An itinerary for Groningen
July 16, 2016 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I am traveling to Groningen, NL, for work in August. I am planning to stay an extra whole day to take in the city. It will be Friday Aug 18th. What should I put on my itinerary? I have looked at travel websites and the like and I'm sure I can find a good list of interesting things to see and do, but I'm looking for your personal highlights of the town. Less critical, but any suggestions for quirky places to stay? Hotels that are central seem very reasonable, so I'm not as concerned about that.
posted by Tandem Affinity to Travel & Transportation around Groningen, Netherlands (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The city has a beautiful railway station, which is close to the Groninger Museum which is probably already on your list of things to see.
posted by rjs at 11:50 AM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival starts August 18. From the website: Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival Groningen is the somewhat curious combination of a cutting-edge international art festival and a large-scale summer fest for 135,000 visitors. The heart of the festival is the idyllic Noorderplantsoen (a city park) where, for eleven summer days, a freely accessible festival village appears almost out of nowhere to provide a setting for theatre, dance, music, literature and visual art in combination with eating, drinking and social encounters.
posted by blub at 3:58 PM on July 16, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips so far - I was looking into the festival suggested by blub and realized that my free day is actually Thursday the 17th, in case it matters for other suggestions...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:47 PM on July 16, 2016

Groningen isn't littered with typical touristy things to do, aside from the museum. It's more of a college town, so if you want to get the Groningen experience you have to go out at night ("stappen"). De Drie Gezusters is a famous bar/cafe that has been around forever, and you can also go there for a drink during the day. The Newscafe attracts a hipper crowd.

Personally I always enjoy spending a bit of time in the Prinsentuin . It's quiet and secluded, and you can have lunch there or just read a book for a bit. If it's a particularly nice day you can also go for a swim at the Hoornse Plas.

Lastly, if you enjoy walking or biking, the "nature reserve" near Kardinge might be worthwhile. It's more of a park than a reserve, really, but it is quite nice. Google "Natuurgebied Kardinge". It's a twenty-minute bike ride from the central station where you can easily rent bikes for the day. They are called OV-fietsen. This might be a nice form of transportation regardless, as it is another quintessential part of the Groningen experience. Be aware that most Dutch people don't wear helmets when they ride a bike and I have no idea if the bike rental shop even carries them.

Have fun!
posted by piranna at 11:59 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't know about any specific places to crash in Groningen, but a friend did couch surfing with some guys and ended up staying one of those boats in the canals. She loved it. Hopefully Airbnb has some cool places to stay – Dutch houses are in themselves really quirky (and possibly full of insanely narrow stairs) and def. worth checking out, if possible.

I loved wandering around the town, its just hella beautiful. Theres streets like Folkingestraat, a walking street which has little stores and restaurants, and the coolest second hand book store Antiquariaat Isis (they have a lot of them, though) – which also stocks a good amount of books in English

..if youre going from the train station up towards downtown, at the beginning of the street is a Synagogue, and sort of across from it is a sex shop and next to that, if you look carefully, is a bronze door without any handles or anything, which is a memorial to WW2 – they hid people in that building (if i remember right), and the door is a symbol for the Nazis never getting in. Its pretty innocuous, and peeps don't really see it.

Vismarkt is the market with so SO much yummy stuff (OMG if that dude with the kilo loaves of ancient heirloom grain bread is still there). Also Albert Heijn has amazing slave-labor-free-chocolate and you should buy tons of it. Groningen also has really cool stuff like book binderies (is that the word? = boekbinderij) where I bought some supplies, but i'm not sure if you're supposed to, because the man seemed pretty bemused by the entire thing. But theyre cool to see. Seconding Newscafe, but theres tons of really sweet little nooks and crannies to go have a drink/coffee. If you love bagels, bagels and beans is pretty yummy for brunch sort of stuff, its not exactly indie, but its yummy.

I was always a little disappointed by the Groninger Museum exhibits, but that might just be me – there are a lot of small galleries scattered throughout.

Theres usually always live music somewhere, and the people make it hella nice.
posted by speakeasy at 12:42 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is a famous organ at the Martinikerk, St. Martin's church. I have not been lucky enough to visit it myself, but someday I want totake oneof the Dutch organ package tours. The Baroque organ has a special sound that modern organs do not.
posted by 8603 at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are the things I showed to visitors from the UK when I lived there (2007-2011):

If you walk out of the station and turn left along the canal, after two cross-streets you come to my favourite statue, a spectacular, looming figure of rusted iron outside the building "De Regentes". Cross over to the canal side of the road, continue left over the bridge, and then turn right to walk along the little pedestrian way "Bij de Sluis": at the end of it is another delightfully creepy statue.

The canals in general are worth attention, with my favourite parts being the Noorderhaven at the end of Oude Kijk in't Jatstraat and, following round on the inside to the west and south, the stretch of canal running between the beautiful canalside streets Hoge der Aa and Lage der Aa. There are usually some interesting and picturesque boats moored along there.

