Wageningen Netherlands has been my home in the past nine years. Who would have thought that I ended up living in this small city, which is less popular to many people as compared to major cities in Europe such as Amsterdam, Paris, and London. However, despite being small and less popular among many internationals, Wageningen has so many great things to offer that I would even say it is one of the most ideal places I encountered during my travels. Lying in the Middle Eastern part of the Netherlands (close to Germany), Wageningen plays an important role in the past, present, and in the future of this world. Below you will find some of the top reasons that make Wageningen unique among other Dutch cities and the rest of the world.
Seven reasons that make Wageningen Netherlands special?
1. The top-ranking Wageningen University and Research (WUR) lies in Wageningen.
WUR is one of the top-ranking universities worldwide. On an international level, QS World University Ranking ranks the university of Wageningen as #1 in Agricuture and Forestry, #7 in Environmental Sciences, and #125 university out of 700 universities worldwide in 2019. On a national level, Keuzegids, an independent organisation that compares different Dutch universities, ranked Wageningen as the number one university in the Netherlands for 14 years in a row. It’s best bachelors programs include Plant Sciences, Molecular Life Sciences and Forest and Nature Conservation; while master’s programs include Geo-information Science, International Land & Water Management and Forest & Nature Conservation.
WUR has been known for its innovative and outstanding scientific researches, which has contributed to solving some of the world’s problems in agriculture, fishery, livestocks, to name a few. In fact, due to the researches being done in WUR, The Netherlands has been branded as a “tiny country that feeds the world” by National Geographic. So if you are an international who is interested in the field of life sciences and wants to study in the Netherlands, you might consider putting Wageningen on the top of your list.
2. Wageningen is a sustainable city.
Aside from the fact that sustainability is at the core of many programs in Wageningen University and Research, the city itself has also manifested the commitment to contribute to a sustainable world. For instance, the municipal hall (gemeente) of Wageningen has been re-designed using sustainable and organic materials. The Food Valley, a network organization headquartered in Wageningen, involves many innovative companies that offer world-class solutions in agriculture and foods to address sustainability issues. In the city itself, you can also find establishments (such as the Odin bio-store and winery and beer production) that offer sustainable and biological products, ranging from food to health and beauty.
3. Wageningen Netherlands some to many international students.
Wageningen has the highest percentage of students among its population of all university cities in the Netherlands. Many of these student are internationals, originating from over a 100 different countries. The presence of many international students makes Wageningen a diverse and highly English speaking city compared to other cities in the Netherlands. Moreover, there are many international communities in Wageningen, therefore internationals do not need to feel alone being faraway from their homes.
4. The only university in the Netherlands without train station
Interestingly, Wageningen is the only university city without a train station. But why? This is because the Minister of Defence in the past would like to preserve the fortifications of the “Grebbelinie”, which passes through Wageningen and Rhenen. The town council of Wageningen also felt that having no train station in the city itself is not a hindrance in the development of Wageningen. Despite years of complaints for the lack of a train station in Wageningen, the high costs, the preservation of Grebbelinie, as well as the low number of passengers to pass by Wagenigen makes building a train station unprofitable (Resource WUR). In order to go to Wageningen by public transportation, everyone has to pass-by train station ‘Ede-Wageningen’ and from there take a bus going to Wageningen campus and city center. Special bus lanes, shortcuts and the use of buses running on green gas make the travel between Ede and Wageningen fast and sustainable.
5. Center of Liberation Day during World War II
The Hotel de Wereld, which is located in the city center of Wageningen, is a momentous place due to the signing of peace treaty between Germany and the allied forces that liberated the Netherlands from World War II on the 5th of May 1945. Liberation day in the Netherlands is celebrated as a national holiday with festivals all around the country of which the largest is being held in Wageningen. For this reason many people from all over the Netherlands visit Wageningen on the 5th of May making it the largest celebration to take place in Wageningen throughout the year.
6. Originally created by the Romans
Wageningen has been a settlement from as early as 9th century, and become part of the Holy Roman empire in 12th century. The oldest known settlement in Wageningen is near the Nederrijn on the Eastern side of the city, which is now known as Diedenweg. The settlement moved to the higher ground of Wageningen, which is Wageningse berg (Wageningen hill). Some of the remains of fieldstone chapels, wooden houses, and burial sites can still be found in these areas of which the oldest data back to between 5300 and 2000 BC.
7. Wageningen Netherlands is surrounded by nature areas
Wageningen is not only rich in historical and educational environments, but also highly surrounded by nature areas ranging from river, forest, parks, castles, and zoo. These nature areas are very accessible by bikes, cars, or public transportation. But if you really want to be more sustainable and have wonderful experiences in discovering these nature areas, I suggest that you explore them by biking.
There are some outstanding nature areas to visit when in Wageningen. Some of these nature area are located in villages near Wageningen and are highlighted in my blog Tour villages along Nederrijn by bike during summer. Below you will find a lists of nature areas near and within Wageningen:
- The Nederrijn (the Dutch part of Lower Rhine) is located in the east side of Wageningen. The Nederrijn passes through a natural area called Uitewaarden, a region that overflows when water level is high. The Nederrijn has been an important route in transporting goods to The Netherlands via inland ships. For visitors, Nederrijn in Wageningen is a perfect place to lay-down and relax during sunny days, watch sunset, or simply do picnic and swim.
- Wageningen has also many parks around the city. Belmonte Arboretum is one of the famous parks in Wageningen that is situation in Wageningen “mountain” (which any international visitors might consider this a small hill). This park features many flora and faunas and provides a very nice view of the farm lands where Nederrijn passes by. Belmonte Arboretum is a vey good place to enjoy nature (as a family, couple, or an individual), to contemplate, or to simply find peace. It has its own charms every season as you find in the vividness of the colours of flowers and tree leaves. When the weather is good, such as in spring or summer, it is very suitable for having picnic and playing with kids. What’s nice in going to Arboretum is that you enjoy nature for free since don’t have to pay the entrance fee.
- De blauwe kamer is a man-made nature area in Wageningen that extends to the city of Utrecht, which allows animals such as horses, cows, and birds to freely move in the wilderness. The Nederrijn also passes this area and visitors can enjoy walking, bird watching, and relax in Panorama restaurant located in this area.
- Ouwehands Dierenpark is a zoo that featured wide varieties of animals and indoor playground, which makes it a good place for toddlers and small kids. Ouwehands is very accessible from Wageningen since it only takes 10 minutes by bus (bus 44 and 50) from Wageningen bus stops, or 20-25 minutes by bike from the city centrum.
- Hoeklum castle is one of the remaining castles that are accessible from Wageningen, since Wageningen does not have any more remaining castle except from the old ruins of Torck castle nearby the Wageningen centrum. The Hoeklum castle was fortified in the Middle Ages, is now a venue for weddings and important events or meetings. By car, Hoeklum castle is just 15 minutes away from Wageningen while by bike, it is 25 minutes.
- Hoog Veluwe National Park is one of the biggest nature area in Gelderland province, where Wageningen is a part of. This national park has quite an amazing sand dunes, wild animals roaming around the nature area, and has the Kroller-Muller museum that exhibits many extra-ordinaory arts. Hoog Veluwe is accessible by car (25 minutes), public transport (1 hour and 5 minutes) and bike (1 hour and 30 minutes). Though going by bike might take quite a bit of time, it is still a nice experience to go on this place.