This week, I’ll be sharing a guide to Groningen, written by a local who has been living in Groningen. This post about Groningen includes what to do in Groningen in one day, including a complete itinerary of things to do in Groningen and where to eat in Groningen if you’re consider taking a day/weekend trip to Groningen. I really loved Groningen and thanks to Marjolein, I’m happy to publish these tips for visiting Groningen.
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After nearly ten years living in Groningen, I know the city very well. In the last couple years, I’ve been trying to be a tourist in my own city and even when you’re walking around on autopilot, you appreciate the city more. Groningen is beautiful, however I’ve really started to see in the last couple years how beautiful it is.
Why visit Groningen?
Groningen is a charming Dutch university town. It’s lively and there’s always things to do in Groningen. Besides being beautiful, Groningen has great shopping, a large museum with interesting exhibits, cool restaurants/bars, and enough that you’ll be fully entertained with a day trip to Groningen. (Consider visiting Groningen on a weekend trip!)
Your itinerary for what to do in Groningen in one day
Breakfast in Groningen
If you’re an early bird, you won’t find many breakfast options in Groningen as most cafes don’t open until 10am. One of the places that you can always get a good breakfast is at The Pool. The Pool is the restaurant of the Student hotel and you can pick anything off the menu (it’s all good!).
Climbing in the Martinitoren
The Martini tower is one of the highlights of Groningen, literally. For a few euros, you can climb the stairs of the tower. When it’s nice out, you can easily see the countryside around Groningen. It’s also possible to get epic views over the city of Groningen, making it one of the best things to do in Groningen on a budget.
Have a nice lunch in Groningen
A healthy lunch spot in Groningen is Feel Good. This cafe has a pleasing appearance and a nice healthy menu. Although their menu is always changing, you can choose from healthy juices, acai bowls, and healthy sandwiches.
On Zuiderdiep, you’ll find Wadapartja, a distinct restaurant in Groningen. You’ll find interesting specialities inspired by many places (including a New York style pastrami sandwich) as well as delicious pancakes. It’s a nice place to get lunch in Groningen! (All the dishes are named after things in Groningen.)
The Groninger Museum is one of the things to do in Groningen that make locals most proud. From Groningen Centraal, you can easily see the Groninger Museum in the distance. The exhibitions change during the year, however the most popular exhibition in the last year was about David Bowie.
Explore the hofjes (historic courtyards)
You’ll find many forgotten hofjes in the historic center of Groningen. (For those of you won’t know what a hofje is, it’s a historic almshouse that was used to house those in need. Many are still used for housing today.) Often, you’ll walk through a door and discover a hidden housing complex with a hofje in the center. These hofjes are stunning buildings in themselves. Although you’re in the middle of the city center, you hear nothing. Hofjes are typically open to visit during the day.
If you’re not sure where to go, try to find the entrances to the Sint Anthony Gasthuis, Pepergasthuis, and Rode of Burgerweeshuis hofjes. May the odds be in your favor and the door open.
Alternative afternoon in Groningen
Not so keen on museums? I ended up spending an afternoon in Groningen climbing the world’s tallest freestanding climbing tower. For adventure addicts, you’ll definitely want to put this gravity defying tower on your bucket list.
We loved walking around the historic city center, strolling along the beautiful canals, and snacking on Venezuelan food in the Grote Markt (the main commercial square). The university is also worth seeing as the campus. The university here dates back to 1614 and it’s one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands, so see if you can take a peek into any of the buildings!
Dinner in Groningen
For dinner, you’ll have a million possibilities in Groningen. Name it and you’ll find it: Asian, Mexican, burgers, pizza…
At Pernikkel, you’ll only find fresh products on the menu. A number of dishes are always on the menu, however other dishes change weekly. This means that the menu is often shorter, however what you’ll find on the menu at Pernikkel is delicious and fresh.
Buurman & Buurman
Buurman & Buurman is where to eat pizza in Groningen. Pizza isn’t always something special, however it’s not just standard pizza at Buurman & Buurman. The pizza has plenty of veggies and it’s the perfect place for vegetarians to eat in Groningen. Even if you’re not vegetarian, you’ll find more than enough choices!
El Santo is a hotspot for Mexican food in Groningen. It’s not typical Mexican food, but one with Mexican-style tapas served in small portions, perfect for sharing with friends.
Want to relax over a nice Asian meal without dealing with overcrowded tables? This is the idea between Konbu Streetfood. On the menu, you’ll find many appetizers and meals and you only pay for what you get. Even if you just want to order appetizers, that’s fine here. Nice, right?
Drinks out in Groningen
After having a nice meal in Groningen, you can go out for a drink at many different cafes. One of my favorite cafes is de Uurwerker (translation: the hourly worker). Not surprisingly, it’s quite a popular place for after work drinks on Friday nights/afternoons. You’ll find an extensive menu with many sorts of beer.
Looking to head out for a big night out? Head out towards de Poelestraat, the main place to go out in Groningen. You can stay out until the early hours in the morning as many bars stay open all night.
Editor’s note: We ended up loving the many brown bars in Groningen and spent most of the evening drinking local beer at Cafe de Toeter, a beautiful old brown bar that will transport you back in time with knowledgeable bartenders.
Where to stay in Groningen
If you’re ready for some sleep after a busy day in Groningen, you’ll want to stay overnight. (It’s a long way from Amsterdam, so I recommend stay overnight in Groningen.) The Student Hotel is a nice place to stay in Groningen that isn’t only for students. Inside, you’ll find a modern interior and nice food. For somewhere truly unique, consider staying at the Prinsenhof, a former hofje turned 5* hotel with a stunning private garden. (The Dutch King was recently spotted here for King’s Day in Groningen!)
How to visit Groningen from Amsterdam
From Amsterdam Centraal, you’ll find a direct train to Groningen although it’s a bit of a ride from Amsterdam to Groningen. The ride is often between 2-2.5 hours and you’ll straight through the north of the Netherlands. The cost is about 25 euros each way, however it’s a nice weekend trip from Amsterdam.
Groningen has a great budget airport that is easy to access from the city center by bus. If you find a nice flight out of Groningen, consider spending one day in Groningen!
Editor’s note: When I visited Groningen, I went by car from Amsterdam to Groningen. We made a little weekend trip out of visiting Groningen, including stopping off at Giethoorn and Kampen along the way. We went during tulip season and ended up driving along the bollenstreek (the tulip fields) in Flevoland for part of the trip. On your way back, consider stopping off at some one of the hunebedden (megalithic stone tombs) that you’ll find along the Drenthe highway.
Have you visited Groningen? Was your favorite thing to do in Groningen?
For more tips about Groningen, head to Marjolein’s blog for more insider tips for Groningen and cool hotspots.
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