15 great things to do in Leeuwarden

15 great things to do in Leeuwarden

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.

Ook op Cultureel vlak doet Leeuwarden mee met de wereldtop, in 2018 was Leeuwarden namelijk (samen met Valletta, de hoofdstad van Malta) culturele hoofdstad van Europa. Er zijn diverse musea en bijzondere kunstwerken in de stad te zien.

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.

The Oldehove

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 Oldehove in Leeuwarden

Blokhuispoort

De Blokhuispoort is een van de meest bekende gebouwen in Leeuwarden en ligt aan het water aan de oostkant van het centrum. Tot 2007 was dit een gevangenis. Nu is het gebouw een cultuurcentrum. Er zitten diverse culturele instellingen in het gebouw (waaronder de bibliotheek), leuke galerieën en creatieve bedrijven. Daarnaast zijn er diverse leuke restaurants en is er zelfs een hostel waar je kunt slapen in een van de cellen.

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 1976. The tower was rebuilt a few years later.

Saint Boniface Church in Leeuwarden

Museum Harbor

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.

Museum Harbor in Leeuwarden

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.

The Frisian Museum

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.

Grote or Jacobijnerkerk in Leeuwarden

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.

The Boshuisen Gasthuis in Leeuwarden

Nature Museum Fryslân

Een ander belangrijk museum in Leeuwarden is het Natuurmuseum Fryslân. Het museum bestaat al sinds de jaren twintig en is op dit moment gehuisvest in het prachtige pand van het Nieuwe Stads Weeshuis uit 1675. In het museum zijn wisselende tentoonstellingen te zien, maar heeft ook een uitgebreide vaste collectie. Een van de hoogtepunten is het skelet van de potvis die 30 jaar geleden op Ameland aanspoelde. Deze is maar liefst 15 meter lang.

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.

Stadhouderlijk Hof Palace in Leeuwarden

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.

Love (11fountains)

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!

Love (11fountains) in Leeuwarden

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!

Heb je geen zin om in het gras te zitten? Je kunt ook een drankje drinken in het gezellige restaurant (of op het terras) van De Koperen Tuin.

Prinsentuin in Leeuwarden

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!

The terraces on the Nieuwestad in Leeuwarden

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.
Stek in Leeuwarden
Stek in Leeuwarden.

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 center on the canal.

Check Booking.com for availability and an overview of even more great places to stay in Leeuwarden.

Discover Friesland

These were my Leeuwarden tips! Do you want to discover more beautiful places in the Dutch province of Friesland? Check out these articles:

Daarnaast is het boek 111 plekken in friesland die je gezien moet hebben ook een aanrader voor nog meer tips.

Read more about other great cities in The Netherlands

Do you want to discover more beautiful places in The Netherlands? These are also beautiful cities for a city trip:

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Co

Hi! I'm Co from The Netherlands and slightly addicted to travel. I leave my home country at least six months a year to hike a long-distance trail, explore amazing European cities by train, or for an unforgettable USA road trip.

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