Leeuwarden

Travel Guide Europe Netherlands Friesland Leeuwarden

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Introduction

Leeuwarden is the capital of the Dutch province of Friesland. Leeuwarden and Friesland as a whole are often overlooked by visitors. As the Netherlands are small, however, and the famous "Afsluitdijk" connects Friesland to the provinces in the west, it's a 90-minute drive from Amsterdam to Leeuwarden. For those willing to make the trip, the city has lots of history to offer and gives an insight in the proud local culture of the Frisians. There are several worthwhile museums, including large Fries Museum.

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Sights and Activities

Just north of the railway station lies Leeuwarden's compact medieval centre, surrounded by defensive canals. With 617 buildings listed as national monuments, the city has no lack of heritage to see. The old town is small enough to easily explore on foot, with plenty of time to take in the many historic buildings. Among the most notable ones are:

  • Grote of Jacobijnerkerk, 95 Jacobijnerkerkhof. The largest of the medieval churches, dating back to around 1300. It's a Gothic style building that was built as a monastery. It houses a famous 1727 Christian Müller-organ.
  • Waag, 148 Nieuwestad. Leeuwarden's nicely decorated former weigh house was built in 1590, probably to replace an earlier one. It was a major centre for trade in the city, with butter and other dairy products being the most weighed and traded goods. It kept its function until 1880 or so, and now houses a lunch room.
  • Oldehove, 1 Oldehoofsterkerkhof. When the city of Groningen got its massive Martini-tower in the 15th century, the Frisians were determined to get a tower of their own, at least as high. Money was raised throughout the province and building began in 1529. The master builder was however unaccustomed to the clay grounds under the city, and the measures he took to ensure the towers stability (including a 1.1-5 m foundation and a broad base) soon turned out to be insufficient. The tower was only 10 m high when it started to lean. Attempts to correct for the sag resulted in the tower not only leaning, but also being bent in itself. After about 4 years, the construction was stopped and the tower remained as it was ever since: 40 m high and leaning. Only in 2005 experts found that one side of the tower was built on the remains of an artificial dwelling hill, which is believed to explain many of the problems. In any case, although nothing like the Martinitower in grandeur, the Oldehove has proven an interesting landmark for the city and it has been restored. Due to the state of the structure and in order to limited noise for the people living around the tower, its bells are only used for special occasions.
  • Kanselarij, 13 Turfmarkt.
  • City Hall, 36 Raadhuisplein. Building of the Classicist city hall started in 1715. It has been extensively restored. The inscription above the mainentrance reads "Pace et Justitia", or "Peace and Justice".

Other attractions include:

  • Fries Museum, Wilhelminaplein 92. Tu-Su 11:00–17:00. The Fries Museum houses an excellent historic collection about Friesland and its 11 cities. It includes many works of art but also a wide range of historic artefacts. €10 for adults.
  • Princessehof National Ceramics Museum, 11 Grote Kerkstraat, ☎ +31 58 2 948 958, fax: +31 58 2 948 968, e-mail: info@princessehof.nl.
  • Natural History Museum Friesland, 2 Schoenmakersperk, ☎ +31 58-2332244.
  • Mata Hari birth place & statue, Kelders 33. The birth place of Mata Hari, the famous exotic dancer, courtisan and hapless spy, was restored after a 2013 fire, and since 2016 the building has contained a presentation centre (belevingscentrum) with exhibits about the town's most famous citizen. In front of the building stands a statue of Mata Hari dressed as an exotic dancer. Elsewhere the Fries Museum has a Mata Hari Room.

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Events and Festivals

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.

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Getting There

By Plane

There is no airport in Leeuwarden, but the small airport near Groningen offers some flights, mainly to the south of Europe. Schiphol Airport is about 2 hours away by car.

By Train

An intercity train service connects Leeuwarden to Amsterdam and to Schiphol Airport. There are direct connections once per hour, and additional ones with a transfer in either Zwolle or Almere. For Amsterdam Central Station you must transfer at Lelystad or Almere Centrum. The journey will take about two and a half hours and costs about €25 for a single ticket. Direct train connections to and from Leeuwarden include services to Utrecht (2hr, €24), Groningen (35min, €10), Heerenveen (20min, €5.80), Franeker and Harlingen. All trains to Leeuwarden terminate there.

Check the Dutch Railways website for more information.

By Car

From Amsterdam, Leeuwarden can be reached by two different routes: the western route via the A7 and the A31 and the eastern one via the A1, A6 and A32. From Groningen and northern Germany, Leeuwarden can be reached via the A7 and N31.

