the blades would sometimes also be used to communicate messages to the villagers, especially during wartime. If the blades were stopped in a completely straight position, it meant the miller was away for a little while.
In a selection of the antique houses around the park there were several actors doing activities in traditional dress, often demonstrating a particular skill. The man holding the rope showed and explained how ropes were made in an old touwslagerij (rope yard), a profession that died out around the end of the 19th century. He noticed me taking photos and we had a nice chat about my blog, hello again if you happen to be reading this!
A Piece of Amsterdam
You can also find a little stretch of Amsterdam at the entrance of the park: a block of 18th century houses from the Westerstraat. It includes a cafe and post office.
This is a vissershuisje (fisherman’s house) from the village of Marken. These houses are black on the outside, but usually incredibly colourful on the inside, as you may have notice. The woman is wearing a traditional Dutch costume.
Shops from the past
The park also included a little village centre with an array of old shops, like a traditional Dutch store offering sweets and delicacies, as well as a Chinese restaurant from the 1920’s, when they first started appearing in the Netherlands. We bought some aromatic tea at the traditional Dutch store and ate some appelflappen from the old bakery for lunch.
Stoomzuivelfabriek Freia (dairy factory Freia), Veenwouden. Founded in 1879, the Freia factory still works on steam engines and produces cheese and butter by using techniques from around 1908. The picture above shows the factory’s labratorium, where they checked things like pH values.
Besides an old tramremise (tram depot) where visitors could take a look at and underneath classic tramcars, there were also three old trams still operating throughout the park. When it started raining for a few minutes, we decided to hop on and ride around for a bit.
This is a washing and bleaching house from Overveen. The building was built by Flemish immigrants around 1600 and remained operational up until 1937. The showcased techniques stem from around 1900. It was the last Dutch washing house still operating on horsepower.
This is a Molukse barak (Moluccan barack) from Lage Mierde. 12000 Moluccan KNIL soldiers and their families were forced to emigrate to the Netherlands in 1951. Baracks like these became their homes for a much longer period than expected.
The museum also allowed visitors to have a look at their depot, where many unexhibited historic items are stored and protected. I thought this was actually another really interesting part of the park, since you get to see a little bit of what goes on behind the scene.
Overall, I can definitely recommend the Netherlands Open Air Museum to anyone. You can pretend to time travel and see what the Netherlands looked liked a long time ago. It’s interesting for all ages, family friendly, and it’s also genuinely interesting if you’re into history. Besides, it’s great to be able to spend the day outdoors while visiting a museum, right?