Best Things To Do In Groningen, Netherlands | What to do in Groningen

The charming city of Groningen, Netherlands is home to a vibrant city center, countless cultural landmarks and good memories waiting to be made. Groningen is a city in the north of the country with all of the bikes, tulips and beer that the Dutch are known for, plus more.

Pop in for a long weekend or a month and check every Dutch experience off your Netherlands bucket list. This list of things to do in Groningen, Netherlands will help you plan an unforgettable trip, no matter what time of year you visit.

Sunrise over Groningen Netherlands
Sunrise over Groningen Netherlands

History of Groningen Netherlands

Let’s begin with a brief introduction to this Dutch city, located in the north of Netherlands and the best way to do so is with a quick history of the place. The earliest archaeological evidence of this city goes back to 3950 BC. While little is known of that settlement, the first documented evidence points to this city being a sanctuary for the Anglo-Saxons. The town became an independent trading center and remained so till the 1536, when they became a part of kingdom of Spain under Emperor Charles V. However, this reign lasted only a few years until the famous Siege of Groningen led by Maurice of Nassau. It then returned back in control of the Dutch.

View of Groningen Netherlands
View of Groningen Netherlands PC: Pixabay

The town became a university town and expanded further. It saw one more Anglo-Dutch siege, which ended up being a victory for the Dutch. This day is celebrated to date as the Gronings Ontzet in August with a lot of fireworks and music. The city also, saw some damage during the World War II – particularly in the city center and the Grokt Markt. Today, this city is still considered as a University city and has a lot of student population.

How Long To Stay In Groningen?

To help you plan out your Groningen itinerary, it’s good to decide how long you’ll stay. If you’re entering the country via Schipol Airport near Amsterdam, a visit of at least 4 days is practical. Be aware that the train ride alone is a little over 2 hours and costs about €50 round-trip.

Given the cost and time, it’s wise to make it work your while. Groningen isn’t a great contender for day trips from the west of the country, so plan to spend some time here. It’s not hard to extend a stay because there’s no shortage of tourist attractions in Groningen. While most European tour books will only touch on the west of the Netherlands, Groningen (in the north) is worth visiting for a long weekend or a full week, or even longer.

With an easy connectivity and tons of Groningen attractions, it is worthwhile to consider this place as a workation destination.
With an easy connectivity and tons of Groningen attractions, it is worthwhile to consider this place as a workation destination.

With WiFi available everywhere (even on buses and trains) and many coworking spaces (even international ones!), it’s also the perfect destination for remote workers to stay for an extended workation. No matter how long you stay for, these things to do in Groningen are sure to make for a memorable visit.

Things To Do In Groningen Year-Round | What to do in Groningen?

The Dutch are not a group that sit around waiting for the weather to improve to go have fun. Whether it’s rain or shine (and it may very well be rain, pack a raincoat!), these places to visit in Groningen will be fun no matter what time of year you visit.

Get Lost Down Endless Cobblestone Streets

Groningen canals
Groningen canals

Groningen is a small and safe city, making it the perfect place to get lost on foot. There are seemingly endless cobblestone streets, canals and corner cafes begging to be stumbled up. The canal circles the city center, so rest assured it’s very hard to *actually* get lost. Look to the skyline for the Martini Tower (you’ll see a picture in a moment) and it’ll guide you back to the center

If wandering around aimlessly isn’t your style, consider downloading a Google Maps self-guided walking tour and hitting the streets with it in hand

Take A Bike Ride

Renting a cycle is one of the best ways to cover the various places to visit in Groningen
Renting a cycle is one of the best ways to cover the various places to visit in Groningen

You may be thinking “biking isn’t a year-round activity!” Well, it is in the Netherlands, and it’s also the best way to see Groningen.

While public transportation is available, Groningen is a small city with a vibrant city center, which happens to be car-free. There’s also no Lyft or Uber, so you’ll be walking or cycling to all destinations within the center. Thankfully, renting a bike is really convenient. Given the necessity, bikes are actually an extended part of the public transportation system and can be rented at the Groningen Central Station.

