In September over a family anniversary dinner, my son and his dad made plans to see their favorite football team take on FC Groningen with a cousin. So my daughter and I decided to tag along and make a night away out of it! So the four of us headed up towards Groningen on Saturday. We arrived around 3:30 pm, so not the most ideal time to arrive to spend the entire day exploring [as I had hoped to arrive by noon] but my son had to first play his soccer game – that was important – and happy he did as he scored – TWO goals!
How to get to Groningen from s’-Hertogenbosch
We could have certainly driven our car but as we live here in the Netherlands, we have personalized OV-chip cards, so we have the subscription which allows us to get 40% off during off-peak hours which includes weekends. If you live in the Netherlands, I highly recommend doing this as well – as it makes travel so much cheaper! Kids are FREE until 12 so that is great – we took the train.
While there is not a non-stop train from Den Bosch to Groningen (nor should there be – not a demand for it), it is VERY simple to take a train from here to Utrecht, switch to a different train (with a short wait) and then it’s direct to Groningen.
Our Hotel – City Hotel Groningen
There are more than a dozen choices of great hotels in the city centre of Groningen and we were looking at the Best Western, NH Hotel Groningen and Hotel de Doelen but we ended up choosing the City Hotel Groningen. It was a great location – less than a 10 minute walk from the station. Because there were four of us, we had to get two rooms but that was fine – boys in one and girls in the other but they were next door to each other. They were comfortable rooms and the beds were super comfortable and the showers were awesome! The pillows were very thick – one might say even TOO THICK – if that is even possible. After my issue with the pillows at the hotel in Germany, I will never complain if pillow are too thick. ha ha As you can see here in the photo of M and her new teddy, Grapes – they were super thick! Have you ever seen a thicker pillow on a bed before?
We left the window open enough for air and was wondering if I’d be bothered with noise from the city, but I only heard the church bells on Sunday morning around 9 but I was already awake. Thankfully they did not ring all night long!
Breakfast was not included but we did choose to have breakfast there Sunday morning – it was buffet style and it was perfect for us. We kept our bags at the hotel desk and picked up just before 5:00 pm after spending the day in the city.
I HIGHLY recommend this hotel and would absolutely stay here again during future visits to Groningen!
Museums to Visit
Founded in 1874, the Groninger Museum remains one of the most technologically advanced art galleries in the Netherlands. In a splendid post-modern building on the banks of the Verbindingskanaal, its three main pavilions host impressive exhibits of modern and contemporary art from both local and international artists, as well as works from the museum’s standing collections.
Maebh and I did this on Sunday when the boys were at the game. Tickets are normally €15 for adults and free for kids but we used our Museumkaarts so entrance was free. You don’t need to pre-book tickets if you are using your cards.
Highlights of its permanent collections focus on the history and culture of Groningen and include archaeological finds, portraits, regional arts, and crafts, as well as applied arts. The collection also includes examples of Chinese and Japanese porcelain and paintings, works by the Groningen-born painters Jozef Israëls and Hendrik Willem Message, and the famous Groningen silver.
The highlight of our visit (apart from the gift shop) was Daan Roosegaarde large-scale phosphorescent exhibition PRESENCE. I admit my photos suck and do his exhibition no justice whatsoever. Click on his name above to see his twitter feed where you’ll find much better photos to get the idea – it was cool and Maebh loved it. In fact, we were certain Soren would have loved to be there with us too!
Other Museums To Visit
I really wanted to visit the Universiteitmuseum, but we didn’t have time – next trip. I joked that when S goes to school here, I’ll come visit and he can show me around. He agreed – he was serious. Of course, you never know where he’ll going to school, but it’s a GREAT student city and they offer a Marine Biology Masters here. 🙂
A FEW OTHER THINGS TO SEE/DO
Martinikerk and the Martini Tower
Martin’s Church (Martinikerk), a lovely brick built Romanesque-Gothic basilica constructed in the 13th century, is one of Groningen’s most important landmarks. Rebuilt in the 15th century, the old choir was replaced by one with tall Gothic vaulting and an ambulatory, while a chapel and sacristy were added to the north side.
Interior highlights include 16th-century wall paintings in the choir, as well as the old organ, parts of which date back to 1480. For a truly memorable experience, try to visit during one of the church’s regular services or, better still, at Christmas, when this magnificent organ is put through its paces, accompanied by a choir.
Its most notable feature, however, is undoubtedly its tower, the Martinitoren (or Martini Tower to locals). Originally built in 1482 (and several times rebuilt), this 96-meter-tall structure is one of the highest in the Netherlands and offers great views over the city’s Main Market Square (Grote Markt).
Address: Martinikerkhof 3, 9712 JG Groningen
Climbing the Martini tower cost €3 for adults & children from 4 to 12 years are €2. Group rate from 10 people €2.50 per person. Tours are possible – info can be obtained at the Tourist Office.
