Nijmegen

Nijmegen lays claims to the title of oldest city in the Netherlands, and has indeed a long history and still lots of interesting heritage to enjoy today. World-famous among hiking enthusiast, the city annually hosts the International Four Days Marches Nijmegen. It's the largest multi-day walking event in the world and comes with a range of festivities. Attracting over 42,000 participants and over a million visitors, including many international ones, the event takes place for the 100th time in 2016. Nijmegen is the largest city in the province of Gelderland and well known for its left-wing politics and its large student population.

Understand

With about 160,000 inhabitants, Nijmegen is a relatively large city in the southeast of the Netherlands. It's the main town in the Arnhem-Nijmegen metropolitan area (pop. 725,000) and a major stronghold of the Dutch socialist and 'green' parties.

History

The Valkhof chapel, built around 1030, is one of oldest intact buildings.

The town's written history goes back to the first century BC, when a Roman military settlement was established at this place. The local hill provide good views over the surrounding valleys and the rivers Rhine and Waal that pass by here. A village grew around the Roman stronghold. In the year 98 it gained Roman city rights. After the Roman Empire crumbled, the area became part of the Frankish lands. The town grew as its trade activities via the river Waal flourished.

In the 12th century, Henry VI, the later Holy Roman Emperor was born in Nijmegen but it was his son, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who granted city rights in 1230. Some 17 years later, the city and the surrounding lands were used as collateral for a loan from the Guelders, that would never be repaid. As a result, Nijmegen is part of the province of Gelderland still today.

As modern warfare rendered traditional fortifications as good as useless, the city walls were finally demolished. The city had already expanded massively by that time, with far too many souls living packed inside the city walls. And it kept developing further. A university was established in 1927 and in 1936 the reportedly largest bridge in Europe of that time was constructed for car passage over the river.

In 1944, the city centre sustained massive damage when it was bombed by the Americans by mistake, as pilots thought they were attacking the German city of Kleve. Shortly after, it was the scene of severe battle during Operation Market Garden. When the city was finally liberated, most of its historic heritage was gone or damaged. Rebuilding efforts and city planning in the following decades included further destruction of some of the remaining structures. The fine collection of monuments today is therefore only a small glimpse of Nijmegen's rich history.

Tourist information

Get in

By plane

Airport Weeze (IATA: NRN), , located 45 km southeast of town just across the border with Germany, between the villages of Weeze (Germany) and Nieuw-Bergen (Netherlands) (the airport itself is in Germany). Although both Ryanair (the biggest airline serving the airport) and the airport itself advertise with Düsseldorf-Weeze, Düsseldorf proper is actually not anywhere near the airport. The city of Düsseldorf is located 60 miles to the southeast of the airport, making Nijmegen the only major city close to the airport. Weeze serves over 50 destinations across Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia.

The only form of public transportation nonstop to Nijmegen is a taxivan you have to reserve in advance and will set you back €16 euro one-way. For timetabling see or call +49 28 37 66 55 55. Quick tip: If your plane lands shortly before the bus is scheduled to leave give them a quick call on the tarmac and they will wait for you.

For the more adventurous traveller, it's possible to get to Nijmegen by city bus to the Weeze railway station, then take a train into Kleve, where you can get a bus into Nijmegen. This will take about 75 minutes and costs €5.90-7.60 (one-way).

Another option is to just hitch. There's a major freeway not far from the airport, connecting Düsseldorf with Nijmegen. This can take as little as 30–45 minutes if you're lucky, and 4–6 hours if you're not.

Eindhoven Airport (IATA: EIN), . Located 60 kilometres (35 miles) to the southwest of Nijmegen. From the airport you take bus 401 to Eindhoven Central Station and then a train to 's Hertogenbosch (which is the same as Den Bosch). In 's Hertogenbosch, change trains and take the train to Nijmegen. This journey will take you approximately 90 minutes by public transportation. When driving yourself, take the A326 feeder motorway to the A50, (Zwolle-Eindhoven) which skirts the west of the metropolitan area to the Eindhoven ring road (A58/A2) Airport exit is exit 29 on the A2.

