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Leisure

What to do in the Provinces

Groningen

This province is known more for the countryside north and east of the city of Groningen. Small towns, little fishing communities, little castles (borgen) and windmills are excellent to explore by car or bike.

  • Delfzijl – Cheerful harbor town, known for its Delfsail sailing event.
  • Appingedam – Small, medieval town with the famous “hanging kitchens”.
  • Pieterburen – Home of the “zeehondencrèche” (seal hospital), which includes a small visitor’s center, guided tours and film.
  • Uithuizen – Picturesque village, famous for the Menkemaborg, a small castle with a labyrinth and beautiful gardens. It also has a large museum dedicated to World War II.
  • Bourtange – An historic fortified town in the shape of a star that has been lovingly restored.
  • Leek – Friendly town with a large estate recreation park (Nienoord).

Outdoor activities include:

  • Wadlopen (walking through the mud during low tide) is a great way to experience the Waddenzee an area of great natural beauty full of seabirds and some seals. For more experienced “wadlopers,” there are even trips to the island of Schiermonnikoog.
  • Take a bath or spend a day in the sauna at the Spa of Nieuweschans.
  • Go for a tour along the old fortified housing estates called “borgen” at Slochteren (Freylemaborg), Leek (Nienoord), Leens (Verhildersum) and Uithuizen (Menkemaborg).
  • Go sailing or swimming at Leek at the “Leekstermeer” or Paterswolde at the “Paterswoldse Meer”.
  • Try the Groningen City walk, a guided tour through the inner city of Groningen, with lots of interesting buildings and historical garden areas (such as the Prinsenhof).
  • Take the stairs at the Martinitoren. Climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the view.

Friesland

  • Sneek – Known for the annual Sneekweek boating event, gateway to the Frisian Lakes.
  • Wieuwerd – A small town where a local church crypt created the right conditions for natural mummification.
  • Bolsward – Has the Frisian brewery where Ús Heit (Our Father) is brewed, as well as the distillery of the only Frisian whisky Frysk Hynder (Frisian Horse).
  • Leeuwarden – Home of the local Fries museum and capital of Friesland.
  • Workum – Has the Jopie Huisman museum, dedicated to an eel fisher turned realist painter.
  • Franeker – Eise Eisinga’s Planetarium, the world’s oldest still working planetarium (1774).
  • Drachten – Visit the colorful Papegaaienbuurt (Parrot Neighborhood) or De Drait yacht marina.

The main event in Friesland each year is the yearly sailing contest between 14 ships on the various lakes, which takes place in early August. The 14 10-meter long boats, each with a crew of more than ten people, compete over 14 matches on anything from the huge IJsselmeer to the tiny Veenhoop. This event is called Skûtsjesilen, Skûtsje being the traditional type of sailing boat used in these contests.

Two Frisian sports, Kaatsen and Fierljeppen, can be learned in Friesland. Kaatsen is a precursor to tennis and is to Frisians what cricket is to the English, (in other words, you won’t understand what’s going on). Fierljeppen (far-jumping) has contestants attempting to jump as far as possible over a ditch using a 10-foot pole, which used to come in handy in the old days of flooding.

Because it has not frozen enough to be considered safe on the ice, one important and historic national ice-skating event has not been held in almost two decades. The Eleven City Tour (Elfstedentocht) is an event where ice skaters skate over 200 kilometers through 11 Frisian cities. People can, however, follow the route of the Elfstedentocht by car or by bicycle through Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, and Dokkum. You can get a detailed map of the route at tourist offices throughout the area, and suggestions on how to traverse the route.

Drenthe

  • Assen – Capital of Drenthe, home of the famous annual TT Assen motorcycle circuit.
  • Emmen – Friendly town, which has grown to be bigger than Assen, and is famous for its zoo.
  • Zuidlaren – Rustic and relaxing village with an annual big animal fair.
  • Dwingeloo – Access to Dwingelose heide, a national green park with paths and sights.
  • Borger – Area where the largest hunnebed (prehistoric burial mound) of the Netherlands is to be found; 52 of the 54 hunnebeds in the Netherlands are found in Drenthe.

Besides the TT Circuit, one of the biggest events in Drenthe takes place in the 31st week of the year. For five days, the village of Odoorn hosts around 24 dance groups of about 600 dancers and becomes an amazing international community where different cultures meet in peace and friendship. There are around 35,000 visitors during the opening parade to the dance rounds and folklore market to the closing gala and last dance rounds.