How nice is it to make a city trip in your own country and really take the time to discover a place? This time I go out and explore the Rijk van Nijmegen. This city in Gelderland, located on the Waal river and close to the German border, is the oldest city in the Netherlands and famous for its bustling atmosphere. In this article you can read all my tips for what to do in Nijmegen and the surroundings, including the best photo spots, hotels, good restaurants and of course the best things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands in terms of culture, history and nature. For a day trip to Nijmegen or a lovely weekend trip.
- Things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands | 20 sights and tips
- Grote Markt and surroundings
- Valkhof Park | historic things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands
- City island of Veur-Lent
- Take a picture with the face of Nijmegen
- The muZIEum | unique things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands
- The Lange Hezelstraat
- The Kaaij
- Walk through the Ooijpolder natural reserve
- Things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands area | 3 tips
- Mini travel guide Nijmegen Netherlands
- More about the Netherlands
- Pin and save "Things to do in Nijmegen" for later
Things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands | 20 sights and tips
I have been traveling the world for years, but still know so little about my own country. As an Amsterdam girl, I have to admit that I had never been to Nijmegen. That is why I was even more excited and curious to explore this city in the province of Gelderland. In Nijmegen you will find history and culture, but also a lot of creativity, trendy places and nature. Curious about Nijmegen and the surrounding area? Read all my tips for things to in Nijmegen here.
Grote Markt and surroundings
The Grote Markt should not be missed during a visit to Nijmegen. It is not only the center of the city but also the place where you find a number of interesting historic sights. The 17th century Boterwaag, dominating the square, is a beautiful building that you will immediately recognize from the many photos of Nijmegen.
Via the Sint-Stevenspoort or Kerkboog, you walk pass a number of historic buildings, to the Stevenskerk, which was badly hit by the bombings during the Second World War. The church, which is located on a hill, was rebuilt and is nowadays characteristic for the cityscape of Nijmegen. It is nice to stroll around the Grote Markt area and a great place for taking pictures.
Valkhof Park | historic things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands
The Valkhof park is a place that you first of all want to visit, because of the view over the Waal. From the Sint-Nicolaaskapel, you have a great view of this 82 km long river.
But another reason is the Barbarossa ruin. For as long as I’ve been traveling, I’ve been interested in ruins. Because of its fascinating history. I had no idea of the existence of a ruin in Nijmegen. Both the Sint-Nicolaaskapel and the Barbarossa ruin, are national monuments and among the best things to do Nijmegen.
The Barbarossa ruins are the remains of a palace from the 12th century, the Valkhof Castle, which was built by Emperor Barbarossa. The Barbossa ruins and Saint Nicholas chapel were spared during the demolition of the palace in the 18th century, because it was believed that it dates from the Roman period.
Are you interested in archeology and history? Make sure to visit the Valkhof museum. Here you will find different collections of art and archaeological artefacts, including mineral resources from the time of the Romans. Nijmegen was the largest and most important settlement of the Romans in the Netherlands.
City island of Veur-Lent
Via the Snelbinder or Waalbrug bridges, you can walk from the old center of Nijmegen to the city island of Veur-Lent. A place where you can hike, paddle or relax on the beach, when the weather is nice. Moreover, you have the best view of the center here and can take great pictures. How incredible is it that you have your own beach so close to the city!
Take a picture with the face of Nijmegen
On the city island of Veur-Lent you will find a Roman mask, made by artist Andreas Hetfel. It is also called the face of Nijmegen and you can hardly miss it, once you enter the island. The mask was placed here in 2020 but is yet to be given a final location. For now, it is for sure one of the things to do if you want to take a typical Nijmegen picture.
Artist Andreas Hetfeld was inspired by a Roman mask that was found nearby in the Waal river. Roman soldiers are said to have worn this type of mask during ceremonies, battles and competitions. The original mask can be seen in the Valkhof Museum.
The muZIEum | unique things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands
Have you ever thought about what it is like to be blind or visually impaired? In everyday life you probably don’t think about it that much. At least not me. In Nijmegen you can experience what it is like to be blind or partially sighted in a unique way. And not just by watching a movie or attending an information meeting, but by going on a lifelike experience. And that’s pretty intense.
Into the center of Nijmegen
When I arrive at the muZIEum I have no idea what to expect, but I soon realize that I will enter the center of Nijmegen with glasses and a white cane. By putting on these glasses, that include different simulated facial disorders, you experience what it is like to live without full vision. Also called the ripple route. The tour is guided by a blind or partially sighted guide, in our case Conny, who explains about her life and what you should pay attention to when you can’t see. This with the help of a sighted guide, who ensures safety. I feel embarrassed and clumsy at first but immediately guilty as, unlike Conny, I can take off my glasses at the end of the experience.
