Nijmegen: 11 Reasons Why You Need To Visit The Oldest Dutch Town

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Nijmegen: 11 Reasons Why You Need To Visit The Oldest Dutch Town


European Green Capital, Nijmegen, is a pioneer in urban living that works in harmony with nature. It's an ancient Dutch city that is forward thinking, vibrant and fun.

Here's what to do when you visit.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Wed 21 Sept 2022

Whether you're strolling the Lange Hezelstraat, the oldest shopping street in the Netherlands looking for vintage jumpers or having a wild swim in the River Waal which surrounds this ancient town, Nijmegen, makes for a fantastic city break especially for travellers looking for a destination in step with their own eco-friendly values.

Capital of cycling, Nijmegen dates back to the Roman period, and sits between three rivers, the Rhine, Meuse and Waal, just 8kms from the German border and 1 hour 40 mins on the train from Rotterdam.

A large student population helps keep it young at heart, and the city has adopted an active approach in embracing Net Zero and finding a way to live in harmony with nature.

Nijmegen became the European Green Capital in 2018 partly because of its green ambitions and it's commitment to pioneering an eco-friendly approach to city living.

Scroll down to find out our favourite sustainable things to do in Nijmegen.

castle in a park with two people sat on the grass

1. Swim, sunbathe or walk at Nijmegen’s bypass river

Sick of flooding, Nijmegen’s residents voted to create a bypass river to stop the River Waal bursting its banks, on the outskirts of town, but in doing so they created areas to rewild the river banks and acres of recreational space where people can swim, take classes, listen to concerts and just be outside.

It’s testament to the town’s commitment to the environment, that this once controversial flood management project became the trigger for a huge urban regeneration plan where nature was given a serious seat at the table.

Other cities facing climate change disruption could learn from this Dutch town on how to face it and create a space where nature and residents can live in harmony. Next on the list, the entire train station is being redeveloped and rebuilt in wood.

river basin with grass on the side

2. Lose yourself in a sustainable department store

What would a department store look like if it only stocked ethical brands?

Well, pop into Het Duurzame Warenhuis and find out.

This enormous one floored, indie store has sections for homewares, bathroom, kitchen, clothing, shoes and more in a beautifully arranged welcoming stores.

Want to pick up some beeswax wraps for a picnic, replace your headphones or nab a new pair of shoes, whatever you leave with, you’ll be guaranteed to more eco and more stylish than when you walked in. Ethical retail heaven.

wooden cabinet on a shop floor

3. Hop on board the solar train

Discover the Netherlands’ oldest town via the power of the sun.

The cute 18 seater road train ‘De Zonnetrein’ pootles around Nijmegen showing tourists the pretty spots of this ancient riverside town. The train runs on solar and takes in parks, outdoor sculptures and some of the colourful medieval cobbled streets.

front of a solar train

4. Stay in an impressively sustainable hotel

While it might look like an office block (which it was), Guest House Vertoef (within walking distance of the station), is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover.

A truly sustainable hotel option, the independent owners have taken every effort to convert this former corporate building to be carbon neutral (via solar panels and heat pumps), have created hyper local food chains with almost zero food waste and are in the process of addressing every part of running a hotel to make it as low emissions as possible.

Think bamboo plates, rentable bikes themselves made of other bike parts, a net positive elevator and many other commendable initiatives. In addition, each room here can be used as a long term studio let with an inbuilt kitchen and work space and there’s co-working space and a community gym in the basement.

5. Tuck into vegan diner classics

While there are no shortage of pretty pavement cafes and bars in the mostly pedestrianised Nijmegen’s town centre, Cali, is a bustling, busy vegan diner in a small shop front and when I visit each table is full with the mid-week after work crowd, tucking into indulgent loaded fries, tacos and vegan versions of diner faves, washed down with decent cocktails. For a no fuss, but delicious dinner, it’s an easy winner.

double bed in a hotel room with one wallpaper wall and one wall of windows

6. Shop for your minimal ethical wardrobe

Nijmegen is a busy student town but still it’s a surprise (and delight) how many of the independent stores are committed to sustainable brands or selling secondhand.

Many of the shops here have made a clear commitment to the environment, such as 512 Nijmegen which curates stylish, modern womenswear from European brands that are kind to the planet. Create your minimal, enviable Dutch wardrobe here.

pedestrianised street with bikes on it

7. Tati

Every town needs cafes that are serious about cake.

While Nijmegen isn’t huge, it’s spread out and after a spot of secondhand retail therapy an iced tea and a wedge of sponge, goes a long way to restore sore feet.

At Tati there is an array of vegan cakes made by the owners and the choice changes daily. Inside feels like a shrine to vintage shabby chic but plump for the pretty terrace outside for some decent suburban people watching.

8. Bhalu

Work off some of the incredible vegan cake at Tati with a visit to Bhalu, a vegan restaurant and yoga studio.

Swing by for a class and delicious plant based lunch, Bhalu has a stylish 70s living room feel, and there’s no rushing people here as you sip your kombucha and tuck into a vibrant asparagus risotto.

fireplace and sofa in a restaurant

9. Pick up some local presents

From local art and glassware to ethically produced cards and giftwrap, head to Make My Day, a local institution which has shops either side of the high street and supports not just local makers and artisans but plenty of wider ethical labels. You’ll be hard pushed not to leave with the whole shop.

candles on a shop table

10. Get on your bike

Nijmegen sits in the midst of endless beautiful cycling paths, which take in deserted islands, reclaimed lands, incredible birdlife and meander amongst local vineyards. Follow the 'Rondje Betuwe’ route which connects local foodie delights such as pick your own fruit spots, local cheesemongers and farm shops.

Easy to navigate routes range from 5kms-50kms and even include a few rare Dutch hills so there's something for every level of pedeller.

11. Dine at Restaurant De Nieuwe Winkel

One of the Netherlands' most pioneering plant based restaurants (and holder of many awards including a Green Michelin Star) is Restaurant De Nieuwe Winkel in Nijmegen.

Here the gourmet menu showcases the incredible innovations that the chefs under the guidance of head chef, Chef Emile van der Staak undertake, using only locally produced food, much of it from one of the first food forests, based just outside the city.

The intimate venue is only open for dinner and booking as far in advance as possible is recommended.

It's worth the prep, as the hyper seasonal set menu will delight your tastebuds with what is possible from fairly humble ingredients. Acorn seitan kebabs anyone? A dinner here is like eating a forest banquet fit for a fantasy King.

glass bottle of cordial and tree in a glass bottle backlit on a shelf

pebble's trip to Nijmegen was made possible by Visit Netherlands. For more information and to plan your trip to Nijmegen, visit the city's website. Train travel from the UK is easy via Rotterdam.

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