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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 frequent trips into the city, we quickly learned that there are numerous great 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 Nijmegen’s intriguing history. While sightseeing in Nijmegen, we have gotten a good feel for the youthful and vibrant atmosphere. We are now sharing our top tips for visiting Nijmegen.
Introduction to Nijmegen, Netherlands
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 is located in the eastern part of the Netherlands in the province of Gelderland (less than 6 miles from the German border). The city sits on the bank of the River Waal, which is fed by the Rhine River. Nijmegen is a stunning sight on the approach by train from Amsterdam and on river boat cruises traversing from Amsterdam to Budapest.
Slender brick homes with long windows that are capped with slanted, black-tile rooftops face the Waal River. The majestic St. Stephens Church appears to hover above all the other buildings in town, its ornate bell tower dominating the Nijmegen 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 a 15 minute walk from the city center Grote Markt.
Want to see it on a map? We include a link to a Nijmegen map – highlighted with Nijmegen attractions – at the end of the article.
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, Nijmegen 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 Nijmegen, 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 captured by Nazi Germany. Throughout the war much of the historic Old Town was heavily bombed and completely destroyed.
Today, the Nijmegen population includes 170,000 inhabitants and exudes a youthful vibe that feels refreshingly contradictory to the Old Town architechture. 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 of Nijmegen, with plenty of clothing, accessory 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 North Americans who struggle with the guttural G. To make it even more complicated, we have heard 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 two Dutch words that always come in handy!
The Best 10 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 Nijmegen sights, best activities and more!
Nijmegen, Netherlands Top Sights & Activities
The historic city center is a must-see – and should be the number one thing on every Nijmegen to-do list! One of the best things to do in Nijmegen is to just wander the streets. That said, our list of what to see in Nijmegen includes all the top places to visit.
Keep in mind, while the city boasts an impressive number of historic buildings, not all of them are that old. During World War II, Nijmegen 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 planners to widen streets and add a mix of contemporary architecture to Nijmegen.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Nijmegen Travel Guide to plan your trip to the Netherlands!
#1 Saint Stephen’s Church, Nijmegen
Visible from nearly anywhere in Nijmegen, the St. Stephen’s Church proudly towers over the Old Town and is one of the top Nijmegen tourist attractions. With a history dating to the seventh century, the church was relocated to it’s current position on a hill in the 13th century.
Severely damaged in the WWII bombings of 1944, the impressively restored church welcomes visitors and also hosts weekly organ concerts.
#2 The Waal Bridge
The Waal Bridge (Waalbrug) – named for the river it crosses – was completed in 1936 and officially opened by the Queen of the Netherlands. Prior to it’s completion, car and foot traffic had to cross the river via ferry, which may explain the estimated 200,000 enthusiastic spectators that witnessed the grand event.
Unfortunately, the bridge was purposely destroyed shortly thereafter as war broke out across Europe. It was rebuilt and reopened a few years later…and actually survived the fighting during 1944 in Nijmegen thanks to Dutch Resistance fighters.
#3 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 Nijmegen 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.
Nijmegen Old Town Wall
Dating to the 15th century, very little of the original Nijmegen town walls remain, but Valkhof Park features the best preserved sections.
#4 Nijmegen Market Square: Grote Markt
The Grote Markt is the main square in Nijmegen and is the point of entry to St. Steven’s Church. A steady stream of people flow through the Nijmegen Market Square day and night, and it also hosts seasonal events and Dutch food trucks.
In the middle of Nijmegen 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 sold.
#5 Old City Hall Nijmegen
The Old City Hall – Het Oude Stadhuis – is a top Nijmegen landmark. The City Hall building was built in 1554 and includes sculptures that protrude from the façade. The building was not damaged during WWII, but was set on fire post-war and was fully 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 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 defensive tower that was part of the original city walls.
#8 Nijmegen Old Town View and Waal Riverwalk
We think the best view of Old Town Nijmegen is from the railway bridge (Snelbinder) over the River Waal to the west the city center. There is a wide walkway on the east side of the bridge for excellent views back towards town and down on the river.
Consider popping into the small but informative Landhoofd Museum that explains the historical importance of the bridge towers. From the Nijmegen Railway Bridge, it is possible to walk along the river adjacent to the Nijmegen Old Town all the way to the Waal Bridge via the Waalkade (past the docked river cruise ships).
