Groningen is a lively student city in the Northern Netherlands. It is the capital of a province with the same name and home to about 203,000 inhabitants, making it the largest city in the north. A university town with some 50,000 students gives the city its famous vibe; a pleasant youthful atmosphere, some fine historic heritage and with plenty of things to do. Groningen was the regional power of the northern Netherlands, a semi-independent city-state and member of the German Hanseatic League.
In the 13th century, when the city was an important trade centre, its inhabitants built a city wall to underline its authority. The city had a strong influence on the surrounding lands and made its dialect a common tongue. The most influential period of the city was the end of the 15th century, when the nearby province of Friesland was administered from Groningen. During those years, the Martini Tower was built, which loomed over the city at (then) 127 m tall, making it the highest building in Europe at the time. The city’s independence came to an end when it chose to join forces with the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War in 1594. It was later reconquered, and joined the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.
In 1614, the University of Groningen was founded for religious education. In the same period the city expanded rapidly and a new city wall was built. That city wall was tested during the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, when the city was attacked fiercely by the Bishop of Munster, Bernhard von Galen. The city walls resisted, an event which is celebrated with music and fireworks on 28 August (as “Groningens Ontzet” or “Bommen Berend”).
The city did not escape the devastation of World War II. In particular, the main square, Grote Markt, was largely destroyed in April 1945, during the Battle of Groningen, which lasted several days. However, the Martinitoren, its church, the Goudkantoor, and the city hall were not substantially damaged. Nowadays the city of Groningen is nationally renowned for the university, the museum and its vibrant atmosphere. 50% of the citizens are below the age of 30, making this the youngest city in the country. For decades, the bicycle has played a central role in the lives of people in the city, and today accounts for no less than 60% of all traffic movement with more bikes than citizens.
Access : Coordinates: 53.216667, 6.566667 / By plane :
Groningen is served by Groningen Airport Eelde, (GRQ IATA), Machlaan 14a Eelde, +31 50 3097070. The airport of Groningen offers 11 weekly flights to and from Copenhagen, daily flights to and from Brussels and Munich, daily flights (from April 2018 triple daily) to and from London-Southend (Flybe), two flights per week to and from Gdansk (Wizz Air), and various other scheduled flights to selected cities and holiday destinations in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands and Turkey. The Brussels, Munich and Copenhagen flights are operated by Nordica, in cooperation with Star Alliance members such as Scandinavian Airline, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. Therefore, a lot of destinations are reachable from Groningen with a transfer at Copenhagen Airport, Munich Airport or Brussels Airport. Groningen is also easily reached by direct train (2.5 h) from Schiphol Airport, which has far more direct connections than Groningen Airport.
To travel between the airport to the city: Bus 9 runs twice per hour between the airport and city. The journey to the center takes approximately 40 minutes. €5 one way, tickets can be purchased at the driver, or use the ov-chipkaart. Not all line 9 buses go to the airport, but this is clearly stated on the digital rollsigns.
Bus 100 is a special shuttle bus to and from the airport starting at the Central Station, but only around the Copenhagen, Brussels, Munich, London and Gdansk flights. Beside Central Station, bus 100 also stops at the main down town places and hotels (including Hampshire Plaza Hotel in the southern part of the city), and the academic UMCG Hospital. This bus trip takes about 20 minutes from the Central Station and costs €5 one way, tickets at the driver. Taxis are not always available at the airport. If you wish to travel by taxi, book in advance. A taxi to the city will cost you €25-30
By train : By Dutch standards, it’s a fairly long way from the major destinations in the western Netherlands. But getting here is not hard. Groningen has three train stations, the central station (2 Station Groningen, often called ‘Hoofdstation’), 3 Groningen Europapark and 4 Groningen Noord. All trains eventually arrive at the central station only a few trains stop at the smaller stations. Tickets for all train journeys can be purchased at the train station or online at NS.nl. There are two trains departing from Groningen Station to southern destinations like Amsterdam and Rotterdam every hour. One train terminates in The Hague and the other train terminates in Rotterdam. The train towards The Hague also calls at Amsterdam South Station and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Station. Amsterdam Central Station can be reached with one change at Almere. Brussels and Paris can be reached with one change at Schiphol Airport Station. A regional line operated by Arriva runs west to Leeuwarden three times per hour.
