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History of Nijmegen

Nijmegen is situated on the banks of the Waal, a branch of the Rhine in the region of the ‘Great Rivers’, and a mere 10 kilometers from the German border. Of Roman origin (its name derives from 'Noviomagus' meaning 'new market') the city celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 2005. This makes Nijmegen the oldest city in the Netherlands. Nijmegen was also the imperial residence during the Carolingian period. The 'Valkhof' - ‘Falcon’s Court’ - is the highest point of the city overlooking the river. It was once the site of Charlemagne’s castle. From this vantage point, which is now a scenic park, the typically Dutch polder landscape and rolling hills provide a beautiful panorama.

The Great Rivers marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, and no doubt the Romans settled here because of the splendid strategic view of enemy territory across the river. For similarly strategic reasons, subsequent kings and other rulers chose Nijmegen as their place of residence.

Valkhof

Until a century ago, Nijmegen was a fortified town, its surroundings were the scene of many fierce battles. However, in 1879 the old city defences were torn down, as they posed an increasing obstacle to the city's prosperity. A period of spectacular growth followed, and within a few decades the railway bridge across the Waal was constructed, and gas, electricity and water mains were installed in the city.

The Second World War is a black page in Nijmegen's history. On February 22, 1944 allied forces bombed the city by mistake, killing 800 people. A few months later, Nijmegen was liberated following the U.S. airborne landings of ‘Operation Market Garden’, which freed the southern part of the Netherlands on September 17, 1944. Badly damaged in the war, much was done to rebuild the city in the post-war period and a new city centre arose in which the remaining monuments of Nijmegen’s rich history occupy a special position.

More information about Nijmegen