1. There’s some serious creativity bubbling away
Forty thousand students keep Nijmegen on its toes. Local creatives watch art-house cinema or attend debates at LUX. They shop for locally-made crafts (or rent space to sell their own) at leder z’n Vak. And for low-key year-round cool, where there was once a soup factory on the western fringes of the city now lies the sprawling Honig-complex. This disused industrial space has been redeveloped into galleries, restaurants, breweries and bicycle workshops – the city has 43km of cycle super highways.
2. There are some great riverside beaches
Recent years have seen a massive transformation to the River Waal with the city’s Room for the River project. Rather than battle against the river they’ve made room for it with a secondary channel – creating an urban playground island with cool city beaches that get packed out in summer. Locals have a beautiful space to explore and the city is protected from rising water levels for years to come.
3. They know how to party hard
Huge music acts like Mumford and Sons and Radiohead perform in Gofferpark throughout the year and, in June, locals disappear Down the Rabbit Hole for a three-day festival with music, meditation and swimming in the lake.
The biggest party of all is in the third week of July when the entire city turns into a huge free open-air festival: the Vierdaagsefeesten runs alongside the famous Four Days Marches walk. A staggering 1.5 million people descend on Nijmegen from all over the world, there are 37 stages dotted around the city, food stalls of every type and a huge fireworks show. Everything closes – except the bars – and everyone parties until the small hours.
4. When the sun’s shining, it’s perfect for a stroll
Nijmegen has a long and bumpy history stretching back 2000 years. During WWII, Allied bombers, mistaking it for the German town of Kleve, flattened much of the historic centre, but careful rebuilding means that you can happily spend a morning pottering around the pretty medieval streets and squares near Grote Kerk (Stevenskerk).
Stop for a jenever (a kind of Dutch gin) at the Café in de Blaauwe Hand, or take a stroll to Lange Hezelstraat for lunch at veggie Café de Plak, the coolest (and longest-running) restaurant in town, famous for their delicious kaasgehakt (cheese balls).
From the centre it’s a five-minute wander down to the lovely riverfront, where you can watch barges and boats chug up and down the busy Waal.