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The capital city of the Groningen province in the northern Netherlands, Groningen offers a unique blend of rich history and artsy culture.
Home to the sizable student population of the University of Groningen (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen), the town has earned a reputation as an ancient city with a young vibe.
Located just over two hours northeast of Amsterdam by train, Groningen has everything from historical architecture to art galleries, festivals, and an all-around amazing cultural scene. Join me for a list of reasons to consider adding Groningen to your bucket list!
- Things to Do in Groningen, Netherlands
- 1. Explore the Old Town District
- 2. Climb the Martini Tower at Martin’s Church (Martinikerk)
- 3. Visit the Forum Groningen
- 4. Explore The Groninger Museum
- 5. Take a Canal Cruise
- 6. Stroll The Prince’s Garden (Prinsentuin)
- 7. Enjoy A Visit To Universiteitsmuseum Groningen (University Museum)
- 8. Stuff Your Face At The Fish Market (Vismarkt)
- 9. Cycle Through the World Cycling City
- 10. Go Birding At Lauwersmeer National Park
- 11. Head to Folkingestraat for Great Shopping and Powerful History
- 12. Learn Jewish History At Groningen Synagogue
- 13. Visit De Drie Gezusters Grand Café and Terrace
- 14. See A Live Show
- 15. Sail Back In Time At The Northern Maritime Museum
- 16. See It All At The National Carriage Museum and Family Park Nienoord
- 17. Clip-Clop Away At The International Wooden Shoe Museum
- What are some unique cultural experiences in Groningen, The Netherlands?
- What are some family-friendly activities in Groningen, The Netherlands?
- Where is Haren Hortus Botanicus?
- Most significant landmark – Martinitoren (Martini Tower)
- Best park – Lauwersmeer National Park
- Best free activity – Prince’s Garden (Prinsentuin)
- Best activity for kids – Universiteitsmuseum Groningen (University Museum)
- Best activity for adults – De Drie Gezusters Grand Café and Terrace
- Best food – Ariola
- Best place to stay – Hotel Prinsenhof Groningen
Things to Do in Groningen, Netherlands
1. Explore the Old Town District
Many travelers who have never visited Groningen are pleasantly surprised by its vast attractions! As with many other Dutch canal cities, the city center is always a solid place to start exploring.
Head to the old town center, where you’ll find Grote Markt Square, the city’s main trade center for centuries. You’ll find plenty of great shops and cafes in a large pedestrianized zone surrounding the gorgeous 19th-century Neoclassical City Hall (Stadhuis).
Grote Markt is also where you’ll find the Martinitoren, Vismarkt, and many other attractions we’ll explore soon! In the meantime, it’s worth signing up for a custom private tour with a local who gives you the lay of the land!
If you’re eager to stay right in the heart of the action, then The Market Hotel offers an excellent location in Grote Markt. But it’s the hotel’s on-site restaurant, bar, spa, meeting rooms, and other amenities that solidify it as a great choice for any traveler.
See Related: Holland vs Netherlands: What’s the Difference?
2. Climb the Martini Tower at Martin’s Church (Martinikerk)
Address: Martinikerkhof 3, 9712 JG Groningen, Netherlands
Located in the heart of the city center, Martinikerk is a stunning 13th-century Gothic church that’s among the oldest buildings in town. It’s nearly impossible to miss due to its famous Martinitoren (Martini Tower), the city’s tallest tower that will reward anyone who braves its 250+ steps with a fantastic view.
Even if you’re not inclined to put in the full cardio workout of climbing the tower, the church has plenty to offer. Drop by to explore the incredible murals, old church organ, and stunning historic architecture.
Hotel Prinsenhof Groningen is the best place to stay nearby. Less than a 5-minute walk from the Martini Tower and home to the Prinsentuin Gardens, Hotel Prinsenhof offers modern comfort in a building that dates back to the Middle Ages.
Not only does the hotel offer a next-level ambiance, but also the convenience of two on-site restaurants. One is even situated right in the former bed chamber of the Prince of Nassau.
3. Visit the Forum Groningen
Address: Nieuwe Markt 1, 9712 KN Groningen, Netherlands
Within walking distance of Martini Tower, you’ll find the new Forum Groningen, a feat of modern architecture. The Forum has become the unofficial heart of Groningen’s rich cultural scene, featuring ten floors and an epic roof garden and cinema.
You’ll find a great tourist office, five cinemas, countless restaurants and cafés, a city library, and more! There’s even a small museum called Storyworld, dedicated to Dutch comics, animation, and games.
