There’s nothing like Groningen” and we at Park Vakanties couldn’t agree more. During a visit to the province you must have at least visited the capital, but you will soon notice that there is much more to do. You can visit some special cultural institutions, but also seek out nature. You can follow kilometers of beautiful hiking trails, but also visit one of the few Dark Sky Parks in the Netherlands. Get inspired with these Groningen highlights.
1. Groninger Museum
Right in the north of the Netherlands, you’ll find one of the leading museums in the entire country: the Groninger Museum. Here art, design and photography come together and you can see regularly changing exhibitions where not the least artists are represented. But not only the various exhibitions are worth seeing, also the architecture of the museum is a striking appearance in the center of the city of Groningen.
The icon of Groningen is of course the Martini Tower. The tower was built in 1469 and since then has occupied a prominent place in the city center. The 96.8 meter high church tower is the literal highlight of the province and an indispensable attraction during a visit to Groningen. And don’t just admire the tower from the Grote Markt, but be sure to climb to the top. To get there you have to climb no less than 255 stairs, but the view of the surroundings is more than worth it.
3. Lauwersmeer National Park
The National Park Lauwersmeer is located on the border with Friesland and is known as a paradise for birdwatchers. More than 100 different species of birds live in this inhospitable area and during the breeding season you will be amazed. You will see large groups of birds fly over and between the reeds you can discover many special species. The park is also a wonderful area for walking and cycling, and even after sunset a visit is recommended. Lauwersmeer has been appointed a Dark Sky Park, one of the last places in the Netherlands where it is still pitch dark at night.
4. Fortress Bourtange
One of the most famous sights in the province of Groningen is Vesting Bourtange, a historic fortress dating back to 1742. It is a beautiful fortified town where time seems to have stood still for all those centuries. The villagescape is determined by historical squares and old Dutch houses, and there are no less than six museums that tell you more about the history of the fortress. And it is a must to keep an eye on the events calendar, because every year the Battle of Bourtange is re-enacted with great pomp.
A beautiful place in Groningen is the Fraeylemaborg, a 19th century castle surrounded by a large estate. Inside you will find a museum with changing exhibitions, but it is especially nice to look at the historical interior of the building. It looks like you stepped into a time capsule; inside it looks just like it used to. If you visit Fraeylemaborg, also take time out to walk through the surrounding estate and the Slochterbos.
6. Hortus Haren
Just outside the city of Groningen lies Haren, a small village known primarily for the Hortus botanicus Haren. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the Netherlands and on a site of 20 hectares you will find different types of gardens. There is a Chinese garden, English garden and a water garden, but you can also walk between conifers, bamboo and different grasses. Especially the Chinese garden is worth a visit, because here you really feel like being in Asia. It is considered one of the most beautiful Chinese gardens outside China, so you won’t easily find this picture anywhere else.
7. Groningen Wadden
Although the Wadden Islands officially belong to Friesland, Groningen also borders the Wadden area in the north. You will find the necessary beaches, a number of small islands and at regular intervals the mudflats fall dry. The Groningen Wadden Sea is an excellent place to go mudflat hiking on the dried up seabed, and you can also visit the islands Rottumeroog and Rottumerplaat. These protected nature reserves are a popular spot for bird spotters, but it is also very nice hiking there.
8. The Onlanden
On the border of Groningen and Drenthe is the nature De Onlanden. A vast and swampy area, also called the bathtub of Groningen. If you stand on top of the Martinitoren, you can see the nature reserve in the distance. So it is not such a bad idea to combine the nature reserve with a visit to the provincial capital. De Onlanden is a great place for cycling or walking, and on the way you may encounter otters, sea eagles and wild ponies.
9. Pieterburen seal center
A fun outing for all ages is a visit to the Zeehondencentrum Pieterburen. Here, sick and weakened seals are taken in and cared for until they have regained enough strength to be released. There are always dozens of seals at the shelter, so there is always something to see. At the seal center you will also get a look behind the scenes and see how the seals are cared for and taken care of. It is also possible to help with the release of healthy seals. You then travel by boat to the Wadden Sea and release the seals there. An extraordinary experience.