The Dutch province of Friesland is famous for its endless green and water areas. Part of Friesland are the well-known Wadden Islands of Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling and Vlieland. In the west of the province is the afsluitdijk, a 32 km long dike which connects Friesland to Noord-Holland and separates the Frisian North Sea and the Ijsselmeer. Explore the best things to see and do in Friesland below.

Sights and Activities in Friesland

The province of Friesland is associated with nature. You’ll also find the famous Wadden Islands in this province. In addition to nature, there are some interesting cities, such as Leeuwarden, where you can see the typical Dutch canals.

Mudflat Walking

One of the highlights of Friesland is the Wadden Sea and the Frisian Wadden Islands: Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Terschelling and Vlieland. If you love long walks, the Wadden Sea is the perfect place to visit! Either on foot or on horseback: the mudflats are ideal for long hikes or horseback rides. You’ll spot seals in their natural habitat, sometimes even right on the shore. For safety reasons, you should stay close to shore or join a group with an experienced mudflat guide. While the tides are predictable, they surprised quite some enthusiastic hikers who didn’t start their walk back on time.

Mudflat Walking in the Wadden Sea of Friesland

Beach Vacation

The sea is the perfect place to relax. Whether you’re up for a leisurely day at the beach, volleyball or a walk on the beach, the Frisian islands are a very popular destination. Please note that there are no traditional sand beaches on the mainland along the Frisian North Sea coast! If you’re looking for a beach vacation, you’ll have to take the ferry to one of the Frisian islands. If you’re looking for a free alternative (without ferry) in Friesland, you will find small bathing beaches in Harlingen, Makkum and Workum.

The famous North Sea beaches (without mudflats) aren’t in Friesland but in the west of the Netherlands (e.g. Katwijk, Scheveningen, Egmond, etc.).

Cycling

Where better to cycle than in the wide, flat landscape of Friesland? There are numerous signposted cycling trails that let you explore different parts of the province.

If you’re interested in a longer route and want to see the highlights of Friesland, you can choose the official route Van Hofstad naar Wad (from the Capital to the Wadden Sea). This route starts in the province’s capital Leeuwarden, leading through small villages all the way to the Frisian coast. From there, a slightly different route will take you back to Leeuwarden. The route is just under 70 km long (both ways) and takes about 3-4 hours to complete. If you’re looking for a more quiet place, the Lauwersmeer National Park offers numerous routes in different lengths.

Nature Reserves

Those who enjoy hiking will find plenty of hiking routes in Friesland. A great place to visit for hikers, cyclists and bird lovers alike is the Lauwersmeer National Park. This huge nature reserve consists of different parts: the southern parts are ideal for those who want to combine hiking and bird watching. Note that parts of the National Park Lauwersmeer are not accessible with dogs (notably near the bird watching posts). If you travel with your dog, the Lauwersmeer Ballastplaatbos is the ideal starting point for your hike.

Walking in the beautiful National Park Lauwersmeer

A smaller but well worth seeing national park in Friesland is De Alde Feanen National Park. With a size of 25 km², the Natura 2000 protected area has quite a lot to offer. In addition to cycling and hiking trails, you can choose from various water sports activities such as SUP (stand up paddling) and boat trips.

Leeuwarden

Amsterdam isn’t the only place where you can see the famous Dutch canals! Leeuwarden is also home to beautiful canals, houseboats and picturesque houses! As the capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden is a great place for a day trip when in Friesland. Things to see in Leeuwarden include the Oldehove (the leaning tower of Leeuwarden) and the Blokhuispoort (known as one of the oldest prisons in the Netherlands).

What is special about Leeuwarden is the cityscape and the vibrant atmosphere. Take a walk around the city along the outer canals, explore the many small canals in the city center, and experience Dutch food culture in one of the many bars and cafes. Fish lovers shouldn’t miss out on the traditional Dutch fish market which takes place every Friday.

Typical Dutch canals in Leeuwarden

Watersports

Passionate kitesurfers will love the small village of Mirns on the Ijsselmeer. Unlike the North Sea, there are no tides at the Ijsselmeer. However, the wind blows no less strongly here which makes the Ijsselmeer a great place for watersports.

Yachts and Seafaring

Those who like yachts and seafaring should visit Sneek. That’s where the largest boat show of the Netherlands takes place every year. The city of Sneek is connected to the Sneekermeer, another popular place for watersports. If you are interested in the history of Dutch seafaring, make sure to visit the Frisian Maritime Museum in Sneek.

Accommodations in Friesland

Friesland has countless campsites for a relaxing stay in the middle of nature. Those who want a little more comfort will find a bed & breakfast in almost every town. Large hotels can be found in cities such as Leeuwarden and Harlingen.

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