The administrative capital of the Veluwe, APELDOORN was no more than a village a century ago, but it's grown rapidly to become an extensive garden city, a rather characterless modern place that spreads languidly into the surrounding countryside. However, as one-time home of the Dutch royal family, Apeldoorn is a major tourist centre in its own right, popular with those Dutch senior citizens who like an atmosphere of comfortable privilege.
Apeldoorn is most famous for the Paleis Het Loo (Tues– Sun 10am–5pm; 9; Web: www.paleishetloo.nl ), situated on the northern edge of town and reachable by half-hourly bus #5, #96 or #102 from the station. Looking something like an imposing military academy, it was designed in 1685 by Daniel Marot for William III and his queen, Mary, shortly before he acceded to the throne of England and Scotland. Years of repair work have restored an apparently endless series of bedrooms, ballrooms, living rooms and reception halls to their former glory. A self-guided tour, with information in English, leads you along a warren of passageways from one room to the next, packed with displays of all things royal, from lavish costumes and silk hangings to documents and medals, via roomfuls of austere portraits and curly antlers. It's a fascinating and infinitely detailed snapshot of royal life, and you can view the rooms of William and Mary, including their colourful individual bedchambers, as well as the much later study of Queen Wilhelmina.
After immersing yourself in a bygone era, the formal gardens (both William and Mary were apparently keen gardeners) make for a relaxing place to wander. A maze of miniature hedgerows and a series of precise and neatly bordered flowerbeds are accessible by long walkways ornamented in the Dutch Baroque style, with tiered fountains, urns, statuettes and portals. The other part of the palace, the Royal Stables of 1906, has displays of some of the old cars and carriages of past monarchs, including a baby carriage that's rigged up against gas attack.
The town's second draw is the Apenheul monkey reserve (April– Oct daily 9.30am–5pm; July & Aug until 6pm; 15; Web: www.apenheul.nl ), just west of town on bus #3. The highlight is the gorillas – among the world's largest colonies of the creatures – living on wooded islands that isolate them from the visitors and from the dozen or so species of monkey that roam around the rest of the park. You'll also see other wildlife including otters, deer and capybara.