What are the best things to do in Groningen? In this article, I’ll share the best sights and places to stay during a city trip in Groningen, The Netherlands.
Groningen: an introduction
Groningen is the largest city in the north of the Netherlands and is the capital of the province of Groningen. It is a real student city, no less than 15.9% of the inhabitants of Groningen are students (this is more than in any other city in the Netherlands). Because of this, there is always something to do in Groningen and there are also many nice places for an affordable meal.
Despite the fact that a large part of the city center was destroyed in World War II, there are still many beautiful old buildings to see in Groningen. Groningen is easily accessible by public transport, a train journey from Amsterdam or Utrecht takes approximately 2 hours.
Best things to do in Groningen
I’ve lived in Groningen for many years, and there are lots of cool sights and things to do in Groningen. What to do in Groningen? These are my favorites:
Visit the Groninger Museum
When you arrive by train in Groningen, the first thing you’ll notice is the weird and colorful building of the Groninger Museum. The building was designed by Alessandro Mendini and is a true piece of art. It’s also one of the most fun museums in The Netherlands and has lots of diverse and changing exhibitions.
Check the official website for opening hours and tickets.
Discover the hidden gardens
In Groningen, you can find many hidden gardens and courtyards behind the old houses. You can visit most of them (as long as you leave before 5 p.m.). One of the most beautiful hidden gardens is the Prinsentuin, which has a rose garden, a herb garden, and a gorgeous old sundial. If you’d like to visit more of those hidden gardens, you can buy a brochure with a self-guided tour at the tourist office (which is located in Forum Groningen).
Climb the Martinitoren
The Martinitoren (the locals call it d’ Olle Grieze, which means the old grey one) is the highest tower in Groningen and it was completed in 1482. You can actually climb to the top of the tower (which is almost 300 steps, there is no elevator).
From the top, you have a great view of the province of Groningen and you might even see Schiemonnikoog, one of the Dutch islands. To climb to the top of the Martinitoren, you need to join a guided tour. You can find more information on this website.
Relax in the Noorderplantsoen
When the weather is really good during your city trip to Groningen, it might be fun to relax for a while in one of Groningen’s most beautiful parks: the Noorderplantsoen. It’s a public garden with ponds, nice walking paths, and lawns that serve as the perfect spot for a picnic. This is also the place where they host the annual Noorderzon Festival, with music and theater.
Another great park in Groningen is the Stadspark, which is located a little outside of the city center.
Find the best Instagram spot: Hoge en Lage der Aa
Do you like travel photography and do you want to take the ultimate picture of Groningen? From the Noorderplantsoen you can easily walk to the Hoge and Lage der Aa. From the Vissersbrug you have a beautiful view of the water, the boats, the canal houses, and the tower of the A-church. This is definitely one of the best Instagram spots in Groningen!
Go for a stroll around the Hoornse Plas
Do you feel like going for a walk? Take a bus to the Hoornse Plas. This is a part of two larger lakes called Hoornsemeer and Paterswolse Meer. You can walk around the Hoornse Plas, go for a swim, or enjoy a drink or two at the great Beachclub Kaap Hoorn.
Check out the view from the new Forum Groningen
Since November 29th, 2019, Groningen has a new attraction: the Forum Groningen! This is one of the best places to see in Groningen. The Forum is a great modern building, that is home to a library, there are expositions, restaurants, and a cinema. The best thing about it is the roof though, from where you’ll have a great view of the city and the nearby Martinitoren. Access to the roof is free.
Hike a section of the famous Pieterpad
Did you know that the most famous long-distance walk in The Netherlands runs right through the city of Groningen? If you like hiking, it is a must to walk a section of the Pieterpad. Why not do it during a city trip to Groningen?
You can choose from two different sections:
- Section 2: Winsum to Groningen. A 21-kilometer hike in the Groningen countryside. The starting point is Winsum, and this village was chosen by the ANWB (the Dutch Automobile Association) in 2020 as the most beautiful village in The Netherlands. During this section, you will hike along canals and meadows and pass the cute village of Garnwerd. Another highlight is the beautiful church of Oostum. This is a small church from the thirteenth century on a mound that used to be frequently painted by many painters of De Ploeg. In Groningen (city), the trail goes right through the Noorderplantsoen, which you can also find on this list.
- Section 3: Groningen to Zuidlaren. This is also a hike of 21 kilometers, with a completely different landscape! You leave the city of Groningen along the Hoorsemeer and the Paterwoldsemeer (the mill and the lock you will see on the way are very photogenic). Along the way, you walk through a drifting dune area, through the woods and you even come across a few dolmens! The end of this stage is in the village of Zuidlaren in the province of Drenthe.
The start and end of both trails are easily accessible by train or bus. Check 9292.nl for the time schedule.
Where to eat in Groningen
There are many nice restaurants and cafes in the city of Groningen. Because it is a student city, you can often order a delicious daily menu for little money. These are some of my favorite places to eat in Groningen:
- Brussels Lof (Akerkstraat 24) – delicious food! The cook uses only fresh and organic products. This restaurant is especially recommended for vegetarians and fish lovers.
- The Bakkerscafé (Zwanestraat 26) – delicious bread for breakfast or lunch.
- Het Zwarte Schaap (Schuitendiep 52) – an eatery where I have been coming for years and the food is always good. It is a typical Dutch eatery, so don’t expect anything fancy, just good chicken satay, salads, and cheese fondue.
Where to stay in Groningen
Do you feel like going to Groningen for a couple of nights to enjoy all the highlights? I can highly recommend staying in one of these hotels:
– $ The Student Hotel Groningen – Great modern hotel with nicely decorated rooms within walking distance of the city center.
– $$ Hotel Miss Blanche – This hotel is one of a kind and the rooms (mostly suites) are all completely different. It’s located in one of the most fun neighborhoods in Groningen.
– $$$ Prinsenhof – Do you want to treat yourself well? Stay in this luxury boutique style hotel from the 15th century, right next to the Prinsentuin and the Martinitoren.
Book your trip to Groningen now!
Are you excited to visit this hidden gem in The Netherlands? Book your trip to Groningen now! Although it looks quite far on the map, you can easily travel from Amsterdam to Groningen by train.
There’s a direct train departing from Schiphol Airport every hour. In addition, you can also take a train from Amsterdam Central Station to Almere and then change to the train to Groningen. The trip takes a little over 2 hours, and you’ll go straight through the beautiful Nieuw Land National Park (make sure to sit on the left side of the train when you’re traveling towards Groningen.
In addition, you can get a rental car and drive from Amsterdam to Groningen. This is also a 2-hour journey. Check Rental Cars to find the best deals.
Explore The Netherlands
Do you feel like exploring more of The Netherlands? Get one of these excellent guidebooks:
As I love exploring my own country, you can read more about The Netherlands on this website. You might like to read these articles as well:
- The best things to see in Groningen (province)
- The gorgeous national parks in The Netherlands
- Hidden gems in The Netherlands: off the beaten track
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