Nijmegen is a lively university city around an hour-and-a-half by train from Amsterdam. Beyond its famous Four Days Marches, it’s a fairly unassuming place and doesn’t exactly sit on the country’s tourist trail.
But, with typical Dutch confidence – after all, the saying goes “God created the world and the Dutch created the Netherlands” – this year the city is claiming the title “Summer Capital of Holland”. Putting aside the fact that we would say Nijmegen is in the Netherlands (Holland is technically only the provinces of North and South Holland in the west of the country), what does the city have to offer? Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills went to find out.
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.
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.
There are trails through the fields or along the dike that take you the six kilometres or so through Ooypolder Nature Reserve with its grazing cows and wild horses, towards the idyllic (and nudist – at the far end) beach at Bisonbaai.
Further afield in the village of Groesbeek, southeast of the city and best reached by car, bus or organised tour, is an unexpected sight for the Netherlands: gently rolling hills and neat row upon row of grapevines.
Following in the footsteps of award-winner Freek Verhoeven who planted the first vines at Colonjes in 2001, five more wineries have now opened their doors to the tasting public. There’s a local wine-and-cycle path to explore, and the end of September is a great time to visit for the National Wine Festival, held on the village square.
Rachel was hosted by Straelman Boutique Hotel. Explore more of the Netherlands with the Rough Guide to the Netherlands. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.
Top image © Bernhard Klar/Shutterstock