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39 things to do in Groningen province

Tourists to the Netherlands visit, for the most part, Amsterdam. They might take a side trip to Keukenhof (tulips galore) or Zaanse Schans (windmills in picturesque quantity) or the Hague. I live on the other side of the country, in a province called Groningen, whose biggest city (about 200,000 people) is also called Groningen. That means…

Two Rodin works: In the foreground, a small plaster cast of St. John the Baptist Preaching (1878). In the background, a large statue of The Thinker in patinated plaster from 2903.

The Groninger Museum does Rodin

The Groninger Museum is best known for the building’s design. Considered a post-modern masterpiece, or a post-modern monstrosity, depending on who you ask, each of the seemingly disconnected parts was designed by a different architect: Alessandro Mendini, Michele de Lucchi, Architectural bureau Coop Himmelb(l)au and Philippe Starck all had a hand in designing different “pavilions”…

Eenrum church in Groningen province

Churches of Groningen province (part 1)

When I first arrived in the Netherlands back in 1997, one of the first bits of sightseeing I did, besides exploring my new hometown of Groningen itself, was to go on a driving tour of village churches in Groningen province. The idea came from my favorite guidebook: the Michelin green guide to the Netherlands. The…

The Martinitoren rises above the clutter of market stalls on the Grote Markt in Groningen.

The Martinitoren: a Groningen Landmark

About a year ago I wrote a post about Groningen, the small city where I live. I mapped out a route that started at the train station and wound its way through the city, ending at the landmark Martinitoren. The Martinitoren Today, for the first time in several years, I climbed the Martinitoren, and it…

Fraeylemaborg as seen from the garden behind, in Slochteren, the Netherlands

Fraeylemaborg: the “ancestral home”

Whenever I refer jokingly to Fraeylemaborg, a small castle in Slochteren, as “the ancestral home,” my husband rolls his eyes, but he’s given up on correcting me. You see, one branch of his family occupied Fraeylemaborg for several generations. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for everyone else, the house (I think the British would call…

Winterwelvaart, with the boats all lit up at night.

WinterWelVaart: Groningen’s Christmas Market

The Christmas markets in Germany are famous for their craft stalls, gluwein and generally Christmassy atmosphere. I’ve gone to several in past years; the one in Oldenburg is only about an hour away from my home here in Groningen. Though they’re much less well-known, Dutch cities, including Groningen, also run Christmas markets. WinterWelVaart Groningen’s is…

view of Groningen train station, with the Starbucks in the left wing

The most beautiful Starbucks?

You know how sometimes you get so used to what you see every day that you stop noticing it? I’ve walked by the Starbucks in the Groningen central train station hundreds of times in the course of commuting to and from my job up in Leeuwarden. I just didn’t pay much attention to it until…

view of Hooge der A with ships

Groningen walking tour

Groningen is the perfect place for an off-the-beaten-track weekend escape. Home to a world-class university, its young population makes it dynamic and hip, yet its small size keeps it friendly and relaxed. This walking tour could last from two hours, if you just stroll, to all day, if you take your time and stop to see…

children at the door with their lanterns

St. Maartens Day: A sweet local tradition

Today is St Maartens Day here in Groningen, a children’s tradition that is relatively unique to this area. On the 11th of November, once the sun goes down, children go door-to-door begging for sweets. Instead of threatening “trick or treat” like on Halloween, the deal here is that they sing a song, and in return,…