Friesland is one of the most beautiful provinces in the Netherlands. It has beautiful islands, interesting historic towns, and many national Parks. These are the best things to do in Friesland.
Why should you go to Friesland?
The province of Friesland is one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands. It is the most northwestern province with endless green meadows, lakes filled with sailboats, cute historic towns, and no fewer than four Wadden islands belong to Friesland. It is the perfect province to go on vacation in The Netherlands. It actually feels like a different country, because the people speak Frisian here. This is the second official language in The Netherlands, besides Dutch.
The Frisians may seem a bit hard to read at first, but they are people with a heart of gold. And they will be happy to tell you everything about the most beautiful places in their province. I’m a Frisian myself, and in this article, I’ll tell you everything about the most beautiful places and things to do in Friesland.
Places to visit in Friesland
Which places should you visit during a vacation in Friesland? These are 15 beautiful sights.
Photo: Nick van der Ende | Unsplash
The Netherlands has five inhabited Wadden Islands, and four of them belong to Friesland. And they are all different, so they are all on this list of the most beautiful places in Friesland. The first island is Schiermonnikoog. To get here, you have to take a ferry that departs in Lauwersoog (in the province of Groningen).
Schiermonnikoog is a small island and is seen as the most peaceful Wadden Island because you’re not allowed to bring your car. The island has only one small village (called Schiermonnikoog) and is especially popular for its many cycling and hiking trails. It is truly a place where nature lovers can enjoy untouched nature. The entire island has been a Dutch National Park since 1989.
Where to stay: Hotel Graaf Bernstorff
Photo: Erik-Jan Leusink | Unsplash
The second Wadden Island on this list is Ameland. In contrast to Schiermonnikoog, Ameland is more inhabited. There are four villages on the island. To get to Ameland, you have to take the ferry that leaves from the Frisian village of Holwerd.
One of the main attractions on the island is the red and white lighthouse, which can be seen in many places. Ameland is a perfect island to go cycling since there are many trails. For example, you can cycle to the beautiful nature reserve ‘t Oerd.
Where to stay: De Berkenhof Aparthotel
Photo: Bas van Breukelen | Unsplash
As far as I am concerned, Terschelling is the ultimate Wadden island. To get there, you have to take the ferry from Harlingen and the crossing takes about two hours. This makes it feel like you are traveling to a very special place! On the island, you will find several beautiful villages, but also a lot of untouched nature. The lighthouse (which is called De Brandaris) is a real eye-catcher.
Terschelling is also the location of the Oerol Festival, a cultural festival in June that lasts ten days. During the festival, you can enjoy various performances by (Dutch) musicians, theater companies and visual artists.
Where to stay: Paal 8 Hotel aan Zee
Vlieland is the smallest of the Wadden Islands. To get here you also take the ferryfrom Harlingen. Vlieland has only one village (called Vlieland) and the rest of the island is unspoiled nature, with woods and dunes. The highest point in Friesland is located on Vlieland: the Vuurboetsduin. This dune is no less than 45 meters high.
Where to stay: Vlierijck
In addition to the Wadden Islands, most people also know Friesland from the Elfstedentocht, the famous long-distance tour skating event of almost 200 kilometers. Unfortunately, the tour is almost never ridden (the last one was in 1997). But the eleven cities through which the Elfstedentocht passes are all worth a visit. In this list of the most beautiful sights in Friesland, I will name a few, including Sneek.
Sneek is a pleasant town just west of Leeuwarden. The city is especially famous for the Waterpoort, a water gate in a defensive wall that was built in 1613. It is, therefore, a must to take a boat tour on the canals, this is the best way to see the Waterpoort.
Where to stay: Hotel Stadsherberg Sneek
Last September, I went on a multi-city trip in Southwest Friesland. I slept a night in Hindeloopen, one of the towns of the Elfstedentocht. I fell in love instantly, it is so beautiful! It’s small, but everything in this town is perfect. You can wander around past the old small houses, walk among the sheep on the dike along Lake IJssel or immerse yourself in the skating world during a visit to the Frisian Skating Museum.
Where to stay: Atelier B&B ‘Sinnestriel’
The town of IJlst is located near Sneek. Here you can see the special overtuinen along the river Ee. The street lies between the houses and the garden and the residents have to cross the street to enter the garden. VERWIJDEREN
Another must-see in IJlst is the enormous sawmill De Rat. You can visit this mill and if you ask nicely, you will receive an extensive tour from the miller. Super fun and educational!
Where to stay: Stadsherberg ‘Het Wapen van IJlst’
I lived in the west of the province of Groningen (which is right next to Friesland) for most of my childhood and one of the cities I used to visit a lot was Dokkum. I can still remember the Elfstedentocht of 1997, when we were waiting for the skaters to come by in Dokkum. And even better: the skaters pass by twice because Dokkum is a turning point.
Even without the Elfstedentocht, Dokkum is a great city to visit. It has a beautiful historic center and is surrounded by canals. Dokkum is best known as the city of Saint Boniface, a missionary who was murdered near Dokkum in 754 and immediately canonized. You can learn more about his life by visiting Museum Dokkum.
