What to do in Groningen: our favorite sights, activities and more
There is always that first time in a city. And there are a few things that you want to do that characterize the city that you visit. Usually, these are the tourist things to do. Fortunately, Groningen is not a city that attracts many tourists (and somewhere that is a shame). So very touristy, even the most touristy things (are you still following it? :)) will not feel that touristy. So, what are Groningen’s sights and the best things to do in Groningen?
Walk around the Prinsenhof garden in Groningen
Prinsenhof used to be exclusively for brothers and princes, now it’s open to all residents and visitors of the city of Groningen.
During the Middle Ages, the Prinsenhof was owned by the Brothers of Common Life, a religious group. The Prinsentuin (also known as the Prinsenhof garden) is a Renaissance garden in the center of Groningen behind the Prinsenhof. The garden was laid out in 1626 by the order of Citykeeper Willem Frederik and his wife Albertine Agnes. The neighboring Prinsenhof had since 1594 become the local residence of the princes of Nassau. The Prinsenhof is now a hotel, grand café, and restaurant, where everyone is welcome and feels at home.
Climb the Martinitower
The Martini tower is the face of Groningen. During the wars, the tower almost collapsed, but today it is still strong. The tower is 97 meters high and the tallest building in the city. Nice to do? Climb the more than 250 steps from the tower for a great panoramic view of the city.
Not high enough? Excalibur – named after swordsman King Arthur – is the highest freestanding climbing tower in the world. And he is just around the corner from us. The climbing wall is interesting for climbers because of the 36-feet curve in the design so that there is an overhang that climbers can find on a real peak. Read more about Excalibur here (+ tips to spend the night for free or cheap with your camper).
Discover the many concept stores
There are so many great concept stores in Groningen to sniff around. Our favorites?
Koko Toko is a mini department store full of nice things that you should have, mostly sustainable.
Vintage enthusiasts go to Oddity Wear
Verroest (which means rusted) is the best place to find that vintage gem furniture and it’s also some kind of French flea market.
Visit the many “courtyards”
Where the poor, sick and widows used to live for free, nowadays you can find every kind of local living in one of these cute little courtyards which are hidden in the center of Groningen. The funny thing is, once you enter these courtyards, you’ll immediately be in an oasis of peace – not that Groningen is that hectic (unless you’re visiting at the weekends).
Some courtyards are open to the public, so be free to explore them.
Dine at the best restaurants in Groningen
And there are quite a few! From Thai, Korean to wood-fired pizza. We even have our own Vapiano for 2 years. Yes, all the way in the far north. Our favorite hotspots in Groningen? The Clock Worker for pizza, Spaak for cycling and coffee lovers, and for tasty Asian food, definitely head over to Konbu.
Visit one of the many tasting rooms and beer breweries
Tasting rooms and beer breweries are very trendy so in Groningen. These are our favorites:
Bax Beer: a little further from the center, but a nice industrial space on the water. In the summer you can moor with a rubber boat.
Martinus brewery: one of the oldest breweries in a cozy location in the center of Groningen. You can also have a nice meal here, how about a dessert with a beer in it? just saying. Fun fact: They produced the beer ‘Nuchter’ for which I wrote the beer label on the bottle. This beer is special because the taste was developed by a computer (Watson).
De Prael Brewery: works with people who are at a distance from the labor market. This brewery can also be found in The Hague and is a well-known name in the Netherlands.
Stroll along the harbor
The Hoge and Lage der A are beautiful quays along the canals of Groningen. These quays are seen as one of the most beautiful places in Groningen and you should see them around golden hour. It is a beautiful part of town where you can see the tall sailing ships along the side. In the evening and winter, the lights light up for a magical Christmas.
Hike the Kardinge nature reserve
Groningen’s most beautiful nature reserve is Kardinge. At the parking lot of Kardinge, a hiking trail of about 5 km starts that runs through this nature reserve. You pass the grasslands, forests, and swamps while the residential area is a stone’s throw away. It is a beautiful area where we at least spend a lot of time, whether or not running, rolling or cycling. Do you want to work on your fitness and increase your style? Then “climb” the Kardingebult with a view over Kardinge and the city of Grunn.
10. Bars with a theme
The cafés and bars pop up like mushrooms in Groningen. The themed cafés, in particular, seem to be that thing makes us happy:
BOEL is the jeu de boules bar in Groningen. You can eat, drink and jeu de boule here with friends. And it’s not just for the elderly ;-)
Nieuwe Ebbingestraat 163
Peaky Blinders style bar
The Stockroom is a fairly new cafe in Groningen entirely in Peaky Blinders style, unofficially. (from the series, if you didn’t know the name). The Stockroom is, in fact, a cocktail bar, but in full 1920s style. Gatsby meets Peaky Blinders. At the bar, The Stockroom mixes eight different cocktails per season.
Spaak: coffee & bikes
Spaak is the bike café of Groningen. For cycling and non-cycling enthusiasts, you can enjoy a good cup of coffee, a delicious lunch or a delicious home-made cake. The coffee is roasted locally at the Groningen micro-roasting coffee station, we love it being sustainable. Not a coffee lover? There are also organic juices from Schulp and sodas from Fritz-kola.
Oude Boteringestraat 66
Sleep in the best hotels
There is a good hotel for every budget in Groningen. Whether you sleep on a budget or have something more to spend. For a list of backpackers’ budgets, we refer you to the nicest cheap hotels in Groningen.
For the middle class, you have to sleep in the Asgard Hotel in Groningen. This hotel is located in the center of Groningen and offers beautiful design rooms. The breakfast is also local and organic. They also have apartments if you’re looking into cooking and feeling like you’re at home.
If you have more money to spend, we can recommend the Prinsenhof. This hotel is located in a beautiful courtyard behind the Martini tower.
If you’re flying to Amsterdam, it’s fairly easy to plan your trip to Groningen.
The bus is your cheapest option (single ticket for around 7 euro). It’s advisable to book these tickets in advance (at least a day or 2 before). If you’re flying to Groningen airport (Eelde), the bus is the only option (or a taxi).
The train is the best and fastest option: it costs about 24 euro for a single trip and can be booked in advance or you can buy a ticket in advance or at Schiphol or any station in Groningen. Use NS Planner to check out the schedule.
Most of the time you’ll arrive at Groningen Central Station, the most beautiful station of the Netherlands (2019). We have two other stations, which you can reach either when passing by or taking a stop train.
A handy website to plan your visit is Omio.nl (also in English). You can check out the train schedule and book a ticket online.