On top of traveling like a local, it’s also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint while visiting.

Wander Through The Grote Markt And Vismarkt

Every city in the Netherlands has a market at the center of town, but the one in Groningen is particularly charming. The Grote Markt and Vismarkt sit adjacent to each other in the city center and come alive 3 days a week.

On the Grote Markt, you’ll see restaurant stalls and retailers selling goods ranging from leather bags to wall tapestries. The moment the sun comes out and the weather becomes tolerable, about half of the market is filled with chairs and tables as the Dutch love nothing more than enjoying a drink or lunch outdoors. Come early!

A fresh stroopwafel on the Grote Markt - one of the Groningen attractions
A fresh stroopwafel on the Grote Markt – one of the Groningen attractions

On the Vismarkt, walk through rows upon rows of food stalls with options ranging from piles of raw seafood fresh from the North Sea to fried snack foods to local cheeses and bread. Open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, this is the perfect place to stop for lunch.

Check Out The Martini Tower

Known locally as the Martinitoren, this church tower is the North Star of Groningen. Almost anywhere in the city, its steeple can be spotted to guide you back to the city center.

Martini tower - a Groningen landmark
Martini tower – a Groningen landmark PC: Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

It’s the 6th tallest church tower in the Netherlands, and was originally meant to serve as a marker of the outer edge of the diocese of Utrecht. The story goes that the original plans for the tower even had it resemble the steeple of the Utrecht cathedral.

Its facade is a Groningen icon now, but it didn’t always look this way. Through the ages, the tower has been damaged by war, struck by lightning and even caught on fire. If you’re up for the challenge, take on the 200+ stairs and climb to the top, where you will be presented with a beautiful view of the city and the surrounding countryside. On a clear day, you can even see the lighthouse on one of the neighboring islands.

Groninger Museum – one of the key Groningen attractions

Groninger museum - one of the key tourist attractions of Groningen
Groninger museum – one of the key tourist attractions of Groningen

Known locally for its surprising architecture (you’ll understand the adjective “surprising” the moment you see it), the Groningen Museum truly is a sight to behold. Its bold and colorful design makes this building impossible to miss.

Home to a rotating arsenal of exhibits, the museum has many impressive works on display. From prehistoric artifacts to the work of contemporary artists, the Groninger Museum is the place to be for anyone with an interest in local history and culture.

Have Lunch At Fraeylemaborg

While many European countries are littered with castles from past monarchies, the history of the once-powerful remains much less visually present in Groningen. Instead of castles, Groningen has its own variation called a borg. the most notable being Fraeylemaborg.

The impressive home has been converted into a museum, historical estate and restaurant. The grounds are beautiful and give you a sense of royalty, even if it is unofficial. Located in Slochteren, 23 kilometers from Groningen’s city center, and reachable via public transportation.

Explore Fort Bourtange

Fort Bourtange is a unique town located in the Groningen province. Shaped like a star and surrounded by canals, it really feels like you’re traveling back in time when you visit.

Canons, windmills and small red-roofed homes make for a picturesque day trip from the city. A perfect destination for an afternoon visit, wear comfortable shoes and brace yourself for lots of walking. Cars are parked outside of the fort and you’ll wander on cobblestone roads on foot. Located 60 kilometers from Groningen’s city center, this makes a great day trip from Groningen.

Play At Lauwersmeer National Park 

Laurwersmeer National Park is a natural space located partially in Groningen province and partially in the neighboring province of Friesland.

You can swim, fish, kitesurf and bike, to name a few activities. In addition to the natural landscape, there’s also a restaurant, special activities for kids, as well as a Chinese garden. Located 9 kilometers from Groningen’s city center, Lauwersmeer National Park is reachable via public transportation.

