This ever-growing city is the largest urban centre in Gelderland’s Achterhoek region.
Doetinchem’s streetscape is modern, after devastating bombing raids by Allied forces at the close of the Second World War.
The central Sint-Catherinakerk was quickly rebuilt and has some historic furnishings and a Medieval font discovered during the restoration.
The Stadsmuseum is an excellent primer for Doetinchem and the wider Achterhoek region.
And while the city isn’t geared towards tourism it has fantastic amenities for families with smaller children, including a puppet-themed amusement park, petting zoos and no shortage of well-maintained parks.
Come in early July for the outlandish street theatre event, Festival Buitengewoon.
This building is thought to be the finest piece of Amsterdam School architecture in the Achterhoek region.
“Het oude Postkantoor” as it’s known, is a former post office designed by Joseph Crouwel and built in 1920. At the entrance there’s a pair of monumental coats of arms, flanking a lion.
On show in the museum are paintings and drawings by Achterhoek artists, along with old maps, detailed scaled models for different periods in the city’s past, and archaeological discoveries like Neolithic arrowheads and tools, Iron Age pottery and a sword from the early Medieval period.
Other exhibitions include a room decorated in the Art Nouveau style, a recreated school room and background on big local employers like the Misset printing company and the tyre manufacturer, Apollo Vredestein BV.
Doetinchem’s 16th-century hall church was claimed by the fire that destroyed the old centre during the Allied bombing in March 1945. The restoration was completed in 1952, and it was the second time Sint-Catherinakerk had risen from the ashes, as a predecessor of the current design was completely destroyed by the city fire on Good Friday 1527. Tiny scraps of this older building survive, in the fragment of wall behind the organ, and a font in an alcove in one of the pillars.
Newer fixtures include an oak pulpit from 1774, some ledger stones and a tomb for the former mayor Q.M. Ver Huell and his wife.
This was commissioned in 1829 by their son Carel Hendrik Ver Huell, who was an Admiral under Napoleon.
Glass panels in the floor of the building let you glimpse the extent of the devastation in 1945.
3. Land Jan Klaassen
The traditional puppet show character Jan Klaassen is the star of this theme park for younger children not far south of Doetinchem.
Land Jan Klaassen has the largest puppet theatre in the Netherlands, as well as capacious outdoor and indoor playgrounds and a water playground.
Away from the shows, which take place all day long, little ones can clamber, roll and swing to their hearts’ content, ride a train through a gnome village or whizz down a four-lane turbo slide.
Grown-ups may be interested in the puppet theatre museum, which has puppets and decorative theatre pieces collected over 60 years.
4. De Walmolen
A prominent landmark in the south of the city centre, De Walmolen (1850) is so called because it was built on a chunk of Doetinchem’s city wall.
The diameter of the sails is 23 metres, but these were obsolete after a steam engine was installed in 1910 and in use up to the 1950s.
At that point the mill was in danger of being demolished as the last piece of Doetinchem’s wall removed and set to be turned into a car park.
But a citizen protest saved the mill, and the building was restored, along with its gears, shaft, brake wheel and pair of grinding stones.
For decades Doetinchem’s tourist office (VVV) was housed in this monument before moving to Burgemeester van Nispenstraat.
5. Recreatiegebied Stroombroek
The Stroombroek is a lake just south of Doetinchem created by sand extraction and now a honey pot for families in the summer months.
The lake recreation area offers a beach, fishing jetties, a volleyball court, a children’s playground and a barbecue area.
On the north shore there’s a cable site for waterskiing and wakeboarding, billed as the longest in the Netherlands and catering to children as young as ten.
On the south shore is the beauty and wellness centre, Palestra, with steam rooms, saunas and all manner of therapeutic and beauty treatments, for an afternoon of self-care.
To the south you can see the 67-metre Montferland hill rising behind the trees, a rare piece of hilly terrain in this patch of the Netherlands.
Doetinchem is regional shopping city, and one of the biggest draws is this thoroughfare, 200 metres long and running southeast from the Simonsplein to where the city wall used to stand.
Many of the mainstays of Dutch high streets are on Hamburgerstraat, like C&A, Jack & Jones, HEMA and Miss Etam.
At the foot of the Sint-Catherinakerk on Simonsplein you can choose from a whole host of places for coffee or a meal after a shopping spree, all with terraces and a view of this solemn monument.
Hamburgerstraat continues as Catherinastraat on the north side of the square, for more brands like H&M.
7. De Koekendaal
To escape to nature you can make the short trip to this sprawling park, which takes up most of the countryside between Doetinchem and Gaanderen to the southeast.
The park has a herb plantation, a playground and a small animal farm where youngsters can hand-feed goats.
De Koekendaal is suitable for strollers and wheelchairs and most of its paths are paved with asphalt.
The hiking trails are labelled by duration, at 10, 15 and 45 minutes, while Het Onland on the park’s southern fringe is an inn and restaurant with its own petting zoo and playground.
8. Kinderboerderij Kokiezier
There’s another petting farm in the pastoral scenery between Doetinchem and the village of Wehl.
Here kids can get close to or interact with ponies, donkeys, goats, cattle, sheep, ducks, and chickens.
You can buy grain to feed the goats and poultry, while there’s a kiosk for coffee, tea, soft drinks or snacks.
Children can burn off any extra energy on the farm’s tricycles and pedal-carts.
The farm is right on the western edge of town and can be combined with a bike ride or walk in the Wehlse Broeklanden, which we’ll outline next.
9. Wehlse Broeklanden
That countryside west of Doetinchem is as relaxing as it is pretty.
Crossing the Wehlse Broeklanden you’ll see lots of farms, hedgerows, quiet country lanes and bumps in the landscape formed by sand dunes.
The tourist office has a leaflet for the newly laid-down trails, into fields with grazing cattle and through wet grassland embroidered with wildflowers in summer.
One way to get outdoors is to play a casual round at the 18-hole Pitch & Putt Doetinchem, which also boasts a mini-golf course and a course for foot-golf.
10. Natuurpark Overstegen
The Overstegen district was created in the 60s and 70s when Doetinchem expanded east to fix a housing shortage.
In the 1990s the urban park that was built for the new district was revamped as an ecological park, with free-roaming Highland cattle grazing next to a meandering stream that was excavated as part of the project.
The park is naturally managed, which means that natural processes have replaced typical upkeep jobs like mowing and planting.
When trees fall they are left where they lie, and a team of volunteers prunes the vegetation and clears paths to keep the park visitor friendly.
There’s a real buzz in Doetinchem on Tuesdays when the weekly market spreads out on the Marktplein in front of the town hall.
In the past this was a textile market, with some food stalls thrown in, but is now all-encompassing and includes household appliances, fashion accessories and a great deal more.
The market has was voted the second best in the Netherlands in 2013, and is a magnet for shoppers from around the Achterhoek region and across the border with Germany.
There’s cheese, flowers, herbs, meat, seasonal fruit and vegetables, seafood, regional condiments like mustard and a whole kaleidoscope of fabrics.
A smaller market sets up on Tjalmastraat every Saturday.
12. Festival Buitengewoon
A good time to schedule a trip to Doetinchem might be early July when this street theatre festival transforms the city centre.
Festival Buitengewoon celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. The event takes place of five days, beginning in the middle of the week.
The best time to be here is on the weekend when the streets are an outdoor stage for funny, exciting or moving performances.
The amount of imagination in the acts, costumes and props is often mind-boggling.
The 2018 event brought a “vertical dance” act, the smallest concert hall in the world, giant soap bubbles, a fry-cook DJ, a herd of large mechanical animals, insane unicycle juggling and all sorts of other oddities.