The pleasant riverfront promenade passes by the Labyrinth artwork installation, the Galerie Marzee Art Gallery, along with several other statues and interesting art pieces. The small Nijmegen Marina and the Holland Casino (if you’re feeling lucky) are also in the area before reaching the Waal Bridge.
#9 Ride a Bike in Nijmegen, Netherlands
In Nijmegen (and all of the Netherlands), bicycles are the major mode of transportation. The styles of bike vary as much as the people who ride them. We’ve seen women dressed in skirts and high heels pedaling along the streets of Nijmegen, 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?! Better yet, pedal off into the Dutch countryside and discover quaint villages and maybe even a windmill or two!
Bike enthusiasts can also visit the Velorama Museum (Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama), which features a collection of old bicycles, memorabilia and other relics from the 19th century.
#10 Go Shopping in Nijmegen
Nijmegen, Netherlands has long been a place for shopping. The first name of Nijmegen was Noviomagus, which was given by the Romans and translates to New Market. Today, happy shoppers are keeping the tradition alive and well.
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 Netherlands!
For a more modern shopping experience, visitors should head to the large Molenpoort Mall. There is also a Hema, H&M, TK Maxx 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 takeaway staples, to 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 from locals 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 above 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 more of the best restaurants in Nijmegen, read fellow traveler reviews on TripAdvisor.
Pro Tip: We absolutely love the food in the Netherlands! For all our top tips on the best Dutch dishes – from cheese, to more cheese, to apple pie and everything having to do with cheese, read our guide to Dutch Cuisine!
We’ve heard claims that Nijmegen, Netherlands has more bars per capita than anywhere else in the country. Although we can’t verify that, we can attest to there being a hefty number of fun places to drink in Nijmegen – especially Dutch 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 all 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 fun and trendy spot in Nijmegen to gather. 2023 UPDATE: Oersoep has moved downstream to the new NYMA arts and entertainment complex (still in Nijmegen).
Cafe in de Blaauwe Hand
One of our favorite places in Nijmegen, Netherlands for a good pint of craft beer and a snack, Café in de Blaauwe Hand is also one of the top Nijmegen historic sites! 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 Café’ was opened as a small beer hall…which is basically 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 Nijmegen
While the Nijmegen historic city center is an appealing urban attraction, there are sights beyond the Old Town that are worth seeing, too!
The village of Beek-Ubbergen is full of small town charm. Surrounded by incredible nature and quaint hamlets, it is one of our favorite places near Nijmegen. Learn more about why that is in our 4 Reasons to Visit Beek-Ubbergen, Netherlands article!
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 events year round. These Nijmegen 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 attracts competitors from around the world. In addition to the four days of walking, Nijmegen celebrates the event with a proper festival. Find all the details on the official 4 Days Marches website.
There are some very unique Dutch Christmas traditions, like Sinterklaas and the controversial Zwarte Piet. Celebrations take place throughout the city and the surrounding region (including across the border in Germany) during the holidays. Find the best Christmas Markets near Nijmegen and read why we love Spending Christmas in Europe!
Nijmegen, Netherlands Map
Use this link to Google Maps to find all the Best Things to do in Nijmegen!
Our Top Tips For Your Trip to Nijmegen
Now that you know what to do in Nijmegen, we have a few more tips and packing hacks for your visit!
Where To Stay: Hotels in Nijmegen, Netherlands
During our visit to Nijmegen, we stayed in the Hotel 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 clean and comfortable.
There are many Nijmegen accommodation options to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Start your search for the perfect place to stay in Nijmegen on Booking.com – but read our tricks for Finding The Best Priced Hotels first!
What You Will Need to Visit Nijmegen
- Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable travel shoes. Nijmegen is very walkable, but only if you have the right shoes! I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia. Kris prefers wearing these trail shoes by Merrell.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip – Nijmegen is so photogenic! Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for high quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and lightweight budget camera).
- Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, you will also need a great day bag to organize all of your essential daily travel items.
- Get (and stay) organized for your Vacation to Europe by using our Trip Planning Printables!
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your Netherlands visit, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
We want to know: Have you been to Nijmegen, Netherlands? Do you have any tips for visiting Nijmegen, Netherlands? Are you also Traveling to Amsterdam on your visit to the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!
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