Explore the beautiful nature of Hoge Veluwe National Park on a white share bike and visit the Kröller-Müller Museum for the 100th anniversary of De Stijl in 2017.
Hoge Veluwe National Park started off as the country estate of a rich couple that wanted a place to enjoy nature, hunt and exhibit their extensive collection of contemporary art. In 1909 the couple started buying bits of land in the middle of the country and by 1917 they had acquired 6,800 hectares, making them Holland's second biggest landowners after the royal family.
In 1935 financial difficulties forced the couple to sell the estate and it was turned into a national park. The art collection was donated to the Dutch state on condition that it would build a museum so the public could enjoy the works.
Nature and art
Now Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of the most popular cycling destinations in Holland. Forty kilometres of cycle paths take you through a variety of typical Dutch landscapes: forests, heathlands, grass planes, sand drifts and fens. It is one of the few places in the country where you can still see red deer and wild boar roaming free.
But the national park is not all about enjoying nature. It's also home to some of the finest Dutch architecture and art collections. You can join a guided tour at Hunting Lodge St Hubertus by architect Berlage or purchase an extra ticket to visit the Sculpture Garden and the Kröller-Müller Museum, best known for its collection of Van Gogh paintings. In 2017 the museum has special exhibitions to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Dutch art movement De Stijl (The Style).
One of the Hoge Veluwe's main attractions are the white bikes which all visitors can use free of charge to explore the National Park. You might associate white bikes with Amsterdam - the idea was pinched from the Provo counterculture movement that in the 1960s wanted to introduce white share bikes in Amsterdam to reduce air pollution. It's hard to imagine how that would have worked in a city where bike theft has always been big business. Unsurprisingly, in Amsterdam the plans for white bikes never materialised.
However, when the Hoge Veluwe introduced white bikes in 1974, they became a huge success. The park started off with fifty bikes. Now there are 1,800 which you can pick up and drop off at storage facilities located in several key locations around the National Park.
The bikes are simple, without unnecessary accessories such as lights, bells and gears. The saddle and handle bars are easy to adjust in height. To make sure everyone can enjoy a ride through nature there are regular bikes with child seats, children's bikes, as well as several custom bikes such as a wheelchair bike, tricycles for children and adults and bikes for use with your own wheelchair.
A group of volunteers helps to keep the bikes in good working order. Should you get a flat tyre, you simply pick up another bike or use one of the bicycle pumps that are placed in several locations along the cycle paths.
Cycling through the park
At every entrance of the National Park you will find a storage facility where you can simply pick up a white bike and cycle off. They only rule is that the white bikes are share bikes. This means you are not allowed to lock the bike and as soon as you place it in a storage facility, someone else may use it. If you want to continue your ride, you take whatever bike is available. If you want to continue on foot, you just leave the bike where it is.
Although the park offers a number of cycle routes, you don't really need them. At key locations you will find boards with a map of the park. When we were there, we took a photo of the map just to be sure we'd find our way. The cycle paths are also well signposted.
The Hoge Veluwe only has limited access for motorised vehicles, making it an ideal cycling destination for inexperienced cyclists and families with young children - much better than the centre of Amsterdam! There are so many cycle paths that it's easy to make your cycle ride as long or short as you like.
Here's a photo impression of our visit to Hoge Veluwe National Park.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
For more information about Hoge Veluwe National Park and its opening hours and admission fees, visit the Hoge Veluwe National Park website.