Take A Break In The Groninger Forum

Groningen’s public library, called the Forum Groningen, is a fantastic place to stop in and rest between busy outings in the city center. Home to much more than just books, visitors can visit a movie theater, cafe and even a bar. It’s an extremely unique building, both conceptually and architecturally.

A hidden gem of Groningen is on the Forum’s roof: go all the way to the top floor and you’ll find a bar with an open roof. You can see the entire city and even the North Sea!

Best things to do In Groningen in Spring

Discover the best things to do in Groningen in spring
Discover the best things to do in Groningen in spring

The spring months, primarily April and May, have unpredictable weather. A local saying, April doet wat hij wil (April does whatever it feels like) serves as a perfect illustration of this. You can encounter a heat wave or snow! But something thing you can count on is fun holidays and staple cultural events.

Party At Liberation Day Festivals

Campgrounds at Stadspark
Campgrounds at Stadspark

The Dutch holiday of Liberation Day is celebrated on the 5th of May. Originally this holiday celebrated liberation after World War II, but now the holiday has evolved to celebrate freedom in a general sense. You’ll find numerous activities throughout the city, but the biggest draw is the music festival that takes place in the Stadspark.

For an entire day, the park is transformed into a massive party scene as both local and international artists perform until the early morning. Food and drinks are available for purchase, but the festival itself is free to everyone. If you want to stay close to enjoying all that the free festival has to offer, consider renting a campsite or cabin in the park.

Visit Tulip Fields

Tulips in Netherlands
Tulips in Netherlands

No guide to the Netherlands would be complete without mentioning the country’s famous tulip fields! The biggest and most highly trafficked tulip fields are located in the west of the country, but Groningen still has plenty to see.

The tulip fields themselves don’t have names, so you have to discover them on your own. The best way to find one of these colorful fields is to explore the roads running parallel to the system of levies that makes up the Groningen coastline. Tulip fields can be seen all around Groningen but some of the best ones are around the town of Spijk.

Scenic Dutch views in Spijk
Scenic Dutch views in Spijk

Spijk is a very picturesque town, complete with an old church, windmill and row houses. Stop in for a cup of coffee and a slice of apple pie (very Dutch) on your way back to the city.

Things To Do In Summer in Groningen

Groningen comes ALIVE in summer
Groningen comes ALIVE in summer

Groningen is at its best in summer. The locals will cover every sun-touched surface in summer, from parks to sidewalks to even the roofs of their homes. Follow suit by basking in the sunshine and enjoying Groningen at its best.

Picnic In The Noorderplantsoen

The Noorderplantsoen is a park located in the city center. Naysayers might say “it’s just a park,” and they would be technically correct, but the Noorderplantsoen is an outstanding piece of urban green space.

Sheep waiting to be sheared in the Noorderplantsoen
Sheep waiting to be sheared in the Noorderplantsoen

The park is the beating heart of the natural tapestry of the city and is beloved by residents. On any given warm day you can see kids learning to ride their bikes, students studying on blankets over a bottle of wine or a yoga class taking place beside the ponds. Treat yourself to a picnic lunch (from Albert Heijn, if you want to really look like a local) and enjoy the park. Keep your eyes open for turtles in the ponds!

Dance At Swingin’ Groningen

Swingin’ Groningen is a free jazz festival that takes place in June. For three days, both local and international jazz musicians perform at various locations throughout the city.

Of special interest is the Northern European Jazz Talent Contest. Every year students from the Prins Claus Conservatory compete with the best from other renowned music schools for the honor of being awarded the Northern European Jazz Talent Award!

Concert-Hop At Noorderzon

The Groningen Summer festival
The Groningen Summer festival PC: Pixabay

Noorderzon is a free festival held in the Noorderplantsoen that takes place in mid-August. For 10 days, the aforementioned Noorderplantsoen is home to a cultural festival that celebrates local food, art and music.

Join the locals, or stadjers, for a performance by a local band, a taste of the local cuisine followed by a local beer or two, or catch a show or performance by a local artist. All you have to do is bring a blanket and enjoy the warm summer evening.

