Nijmegen is a beautiful and old Dutch city located about 100 km from Rotterdam, on the Waal River, one of the tributaries of the Rhine. Nijmegen is quiet, peaceful, full of almost Zen tranquility: ducks rest on the pedestrian sidewalks, mothers with strollers stroll slowly along the beautiful embankment, no one is in a hurry, and everyone smiles at everyone. In 1944, the city was bombed by the Americans, leaving little of its old buildings. However, it still remains one of the three oldest cities in the Netherlands – and one of the three warmest.
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During the landing and bloody battles of 1944, the city suffered greatly. And today, the city center of Nijmegen is just a few miraculously preserved buildings, and the rest is modern buildings.
How to get to Nijmegen
The nearest airport, Weese, is located on German territory and receives flights from Ryanair – for example, from Düsseldorf. From Weese you can get to Nijmegen by bus (in an hour and a quarter). Eindhoven Netherlands Airport is located 60 km from Nijmegen, and from Eindhoven Central Station you can get to Nijmegen by train with one change (approximately 1.5 hours). In general, it is convenient to get to Nijmegen by train from almost any major city in the Netherlands: trains from Utrecht go here 4 times per hour, from Rosendal – 2 times per hour. Finally, you can get to Nijmegen by bus from the German Cleve or Emmerich.
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The great and immortal blues queen, Nina Simone, lived in Nijmegen for two years. In 2002, one of the city streets was named after her.
A bit of history
Nijmegen can rightly be called perhaps the oldest in the whole country. It was founded by the Romans, having built a fortified citadel here at the very dawn of a new era. During the reign of the Carolingians, Nijmegen flourished: the royal court settled here, and in the first half of the 13th century the city officially became a city, by decree of Emperor Frederick II. In the Middle Ages, Nijmegen flourished already as a member of the powerful Hansa. Subsequently, it was briefly captured by the French and even repeatedly, and in World War II it was from Nijmegen that the German invasion of the Netherlands began. During the landing of the Americans and the bloody battles of 1944, the city was badly damaged. And today, the city center of Nijmegen is just a few miraculously preserved buildings, and the rest is modern buildings.
In Gunner Park, on one of the hills, the Time Capsule is buried. It contains official documents describing the Allied liberation operation “Garden Markt”, which was carried out in 1944. The capsule was sealed in 1974, and it will be possible to open it in 2044.
Entertainment and attractions in Nijmegen
Since little has been preserved from the historical Nijmegen, all the truly old sights are here without exception and are absolutely obligatory for tourists to see. The oldest of them are the ruins of old churches from the 11th and 12th centuries, which can be seen in the Walkshof park. Both of them originally belonged to the large imperial castle, which was built here by Frederick I (Barbarossa). The Chapel of St. Nicholas is a surprisingly well-preserved building from the first half of the 11th century, which today is considered the oldest stone building in the Netherlands. And the ruins of the chapel of Barbarossa belong to the middle of the 12th century: only one semicircular wall remains from the chapel today.
3 things to do in Nijmegen:
- Try the famous kaasgehakt, a hot dish of cheese and breadcrumbs, something like a vegetarian analogue of minced meat, in its cafe “De Plak”.
- Find a “bird yard”, one wall of which is completely hung with birdhouses.
- Take a look at the historic De Hemel brewery, which occupies the cellars and the first floor of a picturesque 12th-century monastery.
In search of the most impressive buildings, you should first of all go to the main square of the city – the Grotemarkt. Here you will see the Grotekerk, the main city church, consecrated in honor of St. Stephen. The church is a restored version, as is the City Hall of the mid-16th century, built in the Renaissance style. In addition to the church and the Town Hall, the square is built up with completely and completely restored medieval buildings: here you can also see the Chamber of Weights and Measures of the early 17th century (today a restaurant operates in it), a Latin school of the 15th century with many statues and dark shutters on the facade, the Kerkborg passage of the 16th century and slightly later residential mansions. In the center of the square there is a delicate bronze statue of Mariken – the symbol of Nijmegen. A fascinating legend is associated with her: according to her, a woman made a deal with the unclean and was bound with iron hoops.
It is not very clear why this is so, but Nijmegen is traditionally considered the most “leftist” city in the political sense. In all elections, either terry socialists, or “green”, or radical student groups win here. Someone connects this with the fact that the mother of Karl Marx was born in the city – although this, of course, is a weak explanation.
The central urban park Valkhof, located above the river embankment, caresses the eye with an abundance of greenery. If you walk to the end of the park, you can see the old Belvedere watch tower, which today houses a restaurant with a panoramic view of the river and the city. At the foot of the tower you can still see the German anti-tank 50-mm Panzerabwehr gun. Nearby is the city museum Valkhof. The park is surrounded on one side by a piece of the city wall of the 16th century with a watchtower.
Also, the remains of the city fortifications can be seen in the small Kronenburger park: these are the Powder Tower and the Rondel.
And a little further down the Waal is the rather famous Waalbrug metal railway bridge, built shortly before the Second World War. At that time, the 244 m long bridge was the largest in Europe. With its semi-circular design, this bridge strongly resembles the bridge in Zwolle, and in 1944 it played an important role in the liberation operation. Since 2001, the bridge has been included in the list of national monuments.
Nijmegen is connected to Arnhem, which is 18 km away, by a high-speed highway especially for cyclists. The route also runs along the Snelbinder railway bridge.
Nijmegen has some pretty interesting museums. This is a museum of African culture and art, a museum of the Second World War, a museum of nature, a historical museum with free admission and a park-museum of the three main European religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In addition, since 1981, the Velorama museum of old bicycles has been operating in the city, small but interesting.
Since Nijmegen is a rather young city (out of about 160 thousand local residents, 20 thousand are students), there are quite a few relatively inexpensive eateries (“ekafe”) where you can eat quite normally. Most of them are concentrated on Van Velderstraat and Kelfkenbos.
In Nijmegen, the famous July Race Walking Marathon starts every year and lasts four days. The route of the marathon runners involves the passage of 30 to 50 km every day. The event was originally conceived for veterans of the allied forces of World War II who helped liberate the Netherlands from occupation: the British, Canadians, Australians, Americans and New Zealanders. On average, about 40 thousand people participate in the marathon every year.
In Nijmegen, a rare genetic disorder was first recorded, called the Nijmegen syndrome, or Shimanova’s syndrome, the Polish doctor who discovered it.
Every year, the Walkshof Park hosts the May Folk Festival with plenty of booze and traditional music. Also in May, the downtown hosts a Rose Fest dedicated to sexual minorities. In the summer, Goffert Park hosts a heavy metal festival called Fortarok, which gathers about 20 thousand people. And in the fall, the city celebrates the oldest street carnival in the whole country, it was first held back in 1272. The festival usually lasts a week and a half, and a wide variety of attractions work on it: from traditional carousels to modern bungee jumping.