According to BESTITUDE.COM, Leeuwarden is the largest city and the capital of the province of Friesland. It is also one of the oldest places in the area that we now know as Friesland. The city once started as three settlements built on mounds: Oldehoven, Nijehove and Hoek. You can still see these names in Leeuwarden. City rights were obtained during the merger into Leeuwarden, in the year 1435. In Leeuwarden money was earned in many ways. First mainly with trade and fishing. Later, industrialization started. Many of the jobs in Leeuwarden fall in the service sector. Leeuwarden does not have its own university, but it does have branches of the universities of Groningen and Wageningen.
What if you go to Leeuwarden as a tourist? What should you expect? In our opinion you will end up in a cozy city with different faces. Monumental buildings alternate with modern architecture. Numerous nice streets and waterways provide a pleasant center where you can shop excellently and enjoy a wide variety of catering establishments. In the field of culture, Leeuwarden has a number of fascinating museums within the municipal boundaries. In addition, the city offers numerous stages where various arts are shown. Thanks to the good cultural infrastructure, Leeuwarden was European Capital of Culture in 2018 together with the Maltese capital Valletta.
A visit to Leeuwarden means a fun journey through a surprisingly nice city. If you are in doubt about making a city trip to Leeuwarden, we can only say ‘do it’! Leeuwarden has enough fascinating sights to keep visitors entertained for a day (or two).
Top 10 Things to Do in Leeuwarden
The Oldehoven is seen as the most characteristic sight of Leeuwarden. This sixteenth-century tower is particularly notable for its freestanding position on a huge square and the fact that it is skewed. In fact, the Oldehoven is now more leaning than the famous tower of Pisa. The Oldehoven is 4.72 degrees out of plumb and the famous Italian tower 3.9 degrees. But that’s after it has been straightened out somewhat during restorations. The skew is the reason that the Oldehoven is only 39 meters high. Already during construction, it began to sag seriously. The desired height of no less than 120 meters has therefore never been achieved.
You can visit the Oldehoven for a fee. This is only possible from April to the end of October. The elevator goes to the first floor. Another great way to have a beautiful view of the Oldehoven is from the Obe. If you take the trouble to take the stairs up, you can enjoy a good view of the Oldehoven.
#2. The weigh house
De Waag is a monumental building that is centrally located in the Nieuwestad. This weigh house was completed in the year 1598. Here are a lot of tons of merchandise weighed. In Leeuwarden it was mainly dairy and especially butter that was traded. The Leeuwarder weigh house was in use until 1880. Then these activities moved to the neoclassical Beurs- en Waaggebouw on the Wirdumerdijk. Today the Waag is a beautiful sight that proves that Leeuwarden used to be an important trading city. Today it houses a lunch cafe. Thanks to its unique location on the Nieuwestad, the accompanying terrace is a popular place to watch the bustle of the city in pleasant weather.
#3. log house gate
The Blokhuispoort used to be a detention center. The complex of buildings stands on the spot where a fortress was already built at the end of the fifteenth century. In the sixteenth century, the fortification was expanded and especially improved. In 1580, the function of the complex that had now emerged changed. It became a prison. Between 1870 and 1877 the former buildings were demolished and a new state prison was built. The architectural style can best be described as eclectic. In the past, 180 cells housed the same number of detainees. After the prison had to close its doors in 2007 due to too high costs for the complex to comply with new rules.
#4. Frisian Museum
The Fries Museum is a fascinating museum that is now located on the Wilhelminaplein. The impressive modern designed building is thanks to the late Frisian architect Abe Bonnema. After his death, he left no less than 18 million euros to the Fries Museum, with the aim of giving the museum a new home on Wilhelminaplein with that money. One requirement was that Hubert-Jan Henket would take care of the design. In 2012, the new museum building was officially opened.
The Fries Museum houses various collections and exhibitions. This way you get acquainted with the Frisian culture and you see what identifies ‘the Frisian’ in the present tense. In the Frisian Resistance Museum you can experience how the Second World War was experienced in Friesland. In addition to the obvious subjects such as the air war and going into hiding, special attention is paid to the spectacular ‘Rail attack’ that the Frisian resistance carried out on the House of Detention in Leeuwarden. In addition to the permanent collections, the Fries Museum offers space for a few temporary exhibitions.
#5. The Prince’s Garden
What is a city without greenery? Almost every city has one or more places where you can enjoy the outdoors as a city dweller. In the center of Leeuwarden, the Prinsentuin is the place to enjoy the greenery. The Prinsentuin was laid out in 1648 by order of Prince Willem Frederik van Nassau-Dietz. That immediately explains the name. It took a century and a half before the pleasure garden was opened to the public as a park. Over the years, the Prinsentuin has taken various forms. In the Prinsentuin you can visit the Pier Pander Museum. The pond forms the center of the Prinsentuin.
#6. Love Fountain
The Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa is the creator of the Love Fountain. This special work of art was made in 2017 on the occasion of the fact that Leeuwarden was European Capital of Culture in 2018. This eye-catcher, which you will immediately see the moment you walk from the train station to the center of Leeuwarden, consists of two high white heads. They are a boy and a girl. A cloud of fog hangs around the two children’s heads, which have a height of no less than seven meters. It is therefore a mist fountain and not a water fountain. The fog can reach a height of two meters. If you look at the Love Fountain from the station, you immediately see another modern icon of Leeuwarden: the Achmea Tower.
#7. town hall
The Leeuwarden town hall was built in 1715 and later expanded in the eighteenth century with a large council chamber at the rear. The foundation stone was once laid by the three-year-old Willem Karel Hendrik Friso, also known as Willem IV van Oranje-Nassau. The town hall was built in classicist style and is in beautiful condition, thanks to a major renovation at the beginning of this century. The town hall is located on Hofplein. Other places of interest at this location are the Stadhouderlijk Hof. This former palace was in the possession of the royal family until 1971. Today a hotel is located here: Fletcher Hotel-Paleis Stadhouderlijk Hof.
#8. Ceramics Museum Princessehof
The Princessehof is a stately seventeenth-century mansion. It was built in 1693 as a small city palace. The building has been used as a museum since 1917. The Princessehof Ceramics Museum exhibits an extensive collection of ceramics and porcelain. You can enjoy ceramics from all directions and eras. Think authentic Chinese porcelain, beautifully decorated pieces from the Middle East and great objects made between 1885 and 1940 in the beloved Jugendstil and Art Deco style. In addition to the permanent and temporary exhibitions, you can also enjoy a number of rooms furnished in an old style in the Princessehof Ceramics Museum, such as the baroque Nassau room.
#9. Museum harbor Leeuwarden
Lovers of old ships and maritime museums can indulge themselves in Leeuwarden. On the Willemskade and the Wirdumerpoortsdwinger you can admire a number of beautiful historic vessels for free. Think of clippers, tjalks and tugboats, which mainly originate from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here you can admire a piece of Leeuwarden shipping history. For many centuries, the water provided the best connection to other cities and areas. The ships ensured that Leeuwarden could grow into an important trading city.
#10. Writer’s Block
I don’t think we’ve ever included a parking garage in a top 10 city attractions. So we do that for Leeuwarden. Parking garage De Klanderij is located just on the edge of the center. It is originally an ugly functional building. Thanks to various street artists, the parking garage has been transformed into an art object. Both on the outside and inside you can enjoy incredibly beautiful ‘murals’. The graffiti art that has been applied in various places in Leeuwarden within the Writer’s Block event is worth a walk to and around the parking garage.