Flughafen Düsseldorf (IATA: DUS), . Located 110 kilometres (65 miles) southeast. About one-third the size of Amsterdam-Schiphol, but with plenty of international connections, including to the USA, and gets served by all the major airlines in Europe. Although it doesn't get nearly as many flights as Amsterdam does, it's cheaper, doesn't have nearly as many congestion problems, and generally much less hassle at the airport itself. Major inconvenience here is the lack of a good public transportation link to the Nijmegen area; you either need to take bus 58 to Kleve, and change there for a regional train to Düsseldorf Hbf, where you can take S1 to Flughafen terminal or take the train to Venlo, and change there for Düsseldorf Hbf. Both options take about 2,5–3 hours one way, since it'll be taking commuter trains all the way. When driving there this airport should be the obvious choice though. A73 to Knooppunt Rijkevoort, then follow the signs to the A77 which changes to A57 when it passes the German line. By Kreuz Meerbusch take motorway A44 to exit 31 which is right by the terminal. Expect a 75-minute drive, although it can be done in 50–55 minutes if there's little traffic, because 2/3rds of the route is on the German Autobahn.

Amsterdam-Schiphol airport (IATA: AMS), . The largest airport in the Netherlands, and the fifth largest in Europe. 135 km (85 miles) to the northwest. Train takes about an hour and a half, and will cost €17.50,- one way. You no longer have to change trains for Nijmegen, there are direct trains to and from Schiphol twice an hour on weekdays, although if you miss one you can catch a train to Utrecht 15 minutes later and change there. Schiphol airport gets served by most major carriers, and has in excess of 100 flights to the United States alone per day. When driving; A73 to Knooppunt Ewijk, A50 to Knooppunt Valburg, A15 westbound to Knooppunt Deil, A2 northbound to Knooppunt Holendrecht, A9 westbound to Knooppunt Badhoevedorp, and finally A4 southbound to exit 2, Schiphol airport. Expect this to take anywhere from 75 minutes to over three hours, depending on traffic. the route will take you through both the Utrecht and the Amsterdam metropolitan areas, both infamous for their traffic jams.

By train

The Dutch Railways, (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, NS) serve Nijmegen from all parts of the Netherlands non-stop. There are 4 trains an hour to Utrecht, 2 of which continue to Amsterdam and Den Helder. At Utrecht, you can change on trains to Schiphol Airport or Rotterdam and The Hague. 4 trains per hour depart for Zutphen of which 2 continue to Deventer and Zwolle (with connections to Leeuwarden and Groningen in Zwolle). Furthermore, 2 trains per hour connect to Tilburg-Breda-Roosendaal (with connections in Breda to Rotterdam/The Hague, and in Roosendaal to Antwerp/Brussels).

The neighboring cities of Arnhem and 's-Hertogenbosch are served by commuter trains: 4 trains per hour leave for 's-Hertogenbosch and 6 trains per hour for Arnhem. On this last connection, there are up to 10 trains per hour between Nijmegen and Arnhem during rush hour. The full adult fare on this line is €5.20 one way or €9.40 return, as of July 2010.

Veolia Limburg runs 4 commuter trains an hour to Nijmegen Heyendaal,Molenhoek (nearby Malden), the town of Cuijk and further to Venray. Two of these trains continue all the way to Roermond.

By bus

Nijmegen is connected to the German cities (and railway stations) of Kleve and Emmerich by bus. This bus (58) usually runs once per hour, but it barely goes on Sunday.

By car

The A73 connects Nijmegen with Venlo, the A77/A57 leads to the German Rhineland. The A15 runs between Nijmegen and Rotterdam and the A50 (Eindhoven-Zwolle) skims the western edge of the metropolitan area. There are many feeder highways connecting these freeways to the city. From Amsterdam one would take the A2 southbound to intersection (knooppunt) Deil, and take the A15 eastbound to Nijmegen from there. Avoid visiting the city by car during the Four Days Walking March, as roads tend to be blocked and circulation is even worse than normal. Also, you may find almost no available parking anywhere near the center of the city.

