In the 'old city with a young vibe' you can stand face-to-face with a giant Roman mask, fuel up at a plant based coffee bar, shop organic and local, enjoy top-notch botanical gastronomy and stay at a sustainable hotel. These experiences make city tripping fun and "green" at the same time.
Nijmegen was European Green Capital of the year in 2018 and lives by the saying 'once a green capital, always a green capital'. They therefore continue to invest in making the city more sustainable every year. This city guide of Nijmegen will give you (environment friendly) food and travel tips about:
What to see and do in Nijmegen
Nijmegen is a compact city and very easy to discover on foot. If you don't like to walk around with a paper city map or your phone, I would definitely recommend to do the 'Walk of the Town' walking route of 7 km (4,35 mi). Just follow the green line in the streets and you will see the highlights of the city centre. And because it's a loop, you can start anywhere you want.
Nijmegen is one of the most pleasant cities in the Netherlands to live in, largely because of the amount of greenery in and around the city. Its most famous park is the Kronenburgerpark, which Dutch speaking readers probably recognise from a well known Dutch song. The most eye-catching building in the park is the Kruittoren (powder tower) which was built around 1425 as part of the city wall.
Another must see is Valkhofpark with the little chapel of more than a thousand (!) years old and the Barbarossa-ruin. The park is situated on a small hill which has views over the river Waal.
Along the green line you can spot street art as well. Pay extra attention when you are in the area of the well known bar 'Café de Plak', because here you can find 'The Imker' (the beekeeper) by Remco Visser. Through his street art, Remco wants to make people aware of the worrying situation of the bees.
Museum de Bastei is a (family) museum of nature and cultural history. De Bastei tells the story of the river the Waal, shows animals of the ice age and teaches about its former defensive work. Here, in the oldest city of the Netherlands, you can experience the past and discover the flora and fauna of the area.
Because of climate change rivers have to process more and more water these days. So to prevent flooding and to protect the inhabitants, more space had to been given to the rivers surrounding Nijmegen. A total of 30 places have been transformed in recent years. Rivier Park is one of those places where the dyke has been relocated and an elongated island (named Veur-Lent) was created because of the digging of a channel. Here you can find a pleasant mix of nature, water, recreation and cultural- and educational activities.
Nijmegen has been part of the Roman Empire for more than 400 years, and many archeological discoveries have been made ever since. One of the most impressive finds was a Roman face mask which can be admired at Museum Het Valkhof. A heavily enlarged replica (made by artist Andreas Hetfeld) is now one of the must-sees at Rivier Park, and also known as 'The face of Nijmegen'. Sunset and sunrise are the best time to visit.
Twelve years ago a barren corn field was transformed into a food forest by Wouter van Eck, who wants to fight climate change by bringing back biodiversity to the Dutch landscape. Voedselbos "Ketelbroek" has a surface of 2,32 ha (598 acres) and contains hundreds of edible plants, fruits, flowers and nuts. It brought back much needed insects, butterflies, birds and small animals as well. The food it provides follows a short chain, from forest to the plates of the nearby restaurant De Nieuwe Winkel. Later in this city guide you can see how the talented chefs transform the fresh produce into culinary dishes.
Please note: the food forest is only open to visitors who are joining a guided tour.
Where to drink coffee in Nijmegen
Tati is a cozy and colorful plant based coffee, lunch and dinner spot. It is the perfect place to enjoy vegan sandwiches, burgers, salads, cakes and pies. Their lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites are made with oat milk as standard, and soy milk is on request. Gluten-free and nut-free options are available.
Where to enjoy plant-based food in Nijmegen
The go to stop in the city centre for all day vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner is restaurant (and yoga studio) Bhalu. On the menu is plant based sandwiches, Asian inspired bowls, burgers, salads and soups. Only fancy a drink? No problem, here you can also enjoy homemade kombucha and kefir, juices, non-alcoholic cocktails and beers, coffee and (herbal) teas. And if you have some extra time during your city trip, you can even consider taking 1 yoga class. Before you go > reserve your yoga mat via their agenda.
Restaurant Wally is not your average fast food restaurant. Their specialty burgers (varying from black bean, beet, oyster mushroom to organic beef for non-veggies) are served on homemade buns. The burgers are accompanied by sides like fries with kimchi and cheese, roasted corn on the cob and sweet potato fries. Those who like specialty beer, may probably like their extensive craft beer menu.
