If the West has Amsterdam, then the North has Groningen city. What’s great about Groningen, which is the capital city of the Groningen province, is that it’s very diverse.

Due to the University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences, 25% of its 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 show you 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.

4. Prinsentuin

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, busy 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

Walking

The city center is a ‘pedestrian priority zone’, which encourages people to walk and ride their bikes here. As such, it’s straightforward to get around using the many walking routes available.

Our Tip: Take the Groningen Walking Tour to explore the city center with a guide.

Biking/Cycling

Did you know that Groningen is dubbed the ‘World’s Cycling City’? Groningen is not just home to many students; many businesses are located here. As such, traffic is a big problem.

To solve this issue and to discourage people from using their cars, Groningen started constructing an extensive network of bike paths in the 1970s. So don’t think you need a car to reach your target destinations; all you need is a bike.

Our Tip: Don’t have a bike? Take the Groningen Cycling Tour to access a bike and expert guide.

E-Scooting

If you find walking or biking too slow, hop on an electric scooter. As of this writing, felyx is the shared electric scooter service in the city.

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