Nijmegen, Netherlands


Nijmegen (in Nijmegen: Nimwèège, German: Nimwegen, Latin: Noviomagus, French: Nimègue, Spanish and Italian: Nimega) is a city and municipality in the Dutch province of Gelderland, close to the border with Germany. The municipality has 176,669 inhabitants (1 August 2020) and is the largest city in Gelderland in terms of population and also the tenth in the Netherlands.

The city is largely located on the southern bank of the Waal, at the foot of a moraine. The so-called Waalspring is located north of the river, an area in which a new-build part of the village of Lent and a large new-build plan to the south of the Overbetuwe village of Oosterhout are located. Together with Arnhem, Wijchen and 17 other municipalities in the area, Nijmegen forms the Arnhem Nijmegen City Region (SRAN, formerly KAN) and is affiliated with the Euregio Rhine-Waal partnership. Nijmegen has traditionally been part of the Rijk van Nijmegen, along with several other municipalities in the area, such as Wijchen, Beuningen and Berg en Dal.

Nijmegen has a long history that goes back more than 2000 years. As Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum, it got 100 market rights around the year. Nijmegen became a free imperial city in 1230 and a Hanseatic city in 1402. After Nijmegen once housed a Quarterly Academy between 1655 and 1679, the city has been a university town since the arrival of the Catholic University (now Radboud University) in 1923.



The Latin term Noviomagus can be traced back to the Celtic words magos ('plain' or 'market') and novio ('new'). The Romans then Latinized this to Noviomagus. She used this as a toponym to indicate different cities. Nijmegen was called Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum. In Charlemagne's time the city was called Numaga, which over time changed into Nieumeghen ('Nieuw-megen') or Nymegen.




Nijmegen is possibly the oldest city in the current Netherlands and celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 2005. During the Roman Empire, Nijmegen was part of the Limes, the border between the Roman Empire and the various so-called Germanic areas. The 10th legion of the Romans was stationed in Nijmegen from 71 to 104. During the Roman regime a large fort (castra) was built on a hill on the Waal, a few parts remain. Excavations are also regularly carried out where Roman items are found. Along the Waal, where the Waterkwartier is now located, a new settlement arose that of the Roman emperor Trajanus (originally from Italy, Spain) between 98 AD. and 102 AD. was granted city rights under the name Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum.

The city was formed as a trading post next to the Roman castra. This offered an advantage because it allowed the market to be protected by the legionaries and moreover because the legionaries also needed many goods, for which they could also pay a good price, because they received a reasonable salary. The name Nijmegen is therefore derived from the Latin name "Novio-magus", which means 'new market'. However, the Romans left the fortress in the 3rd century.

Incidentally, there are still clear traces of this rich history of Nijmegen. For example, the large roundabout south of the Waal bridge has been called the "Keizer Traianusplein" since 1956. There are still some ruins between that square and the Waal and also on the hill near the Waal there is still a defense tower Belvedère, even though it is of course a lot younger than the aforementioned Roman castra.


From Frankish times to the twentieth century

At the beginning of the fifth century the Romans disappeared from Nijmegen. Although written and archaeological evidence is lacking, it is believed that the fortress, settlement and surrounding area came into Frankish hands. Because Charlemagne is said to have built a palace near Nijmegen, the city is sometimes referred to as the Imperial City. He is said to have had a palatinate (palace) built on the Valkhof around 770 and celebrated Easter here several times, including in 777 but also in 804 and 808. The Frankish historian Einhard says that Charlemagne built a palatium in Noviomagum. the Vahalem, a river that flows south of the island of the Batavians. The fact that this is Nijmegen is often defended and is also very plausible. Charles's son, Louis the Pious, is also said to have often stayed in Nijmegen. However, the Normans took the Palatinate around 880. This led to its destruction upon their departure. The city is now known under the name Numaga. At the bottom of the hill on the Waal was a trading settlement.

The Palatinate played an important role during Ottonian and Salic times. Emperor Otto III was born in the Ketelwoud on his way from Aachen to the Palatinate in Nijmegen. In 991 Empress Theophanu, originally a Byzantine princess, died in the Palatinate. Around 1030, possibly as early as 996, the Sint-Nicolaaskapel was built in the palace, one of the few preserved Romanesque buildings in the Netherlands. The chapel was built after the example of the Carolingian Palatine Church in Aachen. In 1047 the palace was burnt to the ground by Godfrey II of Upper Lorraine during a revolt against Emperor Henry III. Thereafter, the imperial visits to Nijmegen came to a temporary end.

In the Middle Ages, the city became a significant center. In 1155 Frederik Barbarossa had his castle Valkhof completed. History is recorded in the facing brick that he had applied. In 1230 the city formally acquired its city charter. In 1247 the city came into the hands of the counts of Gelre. Initially it was pledged by Roman King William of Holland to Count Otto II in Gelderland, but because Willem II could not pay off his debts due to financial problems, the city of Gelderland remained in possession and soon became the most important of the four Gelderland capitals. In addition, it became a Hanseatic city. In 1543, however, Nijmegen, like the rest of Gelre, came under Habsburg rule.


The Reformation was positively received in Nijmegen. Protestants and Roman Catholics had equal rights in 1566, but in 1579 the roles were reversed and it was the Catholics who were oppressed. It is not unlikely that this was partly the reason for "his most Catholic king of Spain" to start a campaign against the rebellious northern provinces (i.e. the Netherlands).

