Groningen is one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands to discover. Groningen is a city full of surprises, history, and culture. The best thing about Groningen is that it is not yet so touristy, so you experience the Netherlands like a local.
Whether you’re visiting Groningen for the first time or if this is going to be one of your many visits, this article provides tips to help you get the most out of the city. Discover in this article: things to do in Groningen.
Things to do in Groningen?
There are a lot of things to see Groningen! We have often visited Groningen so we can share great tips. Read our 25 things to do in Groningen below. There are a couple of activities that are located outside the city, if applicable this will be explicitly mentioned.
The Martinitoren is located on the Grote Markt and is the most impressive building in Groningen. The Martinitoren was built in the 13th century, making it one of the oldest buildings in Groningen. It is a symbol for the people of Groningen because, despite the many setbacks it has known, it still stands in all its glory. With a height of 97 meters, the Martinitoren is the tallest building in Groningen and therefore definitely worth climbing to the top. From the top, you have a fantastic view.
To enter you need to get a coin (€7,50 / $8,80 per person) from the Groningen Store (tourist office) in the Forum. Once inside, you have to climb almost 300 steps to reach the top. At the top, you will be rewarded with a fantastic view.
#2 Forum Groningen
The Forum is located in a side street of the Grote Markt and is one of the best places to visit in Groningen. The Forum is relatively new and is a meeting place. On each floor, there is something different to see.
In this building, you can find the Groningen Store (tourist office) where you can receive all information about Groningen and the province. If you like comics you can visit Storyworld. You can also go to the cinema and theater. There is also a smart lab, restaurant, and café. However, the two best things about the Forum are the exhibitions and the highest rooftop garden in Groningen. Check the agenda of the forum to see what the current exhibitions are. For example, when we were there, there was an exhibition about The Art of Aardman, which was great.
Tip: you need to buy tickets in advance for an exhibition, you can do this via the agenda of the Forum.
The nice thing about the rooftop is that you can enjoy the view of the city. Great to visit during sunset so you have a fantastic view. It is easy to do because you can use escalators.
#3 Hoge Der A
Amsterdam is world-famous for the canal belt, but Groningen also has canals with a beautiful history. At Hoge Der A you can see beautiful old warehouses. Ships used to come here to supply the city with products, so you could hear wheels rattling and horses kicking all day long. It is recommended to walk along the quays and enjoy everything you see. It feels like stepping into a Dutch old painting.
#4 Groninger Museum
If you love museums, a visit to the Groninger museum should not be missed. The collection is versatile and the changing exhibition means there is always something new to see. The Groninger Museum is fun for all ages because it is very diverse.
Look at the website of the Groninger Museum what the current exhibition is so that you can determine for yourself whether you like to visit the Groninger Museum.
Tip: tickets cannot be bought at the entrance and must be purchased in advance. You can do this here do. Ticket costs are €15/$17 per adult, €10/$12 per student, and children till 18 years are free.
#5 Groninger Hofjes
Visiting the Hofjes in Groningen is a great activity because you can enjoy the peace in this lively city. These courtyards were used to provide shelter for the sick, poor, and widows. Nowadays the Hofjes are normally inhabited. It is very nice to visit different Hofjes because you get an idea of how people lived in the city at the time. In addition, the buildings are also very impressive because of the age and the architecture. One of the best Groningen tourist attractions to be seen.
Tip: there is a Hofjes walk that shows you the best Hofjes in Groningen to visit. Below you see a map. If you want this physically, you can get it at the Groninger Store in the Forum.
If you are interested in doing a tour with a local, you can book it here. Costs are €35/$41 per person.
Where many people know the Martinitoren, the Martinikerk is less known, but this is a beautiful church to visit. The church was built in the 1200s but, like the Martini Tower, has undergone many changes.
On arrival, you will notice that the church is beautiful but also simple. The best pieces of the church are located inside. The old church organ which dates back to the 1400s is magnificent to see. Also, the roof of the dome is unique because of the light blue color and colorful frescoes around it.
A more impressive church from the outside is the Nieuwe Kerk, which is located a 10-minute walk north of the Martinikerk.
Tip: opening hours are from Tuesday to Friday from 11 am to 3 pm.
#7 Botanical Garden
If you are a nature lover, visiting a botanical garden is something for you. The Hortus Botanicus is located just outside the city of Groningen in Haren, where you can enjoy beautiful gardens. There are 10 different gardens such as Chinese garden, water garden, rock garden. A fun activity for all ages.
From the central station in Groningen, line 51 departs every half hour, which takes you to the botanical garden. You have to get off at the Bolhuissteeg bus stop to arrive right in front of the entrance.
Tickets can be bought on-site, costs are €9/$10 per adult and €4.50/$5 per child.
Behind the Martinikerk you find the Prinsentuin where you can enjoy peace. Back in the 17th century, this garden was enjoyed by the Princes of Nassau. Nowadays the Prinsentuin is open to the public.
In this garden, you can find a rose and herb garden. The most beautiful pats are the deciduous corridors because when you walk under them you get an idea of how the princes enjoyed their time in this garden at the time.
