The Best Thing to See and Do in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Nijmegen above the Waal river
Nijmegen above the Waal river | © DutchScenery / Shutterstock
Tom Coggins

Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands and was founded in the first century BC by the Roman army. Many sites and landmarks around the city attest to its long history, including spots like Valkhof Park and Brouwerij de Hemel. There are other popular, modern attractions located in the city too, including the Netherlands’ national bicycle museum and one of the largest art house cinemas in the country, LUX.

1. Valkhof Park

Park

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© Hermann Luyken / WikiCommons

Valkhof has seen more than its fair share of history and has played an important role in Nijmegen’s politics and culture for well over two millennia. The Romans built a garrison on the hill, which would become the park, in the first century BC in order to capitalise on the area’s strategic location above the Waal river. Many other sites were built on the hill over the centuries, including an imperial palace in the 12th century, which was owned by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Although every other part of the palace has since been demolished, its chapel still stands on Valkhof and features stonework that dates back to the Roman era. The park also hosts outdoor performances throughout the year and offers scenic views of the river.

2. Brouwerij de Hemel

Brewery

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© Brouwerij de Hemel

Brouwerij de Hemel (or Brewery Heaven in English) ranks among the oldest independent breweries in the Netherlands and has made batch after batch of tasty craft beer in several locations around Nijmegen for over 30 years. The brewery currently stands inside an ancient stone building in Nijmegen’s city centre, called de Commanderie van Sint Jan, which dates back to the 12th century and once housed a monastery owned by a noble order of knights. It is possible to join tours through the brewery on weekends to learn more about its fascinating history and to discover the time-honed techniques behind beer brewing. Or, stop by its tasting room to sample de Hemel’s many delicious brews on draft.

3. Honigcomplex

Building

This multi-purpose cultural complex lies roughly one kilometre away from Nijmegen’s historic city centre, on a stretch of land that runs alongside the Waal river. The complex originally housed plants and warehouses that were owned by a local food production company called Honig, but has since been converted into an enormous cultural hub complete with cafes, venues, stores and offices. There’s always something happening inside Honigcomplex and it is among the best places in Nijmegen to experience the city’s culinary scene and nightlife.

4. Velorama

Museum

The Netherlands’ national bicycle museum, Velorama houses an enormous collection of items related to pedal-powered transport, including many old-timey pushbikes, cycling travel guides and other biking paraphernalia. The museum’s permanent exhibition presents important moments from the history of bicycling and shows how the vehicle has developed over the past 200 years. Velorama also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year that delve into specific aspects of bicycle manufacturing and design or examine biking’s impact on culture.

5. Goffertpark

Park

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© Roger Veringmeier / WikiCommons

This expansive park covers several distinct terrains and provides space for many recreational activities. Its main stretch features grassy rolling hills and wide, well-kept footpaths that are perfect for cycling, jogging or walking, whereas its southern quadrants are covered in thick woodlands. The park contains other public amenities that are accessible throughout the year, including a rustic petting zoo that cares for farmyard critters and Nijmegen’s largest football stadium, NEC Goffertstadion. It also serves as an open-air music venue and hosts concerts during the warmer months of the year.

6. Valkhof Museum

Museum

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© Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed / WikiCommons

Valkhof Museum stands on the hill where the Roman army built a stronghold in the 1st century BC and effectively founded Nijmegen. The museum collects items associated with the city’s history and owns many archeological artefacts from the Roman era, including an almost pristine decorative cavalry mask, known as the Nijmegen Helmet. The institute also serves as Nijmegen’s principal art museum and mainly presents artwork from the 17th to 20th centuries.

7. MuZIEum

Museum

MuZIEum
© MuZIEum

At this educational museum, visitors are guided around everyday environments in complete darkness, in order to replicate how blind people experience the world. Before joining the museum’s tours, visitors are taught to use canes for guidance and spend 30 minutes learning to navigate without relying on their eyesight. Afterwards, visitors enter the museum’s pitch-black exhibition space and walk through installations that recreate normal moments from daily life, including shopping at a supermarket, meeting new people or ordering drinks at a bar. MuZIEum also organises outdoor tours through Nijmegen’s inner city, where participants wear augmented reality glasses that simulate partial sightedness.

8. LUX

Cinema

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© LUX

Aside from screening the latest and greatest international, independent movies, Nijmegen’s largest arthouse cinema, LUX, serves as an important cultural hub that features spaces for live performances, food and public talks. The cinema has seven modern screening rooms that collectively seat around 800 visitors. Many additional events take place inside LUX throughout the week alongside its cinematic programming, ranging from live debates concerning culture or politics to avant-garde dance pieces. There’s also a popular brasserie-style cafe located on its ground floor that serves meals, drinks and bar snacks.

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