See Related: Best Places to Honeymoon in the Netherlands
4. Explore The Groninger Museum
Address: Museumeiland 1, 9711 ME Groningen, Netherlands
Speaking of incredible modern architecture, set aside a day to explore the Groninger Museum, the most famous art museum in Groningen province. Originally founded in the late 19th century, the building moved from its old neo-Gothic building to its new post-modern home in 1994.
The Groniger Museum has earned a reputation for its stellar modern and contemporary art galleries and its revolving selection of fascinating temporary exhibitions. While you’ll find countless interesting exhibits inside, the building is seriously worth visiting if you have even the slightest interest in architecture.
A few top hotels are nearby, such as the Hotel Watertorean West, which was created from a reimagined water tower near the city center. An excellent choice for business travelers, Hotel Watertorean offers chic, apartment-style rooms, exceptional work facilities, and incredible views.
5. Take a Canal Cruise
Like many Dutch towns, Groningen boasts a charming canal network. Booking a canal cruise is a fun way to learn all about the city and its most famous landmarks.
As is the case with other canal cities (looking at you, Amsterdam), you’ll find plenty of options, from wine and cheese cruises to cruises themed around the city’s maritime history. If you’re more of an independent type, you can even rent a paddleboard and float through the city’s historic center solo!
See Related: Best Canal Cruises in Amsterdam
6. Stroll The Prince’s Garden (Prinsentuin)
Address: Prinsentuin, 9711 VV Groningen, Netherlands
Prinsentuin, or the Prince’s Garden, is a gorgeous garden oasis in the city center. Named for the 16th and 17th-century Princes of Nassau, its original creators, Prinsentuin is a beautiful rose and herb garden.
Located behind the Prinsenhof Hotel, the walled garden welcomes anyone to come in and take a stroll or relax on one of its benches. During the summer, the garden also features a tearoom and serves as the venue for a poetry festival called Dichters in de Prinsentuin (Poets in the Prinsentuin) each July.
7. Enjoy A Visit To Universiteitsmuseum Groningen (University Museum)
Address: Oude Kijk in Het Jatstraat 7A, 9712 EA Groningen, Netherlands
Founded in 1614, the University of Groningen has since earned a spot among the top 100 universities in the world. But even if you aren’t on the hunt for your next degree, it’s worth exploring the Universiteitsmuseum Groningen (Groningen University Museum), which has delighted the curious since 1934.
Today, the museum has four centuries of history and focuses mainly on nature, society, and science. This is one Groninger museum that’s sure to intrigue is featuring thousands of historical artifacts, activities, workshops, and temporary exhibitions.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Utrecht, Netherlands
8. Stuff Your Face At The Fish Market (Vismarkt)
The Vismakt or Fish Market is a historic Groningen square that was used to sell (you guessed it) fish back in the 15th century. Nowadays, it becomes more of a modern farmer’s market each Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.
On market days, the Vismarkt is lined with stalls selling everything from fresh fish and meat to bread, fruit, and vegetables. Even if you aren’t in town on market day, the Vismarkt is also home to excellent shops, restaurants, and bars open anytime.
9. Cycle Through the World Cycling City
If you plan to visit Groningen, you’ll soon discover how it earned the nickname “world cycling city.” A true bicyclist’s paradise, the city is home to an extensive network of cycle paths.
Fietsverhuurgroninge, a bike rental shop located at Gedempte Zuiderdiep 95, rents bikes, electric bikes, cargo bikes, or any other type of bike you can imagine! Then, set out along one of the many great bike paths you’ll find throughout the city!
See Related: Best Bike Tours in Amsterdam
10. Go Birding At Lauwersmeer National Park
Address: Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer, Lauwersoog 9976 VT, De Rug 1, 9976 VT Lauwersoog, Netherlands
If there’s any day trip destination worth exploring, it’s Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer, a stunning national park on the North Sea coast that’s part of the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located northwest of Groningen, you can reach the park in about 45 minutes by rental car or hop on a train at the main railway station.
The park’s network of forests and grasslands is home to hundreds of species of birds, making it an exceptionally pleasant place for bird-watching and stargazing. The tourist information office will also inform you about the park’s many other recreation options, from swimming and fishing to canoeing and kite surfing.
Pro tip: If you choose to book a rental car during your travels, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. Here are some of our favorite insurance providers for the Netherlands, or you can find the right deal for you on TravelInsurance.com.
11. Head to Folkingestraat for Great Shopping and Powerful History
Amsterdam might be the place to go for all your name-brand needs, but Groningen has plenty of appeal for retail addicts and souvenir hunters at Folkingestraat. Plus, visiting history enthusiasts can dive deeply into the city’s dark past!