We learn how to use the white cane, how to recognize certain ridges on the street and what the consequences are if they cannot be found, because of a bicycle that is blocking the road. And course we listen to the stories of Conny. Conny, who became blind in one eye due to a bicycle accident and can only see 40 percent in the other eye, openly talks about her situation. It is remarkable how positive she is in life. At a certain moment we can even briefly experience how she sees life. We keep one eye closed and through the other eye we see a black spot. It’s hard to believe that this is the reality for her. We get small assignments, such as tapping water and taking a selfie. It is confronting but special to experience.
More about the muZIEum
In the muZIEum, located on Ziekerstraat, you will find a space with additional information about blind and partially sighted people. An audio experience is also presented that opens your senses. And there is a dark experience, where you experience what it is like to see nothing at all, under the guidance of a blind or partially sighted guide. The muZIEum is for sure one of the unique things to do in Nijmegen. You may not be so quick to find out yourself, until someone gives you the tip and tells you that you really have to do it. And I am very happy to do so.
Moreover the muZIEum is not only an experience for visitors, but also an important employment place for countless blind and partially sighted people. Would you like to know more about the muZIEum in Nijmegen? Please check the website for more information.
The Lange Hezelstraat
The Lange Hezelstraat is a lovely street with a history. It is one of the oldest shopping streets in the Netherlands (since 1880) and therefore one of the things to do in Nijmegen, if you like shopping. I’m not much of a shopper anymore, but if I were looking for something beautiful, I would definitely go here. This is because it is bursting with great concept stores, specialty shops and vintage shops.
For festival and summer vibes, you want to be at De Kaaij. You will find a mishmash of picnic tables, umbrellas, stretch tents, a ship’s deck and various food trucks, right under the Waal bridge. One of the super cozy things to do in Nijmegen, if you want to walk with your feet through the sand on a sunny day. But you can also have a drink during the year at the Opoe Sientje ship deck terrace.
De Kaaij is also known as the cultural terrace of Nijmegen, because of the many musicians, artists and DJs who come together and provide performances. So keep an eye on the website for the latest schedule.
Tips for Nijmegen: You can also spend the night at the Opoe Sientje ship deck. At the bottom of this article, in my hotel tips for Nijmegen, you can read more about this place to sleep.
City parks are always fun! And Nijmegen has the Kronenburgerpark, located near the station and the Lange Hezelstraat. The park is known for the 30 meter high gunpowder tower which, together with the St. Jacobstoren and De Roomse Voet, was part of a medieval wall. Always nice to walk through a park on a sunny day and take a seat on a bench.
The Honigfabriek is an old factory that has been transformed into a creative breeding space with young entrepreneurs, restaurants, bars and theatres. Unfortunately, the factory is currently (summer 2022) in a transition phase, as a result of which the majority of the factory is a construction site. Only a few places are open, including restaurant de Meesterproef, Oersoep Biertuin, Cultuurcentrum Brebl and coffee bar First Things First. But you definitely want to keep an eye on this place, as it is one of the must-visit things to do in Nijmegen if you are looking for creative vibes.
Walk through the Ooijpolder natural reserve
Do you love to go for a hike? You can walk straight into the Ooijpolder, via the small footbridge, near the Waalbrug. This natural reserve of more than 2000 hectares, is located on the Waal and consists of greenery, beaches, villages such as Ooij and Persingen and small farms. In the area you can see Konik horses and Galloway cattle and with a bit of luck you can even spot beavers and otters. It is also a good place for bird watching. During my visit it started to rain half way through our walk, so we were only able to enjoy a small part. But when I visit Nijmegen again in the future, I will definitely come back. Here the different walking routes.
Things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands area | 3 tips
A day in Nijmegen is already nice, but it is even better to combine this with a visit to the surrounding area. There is a lot of nature where you can walk, taste wines or delve into the history of the region around Nijmegen. Read here some of my tips for things to do in the Nijmegen area.
Visit the Freedom Museum in Groesbeek | historic things to do in Nijmegen Netherlands
The Freedom Museum is a relatively new museum, located in a green and hilly area of Groesbeek, near the border with Germany. Something that immediately makes the museum special, since not only Dutch but also German visitors come here. The Freedom Museum does not tell one story but tries to share several sides. And they do that well, by placing all the information in a larger context and offering different perspectives. In addition, the focus is not only on war, but especially on peace and freedom and what this actually means in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, in Europe and beyond.
What does a visit to the Freedom Museum entail?
The museum is interactive and alternates well between heavy topics such as the terrible Second World War and the role Groesbeek played during Operation Market Garden. But also easy to digest information such as freedom clothing, historical events that are shown in a cinematic way and places where you can experience how heavy a grenade, parachute or war rifle is. For me personally, the bomb shelter left a big impression. Here you can take a seat and literally feel and hear the bombs around you.
But above all, the Freedom Museum makes you think and realize that nothing is what it looks like. How do people make choices and what would you do if you were in the same situation? You will be confronted with it in an interesting way. Not easy to digest, but because of the structure of the museum you will certainly experience it differently than you would think. Highly recommended, whether you are interested in history or not. Check opening times and more information about the Freedom Museum here.
Nice to know: The Freedom Museum is built in the shape of a parachute and completely sustainable. This is partly due to the special air pressure construction of the roof.
