Home to two large universities, 25% of Groningen’s population comprises students, both local and international. This makes the city center a fascinating melting pot of cultures. However, it’s not all youth and bustling energy in Groningen; there are also plenty of places you can visit for art and culture, and rest and nature.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to the best places and activities in Groningen, along with our travel tips.
Groningen City Sights & Activities
1. Grote Markt Town Square
The Grote Markt (lit. Big Market) town square is undoubtedly the heart of Groningen city. The Martinitoren (St. Martin’s Tower) is located here, and it’s also from which the Grote Markt streets fan out.
The Martinitoren is a church steeple in the Gothic style that has its origins in the 13th century. It’s been destroyed by lighting, semi-destroyed by fire, and ravaged by wars… and yet it endures.
Today, it stands proud at nearly 100 meters. If you climb its 260 steps you can enjoy the beautiful view from the top. The good thing is that there are ‘stops’ you can take along the way. For instance, at the height of about 40 meters, you can step out and walk around the tower. The huge church bells hanging from massive wooden rafters and huge clock dials are also pretty cool to see. Of course, the highlight is reaching the very top and viewing Groningen city in all its glory.
The Grote Markt (main market) fans out from its namesake square. Walk through any street, and you’ll find various shops, cafes, and restaurants. A few streets down is the Vismarkt, where fish has been traded since the 15th century.
Our Tip: On Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Grote Markt and Vismarkt become one big open-air market where about 200 stalls are set up to sell various food items. A must-see if you’re a foodie.
2. Der Aa-Kerk
Right next to the Vismarkt (fish market) is the Der-AA Kerk. It started as a small chapel in 1200 dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen. A visit here will tell you a lot about the area’s history, and it also serves as a venue for various events throughout the year.
3. Hoge Der A and Lage Der A
It’s said that the Hoge Der A and Lage Der A are so scenic that it’s the most photographed area in Groningen city. The A canal was an essential, economical part of the city (trade). Since time is money for the Dutch, they constructed the Hoge Der A quay to be used during high tide and the Lage Der A quay for low tide.
Walking along the canals gives visitors a glimpse of the past since both sides of the quay feature about 30 listed buildings. Old warehouses, municipal monuments, a 17th century brewery – these are just some of the things that await you.
Prinsentuin is a not-so-secret rose and herb garden that’s just about a 10-minute walk from the city center. It’s a small but lovely walled garden that was started in the early 1600s specifically for the pleasure of the guests of the Prinsenhof hotel, where state men and royalty used to stay. Prinsentuin is open to the public, so you can just slip in, enjoy the garden and have a respite from the bustling city center.
5. Groningen Almhouse Courtyards
Another place of tranquility is the inner courtyards of what used to be designated almshouses. These areas offered refuge to the poor, sick, and mentally disabled. The courtyards were walled-in by the almshouses so that the residents could have some peace and recuperate.
Today, the almshouses are owned by private individuals, but some inner courtyards are still open for the public to enjoy. The biggest and oldest hospice (12th century) is the Pelstergasthuis (on Pelstertraat), now a guesthouse. It has three courtyards you can visit.
Our Tip: You can get an inner courtyard city walk map from the tourist information center at the Grote Markt.
6. Groninger Museum
Groninger Museum is just a few minutes’ walk from the Groningen central station, and you won’t miss it because a bright and colorful bridge leads to it. Inside, you’ll see a permanent exhibit of Groningen city artifacts, a rare collection of Asian porcelain, and artwork by the De Ploeg (The Group), a Groningen artist collective.
Getting Around Groningen City
The city center is a ‘pedestrian priority zone’, which encourages people to walk and ride their bikes here.
If you’d like to explore the heart of the city center or do some shopping, it makes most sense to walk. You can explore the area and its sights using the many walking routes available.
Our Tip: Take the Groningen Walking Tour to explore the city center with a local guide.
Did you know that Groningen is dubbed the “World’s Cycling City”? In fact, the city looks back to over 150 years of cycling history!
Groningen is not just home to many students; many businesses are located here. If everyone was to take their car, traffic would be a major issue. To avoid traffic problems and to discourage people from using their cars, Groningen started constructing an extensive network of bike paths in the 1970s.
That said, all you need to get around Groningen is a bike.
Our Tip: Don’t have a bike? Take the Groningen Cycling Tour to access a bike and expert guide.
Groningen has a good network of public transportation available. There is no tram (anymore). The most popular means of transportation in and around the city is the bus.
To travel to other cities in the province or nationally, you can take the train (NS or Arriva). There are direct trains to several large cities across the country, such as Leeuwarden (about 30 minutes), Zwolle (about 1 hour) and even Rotterdam (around 2.5 hours).
Questions or Feedback?
Have you already been to Groningen or planning to visit soon? We’d love to hear from you! Share your experience or any questions you might have in the comment section down the page.