Groningen was once one of the most powerful cities in the Netherlands and now serves as the capital of the Groningen province in the north of the Netherlands.
With a population of approximately 200,000 it is one of the largest cities in the country.
The Hondsrug area where Groningen is situated has seen some form of settlement for many years, right back to 3950 BC, however the city didn’t develop hugely until the 13th century.
During this period it became a large trade centre and had a city wall.
During the 1600’s the University of Groningen was built and the city became increasingly focused around education.
As with many other Dutch cities, Groningen was devastated during WW2 but many of its iconic buildings remained untouched.
Today Groningen’s combination of historical architecture, fantastic museums, culture and nightlife make it a fantastic place to visit.
Lets explore the best things to do in Groningen:
The Martinitoren is an immense church steeple that towers over the city of Groningen and servers as the bell tower to the Martinikerk.
Standing at a colossal 97m this is one of the tallest buildings in the city and is considered a fine tourist attraction.
Constructed originally in the 1300’s, the tower has seen several iterations due to destruction and lighting storms.
The tower is built in a Romanesque style and has many similarities to the Dom Tower in Utrecht.
As one of the premier tourist attractions, you can climb the 260 steps to the top of the bell tower and take in the jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city of Groningen and the surrounding landscapes of the Netherlands.
2. Groninger Museum
Groningen features a host of interesting museums, but the Groninger museum is considered the finest, and is the most visited.
Situated in the centre of Groningen, the museum complex sits on the Zuiderhaven River and its design is just as fascinating as the collection it holds featuring an eccentric modernist layout.
Inside this fascinating museum you will find an immense collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, sculptures, art displays, and contemporary art displays.
Particular examples include sculptures from Joost van den Toorn and paintings from Andy Warhol.
Standing proudly in the shadow of the ginormous Martinitoren tower is the Martinikerk church.
Named after Saint Martin of Tours, the church was constructed in the 1200’s but since then both the main building and the tower have seen many changes.
While the exterior of the church features a simple pale pink/red brick design with many arched windows, the interior is much more extravagant.
A beautiful feature of the interior is the old church organ that has some parts dating back to the 1400’s.
Furthermore, the roof of the main aisle features a delightful light blue decoration and several surrounding colourful frescos.
One of the finest public parks in Groningen, the Noorderplantsoen sits just to the north of the old town centre and contains approximately 1km of beautiful sculptured land.
Originally the site for some of the cities fortifications, after the walls were dismantled, the remaining land was turned into a public park.
Created in an English garden style, the park contains many tranquil ponds, winding paths, beautiful plant life and trees and an Art Nouveau Bandstand.
Enjoy the stunning landscapes; take a walk past the bodies of water or watch the world go by on one of the many benches.
5. The Northern Shipping Museum
Aside from the Groninger Museum, the Northern Shipping museum is one of the most visited in Groningen.
Maritime history is important in the city and Groningen has a rich shipping heritage.
Much of this history is on display in the Shipping museum in a great amount of detail.
Created in 1930, the museum has a huge amount of exhibitions relating to the maritime industry in the province of Groningen and features displays about ship building, marine engines, tidal navigation and ship trade.
For an interesting look at maritime history and to see some wonderfully presented exhibits, the Shipping museum is a first rate attraction.
6. Lauwersmeer National Park
Approximately 30km to the north of Groningen lays the Lauwersmeer National Park.
On the north coast the Lauwersmeer expands out into the Wadden Sea and is considered an area of natural beauty.
As an estuary, the Lauwersmeer contains many interesting flora and fauna, together with species of birds such as the Eurasian Spoonbill, the Bearded Reedling and the Tundra Swan.
This truly is a wildlife lovers paradise and the combination of stunning water landscapes and varieties of birds make it a great destination to explore.
Cycling is often perused here and there are many trails you can follow.
7. Prinsenhof Gardens
This wonderful renaissance garden is a truly magnificent creation and is considered the premier landscaped garden in Groningen.
Created in the 1600’s the garden used to belong to a monastery and is located in the centre of Groningen close to the Martinitoren and the Grote Markt.
Inside the walls of this magical place you will find a rose garden, an herb garden and other small enclosures – All of which have been maintained to a fabulous standard.
