Coming soon for a day out, weekend trip or even complete vacation in your own country? Then head for Friesland! Boredom is not an option here, and yet you will come home rested. Thanks to the beautiful nature! But Friesland also surprises with great cities, many diverse activities, characteristic sports and more. There is something for everyone in Fryslân.
For those who did not know (or had forgotten): four of the five Wadden Islands belong to the province of Friesland, including Vlieland. Vlieland is a beautiful island that for about half consists of sand. Imagine yourself in the Sahara of the North for a moment when you visit Vliehors, of course with the Vliehors Express. A must if you are on this island! Also the festival Into The Great Wide Open on Vlieland can be on your bucket list.
There’s no shortage of sporting activities on Vlieland either. You can go kitesurfing, horse riding, blokarting or ‘just’ take a good old beach walk. Need to relax? Join a Vlieland yoga session and finish with a tasty lunch at the historic Hotel Posthuys Vlieland.
2. Frisian Lakes
The Frisian Lakes – also known as De Fryske Marren – in the southwest of Friesland are perhaps Friesland’s main attraction. This is the water sports area the province is known for. The largest and most important Frisian lakes are the Sneekermeer, the Tjeukemeer, the Heegermeer, the Fluessen, the Slotermeer and the Groote Brekken. Because of the good sailing connections and investment of the province of Friesland in aqueducts, you can make wonderful multi-day sailing trips here. Zeilse!
Also be sure to check out the skûtsjesilen. These Frisian sailing competitions with mighty skûtsjes take place every year and are an impressive event. Or even more fun: you can step aboard for a sailing trip led by an experienced skipper!
And if you are lucky enough to be in Friesland during an ice-cold winter: skating across the Frisian lakes, ditches and canals is magical! Maybe you can even do a piece of the Elfstedentocht route?
On the island of Terschelling, just like Vlieland by ferry from Harlingen, you get right after arrival in the relaxation mode. A breath of fresh air is the motto here. This is perfectly possible at the Dark Sky Park. Terschelling officially belongs to the twenty darkest places in the world.
Nature is anyway the attraction of the island. Boschplaat is the nature reserve in the east of Terschelling, where an unspoiled dune landscape alternates with extensive beaches. Adventurers go by landrover over the beach, real heroes choose the (e-)mountain bike.
4. Sneek & the Sneekermeer
Sneek is definitely one of the nicest towns in Friesland! The town is known for the historic Sneeker Waterpoort. This recognizable symbol you’ve probably seen. For example in the sails and clothing of the Sneeker sailmaker Gaastra. But also in the mainsail of the Sneeker skûtsje Sneker Pan you see this water gate back.
The Sneek week is just as famous. This crazy Frisian sailing festival is the biggest event on the inland waterways of Europe and an absolute must-do as far as we are concerned! Sneek also has good restaurants, monuments, quaint shopping streets and The Fries Scheepvaart Museum. But there is more. Literally. The Sneekermeer is ideal for water sports. You can sail there from the city. Sneek is a great city with many highlights and a good base!
Yes, also Wadden Island Ameland belongs to Friesland. You can reach this island from Holwerd in no time. Once in Nes, you will of course eat a real Amelander mustard soup and drink a Nobeltje. Then rent a bike and cross all the way to Hollum in the west, where you will find the lighthouse. Climb it and finish with a drink at Beachclub The Sunset. The nature center, the brewery and of course the beach should not be missed during your adventure on Ameland.
It’s the cultural capital of 2018 and the capital of Friesland: Leeuwarden is buzzing! The Oldehove is a must-see, as is the impressive Fries Museum, but actually the entire inner city is one big open air museum. Take a city walk to take everything in and finish with a relaxing boat trip on the Nieuwe Kanaal.
Either way, Leeuwarden is a good place for a city break! Because shopping, skating in the Elfstedenhal or picnicking in the Prinsentuin are also possibilities. TIP: also take a look at the former prison Blokhuispoort. This is now a trendy place for creative businesses. Nice to see and also good for a snack or drink at restaurant “Proefverlof”.
The last Frisian Wadden Island in this list is Schiermonnikoog. This is the least known and most peaceful island of the Wadden. Schiermonnikoog can be reached by boat from Lauwersoog, which used to be an island itself. Bunker Wassermann and the lighthouse are the must-sees on Schier. You can spot seals from the boat on the way there or back!
Did you know that the entire island of Schiermonnikoog has been a National Park since 1989? Yep. The enormous natural diversity of this island is unprecedented. Forests, dunes, beaches, polders and lakes: you find them all here. A paradise for nature lovers! You can have a bite to eat in one of the restaurants or beach pavilions that the island is rich.
