If you look at a map of the Netherlands, in terms of big cities, Groningen looks pretty lonely up in there in the North. From an outsiders perspective it might seem that this area is not worth a visit but you’d be wrong. With a young, mostly student population, Groningen is a thriving, vibrant city with a unique atmosphere.
Here’s some suggestions for a taste of Groningen depending on your time, your transport and of course, that oh-so-unpredictable Dutch weather. Obviously this short selection doesn’t even come close to covering all the great things the city has to offer so feel free to add your suggestions in the comments.
Fancy a bike ride rather than just riding a bike?
We all know that the Netherlands is a nation devoted to bikes but Groningen takes it to the next level. As soon as you step out of the train station you are confronted with the multi-level, never ending bike storage. It is the self-styled Cycling City of the World with around 60% of all journeys done on a bike. Cycling in Groningen is (mostly) a joy thanks to smart traffic lights and decent cycle lanes. Therefore, cycling in some form is a must-do for anyone visiting.
You can easily cycle the short 5km distance to the Hoornsemeer where you can enjoy some beautiful scenery and a variety of activities depending on the season. In winter the lake often freezes over so of course, in typical Dutch style, becomes a huge outdoor skating rink. In summer you can enjoy water based activities or a more relaxing time on the beach for the less adventurous.
If you only have an afternoon…
A great activity if you don’t have much time, is the 260 step climb up the Martini Tower. Not only is it a great cardio workout but thanks to how flat this country is you’ll be treated to spectacular, uninterrupted views that stretch for miles. This is a great way to see the city quickly and from a unique perspective.
On a rainy day…
When the weather is not so great (It does sometimes rain in Holland, you know. Not very often, just sometimes…) a visit the Groninger Museum is a great option. For a relatively small museum it hosts some big exhibitions. Recent noteworthy exhibitions include the V&A David Bowie is… on its worldwide tour and the current Rodin- Genius at Work exhibition. It’s also home to some interesting artefacts from the Groningen region like a giant, silver replica of the aforementioned Martini tower. For those who prefer to eat their cultural experiences, it also has a great restaurant from which you can enjoy views of the canal.
Speaking of food…
If you’re looking for a place to eat that captures the fun, student spirit of Groningen and serves amazing food at a very reasonable price, then The Pool restaurant at The Student Hotel is the place for you. The restaurant is based on a sharing concept, think tapas but bigger, and offers a wide range of Mediterranean dishes for both meat lovers and vegetarians. We were so overwhelmed with the choices on offer that we asked the very helpful waiter to choose for us. And we were not disappointed with his selection. The hummus changed my life, no exaggeration.
I honestly didn’t know hummus had the potential to be my favourite dish from a 3 course meal that included nutella and banana pancakes but that is a perfect example of how The Pool prides itself on attention to detail. Everything from the bread to the main dishes is tasty, fresh and looks worthy of an instagram post. The decor is quirky with deckchairs adorning the walls and a warehouse feel but it works really well. Coupled with the chilled atmosphere this places really suits Groningen. So, if you’re hungry after exploring the city, The Pool is the place to go.
Adress: Boterdiep 9, 9712 LH Groningen
Phone: +31 (0) 50 20 69 163
On a sunny day…
One of the perks of Groningen being so far North is that it’s close to the coast. If the weather is good, why not take a day trip to see the sea. The Wadden Sea and mud flats are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and so arguably one of the wonders of the world. If that isn’t enough to get you excited in the small town of Pieterburen, there’s a seal sanctuary where you can visit sick and injured seals year round before they’re released back into the wild.
To really experience Groningen…
To really soak up the atmosphere and blend in with the locals, buy a stroopwafel from the market, sit on the steps in the Grote Markt and watch the world go buy. After a few minutes, I’m sure you’ll be agreeing with the city’s motto ‘Nothing tops Groningen’.
Have any tips for us on Groningen that need to be in part 2? Feel extremely welcome to share!