By Bus

Bus services run to nearby destinations in Friesland, including Franeker, Heerenveen, Sneek and Harlingen as well as villages on route. The journeys typically take longer than the same ones by train.

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Getting Around

As is the case with all old city centres in The Netherlands, the old centre of Leeuwarden is compact and can easily be explored on foot. The tourist information centre (VVV) has a number of walking and biking routes, if you want to make sure to catch all major sights. Fietspoint Leeuwarden is at the train station and rents out bikes for around €7.50 per day. Cycling is an excellent way to discover the city as well as the surrounding natural areas.

All city bus lines depart from the busstation, which is next to the trainstation. The bus station is divided in a (covered) part for local city lines, and one for regional lines. The city lines are operated by Connexxion but for some lines smaller buses under the name "Maxx" are used. Regional lines, which operate routes to and from villages and cities in the area, are also operated by Qbuzz.

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Eat

  • Eindeloos, Korfmakersstraat 17, ☎ +31 58 2130835. Tu-Sa 18:00-22:30. Very good food. Most is made by using prominent local and regional suppliers which produce their products in a sustainable way. €27.50-40.00 (ex. drinks).
  • Trattoria Italiana, Sint Jacobsstraat 6, ☎ +31 58 213 06 58. Widely considered the best Italian food in town, available in the restaurant but also for take-away. Food is delicious and the service very welcoming. Menus from €27.50.
  • Leeuwarden Lounge, Korfmakersstraat 13, ☎ +31 58 8434055. It's a successful concept, this tapas place with a set menu for €15. The tapas it serves are a mixture of Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern cuisine, and well-prepared. It has an exotic interior which some will love while others might not, but almost everyone agrees the staff is great and the combination of relaxing lounge areas with fingerfood is a winner. €15.
  • Rhodos Palace, Ruiterskwartier 47, ☎ +31 58 213 20 01. If you're up for some Greek food, this place is a bargain with tasty Greek style dishes for prices around €15. €15-20.

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Drink

A good beerenburg is produced by local brewery Boomsma, it is available in almost every liquor store. Cafés are common enough and in summer, outdoor terraces pop up all around. Many double as restaurants, serving small menus. Some popular places are:

  • Paddy O’Ryan, Tweebaksmarkt 49, ☎ +31 58 2122047. The local Irish pub serves a fine range of international beers as well as some decent food.
  • De Doele Bar, De Oude Doelesteeg 2a. A popular hangout for school kids and students, open all day. Monday night is game night, with board games on the table.

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Sleep

  • Grand Hotel Post-Plaza, Tweebaksmarkt 25-27, ☎ +31 58-2159317, e-mail: info@post-plaza.nl. A 4-star luxury hotel with good prices for what it has to offer. The staff is professional and helpful, rooms are nice and the location right in the centre makes it a great base to explore town. They have some spacious suites too, if you're looking for a really luxurious stay. around €100 for a double.
  • Bastion Hotel, Legedijk 6 (Located along A32 highway. Easy access by car, or take buses 14 or 320 to Aldlanstate and get out at the last stop.), ☎ +31 58-2890112. 3-star chain hotel with simple but okay rooms and good staff. Located outside the city centre but at no more than a 10-minute drive. doubles from €76.
  • Hotel 't Anker, Eewal 73, ☎ +31 582125216, e-mail: info@hotelhetanker.nl. One of the cheapest options in the centre, with rooms in 4 old houses. The cheaper rooms have shared bathrooms. All rooms are simple but clean and the service gets positive reviews. There's an in-house café and restaurant which serves simple, Dutch dishes. €29/55 for a single/double room with shared bathroom, €69.50 for a double with private facilities.
  • Oranjehotel Leeuwarden, Stationsweg 4, ☎ +31 58 2126241. A city hotel in the Hampshire Eden chain, across from the train station. That's in the town centre, but at a short walk to the old town. The hotel offers good 4-star rooms, great service and a nice breakfast buffet, which does come at extra cost. €85 for a double.
  • Hotel Ships, Several locations, ☎ +31 517 234 234. If you've always wanted to sleep on a ship, this is a good opportunity. Slaapschepen offers several ships with places to stay, some operating like small B&Bs with up to 10 rooms, others more like holiday homes, for rent as a whole. The Johanna Laetitia was previously home to a family, has modern facilities and is now available for private rent (2-4p.). Prices from €95 per day or €195. Nova Cura is a historic ship which always lies along the Willemskade NZ. It has 6 huts for up to 12 people, and shared bathroom facilities. There are several other ships available. From €32.50 pppn.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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.

Post

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.

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Accommodation in Leeuwarden

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This is version 4. Last edited at 13:22 on May 10, 19 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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