Groningen is the northwesternmost province in the Netherlands. It is mainly agricultural with its capital, also called Groningen, as the only big city around. Although the flat countryside may seem uneventful at first glance, there's plenty of heritage and typical scenery to discover. This area was the stage for one of the oldest human efforts in Europe to conquer the water and shape the landscape through ditches, terps and pastures. There are picturesque villages, historical mansions and ample opportunities to just enjoy the laid-back countryside life in this most northern part of the Netherlands.
- Groningen — vibrant student city where historical buildings and modern architecture go hand in hand
- Appingedam — very picturesque canals with the famous "hanging kitchens"
- Bourtange — an old Dutch fortified village
- Delfzijl — small city with busy port and industrial area
- Pieterburen — the Pieterburen seal hospital and mudflat hiking
- Uithuizen — the Menkemaborg, a small castle with labyrinth and beautiful gardens, and a large museum dedicated to World War II
- Warffum — charming village with an open-air museum
- Middag-Humsterland - One of the oldest cultural landscapes of Western Europe
Agriculture is one of its mainstays. In the past peat was dug. Many villages have not really grown in the last century giving them a nice charm.
The large presence of extremely exploitative landowners in the east of Groningen during the late 19th and early 20th century left a relatively strong communist movement. The area is therefore regarded as the last stronghold of the communist party in the Netherlands.
Apart from agriculture there is an unsightly industrial area near the city of Delfzijl. In 1959 one of the largest natural gas fields in Europe was discovered near the village of Slochteren.
Locals talk a Nether-Saxon dialect called Gronings. English is of course widely spoken, as well as German. Especially on markets and fairs, many buyers will be German.
It is easiest to arrive in Groningen by train into the City of Groningen. Groningen city, although on the edge of the province, is a transport hub; lines running to the north of the province join the main rail network here.
Convenient services run the south of the country. Regular direct services run from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport, Rotterdam and The Hague, among other locations. From Schiphol Airport the journey typically takes 2h 15m.
Long distance buses to Emmeloord are also available. Also regular connections to Emmen and Assen. Publicexpress and other German bus companies offer regular direct bus connections to Oldenburg and Bremen, and daily connections to cities including Hamburg and Berlin.
There is an airport about 10 km outside the city of Groningen, in Eelde. This airport is quite small, with mainly charter flights to Southern Europe, but also offer scheduled flights to London and Gdansk, amongst others. Other flight connections require a train journey; Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is the biggest and best connected airport, but Bremen is a similar distance away by train (2–3 hours) and well served by budget airlines. Train tickets for Schiphol are € 25 one-way (2015), while Bremen can be reached by bus.
- Groningen has the least busy roads of the Netherlands. Only at rush-hour (Monday - Friday from 07.00 to 09.00 and from 16.00 to 18.00) there can be a few small traffic-jams but nothing serious.
- Outside the city of Groningen, there will not be too much traffic on the road.
- Parking a car on Saturday in the city of Groningen can be difficult though. Park your car at a "Transferium" and travel by bus to the city for a small fee.
- Almost every town has a gas-station where you can buy petrol, diesel and gas.
- Car rental is available in Groningen and at the airport through Avis, Herz and Europcar.
- Road maps are available at the ANWB shop in the Oosterstraat, Groningen. As a member of American Automobile Association, you can get discount at the ANWB shop.
Best way to get around the province is by car or bike. As the province is quite spread out, take a car if you have not much time to spare. Buses and trains also cross the countryside, but tend to be slow and far in between. Trains all originate in Groningen City and offer regular connections to Delfzijl, Roodeschool and Winschoten. Some buses in the country side require prior reservation ("bel bus"). Another option is the so-called "treintaxi", a cab that operates as a mini-bus and connects trainstations with private addresses (even in nearby villages) for just a few euro.
See the Ommelanden, the countryside north and east of the city of Groningen. Small little towns, little fishing communities, little castles ("borgen") and windmills. Good area to explore, by car or on bike.
- "Groningen station", a very beautiful built station.
- "Groninger Museum", just a few steps to the north from "Groningen Station. Beautiful architecture combined with seasonal expositions.
When in Groningen province why not try:
- Wadlopen (walking through the mud during low tide). It is a great way to experience the Waddenzee an area of great natural beauty full of seabirds and some seals. For more experienced "wadlopers" there are even trips to the island of Schiermonnikoog.
- Take a bath or spend a day in the sauna at the Spa of Nieuweschans.
- Go for a tour along the old fortified houses called "borgen" at Slochteren (Freylemaborg), Leek (Nienoord), Leens (Verhildersum) and Uithuizen (Menkemaborg).
- Go sailing or swimming at Leek at the "Leekstermeer" or Paterswolde at the "Paterswoldse Meer".
- Try the Groningen City walk, a guided tour through the inner city of Groningen. Lots of interesting buildings (like the Prinsenhof) and stories.
- Take the stairs at the Martini Toren. Climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the view.
- If you have a few days to spare, try to explore. Buy fresh fish, eat smoked eels in Bourtange, take a stroll along a large (9 meters tall) statue of Lenin in Tjuchem, which was imported from the former GDR on a whim of an eccentric businessman.
Go and get to eat some fresh fish, for instance in Noordpolderzijl or Termunterzijl. Or get yourself a pancake in Eenrum.
There are a lot of fine restaurants scattered across the province:
- Leens - Verhildersum (expensive, but high quality food, only made from regional products, 1 star Michelin rating)
- Delfzijl - De Kakebrug
- Aduard - Onder de Linden (expensive, but very good, 1 star Michelin rating)
- Muller - Groningen (1 star Michelin rating)
- Haren - Villa Sasso, Mediterranean cuisine.
- Tekinev - Turkish Fine cuisine
Less expensive, but nice:
- Groningen - Chinese restaurant Ni Hao. Very good Chinese cuisine
- Middelstum - De Valk
- Eenrum - Abrahams mosterdmakerij
- Fish restaurants in Delfzijl, Termunterzijl and Lauwersoog. Fresh caught fish from the sea on your plate.
- Lots and lots of places to eat in the city of Groningen.Turkish, Thai, Mexican, Subways, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Mongolean, Japanese, French, German, Dutch. Whatever you want to eat, there is a place for it.
Groningen is famous for its nightlife. Nowhere in the Netherlands will the pubs stay open longer. Especially at the area to the southeast of the "Grote Markt", like the Poelestraat, the Oosterstraat en the Peperstraat, there are a lot of pubs that stay open 'till late. Dutch pubs, student pubs, Irish pubs, bars, coffeeshops, you name it, Groningen has it.
Try café Hooghoudt at the south border of the "Grote Markt". Hooghoudt is a local liquor brand (it produces vodka and traditional Dutch liquors like "Jenever") and the café acts as a barrelhouse.
In whole, Groningen is a safe place to stay. There are only a few basic rules to follow:
- Lock your car and don't leave your CD player, laptop or navigation equipment in your car.
- Double lock your rental bike; the Netherlands are famous for their bikes, but also bicycle theft.
- Hard drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, but possession of a small portion of soft drugs for personal use is allowed.
- Groningen city centre is observed by CCTV cameras (with noise-sensitive warning equipment). If you are the victim or the witness of a criminal act, the police will normally arrive in a few minutes.