Are you interested in Van Gogh in Drenthe locations?
You’re in the right place. In this post, we visit six Van Gogh in Drenthe locations that stand out.
I’m a local travel blogger and tour guide from the Netherlands, and I just visited these locations in Drenthe.
When we think of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) in The Netherlands, besides the large museums, we think of Zundert (where he was born), and Nuenen, when he moved back to his parent’s house and painted the famous Potato Eaters.
But before he moved to Nuenen in Brabant, he spent three months in Drenthe, in the North of The Netherlands. A place he called peaceful.
Vincent heard many stories about the area’s natural beauty from his friend Anthon van Rappard and the hard-working people in the peat fields. He was curious to see it for himself and paint portraits of these workers, a topic he was intrigued by at the time.
Plus, what must have helped as a struggling artist is that he heard the cost of living was lower in Drenthe.
When he received money from Theo, his brother, to pay for the journey, Van Gogh’s Drenthe adventure began when he boarded the last train from the Hague to Drenthe on Tuesday, 11 September 1883.
The train ride from The Hague Staatspoor station (today The Hague Central Station) to Hoogeveen took 7 hours (today you can take the same journey in just two hours).
After finding his footings in Drenthe during his first weeks in Hoogeveen, where he stayed at the Hartsuiker Inn, he would travel further by the “peat barge” (a canal boat) to Nieuw-Amsterdam.
PS: don’t have your hopes up thinking it’s a 2nd Amsterdam. It’s not. It’s just a few houses along a straight canal, and some factories. But in Vincent’s time, it was rural, and there was an inn where Vincent van Gogh stayed.
You can still visit the inn today. Actually, it’s the only place you can stand in the room where Van Gogh lived and painted.
We know all this from the 23 letters Vincent wrote during this Drenthe period.
In this post, we’ll dive into everything there is to see in Drenthe related to Vincent Van Gogh.
PS: did you know Vincent had a girlfriend here, too, Sien? He planned to move her with him to Nuenen when he left, but his parents disapproved his relationship because she had been a lady of easy virtue before. Vincent must have been so sad, because he really enjoyed his time with her, and her child, as we can read in his letters.
Table of Contents
A Fair Warning About Visiting Van Gogh in Drenthe
I know this introduction sounds super interesting, but a fair warning is in place before you decide to visit:
I was excited about visiting the area. And I have no regrets, but it’s an easy trip for me to make as a local. However, compared to other Vincent Van Gogh locations in The Netherlands, this is the one with the least amount of things to see, and it’s quite a journey to get there.
My advice as a local tour guide is depending on your interest levels in the topic of Van Gogh: Keep this order when incorporating Van Gogh in your Netherlands itinerary:
- Visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam first.
- Then, see the world’s 2nd largest Van Gogh collection at the Kröller-Müller Museum.
- Then, visit Nuenen to learn more about his life, a forming period for Van Gogh. And see some of his paintings at the Noord Brabant Museum.
- Then, explore Zundert and Etten, where he grew up.
- If you still have time, visit these locations in Drenthe.
Locations linked to Vincent Van Gogh in Drenthe
Here are the most important locations related to Vincent’s time in the province of Drenthe in the north of the Netherlands. Vincent was drawn to the landscape in Drenthe and the people who lived and worked there in the peatlands.
Vincent arrived in Hoogeveen on September 11 and found a place to stay at the Hartsuiker Inn (today’s address Pesserstraat 24, Hoogeveen). They know he stayed there because he mentioned the inn as his postal address in his letters to his brother Theo in a letter.
Unfortunately, there is not much to see today. The building that was initially there has been alternated to a point it would be unrecognizable to Vincent.
It is very cool to see a self-portrait mural of Vincent in the center of Hoogeveen, created for the 2023 Vincent van Gogh theme year in Drenthe. There are a few more in the province and all are created by the art collective “De Strakke Hand”, it will be on display for the next 10 years.
When you’re in Hoogeveen, stop for coffee or lunch at “Bijzonder Brasserie Van eigen deeg! Hoogeveen” (Dutch only). I stopped there for a break and had a wonderful warm salted caramel brownie with tea (I loved their loose-leaf selection).
I felt terrible for not being there at lunchtime because the waffle with chicken and bacon looked absolutely delicious.
Something that makes this place extra special is that most of the staff are people with Down Syndrome. It’s fantastic to see them shine in their job, and service is hyper-personal.
2. Graveyards of Hollandscheveld or Pesse (they’re not sure)
As with other Van Gogh locations in Drenthe, they’re unsure which graveyard Vincent mentioned and drew. They only have his letters to go by. But they’re certain it’s either the graveyard of Hollandscheveld or Pesse. Both are near Hoogeveen. The one in Hollandscheveld has a Van Gogh sign at the graveyard.
I have to admit, although I thought it was cool to visit a graveyard also visited by Vincent, it was quite underwhelming. It didn’t look like he described it anymore (old graves are gone, and both were expanded and more modern). It’s more the idea here that matters.
The Church in Zweeloo is a highlight to visit. It’s a peaceful little village church that still looks the same as how Vincent drew it in 1883. There is an information kiosk reminding you of Vincent standing there too. The little village is wonderful to stroll through.