Nijmegen was besieged a number of times during the Eighty Years' War. On March 16, 1585, Nijmegen sent an envoy to Alexander Farnese, the Duke of Parma, to come to an agreement whereby the Reformed and Protestants lost their newly acquired rights. During the second Siege of Nijmegen in 1591, Nijmegen was recaptured by Prince Maurits.

Nijmegen was later occupied by the French from 1672 to 1674, but peace was restored in 1678 by the peace of Nijmegen, which concluded the peace between the Republic of the Netherlands and France.

Nijmegen already had a port in the 14th century. This was moved and expanded in 1601-1604. The current Waalhaven was constructed around 1852, after which the old port was filled in.

In 1923, as part of the Catholic emancipation movement, Nijmegen was given a university with a Roman Catholic signature, the current Radboud University.

The last time Nijmegen was in the firing line of a war was in World War II. In May 1940 it was the first Dutch city to fall into German hands. The city suffered extensive damage during the war. On February 22, 1944, hundreds were killed in an Allied (American) bombing raid on the city center, in which the city center and the station were particularly hit. In September 1944, during Operation Market Garden, heavy fighting took place in and around the city to get and keep the Waal Bridge undamaged, which the British and Americans eventually succeeded (see also De Over crossing).

The "Plein 1944", which was created as a result of the American bombardment, remained largely undeveloped after the war. Since 2013 there have been apartment complexes and a parking garage under the square. During construction, the remains of an old city wall that can be viewed in the bicycle cellar underneath the square.


Indian Nijmegen

From 1890 to 1940, Nijmegen was, after The Hague, the most important 'Indian' city. The European branch of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army (KNIL), the Colonial Reserve, had been based in Nijmegen since 1890. From 1911 they moved into the Prins Hendrikkazerne. The Colonial Reserve formed the basis of the Nijmegen Four Days Marches. The first edition, which was organized in 1909 by the Dutch Association for Physical Education (NBvLO), had a different set-up than today. Three years later, the Four Days Marches departed from Utrecht. On the third day, the participants then walked from Ede via the Betuwe to Nijmegen to spend the night there in the Prins Hendrikkazerne, home of the Colonial Reserve. On the last day there was a walk through the surroundings of Nijmegen and the barracks were once again the end point. A Flag Parade was held for the first time in 1928 as the official opening of the Four Days Marches. This tradition, too, was introduced by the Colonial Reserve. The parade was held in the courtyard of the Prins Hendrikkazerne and later to the parade ground. Military home Insulinde, for returning KNIL soldiers, was founded in 1918 in Hees. In 1951 the Colonial Reserve was disbanded.

The city with its beautiful canals and houses attracted people from the Indies as planters, government officials and industrialists. They had capital villas built, especially in the Hunnerberg district, in the villages of Hees and Hatert and along the highways. A good example is the Villa Padang on the Groesbeekseweg 181, and Villa Salatiga. Country houses were also built in Beek and Ubbergen. Around 1900 a residential area was named after General Joannes Benedictus van Heutsz, who was the first to visit Nijmegen after the pacification of Aceh.

Nijmegen has two neighborhoods where the street names refer to the Indonesian past. The Java neighborhood, from the twenties of the twentieth century, is located on the north side of the Galgenveld district. This neighborhood is a protected cityscape. Between 2015 and 2018, a new district, Batavia, was built near the Waal, where the streets are named after Indian people from Nijmegen.


After the second World War

Due to neglect and poverty, the Lower City (the part of the center that is located in the low part, on the Waal) fell into disrepair after the construction of the Waal Bridge. Although the Lower Town was more or less spared the acts of war, the condition of this district was such that, due to the many buildings already demolished and poor living conditions (dilapidated buildings declared uninhabitable, houses without sanitary facilities, etc.), it was decided in 1972 after years of discussions and planning. was turned into large-scale demolition and rebuilding. In 1975 the Lower Town was declared a "protected cityscape", but by then most of the medieval buildings had already been demolished. Only (parts of) a few streets have remained original and been restored.

In the sixties and seventies Nijmegen acquired the image of a red city. In those years there were many Marxists who stood out because of the relatively large population of students. A violent confrontation between the leftist squatters and the Nijmegen administration took place in February 1981, the Pierson riots.

Since the Second World War, the city has expanded considerably in a westerly and especially southwestern direction. The villages of Hatert, Hees and Neerbosch and the hamlet of Brakkenstein were swallowed up by districts of the same name. The most important expansion was the construction of 10,000 homes in Dukenburg (from 1966) and 6,000 in Lindenholt (from 1977), west of the Maas-Waal canal. Initially, the municipality did not want to build on the west side of the Maas-Waal Canal, but in the Ooijpolder. In 1951 there were already plans for the construction of 17,000 homes in this area east of the center. After much protest against the development of the landscape valuable polder, plans for the development of the Ooijpolder were definitively scrapped in 1970.

The structure of the city thus became very unbalanced: the center was in the northeast and the urban expansions took place up to 7 kilometers from there in a south and west direction. For a long time, the Waal was an impregnable barrier that determined the northern boundary of the buildings. From the end of the 1990s, the city has expanded significantly north of the Waal, at the Vinex location Waal spring. Eventually some 15,000 homes will be built here.

In the period 2010-2025, a new district, the Waalfront, will be built on the site of the old port and industrial area that borders the Waterkwartier and the Waal.