Did you know that Leeuwarden is one of the most beautiful cities in the north of the Netherlands? These are the best things to do in Leeuwarden.
This is Leeuwarden
Leeuwarden is the capital of the province of Friesland (also known as Fryslân). It is one of the oldest cities in the north of The Netherlands and this is clearly visible in the historic city center. The city center is nice and compact and surrounded by canals.
Leeuwarden also participates in the world top on a cultural level, because in 2018 Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture (together with Valletta, the capital of Malta). There are several museums and interesting artworks to see in the city.
Is visiting Leeuwarden fun? Absolutely! A city trip to Leeuwarden is highly recommended. In this article, you can read all about the best things to do in Leeuwarden, awesome places to eat, and great places to spend the night.
The best things to do in Leeuwarden
What to do in Leeuwarden? These are the best places to visit.
Did you know that Leeuwarden has its own tower of Pisa? The Oldehove is certainly one of the most important Leeuwarden attractions. The construction of the tower started in 1529, but things went wrong pretty quickly: the tower was crooked. The tower was supposed at least twice as high, but they just stopped building because it was leaning. Now you can climb the tower for a beautiful view of the city.
The Blokhuispoort is one of the most famous buildings in Leeuwarden and is located on the water on the east side of the center. Until 2007 this was a prison. Now it is a cultural center. The former prison is home to various cultural institutions (including the library), some galleries, and creative companies. In addition, there are several restaurants and there is even a hostel where you can sleep in one of the cells.
Saint Boniface Church
The Saint Boniface Church is one of the most striking churches in Leeuwarden. This Roman Catholic church has been here since 1884, but the spire broke off during a severe storm in 1960. The tower was rebuilt a few years later.
Would you like to see special ships during your visit to Leeuwarden? Make sure to take a look at the Willemskade and Wirdumerpoortsdwinger. Several beautiful historic ships lie here. These ships were used to sail the Dutch inland waterways. Most of the ships that lie here are about a hundred years old.
The Frisian Museum
The Fries Museum is housed in a beautiful modern building on Wilhelminaplein. There are varying exhibitions, currently including work by the artist Petrit Halilaj and the exhibition À la campaign with works from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam) by various French impressionists.
There is also a permanent collection of objects from the province of Friesland (the largest provincial collection in the Netherlands), including clothing, archaeological finds, and paintings.
Grote or Jacobijnerkerk
The Grote or Jacobijnerkerk is beautifully situated on the Jacobijnerkerkhof. This is the oldest church in Leeuwarden and has been on this site for about seven centuries. One of the most important sights in the church is the Christian Müller Organ from 1727. In addition, you will also find the crypt with the graves of the Frisian Nassau family, the ancestors of the Dutch Royal family.
The Boshuisen Gasthuis
The Boshuisen Gasthuis is located right next to the Grote or Jacobijnerkerk. This former guest house is a national monument and was founded in 1652. It now consists of houses with a beautiful courtyard. You can take a look here, but please do not walk around. There are people living here.
Nature Museum Fryslân
Another important museum in Leeuwarden is the Fryslân Nature Museum. The museum has been around since the 1920s and is currently housed in the beautiful building of the Nieuwe Stads Orphanage from 1675. The museum has temporary exhibitions but also has an extensive permanent collection. One of the highlights is the skeleton of the sperm whale that washed up on the island of Ameland 30 years ago. This one is no less than 15 meters long.
Stadhouderlijk Hof Palace
At Hofplein in the center of the city, you will find several interesting historic buildings. One of these is the Stadhouderlijk Hof Palace. This has been in the possession of the royal family until 1971. Now it is a Fletcher hotel and you can spend the night there for a reasonable price. Some of the rooms are extra luxurious and have a royal character.
Town hall (stadhuis)
The town hall is located opposite the Stadhouderlijk Hof Palace and this is again a beautiful building. It was built in 1715. The town hall also has a royal touch, the first stone was laid by the then 3-year-old Willem Carel Hendrik Friso, Prince of Orange Nassau. Although the building looks old from the outside, it was completely renovated on the inside in 2005 and now has a very modern council chamber.
Leeuwarden is the start and end point of the famous elfstedentocht (eleven cities tour, a long-distance tour skating event on natural ice). Since 2018, each of the eleven cities has a fountain from the series 11fountains. The one in Leeuwarden is named “Love” and is located opposite the railway station. They are two large faces and a cloud of fog hangs around them. A very special sight!
