INTRODUCTION: To compare qualitative and quantitative imaging features from conventional and diffusion-weighted (DW) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in detection of metastatic pelvic lymph nodes in bladder cancer patients undergoing cystectomy. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Thirty-six patients who had undergone cystectomy for bladder cancer with preoperative MRI with DWI sequence prior to surgery were included. Imaging features on conventional and DW-MRI were compared with histopathology at cystectomy. RESULTS: Nodal features associated with metastatic lymphadenopathy were short axis (AUC = 0.85, p < 0.001; when SA > 5 mm: sensitivity = 88%, specificity = 75%), long axis (AUC = 0.80, p < 0.001; when LA > 6 mm: sensitivity = 88%, specificity = 71%), apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) on DWI, normalized to muscle (AUC = 0.66, p = 0.113; when nADC < 1.35: sensitivity = 75%, specificity = 68%), and absence of fatty hilum on conventional imaging (AUC = 0.73, p = 0.012; when fatty hilum absent, sensitivity = 75%, specificity = 71%). ADC without normalization was not associated with metastasis (p = 0.303). CONCLUSIONS: Imaging findings from conventional MRI and DWI achieved reasonable accuracy for detecting metastatic lymph nodes in bladder cancer, although sensitivity was higher than specificity. A short axis greater than 5 mm on conventional MRI had the highest accuracy of any individual finding. When using DWI, normalization of ADC values to muscle ADC may improve diagnostic performance.