Assen, the capital city of the Dutch province of Drenthe, is often overlooked due to its close proximity to Groningen, which is known as a vibrant student city. But if you want to spend a more relaxed day, then Assen definitely deserves a day trip.
In this article, we’ll show you what you can see and do in Assen.
Assen – What to See and Do
Assen is a place that has taken its time to develop. Its history dates back to the mid-1200s but it was only in the early 1800s when it received city rights. Even then, Assen has been low-key until the 1920s, when the Dutch TT Circuit came about and the city became known as a motor racing destination.
1. Drents Museum
Established in 1854, the Drents Museum proudly holds a collection of archaeological finds that informs visitors of Drenthe’s rich history. The museum itself has an interesting history.
In 1259, Cistercian nuns laid the foundation for a nunnery and to this day, visitors can still see some of the original cloister bricks. However, in the late 1880s, the structure was changed to become a provincial government building, which now houses the museum. The Drenthe artifacts are a permanent collection but various exhibitions are held throughout the year so please do check what’s on exhibit during your visit.
Our Tip: Don’t miss the Yde girl during your visit. She’s a bod body of a Yde inhabitant that was found in the late 19th century. The reconstruction of her mummified face by British forensic expert Richard Neave became world-renowned and the finished reconstruction is a permanent exhibit in the museum.
2. TT Circuit
The TT Circuit is a motorsport race track constructed in the mid-1950s. It hosts the Dutch TT (Tourist Trophy), which is considered THE destination for motorcycling by racers and fans of the sport. Races of all types (e.g., motorbike racing, auto racing, running competitions, etc.) occur all year round so it’s best to check their calendar for which race is being held and when.
TT Circuit is not just a place where you can watch races. You can drive on the track yourself using your own car or motorbike! Again, please check their calendar for possible dates.
Various exhibitions and events are also held here such as Oldtimer exhibitions, hotrod events, etc.
Take a stroll through Asserbos and you can claim that you’ve walked through a forest that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 1850s, Drenthe made the decision to plant new forests for timber production and that’s now the somewhat star-shaped forest that is Asserbos. What’s charming about this approximately 100-hectare forest is that it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the city center!
Our Tip: If you have time, take the Asserbos and Asser cemeteries walking route, which is a 7 kilometer walking route that will take you through lovely streams, tranquil woods, an 18th century estate, and a cemetery or two.
4. Duurzaamheidscentrum Assen
Within Asserbos is the Duurzaamheidscentrum (Assen Sustainability Center), a city farm and garden open to the public all year. The place is a sustainability initiative of the city so it doesn’t just let visitors know what Assen is doing in this area, but also encourages them to live more earth-friendly by providing related information, activities, and exhibitions.
5. De Bontewever
If you’re visiting with kids or plan to stay for more than a day, then De Bontewever is your “all-in” destination. It’s a hotel that offers restaurants, a fitness center, a beauty and spa salon, a bowling area, and swimming facilities (indoor and outdoor). It is also a known events venue in the city where concerts, music festivals, dance events, and the popular Dutch Open Darts are held.
6. Baggelhuizerplas Assen
Baggelhuizerplas Assen is a secret. It’s located on the west side of Assen, hidden in one of the city’s residential areas. It’s a beautiful nature and recreation area that has a big beach so it’s popular among locals during summer for lazy picnics and, of course, swimming and sunbathing. In winter, when temperatures really drop, natural ice forms on the big lake, and people go here in droves to skate.
Because it’s ‘hidden’, many people don’t know that Baggelhuizerplas Assen has many walking and hiking trails, cycling routes (including mountain biking ones!), and even an area for fly fishing.