The gem of the north: 8 free things to do in Groningen

Out of money, but looking for some amazing things to do in Groningen? Well, you’re in luck, because there are plenty of fun things to do in this vibrant city without spending a single euro. 

If you live in Groningen, the city with the youngest population in the Netherlands (over 17% are 20-25 years old), chances are that you are a student.

With that comes the second big chance… of being broke — what with paying for crazy and unnecessary things such as a roof over your head and food.

1. Visit the Forum

Towering above the city, the Forum, which opened in 2019, is a new cultural centre housing a library — one of the last public spaces where you aren’t expected to spend any money, a cinema, and parts of the Groninger Museum.

The Forum is well worth a visit. Be sure to take the escalators to the viewing platform at the top (it’s 45 metres up) and take in the gorgeous 360-degree views of the city that this sky-scraping landmark offers.

The-Forum-library-community-center-viewing-platform and church tower in the center of Groningen, Netherlands
The Forum offers 360-degree views of the city. Image: Depositphotos

2. Browse the Groningen University Museum

If you want to learn more about the institution that moulded this city into what it is today, you should definitely pay a visit to the University Museum.

If you have a strong stomach, there is also an impressive anatomy collection. 🫀

3. Relax in the Prinsentuin

An incredibly quiet spot smacked right in the city centre, this Renaissance garden has wonderful flowers and beautiful landscaping all year round.

Inner city peace. Image: Unsplash

Bring a book and come here and feel like you’re a prince(ss) and this is your own private garden.

4. Explore the city’s architecture

If it’s a nice sunny day, just wander around the city and admire the surprising mix of modern and gothic architecture.

The are several landmarks worth taking in, such as the Martini Tower, an adjacent church, the Aa-Kerk, the synagogue, the eclectic Groninger Museum, and even the central station is a work of art.

The prettiest station in the Netherlands? Image: Zairon/Wikimedia Commons/CC 4.0

Speaking of the station, the square in front of it holds Groningen’s most famous statue: het Peerd van Ome Loeks. The white statue, depicting a (quite fat) horse and its owner, was created in 1959 and refers to the popular Groningen folk song “Het peerd van ome Loeks is dood” (uncle Loeks’ horse died).

5. Visit the colourful houses at Reitdiephaven

By far the most Instagrammable place in Groningen, this cute little harbour and the lined-up colourful houses are just a 15-minute bike ride from the city centre.

The prettiest spot in the city. Image: Unsplash

However, apart from strolling around and taking pretty pictures, there’s not much to do here.

6. Relax at the city beach

On warm summer days — even though they’re few and far between, there’s no better place to be than the city beach.

Relax on the warm sand in the shadow of The Dot (a multifunctional meeting place), take a dip in the refreshing water, and enjoy the buzz while catching a tan. ☀️

7. Explore the weekly farmer’s market

There’s nothing more wholesome and satisfying than wandering through the stalls of fresh fish and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables with the smell of fresh stroopwaffel entering your nose.

The farmer’s market at the Vismarkt is a favourite amongst residents of Groningen, and it’s the place to see and be seen.

Vismarkt, Groningen — a local favourite! Image: Laura Corrigan/Supplied

*Disclaimer: This activity is only free if you resist the urge to load up your tote bag with a week’s worth of random supplies.

8. Take a cycling route

If you dare to go beyond the city, the province of Groningen offers some of the greenest and most varied scenery in the whole country and is a joy to explore on two wheels. 🚲

For some amazing cycling experiences, check out the Hondsrug cycling route (44 km), the ‘Kiek over Diek’ cycling route (90 km) and the Lauwersmeer cycling route (43 km).

Tighten your gears! We’re going cycling! Image: Depositphotos

And if after seeing everything you get a little hungry, we have some delectably delicious suggestions for you!

What are your favourite free things to do in Groningen? Did we leave anything out? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: Unsplash

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in September 2018 and was fully updated in July 2022 for your reading pleasure.

Aurora Signorazzi
Aurora Signorazzi
Aurora comes from the majestic Italian capital, and is working on her PhD in virology at the University of Groningen. She has been living in the Netherlands for four years and is by now familiar with many Dutch habits... But still finds plenty of reasons to be pleasantly amazed (most of the time) by this industrious country and its brutally honest inhabitants!

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