If you cross the museum bridge from the main train station, you’ll hit a street called Ubbo Emmiusstraat that eventually turns into Folkingestraat, the city’s best shopping street. Stop by specialty food shops like Ariola, an authentic Italian grocery store selling the best pasta in town.
Or head to De Pindakaaswinkel Groningen to explore more varieties of peanut butter than you ever dreamed existed! From clothing and party supplies to books and Chinese porcelain, Folkingestraat has something for every interest, preference, and taste.
But Folkingestraat also maintains powerful echoes of its tragic end as the heart of the city’s Jewish district in World War II. On the side wall of “number 9”, you’ll see the word Weggehaald (taken away), while a handle-less bronze door at “number 67” memorializes the hidden history of the street’s Jewish inhabitants.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in the Netherlands
12. Learn Jewish History At Groningen Synagogue
Address: Folkingestraat 60, 9711 JZ Groningen, Netherlands
If you’re interested in learning more about the Jewish history of Groningen, then the Groningen Synagogue is an excellent place to start. Learn about the beautiful synagogue and the history and culture of the local Jewish community.
The synagogue always has a rotating selection of exhibits and offers guided tours that offer a behind-the-scenes look at the private area where services occur. You can even take a powerful guided tour of the former Jewish quarter to learn the stories of its former inhabitants.
13. Visit De Drie Gezusters Grand Café and Terrace
Address: Grote Markt 36 – 39, 9711 LV Groningen, Netherlands
De Drie Gezusters (the Three Sisters) is known among Groningen residents as the “living room of Groningen.” Located on the south side of Grote Markt, the enormous building is a great place to grab any meal of the day from breakfast to dinner.
The De Drie Gezusters is the spot to grab a drink and enjoy pub trivia. Head to Draaibar for a night of dancing, watch the game at Sportsbar De Groote Griet or grab lunch in the Grand Café.
See Related: Best Restaurants in the Netherlands
14. See A Live Show
Many people visit Groningen to take in the city’s thriving culture, which you’ll find plenty of at Stadsschouwburg, the 19th-century city theater. Also known as SPOT Groningen by locals, the beautiful venue offers a revolving selection of live performances, many of which offer English subtitles for non-Dutch speakers.
This chic two-bedroom holiday rental is a good place to stay if you plan a night at the SPOT. Be sure you also see what’s on the agenda at Martiniplaza (Martini Plaza), a large indoor event arena. It regularly hosts everything from musical theater productions to sports events.
If you’re around in August, check out the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival, an annual event in Noorderplantsoen Park. During the epic 11-day event, small villages appear out of nowhere to host live performances, lectures, literature events, and plenty of great food and drinks.
15. Sail Back In Time At The Northern Maritime Museum
Address: Brugstraat 24, 9711 HZ Groningen, Netherlands
Interested in learning more about the maritime history of Groningen province? Look no further than the Northern Maritime Museum, aka Northern Shipping Museum, where you’ll learn everything from local history to shipbuilding.
16. See It All At The National Carriage Museum and Family Park Nienoord
Address: Nienoord 1, 9351 AC Leek, Leek, Netherlands
Head down to Leek to explore the National Carriage Museum (Nationaal Rijtuigmuseum), which includes an impressive manor house and an awe-inspiring collection of carriages.
While in the neighborhood, check out Family Park Nienoord, a fun little amusement park with over 80 attractions and a petting zoo.
17. Clip-Clop Away At The International Wooden Shoe Museum
Address: Wolfhorn 1A, 9761 BA Eelde, Netherlands
Nothing says “Dutch vacation” quite like a to visit the Internationaal Klompenmuseum, aka International Wooden Shoe Museum. Located in Eelde, home of the Groningen Airport Eelde, this delightfully random attraction features over 3,000 pairs of wooden footwear!
What are some unique cultural experiences in Groningen, The Netherlands?
Groningen locals can’t get enough of festivals and events, so you’ll find plenty throughout Groningen Province year-round. From major events like Eurosonic, Noorderzon, and Paradigm to local festivals or performances, check the Groningen events site to see what’s happening during your visit.
What are some family-friendly activities in Groningen, The Netherlands?
Groningen is a pretty kid-friendly city overall! From the Groningen Museum and the Forum to the beautiful gardens of Prinsentuin or tours along the canals, the city offers plenty of fun for the whole family.
Where is Haren Hortus Botanicus?
Home to ten beautiful gardens, including a rock garden, water garden, and Chinese garden, Haren Hortus Botanicus is just southeast of Groningen proper in the village of Haren.
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Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He’s a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he’d heard.
Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he’s learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.
He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time.