Groningen Old Town
With its numerous bike and people friendly pathways and old squares, Old Town Groningen is a delightful place to explore. Highlights of a walking or cycling tour of the city’s historic core include the magnificent early 19th-century Neoclassical Town Hall (Stadhuis) in the Grote Markt, and the superb Renaissance Gold Office (Goudkantoor) built in 1635. Also of interest is the Neo-Renaissance Provinciehuis, the seat of the provincial government. Notable interior features are the Hall of the States (Statenzaal), with its fine portraits from the 17th century, and the wood paneling and timber vaulting from 1697.
Other highlights include Huis Cardinaal with its superb Renaissance façade from 1559 (it’s also known as the House of the Three Kings for its medallions of Alexander the Great, King David, and Charlemagne on the gable) and Prinsenhof, a former 15th-century monastery with its lovely 17th-century rose and herb gardens.
Also worth a visit, is the covered Fish Market (Vismarkt) has been in existence since 1821 and is open Wednesday through Saturday. We were in LOVE with this market. Soren loved the fish mongers – he could watch them for hours. I loved the spices and an hour before closing the merchants want their stuff gone. For example we heard the produce stand vendor shouting out – “all this xyz for only €1”. You can grab huge bargains!
OTHER COOL THINGS TO DO IN THE CITY
While doing some searching of things for me to do with the family and with just my daughter on Sunday when they boys are the football match, I came across a few additional things which I found cool.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Now we certainly can’t do this in November, but how fun would it be to SUP through the canal in Groningen?
A very popular tourist thing to do in most of the big cities is to take a canal tour – so it’s only fitting they offer it here. Also like most cities, they have different boats and tours available so you have options and all outlined on their website in English too – handy for non-Dutch speakers. On Sunday when Maebh and I were free looking for things to do, I thought we could do this but she said, na, I’d rather not 🙂 . Okay – so we didn’t.
Rent your own boat
There are also many options of renting a boat and setting out on your own at your own pace. Now this is something I’d love to do in warmer weather with family and/or with friends. We’ve not yet done this during our time her in NL. So I cannot personally speak to any first-hand experience, but hopefully during the Easter spring break, we will rent one and I’ll report back.
Let’s Talk Food
Apart from the hotel breakfast, some beers here & there, we only had one dinner out. I wish I could come here & brag about a fantastic meal I had but sadly it was just okay.
Also anyone who knows me knows how much I love Mexican food & margaritas. But we know that is hard to come by in Europe. Yes we still try different places knowing we’re not going to get what we are used to back home. Anyway, we did it, we visited a Mexican place. We walked by two other Mexican places, but I was overuled for whatever the reason. Anyway, this places was okay (good in that it was around the corner from our hotel). It was super busy so clearly a big hit in this area… but nothing out of this world but not the worst either. We called ahead and asked for a table to be reserved – this is a huge thing in NL – I have no idea why but even if you call in two hours before you are better of calling in than walking in. So I always call in and reserve a table if I know we are going out to eat – it’s just a way of live here. Anyway, we eat everything but something new for us was crickets and meal worms on the menu in a Mexican restaurant so we thought why not… but honestly the crickets were too greasy and mealworms were too dry and boring…
Our kids love an authentic pannekoekschip. Even the old dumpy one in Wells was a hit. So look out for the old sailing ship at the Schuitendiep. Originally a rigged two-mast clipper ship from 1908 now serves as a pancake ship. They offer loads of pancake choices but no poffertjes. We did end up having our last meal here – well the kids did. But have a look at Soren’s shawarma pancake – horrible right!? The fries were really yummy!! Nils and Soren had ordered Tapas including escargot and other yummy bits earlier so we were no longer hungry but as we still had a 3 hour train ride ahead of us we wanted the kids to eat before heading home.
OLD DUTCH BUILDINGS – ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL
In this same area, along the canal are some really nice homes. Then again, through the Netherlands, you find so many amazing buildings. Unlike US, UK, and Ireland – I love love love the house styles here.
A few other photos I took around the city this weekend.
One more highlight for the kids was the ice skating rink was set up. So while we didn’t skate, we did spend a bit of time at the claw machines trying to win a sloth for Maebh and a couple other stuffed teddys.
€20 later – NOTHING but and arm an arm dangling over. I’ll add two things. 1) the minute the machine clamps onto your teddy, it immediately releases it. 2) the second you walk away, the man comes over and resets the cheap, China made toys, firmly into the styrofoam, so it is extra hard to pick them up. So the odds are stacked even higher against you.
Thankfully “Sint” brought here a giant sloth for her present!
Maebh and I had a drink in De Drie Gezusters on the Markt. I just had to take a photo of the glass ceiling – cool right?!
Overall, we had a lovely
short visit to Groningen. The boys’ team tied and Maebh and I got to have some fun bonding time together. While we didn’t leave with a stuffy from the fun fair, we did leave with a magnet for our fridge, some Groningen mustard and some yummy cheese from a lovely little shop which could be here in Den Bosch called De Bourgondier. The worker (perhaps owner) was super friendly and informative and welcoming. Highly recommend!!
It was a fun time and a great city to explore. In the summer there is even more to do outdoors. I look forward to returning but have other cities I want to see next including: Delft, Gouda and Haarlem – even the big cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam require more exploring.