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Groningen, Netherlands

Updated on October 8, 2013

A quick guide

Groningen is the capital city of the province that has the same name in Northeast of the Netherlands. It is on the small side with a population of around 190000, and is rather off the tourist track. However, that does not mean that the city is uninteresting (in fact, it is considered the centre of economy and culture of North Netherlands). As there are relatively few cars around, it is nice for a walk or biking (fun fact: Groningen has the highest bike density in Netherlands, which is itself a bike country). Here is a tour around this lovely city.

The city centre

The are surrounding the two squares (named intuitively "Great Market" and "Fish Market") lying diagonally next to each other has most of Groningen's attractions. For those who are interested in history, this is where Battle of Groningen, one of the major actions of Canadian army in World War 2, took place. Nowadays, the squares serve mainly as marketplace every week on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

The main landmark is Martini Tower, which is said to have been the highest building in Europe in medieval time. It is certainly one of the highest points in the city, offering a panoramic view and a good place for taking photos. Behind it are several old houses with architecture typical of the region which are interesting to look at.

About several minutes of walk away across the squares from the tower is the Aa Church. This church has been there since the founding of the city serving as the central worship place (the building, on the other hand, has been through countless renovations and thus has changed shaped considerably). The surrounding street is a high class shopping area.

Also close to the city square is the ornate Academy Building of University of Groningen (number 5 Broerstraat as every student will know). The university is the second oldest in Netherlands, being found back in 17th century. The students, many of them international, play an important part in Groninger life. Around the Academy building, you can find the offices of Law and Theology Faculties, two of the oldest major at the university. There are also other miscellanea of university life such as headquarter of the student newspaper, libraries and bookstores.

Last but not least is the Folkingestraat, a small street good for wandering around. This is the area of secondhand book stores, curiosities and handicraft shops, and café. The ancient city synagogue is also on this street, surrounded by art galleries. For bonus point, you can find the busiest ice cream shop of the city here.

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Martini TowerThe Open Market with Aa church in the backgroundThe Academy Building
Martini Tower
Martini Tower
The Open Market with Aa church in the background
The Open Market with Aa church in the background
The Academy Building
The Academy Building

The canals

Typical for a Dutch city, Groningen has canals that traditionally act as both transportation route and defense. That means ships are a part of the city traffic (more specifically, sometimes you have to wait because a bridge has to be lifted up for a ship to pass), and rowing is popular.

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Bridge raised for ship to passStatue on one of the bridgesStatue on one of the bridgesNordhaven city park
Bridge raised for ship to pass
Bridge raised for ship to pass
Statue on one of the bridges
Statue on one of the bridges
Statue on one of the bridges
Statue on one of the bridges
Nordhaven city park
Nordhaven city park

Noteworthy local events

Small as it is, Groningen is a political, commercial and cultural centre in North Netherlands. Therefore, there are noteworthy events throughout the year.

In April, there is the traditional Easter Flower Market which meets on Good Friday at the city squares. Exactly as the name says, this is the occasion for horticulturalists in the region to gather and showcase their wares.

In November comes Sinterklaas, the week St. Nicholaus visits the Netherlands by steamboat and then tours the city on a white horse. The citizens, especially the children, greet him at the canals and then join in his parade.

Befitting a university city, in summer there is the Night of Art and Science, a variety show with music and cool experiments.

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The Easter Flower MarketIt's Pink Saturday!St Nicholaus arrives in the city.
The Easter Flower Market
The Easter Flower Market
It's Pink Saturday!
It's Pink Saturday!
St Nicholaus arrives in the city.
St Nicholaus arrives in the city.

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