An original city trip in the Netherlands: Groningen!
When I tell people that I am from the Netherlands the first question asked is from Amsterdam? And of course Amsterdam is the most well-known city and tourist destination in the Netherlands. However, in my opinion there are several other Dutch well worth a visit as well. I might be slightly biased, but I believe my home town city of Groningen is an excellent city trip in the Netherlands as well.
Groningen is the biggest city in the north of the Netherlands and is considered to be one of the main student cities in the Netherlands. This means there is always something to do: many cultural festivals (Noorderzon being definitely my favorite!) and a vibrant night life being the only city in the Netherlands without closing times for bars. In this article I want to share some of my favorite things to do, best shopping places, restaurants, and bars in my “home town”.
Things to see and do
Groningen has several museums, but there is only one I can actually recommend, the Groninger Museum. It is the big bald colored building directly across from the central station. Next to the unique building the museum offers a variety in expositions and modern interpretations of art. The ultimate tourist thing to do is the climb the Martini Tower, the main tower on the big market square. However, I think you will get a much better impression if you just go for a walk through the city. Good areas to walk around in are the Vismarkt and Brugstraat towards the Hoge der Aa, an area on the canals with beautiful old warehouses. If you keep within the “diepenring” the ring of canals around the old city centre you will see most of the old part of the city. In summer these canals are perfect to explore from the waterside. You can rent canoes around the central station, and a round trip through the canals will take about 2 hours to do.
Even though I have been living abroad for a while, Groningen is still my preferred city to shop and each time I am back in the Netherlands I can get exited about the thought of shopping in Groningen. The standard shopping street is the Herenstraat, directly behind the big market square, and the Vismarkt. However, with the locals the Folkingestraat is much more popular. This street contains a variety of small specialist stores such as Souk for all your oriental food and salads, Ariola, a specialized Italian store with amazing sandwiches, several jewelry stores, interior design stores and antique shops. Other good streets are the Brugstraat, the Oude Ebbingestraat, Zwanestraat and the Stoeldraaiersstraat. Shops where I always pop in are de Slegte (Heerenstraat) a huge second-hand book store with a good collection of English books as well, Vanilia (Vismarkt) a store of a Dutch female clothing brand, if you are looking for nice materials and something different. Kruiden & Keramiek (Vismarkt) which sells good olive oils and other Mediterranean products, which make perfect gifts. But there are always new stores popping up, so wander around and I am sure you’ll find many more great little stores.
Restaurants and bars
The city offers a wide selection of food options that are all very decent priced compared to other cities in the Netherlands. There is a culture in Groningen of “eetcafes” basically bars where you can eat. Some very good ones are Diep, an eetcafe which makes use of local ingredients. If you’re into Italian food I can highly recommend Da Vinci, it’s slightly outside the city centre, but definitely the best pizza’s in town.
Mr Mofongo is next to the university and serves exotic food and also makes an excellent stop for a coffee break. When it comes down to coffee, coffee break is a good spot as well and it has several branches throughout the city. Another good eetcafe is Kwajongens which serves original recipes with local ingredients. If you are on a budget eetcafe ‘t Feest and the Eerste Kamer are a good option, they always have dishes between 6 and 10 euros with a good amount of food. Finally a place I really like is Land van Kokanje, a restaurant that claims to serve environmentally friendly food and comes with a champagne and cocktail bar in the back, Bubbels.
When it comes down to cafes one of my absolute favorites is a Belgian beer cafe called de Pintelier. It is a bit tricky to find, but an absolute favorite under the locals. If de Pintelier is full a good alternative is der Witz, on the Grote Markt, which is supposedly one of the smallest cafes in the Netherlands, or cafe de Sleutel, slightly outside the city centre but with an authentic Dutch atmosphere. Here there is a different meal everyday for 10 euros, and you have to eat whatever is on the menu for that day. For the real party scene you need to be in the Peperstraat and Poelestraat, where you will find the main concentration of bars in the centre. As said, the nightlife doesn’t have a closing time, so you can party any night. But Thursday night is one of the busiest, being the student night where all local students head into town.
Being a local meant I never looked into sleeping options. However, I looked and asked around and found some good options. There is a new hostel in Groningen called Bud Gett, located in the city centre for a decent price. Another really nice alternative is to book a bed & breakfast, where you can have a double room between 70 and 90 euros a night. Additionally you can always check out booking.com to find some more conventional hotel options.
The aim of this article was to “sell” my city as a good alternative for a city trip if you want to do something else then Amsterdam. And hopefully it worked of course 🙂 No matter how much I like my city, I have to make one remark: the city is not extremely easy to reach. If you come into Amsterdam Schiphol airport you need to take the train for about 2,5 hours. Another option is to fly into Bremen, Germany with Ryanair and take the Public express bus, which goes 5 times a day to Groningen.
But please don’t be stopped by the transportation, the city is definitely worth it!!