There are a lot of cute little towns in the Netherlands that look alike at first glance. But if you dig deeper, you will find that everyone has a rich history and a special, often very influential role in the history of the country. Located 150 km from Amsterdam, Leeuwarden is a perfect example of this. This city is called “twice the capital”. For many centuries it has been considered the center of the unique region of Friesland. And in 2018, Leeuwarden received the status of European Capital of Culture. And even if the second title, unlike the first, is temporary, it gives a reason to visit the city on the northern edge of the Netherlands. See BRIDGAT.COM for climate and weather information of Netherlands.
How to get to Leeuwarden
Due to the compactness of the kingdom, Leeuwarden can be reached very quickly and conveniently. KLM and Aeroflot fly from Sheremetyevo to Amsterdam 5 times a day. Airplanes land in Schiphol, from the railway station of which trains go straight to Leeuwarden. The trains leave every hour and spend 2 hours 10 minutes on the way. Ticket price – 25.30 EUR. You can check the schedule at website of the carrier Nederlandse Spoorwegen (in English). If the trip is from Amsterdam itself, then it will be necessary to make a transfer in Almere. The transfer is only 5 minutes, the trains are on the same platform. On the way 2 hours.
The most convenient way to travel around the city and its surroundings is by bus. But you will have to tinker with the car – there are very few open-air parking lots, and they are expensive – 2.80 EUR per hour, so it is better to leave the car in underground parking lots. The prices there are more reasonable – from 1.70 EUR per hour to 8 EUR for the whole day.
As elsewhere in the Netherlands, cycling is well developed in Leeuwarden. The city has a large number of rental points and bike paths, where in the mornings and evenings there are even “traffic jams”! You can rent a bike for 10 EUR per day.
Taxi is expensive – 5 km trip costs 14 EUR. The car can be called by phone or taken “on board” at one of the specialized parking lots.
A significant number of hotels in Leeuwarden are located in old buildings. You can spend the night like a king for 120 EUR – this is how much a double room costs in the Fletcher Hotel Paleis Stadhouderlijk Hof, which until 1971 was the residence of the royal family of the Netherlands. Budget hotels are located in relatively new buildings near the historical center, and it is easy to settle there for 60-70 EUR per day. A popular residence format among the Dutch is a house in the suburbs. Small chalets with a garden and a terrace with a barbecue are rented for 100 EUR. An apartment for a day, if you try, can be found for 50-70 EUR, and a bed in the Alibi hostel, converted from a real prison, will cost 20 EUR.
Cuisine and restaurants
The widest choice of restaurants will definitely not leave hungry either vegans, or meat-eaters, or just lovers of delicious food. Most establishments specialize in Dutch cuisine, although almost every eatery has a couple of purely Frisian dishes on the menu. For example, an appetizer with “edam” cheese and “rookvorst” (soft smoked sausage) for 5-8 EUR or “hashe”, stewed beef with onions and gravy (10-15 EUR). Often, local bread with the famous Frisian butter is served as a compliment.
A tasting set of 5 seasonal dishes in one of the gourmet restaurants costs 100 EUR for two. A bottle of wine is another plus 20-30 EUR. Simpler restaurants serve mainly local beef steaks and fish dishes. For example, for a vegetable salad and wild salmon fillet, they will ask for 15 EUR. A hearty and simple Frisian dinner often consists of pancakes with bacon, cheese or “salami” – for 10-12 EUR per serving.
Despite the rich history of “croquettes” (deep-fried potato balls), today the most popular fast food in the city is burgers. A freshly prepared sandwich with a hot beef patty will cost 5-8 EUR, depending on the “richness” of the filling.
Attractions in Leeuwarden
The capital of Friesland is a “mix” of shopping streets, museums, comfortable public spaces and historical sights. And also – monuments, there are more than 600 of them in the city!
The Frisian Museum is a must-see place, it contains the main wealth of the region (off. site in English). The exposition on the first floor tells about the history of the settlement of the north of the Netherlands, about the Frisians, their character and language. The rest of the exhibitions are temporary, however, many of them last for years, such as “Eleven Cities” by photo artist Hans Vilshut. Worth a visit is the Princesshof Museum of Ceramics in one of the royal palaces of the 17th century (off. site in English).
Next to it rises the symbol of Leeuwarden – the unfinished “falling” bell tower of Oldekhove (off. site in English). This is the pride of the locals, because it is tilted even more than the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The construction of the belfry began in 1529, when the Leeuwardians wanted their St. Vitus tower to be higher than the belfry of St. Martin of their neighbors from Groningen. But something went wrong, and her body began to roll. As a result, in 1532 the construction of the 40-meter tower was abandoned, and for almost 5 centuries the brick hulk has been towering over the historical center. On the ground floor, near the ticket office, there is a small exposition dedicated to the history of Oldechove, and on the top, which can be reached by elevator, there is a small observation deck. Entrance costs 3.50 EUR.
Leeuwarden’s “Must Sea” – the stunning architecture of the 1904 Central Pharmacy (Voorstreek, 58) and the neo-Gothic church of St. Boniface (Bonifatiusplein, 20). Leeuwarden is the birthplace of the famous spy Mata Hari. Unfortunately, the house where she was born burned down a few years ago. A reminder of the roots of the legendary dancer is a canal monument at Over de Kelders, 24.