Vincent took a day trip to Zweeloo with his landlord, Hendrik Scholte, hoping to meet an artist he heard Theo talk about, Max Liebermann, but could not find him. Still, he captured an Apple Orchard painted by Liebermann and the church of Zweeloo that you can still visit today.
Zweeloo is roughly halfway between Hoogeveen and Nieuw-Amsterdam.
4. Nieuw-Amsterdam and Veenoord
Visiting this town was another highlight of my visit. At the Van Gogh house in Nieuw-Amsterdam/Veenoord, time is frozen. In 1883, Vincent rented a room at the Lodging Scholte.
He had a front-facing room at this guest house, with a small balcony and a wonderful view. This room can still be visited today since this building is now the Van Gogh House Drenthe.
You can see and feel his presence here, since they recreated the room to the best of their knowledge how it must have looked when Vincent was there, including his painting utensils.
The museum has limited opening hours, so check their website before planning a visit.
And because of the 2023 theme year, this is also the town where you’ll find two other bigger-than-life murals of Vincent Van Gogh. They’re 7000 sq ft each.
Both are at the former SILO behind the train station. On one side (the side facing the station), you see a portrait of Vincent. Not based on a real painting but was created with the help of AI to how Vincent could have looked when he was there.
On the other side of the SILO, you will find an enlarged version of his drawing showing the view from his room from the Scholte lodge, with the drawbridge in front of the inn, which was back then a wooden bridge.
When I saw it, I immediately thought wow, I understand he called it peaceful here. Beautiful.
His stay in Drenthe ended when he walked from New Amsterdam back to Hoogeveen in December 1883, where he would board a train back to Nuenen (when there still was a train station) to move back into his parent’s house.
The reasons are unclear, but it could be that Drenthe in the Autumn can be quite gloomy. He was also lonely, or it could be a simple lack of money that made him move back to his parents even though his relationship with them was strained.
His time in Nuenen became important because he created many works there, including the now-famous Potato Eaters.
5. Assen (from 11 September 2023 to 7 January 2024)
From September 11, 2023, until January 7, 2024, there is a special exhibition at the Drents Museum in Assen called “Traveling with Vincent“. If you’re here during this time, I highly recommend you visit it.
It’s wonderfully done. I visited the exhibition during the opening week myself. They show most of his works that were made during his time in Drenthe, including works from private collections, you can otherwise never see.
Your ticket also includes access to the dollhouse just behind the museum. it’s in a beautiful 18th-century building, and I have to admit much more interesting than I initially thought. Highly recommended.
And if you’re wondering why all the Dutch tourists take pictures of a little statue of a boy called Bartje, just behind the dollhouse? This was a famous TV figure from a Dutch TV series in the 70s.
He became famous when his dad asked him to pray for the food his mother put on his plate, to which he responded: “I don’t pray for beans” in a local Dutch dialect.
Another much-photographed site in Assen is the massive Dog sculpture at the entrance of the Assen train station.
There was much local criticism about the statue (it was too expensive, and what did it have to do with Assen? Answer: nothing), but it was realized nonetheless with a few alterations, which is typical Dutch since we always find a middle ground. But today, it’s a much-loved sight, and many people want to take selfies with the dog.
6. Veenpark Emmen
If you’re interested in learning more about life in Drenthe’s peat bogs and heathland, a visit to the open-air museum Veenpark close to Emmen will be interesting. Here, you will see the primordial moor landscape that inspired Van Gogh when he was here.
The typical sod huts (plaggen hutten) where the locals lived. There is a steam train at the park and boats that will take you around for a tour (included in the admission price)
The park does not have an English website (only Dutch and German), but with Google Translate, it should be easy to read (use Google Chrome, for this to be automatic). It’s also good to know the park is only open seasonally. Check the website for current opening hours.
How to get to Drenthe
It’s not that difficult to get to Drenthe by train. You can reach Hoogeveen with two easy transfers in 1 hour 40 minutes from Amsterdam twice an hour. And the trip from Nieuw-Amsterdam to Amsterdam takes two hours (also two transfers). Getting to Assen will take 1 hour, 45 minutes, and one transfer.
But traveling between the places mentioned above is time-consuming and not efficient if you travel by public transport.
I recommend renting a car if you’re committed to visiting this area. It’s a quiet country area, so driving is straightforward. You can rent a car from many places, but I recommend Rental Cars or Discovery Cars. I usually succeed most with Rental Cars, but you want to check both for the best prices. Both work with all the large rental companies.
When renting a car, take full insurance, including bringing the excess down to 0. I also recommend renting from the airport instead of the city center of Amsterdam since it’s easier to drive away from the airport and not deal with old city traffic.
TIP: When you take the A6 route north from Amsterdam, you’ll almost pass the famous town of Giethoorn, the Venice of the North. This could be a nice 2-hour break and take a boat tour through the village with no streets.
Further Reading – His letters mentioning the places
If you are interested here are the links to the letters where he mentioned the locations we discussed today:
Further Reading – More Van Gogh in The Netherlands
Van Gogh in Drenthe
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Are you planning to visit Van Gogh in Drenthe if so which ones, and how do you plan to get there? By car or public transportation? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
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