City Breaks

Things to see and do in Nijmegen

Discover the delights of the oldest city in the Netherlands, and a region rich in history. Get there in no time with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

The oldest city in the Netherlands, Nijmegen is a Dutch delight just waiting to be discovered.

The city was founded by the Romans, and is rich in history, both ancient and modern. Castles and forts dot the lush, low landscapes, which are a haven for walkers and cyclists.

Find out all about what the city of Nijmegen and the local area have to offer, and how to get there with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

Where is Nijmegen?

Nijmegen is the largest city in the Dutch province of Gelderland, in the east of the country close to the border with Germany.

Driving to Nijmegen from Calais

It is a drive of around four and a half hours to Nijmegen from the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal in Calais. The fastest route is via Ghent, Antwerp and Eindhoven.

A brief history of Nijmegen

Because of its location, between the Waal and Meuse rivers, Nijmegen has always had a strategic importance. It was founded by the Romans, and was the first Dutch settlement to have Roman city rights. Nijmegen became an Imperial Free City and a member of the Hanseatic League during the Middle Ages, but it was besieged numerous times during its history.

During World War II Nijmegen was the first Dutch city to fall into German hands, being so close to the border. It became a battleground in the Allied campaigns of Operation Market Garden and Operation Veritable in 1944 and 1945. Much of the city was bombed and over 800 civilian lives were lost. There are museums and memorials across the region, and anyone with an interest in wartime history will find them fascinating.

Things to see in Nijmegen

Gables of old buildings in a city square with café tables outside
Credit: G.Lanting, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

De Grote Markt

De Grote Markt is the main city square in Nijmegen. Some of it was badly hit by the wartime bombings, so there is a mix of old and more modern buildings in the square. They include the charming Boterwaag (the weighing house) and the Sint-Stevenpoortje, the medieval gatehouse with its gabled archway to the Stevenskerk, the oldest and largest church in Nijmegen. The square hosts a weekly market and is lined with attractive cafés, bars and restaurants.

Doornenburg castle

Around half an hour’s drive from Nijmegen is the imposing Kasteel Doornenburg, a castle that dates back to the 13th century. However, the castle you see today is not the original, and therein lies its story. It was commandeered by the Nazis and became a target for Allied bombing raids. Almost completely destroyed, it was rebuilt over the next 20 years, and now looks like a typical Low Countries castle from the Middle Ages.

The castle is open for pre-booked guided tours, but check the castle website for dates and availability.

A square castle bailey with a moat around it

Fort Pannerden

Not far from Doornenburg Castle is the intriguing Fort Pannerden, a battery fort built in the late 19th century to protect the New Dutch Waterline, a system of carefully created defensive waterways. The fort looks out over the Rhine and guards entry to the Pannerden Canal. More recently the fort was the site of a long running battle between squatters, police and the local council, but it is now a museum which gives visitors a spectacular view over the Waal and the Rhine and the unique waterways of this area.

Wijchen castle

The area of Nijmegen abounds in castles, each with its own unique story. Wijchen castle is a little to the west of Nijmegen, set amid the lush landscapes of the Het Land van Maas en Waal. In 1609 the castle came into the hands of Emilia of Nassau, daughter of William of Orange, after she sold a pearl necklace to buy it. She had eloped and the castle became a lovenest for her and her husband Manuel of Portugal.

The castle’s exterior decoration dates from Emilia’s time, and though a fire in 1906 destroyed much of the interior, it was restored quickly. Learn about the archaeology, art and history of the region in the museum on the castle’s top floor, and take a walk in the castle’s beautiful gardens.

Hernen castle

A castle type building with modern windows and round corner towers

There is something unutterably romantic about Hernen Castle. Part encircled by water, it has classic Germanic towers on each corner, a covered wall walk around the perimeter – the only Dutch castle of its kind with this feature – and is bare of furnishings inside. Visitors are guided inside the castle by a talking lantern, which regales you with tales of the castle’s past and what life would have been like for its residents. The castle is closed during some winter months, so check the opening times before you go. 

The Freedom Museum

The Vrijheidsmuseum, or ‘Freedom Museum’, tells the story of what happened in this region on the Dutch-German border during World War II. The permanent and temporary exhibitions ask searching, sometimes uncomfortable questions about the themes of conflict, freedom and liberation, and recounts personal stories of soldiers and civilians from Operation Market Garden and Veritable in 1944-45. Located in the village of Groesbeek, which saw heavy fighting during the war, the museum is open all year round and every day of the week.

An artwork imitation wing of a plane with the words ‘Liberation’ sticks into the ground
Credit: Marczoutendijk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things to do in Nijmegen

Cycling in the Nijmegen region

Nijmegen and the surrounding area is popular with road cyclists, having some short, steep climbs amid rolling countryside. Yes, there are hills here! Three stages of the Giro d’Italia were held in the roads of Gelderland in 2016, and there are a network of designated cycle routes in and around Nijmegen. You will be cycling past vineyards, along riverbanks, taking in meandering dikes and abandoned islands, and through the battlefields of Operation Market Garden.

Hike the hills and meadows of the region

Nijmegen is also a wonderland for walkers. In fact it hosts an internationally renowned walking competition, the Four Days Marches, which regularly attracts up to 40,000 people, making it the world’s biggest walking event. Why not try walking one of the 30km, 40km or 50km official competition routes? The N70 is a route that takes hikers over rolling hills and water meadows. Wherever you roam outside the city you will be clambering over dikes, wobbly bridges and through fields of Konik horses and red-coated cows.

Arched bridge over a river with crowds of people walking over it

Explore the waterways of The Linge

The Linge is one of the longest rivers to run its course entirely within the Netherlands, and its source is at Doornenburg Castle. It meanders in a narrow course to the north of Nijmegen, and is popular with canoeists and paddle boarders. Walkers and cyclists also head for the riverside paths, revelling in the colourful flowers on its banks and the views of the unique Dutch landscape.

Explore the vineyards of Wijngaard de Plack

Wine production in the hills around Groesbeek is a very recent phenomenon, with the first wines only being bottled in 2006. But the soil is good for grapes around here, and vineyards are now dotted all over the village, which claims to be the ‘wine village of the Netherlands’. One of the best vineyards is Wijngaard de Plack. Nestled in the foot of the Reichswald forest, this family-owned winery hosts regular tastings and tours.

Shopping in Nijmegen

In the oldest city in the Netherlands you will find the oldest shopping street! There was a market in the area of De Lange Hezelstraat in Roman times, and today the street is a Dutch delight of cobblestones, cafés, boutiques and independent stores. Elsewhere you will find modern chain stores in the Marikenstraat mall, and shops, restaurants and cafés in the Honigcomplex, an old industrial building on the Waal riverside. 

Drive to Nijmegen with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

Getting to Nijmegen is easy with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Cross from Folkestone to Calais in only 35 minutes, and take to the roads through France, Belgium and into the Netherlands. In fact, Dutch destinations are all within easy reach of our Calais terminal.

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Drive to Nijmegen with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

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Things to see and do in the Netherlands

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