Towards the southern end of Hoge der Aa is a weird little sculptural group depicting... metamorphosis, maybe? Anyway, a series of endearing froggy things. Keep going and you come out onto Brugstraat; turn left to admire the striking tower of the Aa-kerk, a deconsecrated church that might have an interesting exhibition inside. Walk on down past the church to find the prettiest supermarket you'll ever see (it's in the former corn exchange) at one end of the Vismarkt, mentioned earlier.

The Martinitoren on the Grote Markt has a carillon, and so does the tower of the Academiegebouw (an important university building) on Broerstraat. Both towers are also quite pretty! The Academiegebouw tower's carillon usually plays a tune every half-hour from 8am to 8pm (or did when I lived there), with a few different tunes in rotation each month and an hour-long medley at 11am on Thursdays. Not sure about the Martinitoren's one - I didn't live within earshot of it.

Round the back of the Martinikerk is the Martinikerkhof; right near the entrance is a monument depicting St George and the dragon. St George is much easier to spot from a distance than the dragon!

The Prinsentuin, mentioned earlier, is indeed lovely. Check the closing time on the board outside - it's possible to get locked in, and that's quite embarrassing.

If you live somewhere without much cycling, you might be impressed by the underground cycle parking out in front of the main railway station; there are often also a great many bikes in front of the Academiegebouw, but maybe not in August.

Folkingestraat, also mentioned earlier, has a fantastic eclectic cabinet-of-curiosities sort of shop - I can't remember the name, but it's on the same side of the street as the synagogue, and it has things like replica hominid skulls alongside cases of toy cars, antique tableware, old advertising signs, all sorts. Five minutes' walk away, the Universiteitsmuseum on Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat is my favourite Groningen museum; it has what I guess is a real cabinet of curiosities on its top floor, plus some beautiful stained glass in the stairwell and whatever their current exhibition is in the main part of the museum. It's much cheaper than the Groninger Museum, which has spectacular architecture but whose exhibitions often left me cold, like speakeasy above (the curators and I clearly have different art preferences).

Right at the end of Peperstraat, on the left at the corner with Kleine Peperstraat, there's a "gasthuis" - a very pretty closed courtyard of 15th-century (or so) houses with a couple of rather lovely gardens. It's sometimes open for the oublic to wander through and admire. There are plenty of others in Groningen, but this is the only one whose location I'm sure of.

The Noorderplantsoen is an attractive, leafy park built on the remains of the city's defensive earthworks/waterworks - look at it on a map and you can see the distinctive zigzag shape. There's a fountain in one of the ponds, I think the northernmost one, that forms the profile of a face, with the water making its hair. They'll be setting up for Noorderzon though, which might make the whole place less peaceful and less accessible than usual.

If you make it out to Kardinge to see the nature reserve, don't miss (you probably can't miss!) the terrifying outdoor climbing wall, which I've been told is the world's highest.

As for eating and drinking... Get fresh stroopwafels on the market if you can. Simon Levelt on Oude Kijk in 't Jatstraat (maybe Stoeldraaierstraat) does good takeaway coffee (you want the shop with all the coffee machines, not the branch nearly opposite it with the actual coffee beans for sale). For lunch, you should try mosterdsoep (mustard soup! - a local speciality, and incredibly tasty) at the Goudkantoor on Waagplein, just off the Grote Markt. For dinner, I'd recommend the Thai Jasmine, Fuji-Tei for Japanese food, the touristy-looking but delicious Pannekoekschip (it's a pancake restaurant on a boat!), or 't Feithhuis or 't Zwarte Schaap for a more traditional menu. As for beer... The Pintelier, down Kleine Kromme Elleboog, has an excellent range of Belgian beers.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:53 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

That whole wall-o-text answer, and of course I forgot something... There's a pretty little garden that runs along the canal next to the former natural history museum, which Google Maps now identifies as "Academie Minerva". It used to be open sometimes, and maybe still is; the building's exterior is impressive enough to be worth a look anyway. And if you like art, there's usually a temporary installation in the Tschumipaviljoen on Hereplein; walk along Ubbo Emmiussingel on the way to or from it to enjoy expensive-looking (former) houses and more art dotted along the central grassy bit.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:08 PM on July 25, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for your answers and preparing me for the flavor of Groningen. I had a great day. In preparation, I marked a lot of the places noted here onto Googlemaps and then just strolled around checking them all out and popping into shops or whatnot when something caught my fancy. It is definitely the right place for that kind of day. It also helped that the weather was perfect.

On arrival I realized it was KEI week so that was another point of interest to take in. I mostly was not out at night but did see all kinds of student stuff going on anyway. I stayed in the Hotel De Doelen and so had room service from De Drie Gezusters and went out for Thai food the other night.

I didn't have a hankering for too much museum stuff so I skipped the Groningen museum but did pop into the University museum (which is free rather than inexpensive!)
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:53 AM on August 20, 2016

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