Aims and objectives Overall, this study aimed to describe nursing care for patients with dementia in acute hospitals, with the objectives of describing the provided nursing care (a), nurses' attitudes and perceptions in caring for patients with dementia (b), and exploring how nurses deal with challenging behaviour (c). Additionally, we determined background variables associated with caring for people with dementia. Background Due to comorbidities, people with dementia are frequently admitted to acute care hospitals. Here, they are at high risk of complications. Nurses strive for good care but regularly experience insufficient knowledge and skills regarding caring for people with dementia. Design A cross-sectional survey study design. Methods Data were collected in seven Dutch acute hospitals and through social media. In total, 229 hospital nurses completed the questionnaire. We used the Geriatric In-Hospital Nursing Care Questionnaire and two subscales of Hynninen on managing challenging behaviour. This report followed the STROBE checklist. Results Nurses express that they often apply general preventive interventions not explicitly related to dementia care. In general, nurses have mixed feelings about the nursing care provided in their department. For challenging behaviour, a variety of approaches, including restrictive measures and medication, is applied. The nurses' attitudes and perceptions are influenced by the type of hospital where the nurses work, the level of education, the number of hours nurses work, and if the nurses completed a course on dementia in the last year. Conclusions Despite a positive attitude, nurses do not have the specific knowledge and skills needed to provide proper care. Nurses who recently completed a course on dementia had more positive attitudes and perceptions towards caring for patients with dementia. Relevance to clinical practice The results of this research can be used to improve the quality of nursing care for patients with dementia in acute hospitals.