Nijmegen, Netherlands; it’s nice to meet you. Our first introduction to the historic and beautiful city was when we agreed to housesit in the nearby village of Beek-Ubbergen for two months. However, on our trips into the city, we quickly learned that there are numerous things to do in Nijmegen!
Not only have we seen the top Nijmegen sights, we have also tasted the local fare (and craft beer!) and learned a bit of the city’s intriguing history. While sightseeing in Nijmegen, we have gotten a good feel for the youthful and vibrant atmosphere. We are sharing our top tips for visiting Nijmegen for the best experience!
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Before we jump into Things To See, Where To Eat and What To Do in Nijmegen, let’s review a few facts about Nijmegen!
Where is Nijmegen, Netherlands?
Nijmegen, Netherlands is located in eastern Netherlands in the province of Gelderland. It’s less than 10 km from the German border. The city sits on the bank of the River Waal, which is fed by the Rhine River. The city is a stunning sight on the approach by train from Amsterdam and river boat cruises traversing from Amsterdam to Budapest.
Slender brick homes with long windows that are capped with slanted, black-tile rooftops face the river. The majestic St. Stephens Church, built in the 13th century, appears to hover above all the other buildings in town, its ornate bell tower dominating the skyline.
Amsterdam to Nijmegen: Nijmegen is well-connected to Amsterdam via train. The Amsterdam-Nijmegen train takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The Nijmegen Central Station is just a 15 minute walk from the city center Grote Markt.
Want to see it on a map? We include a Nijmegen map – highlighted with Nijmegen attractions – at the end of the post!
Nijmegen proudly proclaims to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, with a 2000-year long history dating to Roman times. Until the 19th century, the city was contained by protective walls, thus creating a densely built city typical of historic European towns.
Lange Hezelstraat, a quaint pedestrian shopping street, is considered to be the oldest street in the Netherlands, once connecting two Roman towns. While the oldest pub in town, Café in de Blaauwe Hand, wasn’t around to serve pints to the Romans, it has been in operation since 1542.
During World War II, Nijmegen was the first Dutch city to be conquered by the Germans and throughout the war much of the historic Old Town was bombed and destroyed.
Today, the Nijmegen population includes 160,000 inhabitants and exudes a youthful vibe that feels refreshingly contradictory to the Old Town. That can be attributed, in part, to the 20,000 students who attend Radboud University in Nijmegen, keeping the city eternally full of youth. It’s always a lively scene along the pedestrian-only streets with plenty of clothing and electronics shops – as well as an astounding number of cafes and bars.
How To Pronounce Nijmegen?
One of the most difficult things about Nijmegen, Netherlands is learning how to pronounce it! It is especially a challenge for Americans who struggle with the guttural G sound. To make it even more complicated, we have heard the Nijmegen pronounced in various ways by the people that live there. So, is it Nigh-Mae-Jen or Nee-Meh-Gen or Nigh-mghcuk-Gen? We can’t be certain, but we think the way they say it here is a good place to start!
Thankfully, Hello and Sorry are said Hallo and Sorry – and these are the two Dutch words that always come in handy!
Things To Do in Nijmegen
There are numerous Nijmegen things to do right in the heart of the historic city. We are highlighting the top sights, best activities and more!
Visit Nijmegen, Netherlands Sights
The historic city center is a must-see – and should be the number one thing on ever Nijmegen to-do list! One of the best things to do in Nijmegen is to wander the streets to the city’s top sights. Our list of what to see in Nijmegen includes the city’s most historic places.
Keep in mind, while the city boasts an impressive number of historic buildings, not all of the buildings are that old. During World War II, the city was heavily bombed by allied forces (by mistake) and by Nazi Germany (on purpose). Many efforts were made to create replicas of what was destroyed, but it also allowed city planners to widen streets and add a mix of contemporary architecture to the city.
#1 The Waal Bridge
The original Waal Bridge – named for the river it crosses – was built in 1936 and is one of the top Nijmegen tourist attractions. The bridge was destroyed shortly thereafter on threat of war. It was rebuilt a few years later…and survived the fighting during 1944.
