Wageningen is situated on the north bank of the Nederrijn (the Dutch portion of the Lower Rhine) part of the Gelderse valley (Dutch: Gelderse Vallei) and the Veluwe, of which the southwest hill is called the Wageningse Berg.
The oldest known settlements in the Wageningen area were located north of today's town centre. They were mentioned as early as 828. During the early Middle Ages a small church was built on the hill east of the town. Several wood farms have been found near the top of the hill. In the twelfth century people settled at what is currently the Bergstraat. Close to Hotel de Wereld a stone floor has been found dating back to this period. After the construction of a dike to protect the city from the acidic water from the moors that then occupied the Gelderse Vallei (the current Hoogstraat), the oldest part of the present city was built to the south. The parts of the city north of the Hoogstraat were built later. Wageningen received city rights in 1263. The city was protected by a city wall and a moat, and in 1526 a castle was built. The castle was dismantled during the 18th century, but the foundations of three of the towers and part of the wall remain visible today.
The people, city, and institutions of Wageningen suffered greatly during World War II. The central part of Wageningen was destroyed by artillery fire soon after the German invasion of the country in May 1940.
The town is also famous for its role at the end of the war: Wageningen was the site of the surrender of Oberbefehlshaber Niederlande supreme commander Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz, to I Canadian Corps commander Lieutenant-General Charles Foulkes, on 5 May 1945, officially ending the war in the Netherlands. The generals negotiated the terms of surrender in the Hotel de Wereld, near the center of the city. Now, each year on the 5th of May, celebrated as Liberation Day in the Netherlands, Wageningen hosts a large festival. On this occasion, veteran soldiers parade through the city and are honoured for their service, and around 120,000 people visit the pop-podia around the city.