The Prinsenhof is also a location that poets come together in an annual event to read out their works to the public.
8. Village of Bourtange
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a village that is shaped like a star and surrounded by a moat? Bourtange is exactly this – A purpose built star fort that was created during the Dutch revolts in the 1500’s.
Around an hour’s drive and 60km to the east of Groningen, this village provides an unusual and fascinating attraction in the countryside of the Netherlands.
With less than 300 inhabitants, Bourtange features a fantastic star shape design and is completely surrounded by a star shaped moat that is accessible by several bridges.
If you want a day trip from Groningen, Bourtange provides a truly unique and fascinating experience.
9. Grote Markt
Market squares are a common feature in European cities and Groningen’s Grote Markt is a typical example.
Here the Markinitoren stands proud in one corner, the town hall at the far end, and a line of cute shops, restaurants and cafes surround this pleasant place.
Admire the wonderful architecture, see what deals are on in the shops, have a relaxing coffee or a first class meal or use this as a base to start exploring the old town centre.
10. Martinus Brewery
Another of the Netherlands fine breweries, the Martinus brewery is a small and unassuming building but offers a great insight into the brewing process and also a fantastic place to enjoy a drink.
Aside from the interesting tour of the brewery, you can also enjoy a thirst quenching locally brewed drink next to the brewery boilers or relax on the roof terrace.
Martinus Brewery is the place to go with a group of friends to have a drink, learn a little bit of brewing history and also enjoy a tasting session and three course meal.
Quality beer, quality décor and a quality experience.
11. Battlefield Tours
Groningen and indeed much of the Netherlands saw extensive fighting and battles during WW2 and as a result there has been left behind a multitude of battle sites, memorials and museums dedicated to the brave soldiers who fought in this catastrophic conflict.
In the Netherlands and Groningen there are many tour operators such as www.battlefieldtours.nu that provide historical WW2 packages aimed at showcasing the wonders of the country together with the history of this era.
Due to the cities involvement in the war and the importance it held, many of the tours include stops in Groningen and you will learn a great deal about its wartime activity and history.
12. Noorderlicht Photogallery
Photo galleries are often brilliant places to see candid shots of historical or modern life from the perspective of a photographer.
Located right next to the historic Aa-Kerk and right in the centre of Groningen, the Noorderlicht Photogallery offers a fascinating insight into various significant cultural events.
For instance in November 2016, the gallery features 4 projects concentrating on the United States presidential elections by photographer Mark Peterson.
Temporary exhibitions are always changing so you never quite know what to expect from this intriguing place.
13. Groningen Synagogue
There are few working Synagogues left in the Netherlands and the Synagogue at Groningen is a fine example.
Tjeerd Kuipers designed this special building and its current form was constructed in 1906 to replace the previous iterations that spanned back to the 1700’s.
Many oriental and Moorish icononography adorn the interior of the Synagogue and the wooden ceiling is extremely decorative.
Aside from the ceiling and religious icons, the archways and walls have a beautiful green and orange brick style pattern.
A huge stained glass window sits at one end of the Synagogue and features a plethora of colour and intricate patterns that lets the sun through splendidly.
Aa-Kerk or just A-Kerk is a church that dates back to the middle ages.
Dedicated to Saint Nicholas and constructed in the 1200’s, it is one of the oldest remaining churches in Groningen and its original design was replaced by its current brick form in the early 1400’s.
At night the church is lit up beautifully with a series of bright yellow lights and stands out against the surrounding buildings.
Inside this religious building you will find a swathe of white stonework and light pink brickwork that come together to create some striking patterns and archways.
Filled with religious icons and many windows, the church has a light, open and inviting air to it.
15. Nederlands Stripmuseum
Comic strips are often funny, witty and interesting to look at – The Nederland’s Stripmuseum provides a wide array of comic strips displays from various eras and authors.
Located in the Schildersbuurt district of Groningen, the museum is close to the old town centre and the Groninger Museum.
Artworks from notable Dutch artists can be found including Aloys Oosterwijk, Hieronymus Bosch and Rik Buter.
For a fun activity and an interesting look at the world of cartoons, the Stripmuseum offers much enjoyment.