Fun fact: Schiermonnikoog is the least populated municipality of the Netherlands with an average of 23 inhabitants per km².
Many people discover this town by chance, as a starting point to Vlieland or Terschelling, but actually Harlingen itself is an attraction in itself. Harlingen is often unjustly skipped, while it is such a beautiful town. One of the eleven Frisian cities. And not the least!
In the port, the Nova Zembla ship of Willem Barentsz is currently being reconstructed. A unique opportunity to see it. But the city itself is full of beautiful canals, buildings and nice restaurants. Harlingen also has fun events such as the Fishery Days and the Tall Ships Races.
9. National Park De Alde Feanen
De Alde Feanen – also known as De Oude Venen – is a national park near Earnewâld , a cozy town in the middle of Friesland. National Park De Alde Feanen is a unique piece of nature in the Netherlands. Rich in water, green and full of life. More than a hundred different species of birds breed in the swamps, reed beds, ponds and grasslands!
In De alde Feanen you can go skutsjesilen in a real skutsje, ‘normal’ sailing, but also SUP’pen, kayak and do activities on land. Rent a bike or e-scooter and discover the beautiful green surroundings of this gem in Friesland.
Quiet Franeker is the ideal place to relax. Lively Leeuwarden is not far away and Harlingen is also just around the corner. In Franeker you can visit the Planetarium and Museum Martena. In the latter you will see that Franeker was once a more important place than you might expect today. The Korendragershuisje and the Town Hall are also worth admiring.
Want to experience something new? Then take a look at the PC, the prestigious handball match held annually in Franeker.
11. Drents-Friese Wold National Park
On the border with Drenthe – you wouldn’t expect it, would you? – lies National Park Drents-Friese Wold. Sand drifts, fens, heath and marsh: this nature reserve is more than forest. Yet after the Veluwe it is the largest contiguous forest area in the Netherlands. Ideal for walking and cycling!
In the Frisian part of the area you will discover the Frisian Woods with the town of Appelscha as its adventurous heart. From here you can undertake various activities. Rent a mountain bike and head out. Staying the night and eating well is also possible here. And for the kids there is the cool attraction park Duinen Zathe.
Heerenveen is the sports city of Friesland. Soccer is played at the highest level by SC Heerenveen in the Abe Lenstra Stadium and just a stone’s throw away is the Epke Zonderland Turnhal. Skating fans of course know that the widely known Thialf Ice Stadium is also located in Heerenveen. Here you can attend international skating competitions or just try your hand at skating yourself!
Apart from all the sports possibilities, there is much more to experience in Heerenveen. The Belvedere Museum is worth a visit. A lovely afternoon of shopping is also possible here and a boat trip is also a great idea! And if not, you can always plop down on a terrace.
13. Frisian IJsselmeer coast
The Wadden Sea and the Frisian Lakes are well known, but let’s not forget the IJsselmeer! The Frisian IJsselmeer coast is an ideal place to spend your vacation and is not for nothing one of the most touristic destinations of the Netherlands. The coastline along the IJsselmeer is very popular with holidaymakers from home and abroad with its cozy towns, fine beaches, beautiful views and water sports opportunities.
Whether you go to Makkum, Workum, Hindeloopen, Stavoren or Lemmer: you’ll enjoy it everywhere! In the water, on the water or along the waterfront. Windsurfing, cycling, SUPping, or ‘just’ a bit of sunbathing. What do you want to do? You can spend the night in numerous accommodations. From a simple campsite to bungalow parks with luxury villas right on the water.
14. First Frisian Skating Museum
In the picturesque town of Hindeloopen you will find the First Frisian Skating Museum. Step back in time and imagine yourself on the ice in old Friesland. Immerse yourself in nostalgia and finish with a delicious pancake or waffle in the accompanying pancake house De Friese Doorloper. There is also a nice store.
15. National Park Lauwersmeer
Okay, this park is located on the border with the province of Groningen, but National Park Lauwersmeer is just as much a Frisian hotspot. So be sure to discover the special nature reserve when you’re in Friesland. What makes the park special is that this area used to be sea and is now a lake. Because dikes were built, the salt water changed into fresh water and this has left its mark on the flora and fauna. The Lauwersmeer has therefore become a true bird paradise.
Take a bike ride around the lake, take a refreshing dip or eat a fish with a view of the Wadden Sea. The Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer is also one of the few Dark Sky Parks of the Netherlands!