Chef Emile and his talented team at restaurant De Nieuwe Winkel cook primarily with plants, which they harvest nearby at the above mentioned Food Forest "Ketelbroek", the "Ommuurde Tuin" (walled garden), in kitchen gardens and natural yards. Their botanical gastronomy was crowned with two Michelin Stars ánd a Green Michelin Star. And the icing on the cake is that they have been named the best plant-based restaurant in the world in 2022!
During its more than a decade of existence, the chef and his team have gathered an enormous amount of knowledge and experience, but they continue to experiment with various methods of preservation and preparation. In addition to the food, great care is taken of (homemade) drinks as fermented juices, natural wines, beers from local and artisan breweries and slow coffee to round off your dinner. To me it was a memorable experience to savour unique plant based dishes, made from locally sourced produce that follow the seasons.
The restaurant is situated in a beautifully renovated 14th century building, where you will sit under a vaulted ceiling in the private dining room (for larger groups). Here you will find racks with pickled herbs and vegetables, waiting to be used in new dishes.
If you are in a smaller group or enjoy a dinner for two, you will be seated at one of the tables close to the open kitchen. From here you can marvel at the process of how the innovative dished are created.
Where to shop local in Nijmegen
Make My Day consists of three lifestyle stores (woman, atelier and men) which are located opposite each other. Here you can find contemporary clothing, accessories (for example vegan handbags from Denmark and jewellery from Amsterdam), interior items (like Dutch tableware), vintage, music, styling and books to 'make your day'. With every piece of clothing you buy, you will receive extensive care tips to enjoy your purchase as long as possible. In addition, they advocate repair rather than simply replace.
The sustainable department store Duurzame Warenhuis 'Van Nature' has got 6 core values: organic, local, fair trade, natural, animal friendly and zero waste. Their aim is to tick all these boxes with every product. That is not possible (yet) for every single item, but they are very well on their way. It is a wonderful one stop shop for clothing, skin care, accessories, garden supplies, cleaning products, maternity care items, gifts, books and interior and kitchen items.
Sustainable quality clothing for woman, including owner Jettie's own fashion brand WAKKER, is sold at 512 Nijmegen. The WAKKER collection is made by hand in The Netherlands and contains stylish and minimalistic basics from high quality jersey.
The plants of Bleshyou make 512 to a green and calming oasis. This plant shop stands out from all the others, as owner Ilse decided to sell plants from (hobby)growers, and even offers second hand plants with a personal story. Yes, you've read it right, here you can find plants which previously had another owner, and are waiting for a new and loving home.
Where to stay in Nijmegen
The aim of Guest House Vertoef is to strive for the most sustainable hotel possible. Here you can charge your phone with electricity from their own solar panels, shower with warm water from heat pipes, sleep between sustainably produced bed linen, drink organic coffee and eat from bamboo plates to name a few. The hotel is conveniently located close to the city centre, and only a 5 minute walk from the train station.
Most of the products you can choose from during breakfast are sourced local and/or organic. Their sandwiches and cakes come from the organic bakery Brood op de Plank, (which is also a social enterprise) and beers come form the local brewery De Hemel.
Nijmegen is easy to discover on foot, but if you want to see more of the area, the most sustainable way is to go by bike. At Guest House Vertoef you can rent a bike per day. Fun fact: even the bikes themselves are sustainable, as they are hand made in Amsterdam (at a social enterprise) from recycled bike frames.
How to get to Nijmegen
Nijmegen is situated in the Dutch province of Gelderland, close to the German boarder.
A train of the Belgian railway (NMBS) will take you to Nijmegen within:
2 hours from Antwerp
2 hours and 45 minutes from Liège or Brussels
A train of the Dutch railway (NS) will take you to Nijmegen within:
30 minutes form Den Bosch
50 minutes from Utrecht
1 hour from Apeldoorn
1 hour and 50 minutes from Zwolle or Maastricht
A train of the German railway (DB) will take you to Nijmegen within:
1 hour and 20 minutes from Duisburg
2 hours from Essen
2 hours and 10 minutes from Düsseldorf
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Please note: I was invited to experience 24 hours in Nijmegen by Visit Netherlands.