If you want to drink something, Theeschenkerij is recommended, here you can order tea with herbs from the Prinsentuin.
#9 Lauwersmeer National Park
The Lauwersmeer National Park was created after the Lauwerszee was closed off in 1969. This nature reserve is nowadays one of the most beautiful nature reserves in the Netherlands because of the views on the horizon and the flora and fauna which you will not find anywhere else.
In the Lauwersmeer National Park you can walk, cycle, do birdwatching, sail and watch the stars. If you like walking, it is recommended to drive to the Lauwersnest activity center. From this point, you can start different routes. You can read more information here.
Bus line 163 departs every hour from the central station in the direction of Lauwersoog harbor. Travel time is approximately 1 hour. Keep in mind that this activity takes all day.
The vismarkt is one of the most popular squares in Groningen. There are a couple of monumental buildings such as the Korenbeurs. This used to be a market hall where grain was traded. The building has many windows so that a lot of light could come in to test the grain for quality.
On Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays is a market where you can buy tasty things such as bread and fruit. Have you ever tried haring? Well worth it! You can buy this at one of the fish stalls.
#11 Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum
If you have visited the Groninger Museum and you want to visit more museums, the Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum is something to consider. In this museum, you will discover the rich history of shipbuilding in the Northern Netherlands. Personally, we found the cuffed ships very beautiful, so you can imagine what it was like to sail at the time. A ticket costs €8/$9 per adult.
#12 SealsCenter Pieterburen
Are you an animal lover and do you like to see seals up close? Plus, if you want to help rescue seals, a visit to the Seal Center in Pieterburen is something for you!
In the center, you will learn everything about the seals, from which species there are to how they end up in a sanctuary. It is also great for children because they learn about these animals while playing.
If you walk past the various shelters, you realize what we cause as humans. However, it is great to see the little seals and know that they will soon be released back into the wild.
You can visit the center for €9.50/$11 per adult. You can buy a ticket via the website of Pieterburen Seal Center. At checkout, you can optionally donate.
It is possible to be present at the release of a seal. You leave by boat to a sandbank in the Wadden Sea where the seals are released in peace. Are you interested? Read more information here.
The center can be reached by public transport. From the station, take the train to Winsum station (direction Roodeschool). At bus stop Winsum you take bus 68 to Pieterburen and get off at the bus stop Wiebenerweg. From the bus stop, it is a 5-minute walk to the Seal Center.
If you want to visit a typical Groningen fortified town, Bourtange is highly recommended. Bourtange is built in a star shape that previously served as a fortress during the Dutch revolts in the 1500s.
Very nice to do as a day trip from Groningen. The canals, the cannons, and the authentic houses provide a unique experience. When you walk through the fortress you feel like you are going back in time.
Bourtange is located 60 kilometers east of Groningen and therefore it can only be reached by car. You can park your car for free at the information center (Willem Lodewijkstraat 33). The drive to Bourtange itself is also very nice because you drive 1 hour through the Groningen countryside.
#14 Main Station
The main station in Groningen is called by many the most beautiful station in the Netherlands. Nice to walk around. The station hall and especially the ceiling can be compared to a cathedral. Take a look at the decoration, great to see these details in a station.
Once outside as you walk towards the Groninger Museum, it is also worth paying attention to the facade and the details.
The Aa-Kerk was built around 1200 and was a small chapel for boatmen and merchants at the time. In 1400 the chapel grew into the church it is today. It is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Groningen and therefore worth a visit.
It is possible to visit the church only the church is now used for exhibitions and concerts. You can still enjoy the architecture, the light pink arches are great to see.
#16 Province House
Behind the Martinikerk you find the provincial house, one of the most breathtaking buildings in Groningen. The wooden shutters, sculptures, and the round tower are beautiful. The provincial house was built in the style of the 16th century, resulting in a beautiful building to see.
It is not possible to visit the provincial house. You can walk past the provincial government building when you go to the Prinsentuin.
#17 Local shops
In addition to all the historic buildings and museums, it is also nice to visit some shops. Groningen is a student city, so you can visit many boutique shops in addition to the big brands.
There are a lot of boutique shops in the city. Our favorites are:
- Le Souk: an Arab market in the heart of Groningen;
- Zich Zach: clothing store where local designers get the chance;
- Reiswinkel de Zwerver: travel shop where you can get some travel inspiration;
- J&Z Handmade: a home furnishings store with only handmade products;
- The Kadocafé: here you will find the largest tea shop in the Netherlands;
- Dille & Kamille: nice shops where you can find everything for your home.
#18 Academy Building
The Academy Building is located on Broerplein, which has been the academic heart of the city since 1614. The Academy Building is a gem if you like neo-Renaissance style. As a visitor, it is not possible to visit the Academy Building from the inside.
Tip: Mr. Mofongo where you can sit on the terrace and order a drink.
#19 Eating fish in Zoutkamp
If you love fish and want to eat it as fresh as possible, then you should visit Zoutkamp. Fish are caught daily in Zoutkamp that you can consume at one of the fish specialty stores. You can combine this activity if you go to National Park Lauwersmeer because you pass Zoutkamp during the route.