Taste wines in the Dutch Winery Center
Did you know that Nijmegen area has vineyards and produces wines? There is almost 25 hectares of vineyard and I had no idea. Therefore if you are in Groesbeek, you definitely want to make a stop at the Dutch Winery Center: Nederlands Wijbouwcentrum. Here you can get a tour, taste wines and have a delicious lunch. You couldn’t make me happier.
Groesbeek is a small town, near the German border, only 15 minutes driving from Nijmegen city center.
Walk through the Groesbeek forests
If you like to go for walks, make sure to visit the forests of Groesbeek: de Groesbeekse bossen. For sure one of the best things to do in Nijmegen on a nice day. A short walk of 4 kilometers from the Dutch Winery Center leads you past fields, vineyards and forests. Along the way you have the chance to see foxes, deer and wild boars. Unfortunately I did not see any of them, but the forest environment only is already worth it. There are countless trails, from long to short. Tip: You can easily combine this hike with a visit to the Dutch Winery Center, before or after a nice lunch or wine tasting.
When I read the information brochure during the walk, I found out that this area represents a lot of history. It is the place where the airborne landings of Operation Market Garden took place in 1944. A full-sized plane has been placed to remind of this. In 1944 hundreds of them landed in Groesbeek.
Mini travel guide Nijmegen Netherlands
Tours in NijmegenRestaurant tips for Nijmegen
In the center of Nijmegen there is a beautiful building, called the Arsenaal. The building was built in the 15th century as a monastery and later housed an armory. Today it is a national monument, including a grand café, where you can enjoy delicious meals. Accessible and stylish at the same time, something that makes me very happy. I recommend the 3 or 4 course menu, where you choose your own dishes from the French, Mediterranean and Oriental cuiseine. Sashimi as a starter and a great vegetarian curry as a main course, together with the best wine!
Wine bar Lebowski
As you might know by now, I love wine. And during a stay in Nijmegen, a visit to a wine bar should not be missed. Wine Bar Lebowski is a cozy café, including a large outdoor terrace, where you can enjoy a good glass of wine. There are also regular wine tastings. Make sure to check it out.
Do you like fish? Then you’ve come to the right place at Restaurant Manna. In this fish bistro you order quality fish exactly the way you want it. There are also fantastic tasting menus and you eat the very best fruits de mer.
Other restaurant tips for Nijmegen Netherlands
- De Portier
- Bistro Flores
- Coffeeplace: Fika
- De Nieuwe Winkel
- Munt Saladebar
- Lunchroom Downtown
- Ultimo restaurant and winebar
Hotel tips for Nijmegen Netherlands
Are you looking for a hotel in the center of Nijmegen? Then make sure to check out Hotel Credible. Hotel Credible is not only a nice hotel but also a great place to be.
The rooms are simple but comfortable and affordable. And in the cozy restaurant you can eat, drink or work on your laptop. The interior is fun, creative and there is a great mix of people. Recommended!
Hotel Credible is located on the edge of the Valkhof Park and within walking distance of the many things to do in Nijmegen.
Are you looking for a more chic hotel in the center of Nijmegen? Then you have to be at Hotel Manna. This boutique hotel, located on the Oranjesingel, consists of 8 luxury suites and 2 studios. The rooms are modern, brightly decorated with design materials and some have a lovely balcony or roof terrace. I stayed in the FortaRock Suite, including a luxury bath. A place you do not want to leave anymore. And close to the many things to do in Nijmegen.
Check the availability and latest rates for Hotel Manna here. No availability at Manna? Hotel Blue is the sister hotel and highly recommended as well. Looking for more hotel options? This is an overview of hotels in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
B&B schip de Opoe Sientje
Looking for a special overnight location in Nijmegen. Coincidentally, during my visit to the Kaaij, I walked into the B&B ship Opoe Sientje and I was pleasantly surprised. The ship has 6 rooms available, small but remarkably convenient, even with a bath. There is a cozy interior space and a ship deck terrace where you can eat and drink simple but tasty meals. In addition, you are in a nice creative place and within walking distance of the Ooijpolder. So did you always wanted to sleep on a boat? Then this is your chance.
How to reach Nijmegen from Amsterdam
Nijmegen is easy to reach from Amsterdam, wich makes for a perfect day trip. From Amsterdam Central Station there are trains leaving almost every 10 to 20 minutes, bringing you to the center of Nijmegen station within one hour and 20 minutes. From here it is an easy walk into the city center. Also from Schiphol airport and other Dutch cities, there are many train connections. By car, you will reach Nijmegen within one and a half hour, depending on your point of departure in Amsterdam and the time of the day.
More about Nijmegen in the Netherlands
Looking for more tips and things to do in Nijmegen and surroundings? For more inspiration and tips for a day or weekend in the Rijk van Nijmegen, visit the Visit Nijmegen website.
More about the Netherlands
Did you enjoy reading my tips for Nijmegen? And do you want to read more about the Netherlands? Check out all the blogs on the website.
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