The people of Groningen say that Groningen is Holland because it is the most Dutch of all the Dutch regions. It is neither loud nor calm but friendly enough for you to want to get to know it better.
The Martini Tower (Martinitoren)
The most popular tower in Groningen is the Martini Tower but do not fooled by its name or just looking at it and decide it is a simply church. The Martinitoren as the Dutch call it is the highest church tower in the city of Groningen. It takes a lot of courage to get to the top. The tower is located at the north-western corner of the Grote Markt (Main Square), is part of the Martinikerk (Martini Church) and is 97 metres high.
It is the most important Groningen monument and has overlooked the city for over five hundred years. This fourth highest tower of the Netherlands can be climbed until the third gallery.
The citizens of Groningen call their tower d’Olle Grieze, meaning the old grey one in the local dialect. It is considered one of the main tourist attractions of Groningen and offers a great view over the city and surrounding area. The front of the tower shows three pictures above the entrance: the blind man Bernlef, Saint Martinus and Rudolf Agricola. All three are men are linked to the history of Groningen. According to reports the tower has a foundation only three meters deep.
Next stop was the main railway station, a destination everyone else was cycling to, but I opted to have a special relationship with Dutch coffee and pastries at the International food market in the city centre – called La Place and catch up with them later. I also enjoyed a walk along the canals, well worth it.
The Wall House #2
Groningen classifies the Wall House #2 as some of the ‘must see’ cultural activities in its region. This unique building has been hosting a few artists-in-residence since 2005. The artist-in-residence idea is based on the primary function of the building: residence where artists who have a special relationship with designed space are invited to occupy the house for a period of time.
The term ‘artists’ is used in the broadest sense possible; it includes and is not limited to writers, architects, academics, all artists who display work of international quality. Artist who have stayed at the Wall House include Javier Marchan from Spain in 2005, Akiko Yanagimoto from Japan in 2006 and America’s Richard Saxton in 2007. This year, the Wall House will be hosting Bianca Casady from 7th April until 6th July.
The Groningen main railway station has more on offer besides getting on or off a train. It is the “cathedral of the winged wheel”’, the entrance gate for the city as well as an extremely important monument. When standing in the main hall, imagine yourself a traveller from the 19th century: admire shelters for various classes, leaded windows, beautifully decorated ceilings, and a very particular six metre-high wrought iron streetlight in the centre.
The Groningen Museum
Even if you do not like art, you will enjoy the Groningen Museum. It sits beautifully in the centre of the city not far from the main railway station. The 26.1 million euro building was designed by Alessandro Mendini, Italian designer/architect whose work also appears in the museum. Mendini `believes in the use of decoration. The most impressive of the master pieces on display were the Russian collection of legends, folk tales and fairy tales. The impact Russian fairy tales and legends had on painting in the 19th and early 20th Century is clearly revealed in this exhibition.
The museum which has a shop and café opens from Tuesday to Sunday and on public holidays from 10am to 5pm and on Fridays it stays open until 10pm. It is closed on Christmas day and on New Year’s Day.
Admission: Adults 10 euros, Senior citizens 9 euros, Youth 12-18 years 5 euros. School groups, pass holders and Friends 2 euros, Children up to 12 years free. From now until 23rd November 2008, China will be the theme with the treasures of the Terracotta Army on show until 31st August.
If you do not eat anything at all in Groningen, try their mustard soup; it is absolutely delicious. Every other food appears to be in the form of some gourmet style sandwich, or like any other food in Europe. The best mustard soup I tasted was at the Abraham’s Mustard Maker’s Museum.
You may not be wrong to think that every destination in Groningen is some sort of museum.
Mustard plays an important part in Dutch cuisine and at Abrahams soup is served in Dutch style a deep roll so do not be embarrassed to eat it all up. At Abraham’s you can learn a lot about mustard making, buy some fresh mustard before sitting down to a decent meal.
The Nienoord Castle is unique especially because of its setting. The Castle has a restaurant that caters for up to 515 covers but it also famous for its conference and incentives activities. The Castle hosts conferences for up to 600 people. Private dinners can also be catered for up to 30 persons. It is also home to the National Carriage Museum.
Location: 15 minutes drive from the centre of the City of Groningen.
The National Carriage Museum
This is a very exciting place to visit. The Nienoord Groningen estate house that we see today in Leek dates from 1887 and was rebuilt on the spot where the original Groningen estate house was located until 1850. The old estate house sadly burned down. The National Carriage Museum is located in the estate grounds and includes a large collection of coaches, carriages, and horse-sleighs. You will find the largest national collection of carriages in the world: 250 coaches and sleighs and the accompanying paraphernalia. A greater part of the collection is housed in the national carriage depot and a different selection of these is on exhibition each year. Carriages are also given on loan to museums both at home and abroad.
Opening hours: 1 April until 31 October. Closed on Mondays, and open from Tuesday until Friday from 10 am until 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 pm, Easter Monday and Whit Monday from 1-5 pm.
Nightlife in Groningen
The City Centre of Groningen is buzzing with cafés, discothèques and pubs. Pub crawling is so easy because the pubs are very close to each other. The only downside is that at the time of our visit (February 2008) smoking had not banned in public places making it a bit difficult for non-smokers to enjoy the pub scene.
Other places of interest include the Seal Sanctuary which is covered separately here, and the world’s smallest hotel. De TheeFabriek (Tea Factory and Museum).
The tea factory and tea museum are housed in an old church and parsonage. This is where you learn all there is to know about the production and different uses of tea. The tearoom has the most extensive tea menu in the world, and there are different kinds of tea available in the tea shop.
Opening hours: 1 April until 31 October on Tuesday until Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm; 1 November until 31 March on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am until 5 pm. Closed in January.
How to travel to Groningen
VLM Airlines flies regularly from London City to Groningen. There is also a bmi flight from Aberdeen to Groningen. Groningen airport Eelde is the primary airport for the North Netherlands.
This is the city where almost everyone rides a bicycle. Cycling is so important in Groningen that it is cars and pedestrians who have to watch themselves when crossing the road. Bicycle parks have been provided for in the almost every part of the city and there is a very large one at the train station. The whole province is full of culture.