Dehydration of glucose to 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) remains a significant problem in the context of the valorization of lignocellulosic biomass. Hydrolysis of WCl6 and NbCl5 leads to precipitation of Nb-containing tungstite (WO3⋅H2O) at low Nb content and mixtures of tungstite and niobic acid at higher Nb content. Tungstite is a promising catalyst for the dehydration of glucose to HMF. Compared with Nb2O5, fewer by-products are formed because of the low Brønsted acidity of the (mixed) oxides. In water, an optimum yield of HMF was obtained for Nb–W oxides with low Nb content owing to balanced Lewis and Brønsted acidity. In THF/water, the strong Lewis acidity and weak Brønsted acidity caused the reaction to proceed through isomerization to fructose and dehydration of fructose to a partially dehydrated intermediate, which was identified by LC-ESI-MS. The addition of HCl to the reaction mixture resulted in rapid dehydration of this intermediate to HMF. The HMF yield obtained in this way was approximately 56 % for all tungstite catalysts. Density functional theory calculations show that the Lewis acid centers on the tungstite surface can isomerize glucose into fructose. Substitution of W by Nb lowers the overall activation barrier for glucose isomerization by stabilizing the deprotonated glucose adsorbate.