By thumb

Nijmegen is probably one of the easiest places in the Netherlands to hitch from. The best spot is just south of the Waal Bridge, on the northbound lane leading to the bridge. You will see a sign saying 'liftershalte' here. This means it's an official hitching spot. Usually it takes anywhere from 1–30 minutes to get a ride.

By bike

Nijmegen has exceptionally good cycle links. The RijnWaalpad is a cycle high way connecting Nijmegen and Arnhem. There are also two Dutch national cycle routes that come through Nijmegen: the LF12 and the LF3-3. In Millingen the LF3-3 connects with the Rhine Cycle Route (EuroVelo 15), giving Nijmegen a good cycle connection with Germany, France and Switzerland.

Get around

The city bus company, Breng, connects every neighbourhood in Nijmegen to the city center. Breng runs buses into the suburbs as well as a few towns outside of the metropolitan area. Forget about using your car unless you're absolutely sure of your driving skills: the city can get extremely clogged up during rush-hour because 6 main roads end up at an infamous roundabout in the middle of the town. Beside this, parking is relatively expensive. Nijmegen is extremely bike-friendly, and the old downtown area is compact (every place in the downtown area can be reached within 20 minutes from the Central Station by foot) Commuter trains serve the neighbourhoods of Lent, Dukenburg and Heyendaal (the campus area), as well as the nearby town of Wijchen.

See

The Kronenburger tower

Nijmegen is widely considered to be the oldest city in the Netherlands, celebrating her 2000th birthday in 2005. Unfortunately not a whole lot of very old buildings are left in town: first the Americans carpet bombed it in February 1944, later the Germans shelled it for about 5 months after the liberation in September 1944, and finally there were a lot of very rigorous city planners in the 1950s, 60's and 70's who finished what the Americans and Germans started.

There are still a few noteworthy sights, however. Valkhof hill downtown features a Carolingian chapel (eight, ninth century AD) and a small remainder of an imperial castle that was demolished in 1798. From Valkhof hill walk west through the Burchtstraat. Here you will see, on your left hand, the fifteenth century town hall. If you've finished admiring its exterior (there's nothing of note inside) continue walking west to the Grote Markt (Great Market) on the north side is a sixteenth-century weighing hall that now serves as a restaurant. To the left is the Blauwe Hand, the oldest bar in a town that boasts the most pubs per square feet than any other town in the Netherlands. On the west side you will see the entrance to the St. Stevenskerk courtyard. Enter it. On the left is a fifteenth-century Latin school. On the right stands the thirteenth century St. Stevenskerk, the interior of which was destroyed during the Dutch revolution of the sixteenth century. To the north of the church is a series of small seventeenth-century houses that now serve as trinket shops.

Although the city center was heavily bombed during the war, the old neighborhoods around the center were not, and are nice to stroll around. Most interesting are the neighborhoods east and south of the center. Bottendaal, a five minute walk from the train station, has a nice vibe, a few good pubs (try De Kluizenaar and Maxim, listed below) and a park (Thiemen Park).

Do

Over 45,000 people took part in the 2013 Four Day Marches.
Participating in the marches costs €50 and you'll need to register well in advance. In 2014, registration will open in February and anyone interested should follow the organisation's website closely around that time. In 2013, registration closed after only a few days because the maximum number of participants was surpassed. Note that you'll need proper preparation. You'll likely have to train in order to ensure you're physically fit for the challenge. Also make sure to check local weather predictions. Dutch summers are usually mild, with average temperatures in July around 20°C and monthly precipitation around 80mm. Dutch weather is however notoriously changeable. In 2006, a heath wave caused widespread dehydration and two people died from hypothermia. The marches were cancelled after the first day.

Other events

Spring

Summer

Fall

Buy

If you like a day of shopping, you'll surely enjoy this city. It's considered one the top shopping destinations in the country, for its cosy old centre, many cafés, car-free shopping zone and of course the wide range of stores and boutiques. Over 400 shops are available in the city centre alone. The recently modernized Marikenstraat and Moenenstraat are full of large chain stores, including the usual department and fashion stores.