#20 Churches tour
Between the city of Groningen and Delfzijl, there is a church route of 40 kilometers that is fun to do if you want to see more of the Groningen countryside. You can do this route by walking, bike, or by car.
The churches are special to see because they are built with Roman stones and Groningen clay. The churches are also located in small villages where it seems as if time has stood still.
From Groningen, it is 20 minutes by car to Stedum. If you do not have access to a car, you can cycle to Stedum. This takes about 1 hour by bike. You can rent a bicycle here.
Tip: you can rent an electric bicycle to make the activity easier.
#21 De Drie Gezusters
De Drie Gezusters most appreciated café in the Netherlands because this is the largest pub in the Netherlands that has no closing time. During the day you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner here. It is also nice to have a drink and order a Groningen eierbal.
#22 Night out
Groningen is a student city and it is, therefore, a pleasure to go out for a night out. There are bars where you can party, but we don’t focus on this. We recommend going to one of the bars below:
- BOEL: a jeu-de-boules bar where you can play boules, have a drink and eat;
- Cafe de Minnar: intimate cafe where you can enjoy a terrace under the trees;
- Cafe der Witz: an atmospheric brown cafe where you have 11 beers on tap and 60 bottles of beer;
- Cafe de Koffer: a local cafe where you can enjoy the best specialty beers. They have 375 different beers.
#23 Grid Graphic Museum
If you like to discover graphic heritage, a visit to the GRID graphic museum is recommended. In this museum, you can see the printing and bookbinding of the past. You can also make a graphic design yourself. You can play with typesetting and different printing techniques during this activity.
A fun museum where you learn about the past and present of graphic art. You can buy a ticket (€7.75/$9 per adult & €3.25/$4 per child) here (only available in Dutch, go to ‘bestel hier je ticket’.
#24 City theater
If you want to go to the theater for an evening, visit the city theater is recommended. You can also walk past it alone because just seeing the building is beautiful. The building dates from 1883 and was the topic of the day among Groningen residents. At the time they felt that the construction should be done as cheaply as possible.
If you look at it now, you can’t see much of this discussion back then.
#25 Road trip Groningen province
The city of Groningen and the surroundings are great to visit. If you have the chance, try to discover the province of Groningen for a couple of days. In the province of Groningen, you can discover the countryside. Enjoy it vies, walk on the mudflats, visit various nature parks and discover authentic villages. If you are interested visit the Groningen Store (tourist office) in the Forum for more information.
How many days do you need for Groningen?
There are a lot of places to see in Groningen. If you want to do the majority of these activities you need to stay 2 nights / 3 days in Groningen. In 3 days you have enough time to do many of these activities.
Where to stay in Groningen?
There is a lot of choices, but it can be difficult to find something with a good price-quality ratio. With the tips below we try to help you find the right accommodation. Keep in mind that staying in Groningen is not cheap.
We stayed at Best Western (€95/$111 double room) and recommend it. The rooms are very neat, the beds are good and you can park your car under the hotel for a small charge. If you want to stay in the middle of the historic center in one of the most beautiful streets of Groningen, NH Hotel De Ville (€97/$117 double room) is recommended.
Tip: book the accommodation in time to ensure yourself a place to stay. Because of their popularity, these accommodations are quickly fully booked. If you book via one of the links above, you can change your reservation free of charge two days before departure.
Where to eat in Groningen?
There are a lot of things to see in Groningen, part of this is discovering different local restaurants. Below are some places we recommend:
- Eetcafe de Padang: nice eatery to enjoy Berber dishes;
- Semsom: enjoy Lebanese street food. The plates tawouk and kafta are recommended;
- Voila: French cuisine where they only serve fresh dishes;
- Buurman en Buurman: pizzas prepared by an Italian wood oven, delicious!
- Funcky Freek: rich assortment with delicious healthy smoothies, try smoothie popeye!.
- Frietwinkel: the best place to order a typical Groningen eierbal;
- Kattencafe op z’n kop: as the name suggests, you can enjoy a drink and a snack here with cats by your side.
How do you get to Groningen?
Groningen can be easily reached by train or car. You can check on the NS site how to get to Groningen from your location by train. If you come by car you can park for free at a P&R spot. From here you can travel by bus to the center for €6/$7 per person (return ticket). If you stay at Best Western, like us, you can park your car under the hotel.
if you travel from Amsterdam (center of Schiphol) to Groningen you need to take the train. Check the NS site at which platform you need to take the train.
What is the best time to visit Groningen?
Groningen can be visited all year round. The best periods are spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November). The temperatures are pleasant in the spring and autumn periods. Summer (June-August) is also great to visit Groningen, but it can be warm with temperatures around 30ºC. A disadvantage of the summer is that the prices are higher compared to other periods because of the school vacations in Europe. The quietest period is winter (December-February). Prices are lower and it is less crowded, the only drawback is that temperatures are less pleasant.
Want to see more of the Netherlands?
There are many places to see in Groningen. But there is more to discover in the Netherlands. Do you want to see more of the Netherlands? Are you planning to travel to Amsterdam? Read here the best things you can do in Amsterdam.
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