Aims and objectives: To explore the perspectives of nursing students on their education concerning basic nursing care, learned either during theoretical education or clinical placement, with a specific focus on nutrition and communication. Background: Basic care activities lie at the core of nursing, but are ill-informed by evidence and often poorly delivered. Nursing students’ education on basic care might be lacking, and the question remains how they learn to deliver basic care in clinical practice. Design: Descriptive study, using an online questionnaire. Methods: Nursing students at the vocational and bachelor level of six nursing schools in the Netherlands were invited to complete an online questionnaire regarding their perception of basic nursing care education in general (both theoretical education and clinical placement) and specifically in relation to nutrition and communication. Results: Nursing students (n = 226 bachelor students, n = 30 vocational students) completed the questionnaire. Most students reported that they learned more about basic nursing care during clinical placement than during theoretical education. Vocational students also reported learning more about basic nursing care in both theoretical education and clinical practice than bachelor students. In terms of nutrition, low numbers of students from both education levels reported learning about nutrition protocols and guidelines during theoretical education. In terms of communication, vocational students indicated that they learned more about different aspects of communication during clinical practice than theoretical education and were also more likely to learn about communication (in both theoretical education and clinical practice) than were bachelor students. Conclusion: Basic nursing care seems to be largely invisible in nursing education, especially at the bachelor level and during theoretical education. Relevance to clinical practice: Improved basic nursing care will enhance nurse-sensitive outcomes and patient satisfaction and will contribute to lower healthcare costs. This study shows that there is scope within current nurse education in the Netherlands to focus more systematically and explicitly on basic nursing care.