Groningen is a major university city in northern Holland famous for having the cleanest air and least noisy streets of all the major Dutch cities. In fact, its centre is entirely pedestrianised and boasts a dense network of cycle paths that make the city one of the most bike-friendly in the Netherlands.
According to artefacts found in the area, these territories were already inhabited three thousand years ago, but it was during the Middle Ages that Groningen became an important flourishing centre thanks to its numerous trading activities and its strategic location on the border between today’s Drenthe and Friesland provinces.
During the famous Dutch Golden Age, the city’s population grew considerably as did the city’s wealth and it was during this period that peat extraction was increased, which brought much prosperity and wealth. In 1614, the first university was also opened, known at the time mainly for theological studies, but even today Groningen is home to an important university centre with science and humanities faculties.
Nowadays, this lively town has a compact, human-friendly historic centre and is perfect for a quiet weekend of history, fun and outdoor activities. Groningen is indeed a city with a considerable historical and architectural heritage, but it is also full of bars and clubs that allow for a lively nightlife.
The heart of the city of Groningen is Grote Markt, the Great Market Square, where the most important monuments and several restaurants are located. Besides this there are two other important squares: Martinikerkhof and Vismarkt, the Fish Market Square. Since the 1970s, the area in the centre has also been largely car-free and has a road system designed for walking, cycling and public transport.
The Martinikerk (or St. Martin’s Church) is the city’s most important religious monument and was built on Grote Markt from the 13th century onwards, although it underwent several extensions until the 16th century. On the outside, the bell tower known as Martinitoren stands out. It is a tower almost 97 metres high and is considered by many to be the symbol of the city.
The church is an important example of Dutch Gothic architecture and its interior boasts a piedych divided into three naves by pillars and a majestic choir with an ambulatory developed on three levels. The highlight of the building, however, is its organ, which with its 53 registers and 3500 pipes is among the largest Baroque organs in the world.
Overlooking the Market Square, the Martinitoren is a bell tower dating back to the 13th century that was for years the tallest building in Europe. The belfry was destroyed and rebuilt several times until the current building was constructed in the 17th century. It measures 97 metres in height and boasts a panoramic terrace with spectacular views over the entire city.
Inside, there is a spiral staircase with 260 steps leading up to an internal carillon of 62 bells. On the front façade of the Martinitoren there are three images above the entrance representing three men important to the history of Groningen: the blind poet Bernlef, St. Martin and the humanist Rudolf Agricola.
The Martinikerkhof is one of the city’s three large squares overlooked by both religious and administrative buildings of great value as well as several historic houses. Among the most famous buildings is the Prinsenhof, a complex originally built as a monastery that has changed several uses over time and has now been converted into a hotel.
It was built on the site of a former medieval cemetery and has undergone several renovations and extensions over the years. Until the 1970s, Martinikerkhof was home to a car park, while it now houses a small park that is considered the city’s green lung.
The Groninger Museum is an unmissable stop during a visit to the city because it allows one to admire numerous masterpieces of modern and contemporary art. A first special feature of the museum, however, already lies in its exterior structure, which is a modern, colourful building on a small island surrounded by a network of canals.
The museum site was designed by the Italian architect Alessandro Mendini and opened in 1994 in the presence of Queen Beatrix. Inside, it houses works of modern art and design explained in an engaging and interactive manner as well as a permanent collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain and various creations by the artist collective De Ploeg.
Hoge der A and Lage der A are two picturesque streets in the city centre of Groningen that run along the banks of Canal A, between Brugstraat and Visserstraat. The names ‘Hoge’ (high) and ‘Lage’ (low) derive from the shape of the banks, which are high on the east side and low on the west side. Along the canal there used to be warehouses that were at the centre of the city’s mercantile life, but now most of these are disused and have been converted into historical buildings or monuments of interest.
Nowadays, numerous open-air cafés and bars can be found here, which are very lively, especially on hot days. The atmosphere of the area is even more charming during the Christmas season when the streets Hoge der A and Lage der A are elegantly decorated and host a Christmas market.
Vismarkt or Fish Market Square has been so called since the 15th century when the tradition of holding the city fish market here began and is still active today. The square has a rectangular shape and is surrounded by buildings of great historical interest including the majestic Der Aa-kerk and the Korenbeurs, the former grain exchange building that is now disused.
Groninger is home to no less than two universities with a combined total of more than 60000 students who animate city life to a great extent. The main university, known as Academiegebouw, is also the oldest one and has several historical sites in the centre (in the Binnenstad district) and other sites in the Noorddijk district in the easternmost area. The second university is the Hanzehogeschool which is considered the largest technical and vocational university in the northern Netherlands and is located in an area north of the centre. In the city’s academic quarter, you can visit the University Museum free of charge, where you can explore historical, scientific and cultural themes.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Groningen is a friendly town with a lively historical centre and numerous sites of interest. So the best area to stay in is around the three main squares (Grote Markt, Martinikerkhof and Vismarkt) where there are numerous hotels of different types and price ranges.
Lovers of nightlife, on the other hand, will find Poelestraat, Peperstraat and the south side of Grote Markt very lively in the evenings. As Groningen is a student town, it is also possible to find reasonably priced and convenient accommodation here.
Groningen can be easily reached from Amsterdam and other Dutch cities by car or train. Those travelling by car can reach Groningen via the A6 and A28 motorways and the E232 European Road. Groningen’s railway station provides connections to the country’s major cities, including Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The city is served by Groningen-Eelde Airport, located in the town of Eelde, which is less than 10 km south of the city.
What's the weather at Groningen? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Groningen for the next few days.
Groningen is a capital city of the province of the same name in the northernmost part of the Netherlands. Groningen is 45 km from Assen and 180 km from Amsterdam.