Princessehof Ceramics Museum
Do you want to see historic porcelain? Then you should definitely check out the Princessehof Ceramics Museum. The museum is housed in a beautiful building from 1693, a former mansion (though it is more of a city palace). In the museum, you can see, among other things, Chinese porcelain (from 2800 BC to 1900), art deco objects made of earthenware, and modern ceramic objects. One of the most beautiful places is the Nassau room, a baroque-style dining room.
Prinsentuin (Prince’s Garden)
Do you feel like relaxing during your city trip to Leeuwarden? That is possible in the beautiful city park the Prinsentuin. Bring a blanket, some food, drinks, and enjoy the peace and quiet on the beautiful grass. You can also sit on the side of the water, then you have a view of the boats that pass by. Who knows, maybe you’ll see a beautiful Frisian skûtsje pass by!
Don’t feel like sitting in the grass? You can also have a drink in the cozy restaurant (or on the terrace) of De Koperen Tuin.
The weigh house (Waag)
The Waag is located in the middle of the busy center, between the shopping streets and terraces. This building has been here since 1598 and used to be the center of the city. This was the place where market traders had to weigh their merchandise. There is still regularly a market next to the Waag. De Waag itself is now a restaurant with a cozy terrace.
The terraces on the Nieuwestad
De Waag is located on the Nieuwestad, a canal right through the center of Leeuwarden. This is an important shopping street and it is also bursting with nice cafes and restaurants. Here, you’ll find many terraces. Because of the narrow streets, they can often be found on boats. It is very nice to have a drink here!
Where to eat in Leeuwarden
What are the best places for lunch and dinner in Leeuwarden? And where can you have some good coffee or a cocktail? Leeuwarden has many great cafes and restaurants. A few recommendations:
- Stek Leeuwarden : beautifully situated in a bend of the Wester Stadsgracht. From the sunny terrace, you have a view of the Oldehove. A great place for lunch or a drink.
- Lazy Lemon: fun and colorful place with delicious breakfasts.
- Drink & Eetlokaal Proefverlof: there are several great places in the Blokhuispoort for a snack and a drink and this is my favorite. Why? You can enjoy watching boats from the terrace on the water.
- ROAST: very modern, good food, great cocktails, and a nice terrace on the Nieuwestad.
Hotels in Leeuwarden
Would you like to go on a city trip to Leeuwarden? There’s plenty to see, so you might as well stay for a night or two. These are some of the best places to stay in Leeuwarden:
- $ Alibi Hostel – Have you always wanted to sleep in a prison? That is possible in the Alibi hostel! Small rooms (cells), suitable for 2 to 4 persons.
- $ Post-Plaza Hotel & Grand Café (4*) – Hotel in a beautifully renovated former post office and bank building.
- $$ Boutique Hotel Catshuis – Cozy hotel right in the city center.
Check Booking.com for availability and an overview of even more great places to stay in Leeuwarden.
Book your trip to The Netherlands
Are you excited to visit The Netherlands and Leeuwarden? Here are some useful websites to book your trip!
- Travel by plane – The largest international airport in The Netherlands is Schiphol (Amsterdam). Check Skyscanner for options and prices. KLM is the Dutch National airline and one of the best airlines in the world.
- Travel by train – Train travel in The Netherlands is great! Most cities have a railway station and trains depart multiple times an hour. Leeuwarden is only a 2-hour train ride from Amsterdam. Book your tickets at RailEurope or at one of the machines at the train station.
- Travel by car – It’s also easy to travel around by car in The Netherlands. From Amsterdam, you can drive to Leeuwarden in about two hours via the famous Afsluitdijk. Check Rental Cars or Discover Cars for rental cars.
- Travel insurance – It’s always smart to have good travel insurance, just in case something happens. Check Insubuy for options and prices.
These were my Leeuwarden tips! Do you want to discover more beautiful places in the Dutch province of Friesland? Check out these articles:
- 15 great things to do in Friesland (The Netherlands)
- City trip in Southwest Friesland (The Netherlands)
- De Alde Feanen National Park: practical tips & what to do
Read more about other great cities in The Netherlands
Do you want to discover more beautiful places in The Netherlands? These are more beautiful cities for a city trip:
- 12 beautiful cities in The Netherlands
- Fun things to do in Groningen, The Netherlands
- Fun things to do in Maastricht
And check out these travel guides for more tips about a vacation in The Netherlands:
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