Travel Guide Europe Netherlands Friesland



Mud Walking - Sunrise no People

Mud Walking - Sunrise no People

© rencous

Friesland (Fryslân in Frisian) is a province with its own language (Frisian) in the North of the Netherlands. It is known for having a lot of lakes, making it a perfect region for sailing and getting around by a small boat. The capital of the province is Leeuwarden. This province is not a densely populated as other regions in the Netherlands.

Friesland has a long history. Its inhabitants are first referred to by the Roman writer Tacitus, in his work Germanica. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Frisia grew in importance, and at one point Frisian kings controlled the entire coast of what is now the Netherlands up into Belgium and parts of Northern Germany (which is still known as East Frisia).

The Frisians were later subjugated by Charlemagne, and have never achieved independence since. During the Dutch golden age in the 16th and 17th century, Frisia has stood in the shadow of Holland, remaining largely rural while trade and later industry flourished in other parts of the Netherlands. During this period, peat was dug from the soil, causing lakes to form. Also, all transport was done via water. This combination of lakes and connecting canals has made Friesland a mecca for water sports enthausiasts.

Frisia is one of the most sparsely populated provinces in the Netherlands (with only 160 people/km², compared to 488 people/km² for the whole country, or 67 people/km² for Scotland) and is mostly known for its lakes, wide open spaces, and general peace and quiet, as well as for its population. As the Netherlands are sometimes referred to as Holland, let it be known that Friesland is not part of Holland. This is a common mistake among tourists, and one which can be almost guaranteed to grossly offend any native Frisian you may be talking to. Holland comprises only the (coastal) provinces of North Holland and South Holland.




The province in situated in the north of the Netherlands, bordering Groningen to the east, Drenthe to the southeast, and Overijssel and Flevoland in the south. In the north and west it borders the Waddensea, and the IJsselmeer. In the southeast of the province there are a couple of big lakes, including the Sneekermeer. North of the mainland, 4 of the Wadden Islands also belong to Friesland: Vlieland, Ameland, Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog.







Sights and Activities


Waddling is the act of walking on the bottom of the sea at low tide and can be done in the north of Friesland and also in the province of Groningen. Routes will last for approximately 3-4 hours. The Wadden Islands are a great place to explore one of the only true bigger natural areas of the country. For more information about this environment check the Wadden Islands homepage, or read more about waddling here.


Fierljeppen (Polejumping) is a sport in which one tries to cross a stream by using a pole. In theory you need to run towards the stream, where the pole already stands, and grab the pole. Because of the momentum of you hitting the pole, the pole starts to swing to the other side of the stream. It's important to climb up the pole as fast a possible to make a dry landing at the other side. If you fail, you get wet and lose the competition.



Events and Festivals


The Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour) is an outdoor speed skating competition held in Friesland when the ice is thick enough. The tour is almost 200 kilometres in length and takes place on frozen canals, rivers and lakes. Because of the large number of participants, the race requires a minimum ice thickness of 15 centimetres. As a result and because of generally warmer winters, the event only occurs irregularly. In the last 100 years, the race has been held only 15 times. The last time it was staged was in 1997, though it was a tough call in 2012 after a few weeks of seriously cold weather. If it takes place, the start and finish are in Leeuwarden and the race travels clockwise through the following places: Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker and Dokkum.


Oerol means everywhere in the dialect of Terschelling, and Oerol is a 10 day festival that takes place everywhere on the Island, so it's a fitting name. The Festival brings musicians, and artists from all kinds of different arts together, and along with them come 50.000 visitors. Performances can take place anywhere on the island. On the beach, in sheds, in the dunes, you name it, and it is possibly a venue. The festival takes place in the middle of June, more information can be found on


One of the best parties in Friesland is the Sneekweek, a week of matches on the water, combined with a lot of partying after the races. The week starts around the 1st saturday of August, as that is the traditional starting day of the races.


A skûtsje is a boat, and silen means sailing. Every year there is a competition between towns with these typical flat bottom boats, with their big black sails and a smaller white one. Skûtjesilen takes place in different towns, during 2 weeks in the months of July and August. More information including the dates and location of the races can be found on

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity.




Temperatures on average are lower than average in both summer and winter compared to the rest of the country, though differences between coastal areas and more inland can be high, even during the same day. Check the Netherlands weather section for more info.
Although the famous 'Elfstedentocht' (see above) is held here when winters are severe, this is not the coldest part of the country.



Getting There

By Plane

There is no airport in Friesland itself, but there is a smaller airport near Groningen. However there are not a lot of flights going there, so the best way to get to Friesland by plane, is to fly to Amsterdam-Schiphol airport, and continue the travel from there by train or bus.

By Train

The Dutch national railways, NS provides services to and from Friesland.

By Car

There are well maintained highways leading to Friesland. The A7 from Groningen, the A32 from Drenthe and Overijssel provinces and the A6 from the province of Flevoland are the main connections. The A7 continues through Friesland and on to the famous 'Afsluitdijk', which goes to the province of North Holland.

By Boat

There is a ferry running from Enkhuizen in Noord Holland to Stavoren. The journey takes around 80 minutes. In the summer the ferry runs up to three times daily, but in April and October not as frequent. The fare for adults is €10.60.



Getting Around

The train system is low-grade by Dutch standards, which means that only the major cities are connected by rail. Sneek, Leeuwarden, Franeker, Harlingen, Heerenveen and Grou are accessible by rail. To get to the smaller town towns you will have to take buses, which usually leave from the train stations as well. See the article on the Netherlands for more details on the baroque system of public transport, and note that bus services will be sparse in the summer vacation.

Another way to get around is by boat. Friesland is noted for its large amount of lakes, but especially for the way they are all interconnected by canals. It is therefore possible to travel from one city to the next by sailing-boat. See the Do section for more information.

Like the entire Netherlands, Friesland is extremely bike-friendly.




Friesland is bilingual, with West Frisian, the local language, enjoying equal status with Dutch. Everyone in Friesland is able to speak Dutch; however the preference for Frisian is strong with some. Signs, streetnames, etc. are mostly in two languages, depending on the community council.

The Dutch name of the language is Fries (West Frisian: Frysk), with Westfries being the name of the Dutch dialect in the northern part of the province North-Holland.

As in the rest of the Netherlands, almost everyone in Friesland speaks at least some English, and especially young people are likely to be fluent or near-fluent.




  • Fryske dúmkes, sweet cookies with crushed hazelnut.
  • Oranjekoeke, a kind of cake with orange snippers.
  • Drabbelkoeken, a buttercake, only in Sneek.
  • Sûkerbôle, a sweet bread with 40% sugar and cinnamon.




  • Beerenburg, the "national" drink of Friesland. An alcoholic drink, made by adding herbs to jenever. It has an alcohol percentage of around 30%.
  • Frysk Hynder (Frisian horse), the only Frisian whisky, distilled in Bolsward.
  • Ús Heit (Our father), Frisian beers, brewed in Bolsward.



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.


The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.


Quick Facts


5.748,74 km²


as well as Peter (1%)

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This is version 28. Last edited at 13:14 on May 10, 19 by Utrecht. 18 articles link to this page.

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