Things To Do In Autumn in Groningen Netherlands

The Noorderplantsoen in autumn - one of places to see in Groningen in Autumn
The Noorderplantsoen in autumn – one of places to see in Groningen in Autumn

Autumn isn’t Groningen’s best season. There’s an unofficial pause of local events between the summer and winter festivals, and life resets as students settle into the new school year.

The best seasonally-specific activity to enjoy in autumn is a nice walk on the trails.

Walk On The Trails

Groningen forest in autumn
Groningen forest in autumn

Take to Groningen’s walking trails to enjoy the crisp autumn air and leaves. Depending on how far out of the city you go, you’ll encounter some of the province’s strange history: The Hunebedden.

A Hunebed, or giant’s bed, is a rock formation that marks a prehistoric gravesite. Clocking in at 5,000 years old, they’re older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. The geological history of how these rocks got to Groningen is fascinating. The stones used in the construction of Hunebedden came from Scandinavia and were brought here by glaciers during the last ice age.

What to do in Groningen in Winter? | Things To Do In Winter in Groningen

It doesn’t snow often in Groningen, but when it does the city is so beautiful
It doesn’t snow often in Groningen, but when it does the city is so beautiful

Winter in Groningen means a lot of dark, damp days and rain. Consider yourself warned! But this doesn’t stop the locals from enjoying themselves, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

Ride Carinval Rides At Kerstplaza

Kerstplaza, which directly translates to Christmas plaza, is an indoor Christmas-themed festival held every winter. Perfect for a visit to Groningen with kids, this festival has rides, games and food to get you in the holiday spirit. You pay a fixed price to enter, and all of the rides and games are included.

Located just outside of the city center.

Explore Winterwelvaart

The Groningen canals are so charming in winter
The Groningen canals are so charming in winter

For 3 days in December just before Christmas (the exact dates change every year), the canals light up for the Winterwelvaart.

The Dutch equivalent of a Christmas market, wander through the glittering canals and boats with a cup of hot glühwein in hand. Pair that with an oliebol, a Dutch New Years’ dessert, and you’ll be partying like a local.

An oliebol in the city center
An oliebol in the city center

Do A Pub Crawl At Eurosonic

Eurosonic is a European music festival held in late January. Throughout the entire city, European bands play and are waiting to be discovered by the public. The best thing is to do what the locals do and combine a night of music with a good old-fashioned pub crawl!

The last day of the festival is called Noorderslag. On this day only local Dutch bands play and compete for several audience awards. Many Dutch artists saw their first successes on Noorderslag so who knows what you may find here.

Final Thoughts

This list of things to do in Groningen includes some of the very best of what Groningen has to offer. What are you most excited to see on your visit??

As an expat in Groningen, I never experience a shortage of things to do. By the time you visit every museum exhibit, festival or food stall, something’s changed and it’s time to work your way through the city all over again! How long will your visit to Groningen be? I hope you’ll enjoy the local culture and dig into what interests you most, whether it be the food, the fun or the Hunebedden.

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Booking Resources

  • is a good resource for reserving your Groningen hotels online. Consider booking through this link.
  • Another option to reserve good hotels in Groningen is through You can use this link to find one that works for you.
  • GetYourGuide has a walking tour of Groningen available through this link. You can book the same directly or even use the link to browse through the other tours of Netherlands
  • has quite a few tours in Groningen like a self guided walking tour as well as an interactive city tour. You can use directly book these through the given link.
  • For any kind of travel essentials or accessories in general, consider Amazon.
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that at no cost to you, I will receive a small commission if you purchase through my link. Thank you for supporting me with this.
Kayla is a blogger, website traffic consultant, and remote work enthusiast. She blogs about the remote work lifestyle while living abroad and traveling. Kayla lives for conversations about increasing traffic, blogging better, and bucket lists. Come say hi online at You can follow her on YouTube. 
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