By bus : The main bus station is right next to the central train station. At the bus station you can find a wide range of city buses and lines to virtually all large and small destinations in the region, and direct buses to Emmeloord, via Heerenveen and Lemmer. Flixbus operates a couple of domestic intercity bus lines from Groningen. Line 821 runs to Hengelo and Enschede and line 822 runs to Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Nijmegen and Eindhoven. These bus lines leave at P+R Haren (near Postillion Hotel) and opposite the central train station, at the other side of the road. Booking in advance is cheaper. The buses are in most cases cheaper and faster than making the same journey by train. International buses : There are several direct buslinks to Germany and Belgium operated by German carriers. For example to Bremen, Oldenburg, Hamburg, Berlin, Antwerp, Brussels and Leuven (starting at €9, one-way) by Flixbus.
Groningen has a stop at the intercity busline Rotterdam – Hamburg – Copenhagen operated by Eurolines. Destinations in Belgium, France and England are reachable with one transit in Amsterdam. Destinations in Sweden require a change in Copenhagen. It is not possible to book a domestic journey. Ecolines operates a bus line towards Warsaw and stops en route to Poland in some German cities like Bremen and Berlin. All international bus lines leave opposite the train station. Book a day in advance to get the lowest fare.
By car : A myriad of roads lead to and from Groningen, making the city well reachable by car. The major highways are the A7 (west-east) and the A28 coming from the south. Several fine N-roads connect the city to nearby destinations, and are the way to go further north. The most notable ones are the N360 to Appingedam and Delfzijl, and the N361 north, direction of Winsum. Driving in the old city, particularly within the central canal ring, is not the best option. Parts of town are car-free, there are many one way roads, parking is not always easy to find, and none of it is free. There are several Park & Ride facilities around Groningen. At these facilities you can park your car for free and take a fast and frequent bus to Downtown for a small amount. One of the biggest facilities is on Sontweg, to the east of the city and near Ikea. It is clearly marked when driving on the ring road. Parking there is free, and for €2 (one way) or €5 return for 5 people, a regular bus service takes you right to Downtown. If you come from the direction of Assen (south), the Park & Ride facility Haren is your best option. From the west, from direction Drachten, P+R Hoogkerk is on your route. If you are coming from Germany you can park at “Kardinge”. Follow the road to “Eemshaven” and take the exit “Kardinge”. All P+R facilities are clearly marked on the highways.
- Downtown Groningen is pleasant and interesting. The city centre providing plenty cultural heritage and a laid-back atmosphere. Together with the excellent Groninger Museum, it forms the main attraction for visitors. Like many cities in the Netherlands, the centre is surrounded by a canal. Several historic canals have been “gedempt”, or filled, however, and turned into streets. This is reflected in their names, and you’ll likely find yourself strolling along the Gedempte Zuiderdiep. The heart of the city is formed around the two adjoining market squares,
- The Grote Markt (or Great Market) and the Vismarkt (or Fish Market). Standing tall on the edge of the Grote Markt is the Martini Tower, a true landmark for Groningen and one of its main attractions
3 Infoversum, Vrydemalaan 2. The Infoversum was built as the only full-dome 3D theatre in the Netherlands, before it was turned in a modern restaurant. It’s located near the city beach. edit
4 Wall House II. Open during exhibitions Sa Su 13:00-17:00. The Wall House II is a building in the south of the city located on the banks of Hoornsemeer lake. The building is one of the few realised designs to which the renowned American architect John Hejduk owes his fame. The building is a structure of reinforced concrete for the wall and columns, with a steel-framed corridor, wood stud walls, and a stucco exterior. Organised around a central axis of horizontal and vertical planes.
5 Reitdiep colourful houses. You may know these Scandinavian looking colourful terraced houses from Pinterest or Instragram. Built at the waterside they create a wonderful composition. Take Q-Link 11 to bus stop P+R Reitdiep
Museums : Groninger Museum, Museumeiland 1, . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Opposite train/bus station. Spectacular architecture. Hosts state-of-the-art contemporary art in the world. Named one of the five most progressive modern/contemporary art collections in the world, this museum’s changing exhibitions regularly attract visitors from all over the country. Adult €13, students €10, children and Dutch Museum Pass holders free.
7 Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum (Northern Maritime Museum), Brugstraat 24 . Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 13:00-17:00. The northern museum of water transport. Shows the history and role of transport over water until the 1970s. The museum is situated in the oldest residential building remaining in the city. Not accessible with a wheelchair or rollator. Adults €6, senior citizens €3.50, children up to 7 free, children aged 7-15 €3.50, Museumcard (Museumjaarkaart) free.
