Groningen is the underdog of the Netherlands. It is located so far up North of the country that most people travelling to the Netherlands don’t put in the effort to visit it. By providing you with this itinerary for a one day trip we want to show you all the best things of what to do in this magical student town.
How to get there: You can reach Groningen by train using NS. If you fly in, you can land at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (2 hour train journey) or Eindhoven Airport (3 hour train journey) and then take a train from there.
Where to stay: We camped at Camping Groningen International and can highly recommend the campsite, which is located next to an idyllic farm with goats, donkeys, pony’s and chickens sleeping a few feet away from you. As former locals we can also highly recommend the Martini Hotel or the more luxurious Prinsenhof, which are both located in the center of Groningen.
When to come: The Dutch weather can be very windy and rainy, so we recommend that you visit between May and September.
How long to stay: Groningen can be covered in one day. However, you could consider staying an additional night and doing a mud walking tour across the Waddensea. We do not recommend making Groningen your hub to explore the rest of the Netherlands since it is pretty much cut off from the rest of the country.
Have Breakfast at Blue Bananas Pancake Cafe
One of our favourite eating spots is ‘T Pannekoekenschip, a restaurant on a ship that strictly serves pancakes. Unfortunately they were not open when we wanted to have breakfast on the Saturday morning when we arrived. We decided to go to The Blue Bananas Pancake Cafe instead, and indulged in the fluffiest pancakes layered with crispy bacon, melted cheddar, sweet fried onion and a sunny side egg and maple syrup on top. Needless to say that we more than enjoyed this heavenly breakfast and still dream about it. Next up was the Groningen Forum located just opposite the Cafe.
Visit the Groningen Forum
Groningen Forum is the newly build cultural center of Groningen that houses a cinema, a library, various cafés and a rooftop terrace and restaurant as well as parts of the Groninger museum. You should definitely visit it for its amazing panoramic views. The exhibitions on storytelling, illustration and animation are also very interesting and some exhibition pieces are displayed throughout the building. The forum has an amazing climbing area for children and hosts regular arts workshops. The only thing we cannot recommend is the coffee on the ground floor, so make sure to take your coffee break before or try the rooftop restaurant.
Take a break at Drie Gezusters
Drie Gezusters is an establishment in the city like no other. It’s a huge space consisting of multiple bar’s and it’s located right at the Grote Markt, the central square of Groningen. When we still lived in Groningen, we liked to come here for the nacho’s or for a lazy coffee. Drie Gezusters can host a total of 3700 guests and they claim to be the biggest bar in Europe. When you visit, make sure to take a tour through the entire establishment and pick one of the train boots to sit in. It’s so much fun to sip your coffee and feel like you’re on a train ride in the 19th century.
Explore Grote Markt and Vismarkt
The Grote Markt and the Vismarkt are the two main squares of the centrum, which lie adjacent to each other. On Saturdays you can stroll over the fresh food market on the Vismarkt and try the famous kibbeling (fried cod pieces), broodje haring (herring in a soft bun served with onions), freshly baked stroopwaffels (the grocery store bought ones are nothing in comparison) as well fresh fruits, veggies, pastries, breads and more. There’s a very nice atmosphere at the market and around the area you will find lots of high-street shops, cafés and restaurants.
Marvel at the Martinitoren
Martinitoren is a Gothic church right next to the Grote Markt. You can climb up the tower and get a great view over the city. However, since Groningen Form offers you a great view from their rooftop terrace for free, we would recommend to skip the climb up the Martinitoren and to take the escalators up to the highest floor of the Groningen Forum instead. Pay attention to the church bells that ring every hour and oftentimes play famous (pop) songs. Until 2023 you could still attend the annual Beerfestival in the Martini church. Unfortunately, all future beer festivals in Groningen will take place at the Grote Markt.
Have Lunch at De Frietwinkel
At the end of Vismarkt, you will find Folkingestraat and we recommend you to walk down the street, where you will find lots of small boutiques selling unique home decor, clothes from independent fashion brands and food delicatessen. At the end of Folkingestraat, you will see a mass of people gathering around one area. This is when you’ve arrived at De Frietwinkel, selling undoubtedly the best French fries of the city and maybe even of the Netherlands. We recommend you go for the big portion (of course) with Brander mayonnaise, which is a mix of local mayo with mustard and pepper. Take a look at the synagogue that’s opposite the Frietwinkel.
Visit the Groningen Museum
The Groningen Museum is located opposite the central station closeby Folkingestraat, so if you are interested in visiting it, then you should consider doing it after De Frietwinkel due to the close proximity. It houses contemporary art of local, national and international artists. You will find art installations, fashion, photography, archeology, paintings and much more at the Groningen Museum. Tickets are 25€ per person. If you come in September you should attend the museum night, during which all of the museums in Groningen are open until 1am at night and the entrance fee is reduced.
Enjoy a beer at Proeflokaal Mout
After so much art and culture, you should sit down and relax in one of Groningen’s many beer cafés. When we are in Groningen, we love to come to Proeflokaal Mout, which for us is the best beer café in all of Groningen. Not only is the owner who will serve you the beer super friendly, the interior is like no other beer cafe. Instead of a sticky wooden floor, there’s a thick, comfy rug warming your feet. You sit at small wooden tables reminiscent of a French bistro and in the middle of Mout stands a long table adjourned with newspapers that will make you feel like you’re sitting in a Viennese coffee house.
Try the Original Groninger Mustardsoup
After one or two drinks, it’s time to eat something again. Groningen, you must know, is famous for its mustard. You should head to Albert Heijn or Jumbo, the major grocery chains in the Netherlands and pick up a jar of the original Groningse mustard as a gift for a loved one. In order to attack your current hunger, you should try the Groninger mustard soup at Café Hooghoudt, where it’s served with crispy bacon and freshly baked bread. Mustard soup is very popular in all of the Netherlands with each region adding their own local mustard to their soup, which is why it will taste slightly different in every area of the Netherlands.
Enjoy a Frozen Joghurt at Pure
After dinner comes dessert and back when we were living in Groningen we were often enjoying it at Pure, which is a well established frozen yoghurt place in Groningen located between Grote Markt and Vismarkt and very close to Café Hooghoudt. You first choose between frozen joghurt and vanilla ice-cream and then choose your toppings spanning from fresh fruit to brownie crumble. Unfortunately, we have noticed that on our last visit in the summer of 2023 the quality has gone down quite a bit. Pure is also selling pastries, (vegan) donuts and coffee.
Take an evening walk through Noorderplantsoen
Noorderplantsoen translated means Northern Public Park in Dutch. It’s located just outside the centre and has a big pond and a leisurely café called Zondag (the Dutch term for Sunday) that serves great American pancakes. In order to end this amazing day you can stroll through the park and relax on one of the many benches with your frozen yoghurt in hand. Consider visiting Groningen in the beginning of August, when the Noorderzon Theatre festival takes place and the park turns into a colorful circus with food trucks, theatre, art performances, concerts and more. Tickets can be bought online or on the spot. Check the schedule online.