Where to stay: Hotel de ABDIJ Dokkum
Of course, Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland, cannot be missed in this list of the most beautiful sights in Friesland. I myself lived in Leeuwarden for a year, so I know quite a few beautiful places in this city.
Of course, a visit to the leaning tower Oldehove is a must, but it’s also great just to wander through the old town. In any case, take a stroll through the Kleine Kerkstraat, this street has been voted the best shopping street in the Netherlands several times. Leeuwarden is also bursting with great restaurants and eateries, so this city is also very suitable for foodies!
Where to stay: Oranje Hotel Leeuwarden
Terherne: the best place to visit with kids
A lot of people in The Netherlands grew up with the stories of the adventures of two young Frisian boys: Hielke and Sietse. They always got into a lot of trouble when they were going out with their boat called De Kameleon. In the town of Terherne, you can completely immerse yourself in the world of De Kameleon. You can experience great adventures here on the water and on the island. It’s a perfect place to spend a day playing outside with your children (or just pretend that you’re a kid yourself!).
Where to stay: De Mariahoeve
Photo: Tim Roosjen | Unsplash
The Afsluitdijk is one of the most special landmarks in the Netherlands. It’s a major dam and is the connection between the provinces of Friesland and North Holland. At the beginning of the Afsluitdijk in Kornwederzand (on the side of Friesland) there are several museums that you can visit. In the Afsluitdijk Wadden Center, for example, you will learn more about the history and future of the Afsluitdijk. And in the Kazemattenmuseum you can learn more about the Second World War and visit casemates.
Where to stay: Studio De Rozen Pastorie (Idsegahuizum)
The Frisian Lakes
I spent a large part of my childhood on the Frisian Lakes because my pake and beppe (grandfather and grandmother in Frisian) had a permanent place and a sailing boat at a campsite on the Oudegaasterbrekken. I can remember summers full of amazing sailing trips, cycling trips and walks along the lakes. On the Frisian Lakes, you can really relax and get away from it all. The perfect place for a vacation in Friesland!
Where to stay: Appartementen De Helling 44 (Heeg)
Drents-Friese Wold National Park
There are 21 National Parks in the Netherlands and four of them can be found in Friesland! One of these is the island of Schiermonnikoog and the second national park on this list of best things to do in Friesland is Drents-Friese Wold National Park. This is (as the name suggests) on the border between the provinces of Friesland and Drenthe. It is one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands, full of forests, heather, and drifting sand. A wonderful place for long walks.
Where to stay: De Appelhoeve (Appelscha)
De Alde Feanen National Park
De Alde Feanen National Park is located in the middle of Friesland. The area was created from peat excavations and therefore a low peat bog. It consists largely of water, so you can take beautiful boat trips here. There are also several beautiful cycling and hiking trails (make sure to wear waterproof shoes!). The park is also popular with bird watchers, with more than 100 species of birds living there.
Where to stay: B&B It Lytshûs (Earnewâld)
Lauwersmeer Nationaal Park
Friesland shares Lauwersmeer National Park with the province of Groningen. The Lauwerszee was originally located here, but it was closed in 1969 (for fear of flooding). The old seabed dried up and a beautiful nature reserve was created. In Lauwersmeer National Park you can enjoy walking, cycling and swimming on hot summer days.
Fun fact: Lauwersmeer National Park has been declared a Dark Sky Park and is one of the darkest places in The Netherlands. So you can see the starry sky well here if you are lucky you can even see the milky way!
Where to stay: Hotel Restaurant Wad Oars (Anjum)
Where to stay in Friesland
I have put an overnight tip at each of the sights in Friesland, these are perfect for a weekend or a night out in Friesland. Would you like to stay a little longer in Friesland and see more beautiful sights during your holiday? In that case, it is useful to choose a central location and make trips from there, such as Leeuwarden or Sneek. You can find beautiful holiday homes and apartments on Airbnb.
Tip: Have you never booked anything through Airbnb? You will receive a substantial discount on your first booking by signing up via this link.
The Frisian language
The Frisians understand and speak Dutch (and English) very well, but they love it when you speak a little Frisian with them. A few words that will undoubtedly come in handy during a trip to Friesland:
- Hello, how are you? – Hoi, hoe giet it?
- Where are you from? – Wêr komst do wei?
- Please – Asjebleaft
- Thank you – Dankewol
- Goodbye – Oant Sjen
In the city of Leeuwarden they don’t speak Frisian, but Liwwadders. If you have a hard time understanding that, it is better to speak Dutch than Frisian.
More beautiful places in the Netherlands
Would you like to go on holiday in the Netherlands and are you looking for inspiration? Then order one of these beautiful books full of beautiful places in the Netherlands:
Insight Guides The Netherlands
Or check out one of these articles:
- 11 gorgeous places to visit in The Netherlands
- Hidden gems in The Netherlands: off the beaten track
- The best things to see in Groningen (province)
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