8 Universiteitsmuseum (University Museum), Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat 7A . Tu-Su 13:00-17:00. A strange and wonderful little museum located just off Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat. Temporary exhibitions, often of a technological bent, are held on the first floor upstairs (past an elaborate stained-glass window in the stairwell) is an eclectic collection in the Victorian style, with everything from anatomical specimens and taxidermied animals to early scientific instruments. free.
9 Het Nederlands Stripmuseum, Westerhaven 71 . The Dutch cartoon museum (strip = cartoon) shows many cartoons made by Dutch cartoonists. It’s also suitable to visit with children (not least because there’s a McDonald’s next-door with a play area), but also because they can learn how to draw cartoons by themselves. Adult €8.95, children aged 3-11 €7.50, children 2 and under free, students €5, Museumkaart free, seniors 60 and over €7.50.
10 Stichting Museum Canadian Allied Forces, Ulgersmaweg 51. The museum is open one day each weekend (Sa or Su) 12:30 -16:30 – see website for opening days. The Museum Canadian Allied Forces depicts the history of the liberation of the north of the Netherlands in 1945 by the Canadians, with a particular emphasis on the liberation of the city of Groningen. Free entrance.
11 GRID Grafisch Museum Groningen (GR-ID, museum for realising GRaphic IDeas), Sint Jansstraat 2. Tu-Su 13:00-17:00. GR-ID is a museum about graphical industry, art and design. The museum collection is mainly drawn from the province of Groningen and has been put together over a course of several decades. €5.
12 Hortus Haren (Hortus Botanicus), Kerklaan 34, Haren. 10:00-17:00, November-February closed. Everyone with an interest in gardens, flowers and plants, should visit the Hortus Haren. It is without a doubt one of the most impressive botanical gardens in the Netherlands. Hortus Haren was established in the 17th century and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the country. There are over 20 acres (8.1 hectares) with 15 colourful gardens. €8.50
Historic heritage : Der Aa-Kerk, Akerkhof. This beautiful medieval church , Academiegebouw (University of Groningen), Broerstraat 5 , Gold Office (Goudkantoor), Waagplein 1 (More or less between the two market squares) , Martinikerkhof (Martini cemetery). The Martinikerkhof used to be a cemetery, but since 1828 it is no longer in use , Oude RKZ, Old Roman Catholic Hospital – This is an old Roman Catholic hospital outside the city centr , Prinsenhof & Prinsentuin, Martinikerkhof 23, entrance of the public gardens at the corner of Turfsingel and Kattenhage , Sint Jozef Cathedral, Radesingel 4. St Joseph’s Cathedral is the cathedral church of the diocese of Groningen-Leeuwarden ,
Parks & sculptures : Jewish Memorial , Noorderplantsoen. Remains of the old citywalls, transformed into a public park , Stadspark. The Stadspark is an approximately 140 hectare park on the southwest side of the city in the Stadsparkwijk.
Activities : Cycling , Groningen is a cycling city par excellence , Relaxing @ Paterswoldsemeer lake , Canal cruise , Canoeing , Friday fun skate , Play Pitch&Putt, Bieskemaar 10 , Klimcentrum Bjoeks, Bieskemaar 3. Groningen’s best kept secret: indoor and outdoor climbing gym featuring “Excalibur”.
Festivals and events : Every year in January: ‘Eurosonic-Noorderslag’, European’s biggest showcase festival, Where dozens of bands from all over the world perform on various stages spread throughout the city.
Every year on Good Friday: ‘Bloemenjaarmarkt’, the biggest flower market of Northern Netherlands, which attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. Among the visitors are a lot of Germans.
Every year on April 26: ‘Koningsdag’ (kingsday), a holiday celebrating the birth of King Willem-Alexander. Many events in the city, including a lot of vrijmarkten (“free markets”) at which the Dutch sell their used items. The night before Kingsday is called Koningsnacht (“kingsnight”): many young people celebrate in the streets and squares throughout the night.
Every year on May 5: ‘Bevrijdingsfestival’ (Liberation Festival), together with many other festivals throughout the country.
Every year in August: ‘Paradigm Festival’, one of the most innovative electronic music festivals in the country, organized by Paradigm050 (which was chosen as best underground electro-house club in the Netherlands)
Every year in August: ‘Noorderzon Festival’, a festival focused on music, visual arts and performance arts.
Every two years in September/October: ‘Noorderlicht’ a photography festival.
Every year in autumn: ‘Jonge Harten’, a nine-day theater festival that takes place in almost all theaters in Groningen. It is a festival to discover. Including a lot of young creators, visual physical theater, performance, dance, music and a captivating festival heart.
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