Ten Remarkable Facts about Nijmegen

This post is by Angela Williams. A Founder Member of Pens Around the World, she left us in 2021, to pursue a demanding creative writing course. We wish her well! More about Angela on our Friends of Pens page here.


Nijmegen is my new home town but asides from that there is much to discover about this city which overlooks the River Waal on the Dutch/German border.

  1. It’s the oldest city in the Netherlands. Its Roman name was Noviomagus, meaning new market. In 2005 the city celebrated its 2000 years existence.
  2. The film, ‘A Bridge too Far’ was partially shot here. Scenes of bridges in Deventer and Nijmegen were used in the film.
  3. The Oversteek brug was completed in 2013. It is the largest war memorial in Europe. It was built to commemorate the death of 48 allied soldiers in their attempt to cross the Waal in canvas boats on 20 September 1944. Every evening the Sunset March takes place. A war veteran (from armies worldwide) accompanies the 48 pairs of lights on the bridge which come on sequentially at walking pace. Members of the public are welcome to join the march.
  4. Nina Simone lived here from 1988 to 1991 to get away from the media spotlight after her huge hit, ‘My Baby Just Cares for me.’ A street in Nijmegen is named after her.
  5. Also known as, ‘Havana aan de Waal’ because of its socialist leanings in the sixties and seventies, it is now run by a coalition government and the present mayor, Hubert Bruls, is Christian Democrat.
  6. ‘Room for the River’ in the Gelderse Poort (flood plain of the River Waal) is a showcase for contemporary European rewilding. In 2018 the city was awarded the title, European Green Capital.
Konik ponies – unpaid lawnmowers in rewilding project
  1. Radboud University in Nijmegen has existed since 1923 and in 2021 was awarded the prize of best ‘traditional,’ broad university in the Netherlands by the Keuzegids.
  2. The 104th Four-Days Marchvierdaagse, will take place in and around Nijmegen from 19-22 July 2022. Owing to Covid19 this worldwide popular walk was cancelled in ‘20 and ‘21. If you are lucky (and fit) enough to win a place on this much coveted 4-day event you will discover the beauty of the Overbetuwe between the Waal and the Rhine, the legendary Land of Maas and Waal, and climb the famous ‘seven hills’ of Groesbeek.
  3. During the Cold War, the Netherlands felt isolated as the UK and US reduced there military presence in Europe. Captain Joop Haex, the Dutch State Secretary for Defence, hatched an idea to take advantage of the local topography in eastern NL by preparing a natural defence line against invasions from a Communist army. The plan was to form the Ijssellinie Ijssel Line by constructing movable floating dams along the Waal and Lower Rhine. If implemented the dams would enable the flooding of The River Ijssel. The border area from just above Zwolle to the Ooijpolder in Nijmegen would form an impenetrable barrier to invaders. Four-hundred- thousand residents would have had to be evacuated from the flooded valley. Luckily the plan was never called into action!
  4. On a less military note, if you come to this part of the world, famed for its fruit growing, you will be surprised at the culinary delights awaiting you, the friendliness of the people, and the stunning beauty of the river and its surroundings. Some tips for a visit here: Day trip Nijmegen Gelderland.
Cycling in the Ooijpolder

I would love to hear more about your hometown, or village!


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Angela. It makes me long to travel again.

  2. I was in Nijmegen once. I had a colleague who was a research post-grad at the University there. I remember a summer evening, walking through warm streets through occasional clouds of cannabis smoke rolling out of the open doors of “coffee shops”. Quite exotic to me. I wonder if they are still there?

    • Ha, ha, John. I think less so nowadays, the waft of cannabis smoke. Probably that was in the Havana aan de Waal days. If you are over the age of 30 you’re not allowed in the centre after 8pm 😉 so it’s hard for me to judge… A studenty town in that respect!

  3. Laura Besley

    Really enjoyed these facts about Nijmegen, Angela! Will be sharing them with my Dutch friends and relatives. Hope you’re settling in well and enjoying the change.

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