The smaller streets leading to the car-free centre are called the Ringstraten, and are packed with smaller boutiques, giftstores, speciality stores and independent home decoration shops. Good examples include the Hezelstraat (said to be the oldest shopping street in the country), the Van Welderenstraat and the Tweede Walstraat. For design boutiques, try the Houstraat.

Stores are usually open between 9.00 and 17.30h, many also until 18.00h. Thursday is so-called shopping evening, with most shops open till 21.00h and as in the rest of the country, most places close at 17.00 on Saturdays. Every first Sunday of the month, the city centre opens between 12.00 ad 17.00h

There are general markets in the centre every Monday and Saturday.

Eat

Being a student town (roughly 21,000 students in a population of 160,000) there are plenty of relatively cheap restaurants ("eetcafés") to be found. Look for them in the Van Welderenstraat and on Kelfkensbos. Fast Food is also widely available in the city center, with two McDonald's, a Burger King and numerous snackbars often offering traditional Dutch snacks, but also Turkish dishes.

If you love pizza, you'll find yourself well-catered for. Many pizza-restaurants are specialized in take-away/delivery, but there are several nice options if you'd like to sit down. Generally, all pizzas in the restaurants below are under € 10. Most of the establishments also offer other Italian dishes.

Splurge

If your budget allows it, there's also plenty of opportunity for luxury dining. Hoo Wah on Plein 1944 serves excellent Asian food (not to be confused with the stuff sold in normal Dutch "Chinese" restaurants). Het Savarijn in the Hertogstraat offers classy French food and is known for its extensive wine list while Heertjes in the Ridderstraat is the place locals go to when they want to indulge themselves. Het Lemke in the Lange Hezelstraat offers high quality French cuisine, though it might be a little bit too experimental for some. More up market dining can be found along the Waal river. From the casino, walk west past the terraces and into the old downtown. For up market dining near the university, Chalet Brakkenstein is well worth a visit. Finally, for more classic French style cuisine in a historic ambiance, try either Belvedere (the tower) or Het Poortwachtershuis (the small building west of the museum) west of the Valkhof park. (Please note that for the moment, the Belvedere is only open to groups with a reservation, due to a lack of cooking staff.). If you're into that sort of thing, in 2008 the Michelin guide has awarded a Bib Gourmand to Het Savarijn, Liberty's (on Kelfkensbos) and Vesters (Groesbeeksedwarsweg 307a). There are no restaurants in Nijmegen that have received Michelin stars.

Drink

The monumental weigh house now houses a pleasant café.

Downtown Nijmegen and the neighborhoods just next to it are positively swarming with pubs and cafés. Some notable ones:

Music venues

Sleep

Except when it's the stage for one of the city's large events, the Goffertpark is a quiet, laid-back place and ideal for a picnic.

Nijmegen has many hotels, although budget options are remarkably limited. The opposite is true for high-end lodging. Finding a place to sleep during the summer festival and the four day's marches is absolutely impossible. Everything will be booked full months in advance. To give you an idea; during these days the population of Nijmegen swells from 160,000 to 1,800,000. It goes to the extent of people needing accommodation because they're walking the marches being taken into private people's homes and sleeping in sporting arena's. However, during the festival many trains and buses run around the clock, giving the opportunity to find a place to stay outside the city.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Go next

Cycling

The surrounding area of Nijmegen is unique in that it has to offer almost every landscape type available in the Netherlands. Rent a bicycle and start exploring the river landscape of the Ooijpolder to the northeast, the forested hills around Groesbeek to the east, the drier heath landscape to the south or, if you insist, the typically Dutch flat lowlands to the west.

There are many ready-made cycle routes you can try:

Places of interest

If you're interested in cities, pay a visit to Hertogenbosch or Zutphen (both between 30 min / 45 min by train) which have city centres far better preserved than that of Nijmegen itself.

During World War Two, the 82nd Airborne Division landed near Groesbeek as part of Operation Market Garden. Groesbeek has one of Canada's war cemeteries, called Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery. The Cemetery is a short drive out of Groesbeek.

Routes through Nijmegen

Zwolle Arnhem  N  S  Eindhoven


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.