#2 Valkhof Park
The Valkhof has a rich history, dating back to Roman times. In the 8th century, it was the site of Emperor Charlemagne’s palace. Entered through an ornate gate, Valkhof Park features numerous preserved ruins and statues. Most notable are two church remains and the ancient city walls.
St. Nicholas Chapel: The St. Nicholas Chapel, or Valkhofkapel, was part of the palace and was built in the year 1030. It is one of the oldest stone buildings in the Netherlands.
St. Martin’s Chapel: St. Maartenskapel was originally constructed as part of Charlemagne’s palace. Also known as the Barbarossa ruin, the chapel was built in 1155, but all that remains today are the apses and a portion of the choir.
Old Town Wall: Dating to the 15th century, very little of the original town walls remain.
#4 Nijmegen Market Square: Grote Markt
The Grote Markt is the main square in town and is the point of entry to the church, Stevenskerk (St. Steven’s Church). In the middle of Grote Markt is the Weigh House, Waaggebouw. It was built in 1612 in the Dutch Renaissance style and provided the official scales used in the marketplace for items to be weighed.
#5 Old City Hall
The Old City Hall – Het Oude Stadhuis – is a city landmark. The City Hall building was built in 1554 and includes sculptures that protrude from the facade. The building was not damaged during the war, but was set on fire post-war and was restored in the 1950s.
#6 Marienburg Chapel and Old Arsenal Building
The Nijmegen Marienburgkapel was built as a Catholic convent in the middle ages. Today, the chapel is used as an exhibit hall…and house of Sinterklaas during the Nijmegen Christmas holidays. Next to Marienburg Chapel is the Old Arsenal Building, which has been converted into a restaurant, aptly named Arsenaal 1824. Both buildings are historic Nijmegen places to visit.
#7 Kronenburg Park
Nijmegen sightseeing would not be complete without a stroll through the Kronenburgerpark. The park, which contains more than 150 unique tree species, is also home to remains of Nijmegen’s past. The Gun Powder Tower was built in 1425 as a defense tower that was part of the original city walls.
#8 Old Town View and Riverwalk
We think the best view of Old Town and Nijmegen area is from the railway bridge. There is a wide walkway on the east side of the bridge.
From the Nijmegen Railway Bridge, it is possible to walk along the river alongside the Nijmegen Old Town to the Waal Bridge via the Waalkade. The riverfront promenade passes by the Labyrinth Artwork installment, the city’s small port and the Holland Casino.
Ride a Bike through Nijmegen Old City
In Nijmegen, bicycles are the major mode of transportation. The styles of bike vary as much as the people who ride them. We’ve seen older women dressed in skirts and high heels pedaling along the streets, as well as young children riding to school…and everything in between.
All of our mentioned places to visit in Nijmegen can be reached on foot…but why not act like a local and bike instead?!
Bike enthusiasts can visit the Velorama Museum, which features a collection of old bicycles and other relics.
Go Shopping in Nijmegen
Nijmegen, Netherlands has long been a place for shopping. The first name of Nijmegen was Noviomagus, which was a name given by the Romans and translates to New Market.
The most iconic place to go shopping in Nijmegen is on Lange Hezelstraat. The street is one of the top things to see in Nijmegen even for people who aren’t interested in shopping, because it is the oldest shopping street in the country. The cobblestone lane is lined with boutique and specialty shops.
For a more modern shopping experience, visitors should head to the large Molenpoort Mall. There is also a Hema and Primark in the Nijmegen city center.
What to Eat and Drink in Nijmegen
Nijmegen offers a wide range of eating and drinking opportunities – from small, cozy cafes to upscale fusion cuisine.
During our time in Nijmegen, we had the good fortune of attending several festivals where we tried an array of local fare. That said, our festival feasting kept us from eating at many Nijmegen restaurants. We did eat at a few places – and secured a few recommendations for future visits, too.
De Portier – The superb French fare and excellent service at De Portier has earned the classy Nijmegen restaurant a Michelin Plate recommendation and gets rave reviews from patrons.
Bairro Alto – The stylish Bairro Alto features healthy sandwiches and salad at a fair price and is highly-touted by fellow travelers.
