Nijmegen, Netherlands Old City Young Vibe

Nijmegen, Netherlands: Old City, Young Vibe

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Nijmegen, Netherlands. We wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of this city; we certainly hadn’t before agreeing to housesit in the nearby village of Beek for two months. Since then, however, our knowledge of the city has increased exponentially. Most importantly, we can now locate it on a map – which was a necessary first step! We’ve also learned a bit of the city’s history and have gotten a feel for the youthful and vibrant atmosphere.

Nijmegen, Netherlands Grote Markt

Grote Markt in Nijmegen

Where is Nijmegen, Netherlands?

Nijmegen, Netherlands (map) is located less than 10 km from the German border on the bank of the River Waal (which is fed by the Rhine River). The city is a pleasantly stunning sight on the approach by train from Amsterdam. Slender brick homes with long windows 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.

Nijmegen, Netherlands River View

Our first look at Nijmegen from the train.


Nijmegen, Netherlands History

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 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.

Nijmegen, Netherlands, Lange Hezelstraat

Lange Hezelstraat

While the city has an impressive number of historic buildings, not all of the buildings that appear to be historic actually are. 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.

Nijmegen, Netherlands Kronenburger Park

Kronenburger Park


Nijmegen, Netherlands Vibrant Atmosphere

Regardless of whether the city buildings are actually old or just look that way, the city of 160,000 inhabitants exudes a youthful feel. The young vibe 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.

Nijmegen, Netherlands Het Lemke

Het Lemke restaurant


What to Eat and Drink in Nijmegen

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

Dutch Cuisine 17 Must Try Things To Eat in the Netherlands by

Dutch Cuisine: 17 Must Try Things To Eat in the Netherlands

Nijmegen Bars

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 mustards – on-site.

Nijmegen Netherlands Brouwerscafe de Hemel, Hemel Brewery

Beers at the Hemel Brewery

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.

Nijmegen Netherlands Stoom Beer and Food

Stoom Beer and Food


How To Pronounce Nijmegen? 

During our two month stay, we are sure to learn a great deal more about Nijmegen, Netherlands and the surrounding area. One thing we would like to know for sure is its pronunciation. Since before we arrived, we have struggled with how to say the city’s name and have heard it pronounced a variety of ways, even after our arrival. Is it Nigh-Mae-Jen or Nee-Meh-Gen? We’ve also heard it said with a guttural G, like Nigh-mghcuk-Gen, but, try as we might, we’ll never be able to say it like that!

Thankfully, Hello and Sorry are said Hallo and Sorry – and these are the two words we are using most frequently. We’re hoping to add a few more words to our Dutch vocabulary during our stay!

Nijmegen Netherlands city view

Nijmegen, Netherlands


Our top tips for your trip to Nijmegen, Netherlands

Where To Stay

During our visit to Nijmegen, we stayed in the B&B De Prince. However, there are many hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Check out these top-rated hotels (based on guest reviews!) for your upcoming trip:

Before You Go

  • Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
  • We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. 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!).
  • We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.

Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for our complete packing list and other travel resources!


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We want to know: Have you been to Nijmegen, Netherlands? How do you pronounce it?! Do you have any tips for visiting Nijmegen, Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!

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25 thoughts on “Nijmegen, Netherlands: Old City, Young Vibe

  1. Anonymous

    Beautiful post! I am a British student of German and Dutch and spent a semester studying in Nijmegen. Even after I moved on to Germany, I returned often and it’s now my favourite city. Would love to live there someday. I was also there in the winter so have yet to see the 4 day festival.

    The way I pronounce it is probably a mixture of my own English accent, the Dutch pronunciation rules I learnt in class and the ways I have heard people say it, including a bit of interference from German. I say Nigh (rhymes with eye)- may- ghe(n); a guttural G, although I am not fantastic at them, a ‘he’ that is like ‘her’ without the ‘r’ and a silent or virtually silent ‘n’ as the Dutch often drop an n at the end of words. All their infinitive verbs for instance end in a usually silent N.

  2. Pieter

    Nice article. Already was proud of my city, this makes me even more proud! However not mentioning the 4 days march and the summer festival (when 1.5 million people visit the city in one week), is a bit of a omission. To put it mildy 😉

    • Hallo Pieter – Thanks for the comment! We loved the two months we spent in Nijmegen. Since we were there in the winter, it was a little difficult to fully understand the 4 Days March summer festival, but from what we can understand, it is quite the event! 😉

  3. Maria

    Nijmegen, also famous from the ‘Vrede van Nijmegen’/ ‘Paix de Nimègue’: my city, for 35 years. Well described: must indeed be visited by people from the rest of the world. Be welcome!

  4. Anto

    No. …I’ve never heart about Nijmegen before talking with a on line game player almost three years ago. I’m from Rome and I’ve been several times to Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague….) …and when he told me about his city he was so proud and happy to live there ..where everything seems to work very well (and for me that live in Rome it’s a dream! Ahah) …so next time I go to Netherlands. …I’ll surely visit it!

  5. Anonymous

    No. …I’ve never heart about Nijmegen before talking with a on line game player almost three years ago. I’m from Rome and I’ve been several times to Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague….) …and when he told me about his city he was so proud and happy to live there ..where everything seems to work very well (and for me that live in Rome it’s a dream! Ahah) …so next time I go to Netherlands. …I’ll surely visit it!

  6. Anonymous

    Sarah – the Championchip finish line timing system which is now called My Laps in the US was developed in Nijmegen by Wim Meijer and his team of physicists and engineers. They worked a large running race – the Seven Hills Run – and thought there had to be a better way of timing mass events so created it and were the first in the world to attach an electronic reader to a foot-powered athlete. Check out the speed skating ice rinks – your laps can be chip timed.

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