Did you know that Nijmegen, situated in the Dutch province of Gelderland, is the country’s oldest city?
Its history dates back to Roman times, all the way back to the first century BCE! And its secrets have not all been revealed yet. Just last year (2021), a 2,000-year-old blue glass bowl was unearthed by archaeologists—in pristine condition.
Unsurprisingly, visiting Nijmegen treats visitors to many centuries-old landmarks and structures. But don’t think that Nijmegen is sleepy and ancient. Read on for our quick list of everything to experience in Nijmegen.
What to See and Do in Nijmegen
Nijmegen is known for its impressive, historic castles and Batenburg Ruins is one of them. It provides a glimpse into one of the oldest castles in Gelderland (mid-12th century). The ruins are quite ‘delicate’, so only guided tours are allowed once a month, Sundays (April to September).
You can book your tickets for a 12 PM, 1 PM, or 2 PM slot on their site. (Cost: €5) A 3 PM slot is also open for an XL Tour, a tour of the ruins combined with a city walk. (Cost: €8).
Doornenburg Castle is also quite popular. It’s where the Rhine and Waal rivers meet and its fortress, a section free to enter, is where visitors find the castle chapel and the coffee rooms. Not far from this castle is Fort Pannerden, which is part of the New Dutch Water Line, a line of water-based defenses overlooking the Rhine River.
For an authentic medieval feel, go to Hernen Castle, which has a moat. Visitors also enjoy the amazing and varied landscape the castle grounds and surrounding areas bring.
Lastly, there’s Wijchen Castle, a defensive tower castle known for the dramatic love story of its previous owners—Princess Emilia van Nassau en Don Emanuel van Portugal. Visit the castle and see hidden signs of their love story.
Explore the City Center
In the modern city center, there are constant reminders of Nijmegen’s history everywhere. Sit at one of the many terrace cafes and restaurants and view the De Waagh, a 17th century renaissance ‘weighing house’. Better yet, go inside and have your meal there!
The Grote Markt (Big Market or Town Square) is of course worth visiting on its own especially on Mondays and Saturdays as these are the designated ‘open market days’ when various market stalls are set up to sell their wares from Grote Markt to Burchtstraat and the adjacent streets. Several buildings have been designated as National Monuments too such as the Boterwaag and the Sint-Stevenspoort so just a walk around the square is a visual treat.
Nijmegen is considered a great shopping city. If you’re into big malls and brands, head to Molenstraat, Marikenstraat, and Burchtstraat. If you want to visit the oldest shopping street in the country, go to Lange Hezelstraat. You’ll find smaller boutiques and premier galleries here.
Valkhof Museum is built on the grounds that used to be a Roman military camp. It’s thus no wonder that it houses an immense collection of Roman archaeological artifacts from the area. But that’s not all you’ll see. Alongside this medieval collection is a wide array of modern art, the theme and style of which vary throughout the year so please check their site to see what’s on offer during your visit.
muZIEum is a unique museum in the Netherlands as it offers a sensory challenge—go through inside while being aided by a visually-impaired guide. So while in other museums, you use mostly your sense of sight, in this museum, you’ll be relying mostly on your senses of touching, hearing, and smelling instead.
From semi-darkness, go back to using mainly your sense of sight at the Afrika Museum. View contemporary African art and various traditional African objects, and learn about African history and culture here.
Eat Dutch Pancakes
In many countries, pancakes are breakfast staples. In Holland, they’re often lunch or dinner! At Pancake Boat Nijmegen, experience a pancake buffet while enjoying a 75-minute boat cruise.
Getting Around in Nijmegen
Due to Nijmegen’s unique location, being on the Waal river, the city’s unique landscape offers visitors unique and breathtaking walking, biking, and cycling routes.
For instance, the De Gelderse Poort is a beautiful river landscape home to unique flora and fauna. Walking and cycling routes of various distances are available here. But don’t be surprised if you come across wild horses, cattle, beavers, and badgers in your path!
The Kronenburgerpark is a popular public park easily accessible from the Nijmegen Central Railway Station and the Lange Hezelstraat in the old town center. A walk here will take you through gorgeous scenery and old castle ruins.
Thanks to the Waal River, river trails are plenty in Nijmegen too! Click here for some ideas.
If ‘determined walking’ as opposed to ‘leisure walking’ is your thing, consider participating in the world-famous De 4 Daagse (The 4-Day March). Every July, more than 45,000 local and international applicants meet up in Nijmegen to walk 30, 40, or 50 kilometers daily for four consecutive days.
If you prefer to explore Nijmegen on a bike, you won’t be disappointed either. There are plenty of cycling routes of various distances you can check online. They will bring you to various scenic spots and landscapes inside and outside the city.
For example, take the Nijmegen Cycle route. This 46 kilometer course starts from the city center and passes the Millingerwaard nature reserve and Fort Pannerden as you cycle down the Waal river.
How to Get to Nijmegen
Nijmegen is 90 kilometers from Amsterdam , 95 kilometers from Rotterdam, and 110 kilometers from The Hague. There are many paid parking places available, and there’s a free shuttle to the city center.
Our Tip: A more pocket-friendly parking option is available at the P+R Waalsprinter parking lot.
By Public Transport
From anywhere in the country, you can take the train to Nijmegen. From there, you can proceed to your destination by bus, train, or taxi.
Accommodations in Nijmegen
There’s plenty to choose from if you want to stay a few days in Nijmegen. You can stay at a luxury spa and wellness resort, at a boutique hotel, a 19th century ship converted into a B&B (Opoe Sientje B&B), or a converted Gypsy wagon!