De Duivelsberg – This is one place we actually ate – and are glad we did! Located outside of Nijmegen on a hilltop in the village of Beek-Ubbergen, the historic De Duivelsberg serves classic fare and is famous for the hearty Dutch-style pancakes.
We provide a few more recommendations for things to eat in Nijmegen in our review of local bars below! For the best restaurants in Nijmegen, read fellow traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.
Top Tip: We absolutely love the food in the Netherlands! For our best tips on the best Dutch dishes – from cheese to apple pie and everything in between – read our post, Dutch Cuisine: 17 Must-Try Things To Eat in the Netherlands.
We’ve heard claims that Nijmegen, Netherlands has the most pubs per square foot in all of the country and, although we can’t verify that fact, we can attest to there being a number of fun places to drink a pint of beer – especially craft beer.
Brouwerscafe de Hemel
The Hemel Brewery, Brouwerscafe de Hemel, is housed in Commanderie of St. John, a historic building dating to 1196 that has been used as a hospital, monastery, military barracks, chapel, butcher shop, school, church and pub called The Winery. They have been brewing beer locally since 1996 and sell their products – which also includes liquor and mustard – on-site. Top Tip: Order an appetizer of Bitterballen – fried Dutch meatballs – to go with your beer!
Stoom Beer and Food
Stoom Beer and Food serves Oersoep beers, which are brewed in the building next door. The restaurant and brewery are part of an adaptive reuse project, turning the 100-year-old riverside Honig Factory into a trendy spot in Nijmegen.
Cafe in de Blaauwe Hand
One of our favorite places in the city for a good pint of craft beer and snack, Café in de Blaauwe Hand is also one of the most historic places in the city. The building dates to the early 1300s when it was used as the Cloth Hall – where fabrics were dyed and sold. The dye used for the cloth also colored the fabric-maker’s hands blue. In 1542, the ‘Blue Hand Cafe’ was opened as a small beer hall…which is what it still is today. Top Tip: In addition to your beer, order the Flammkuchen – a thin German-style pizza as a bar snack!
Explore Beyond the City
While the Nijmegen historic city center is the most appealing city attraction, there are sights beyond the Old Town that are worth seeing, too!
The village of Beek-Ubbergen is full of small town charm. The town is surrounded by incredible nature and quaint hamlets. Find out more in our 4 Reasons to Visit Beek-Ubbergen, Netherlands post.
Radboud University, which is located just south of the Nijmegen Old Town, is known as having the most beautiful campus of any university in the Netherlands. The university was established in 1923 and ranks in the top 150 universities worldwide.
The Kraaijenbergse Plassen Lakes are a conglomeration of lakes south of the city of Nijmegen. Visitors can partake in water sport activities – such as swimming, sailing and sunbathing – or explore the natural reserve that surrounds the lakes.
The city of Nijmegen hosts event year round. The festivals focus on culture, sport and cuisine.
Vierdaagse: Four Days Marches
The biggest event in Nijmegen is the International Four Days Marches – or Internationale Vierdaagse Afstandsmarsen. The annual walk takes place in July and attractions competitors from around the world. In addition to the four days of walking, the city celebrates the event with a festival. Find the details on the official website.
There are some very unique Dutch Christmas traditions, like Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet. Celebrations take place throughout the city and the surrounding region during the holidays. Find the best Christmas Markets near Nijmegen.
Nijmegen, Netherlands Map
Our Top Tips for Your Trip
Now that you know what to do in Nijmegen, we have a few more tips for your visit!
Where To Stay: Hotels in Nijmegen, Netherlands
During our visit to Nijmegen, we stayed in the B&B De Prince. We loved the location right in the heart of the Nijmegen Old Town off the historic shopping street and just steps from the Grote Markt. The rooms were on the small side, but very clean and comfortable. They have hostel rooms as well as ensuite, private rooms.
If the De Prince is fully booked, there are many Nijmegen accommodation options to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated Nijmegen hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip: Boutique Hotel Straelman or Hotel Linnen – or start your search for the perfect place to stay in Nijmegen on Booking.com – like we do!
What You Will Need
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. Nijmegen is a very walkable city, but only if you have the right shoes! I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip – the city is so photogenic! Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- Travel insurance is essential – no matter where you are going! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
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