Groningen, easily the most happening city in the northern Netherlands, pulses with new life. More than half of the city’s 170,000 inhabitants are under 35, adding to Groningen’s reputation as a great party city. Heavily bombed in WWII, Groningen rebuilt itself completely, yet unlike some other Dutch cities, Groningen has managed to keep its old-world appeal.
TRANSPORTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION. Trains arrive from Amsterdam (212hr. 2 per hr. ‚24), occasionally requiring a train switch at Amers-foot; ask the conductor whether you will need to change trains. To get to the WV tourist office, Grote Markt 25, turn right as you exit the station, walk along the canal, turn left at the first bridge, head straight through the Herepl. on Herestr. cross Gedempte Zuiderdiep, and keep on Herestr. until it hits the Grote Markt. The tourist office is in the far comer of the Markt next to the Martinitoren. They book accommodations for free and offer guided walking tours in July and August. ( 313 97 41; www.vwgroningen.nl. Open M-W 9am-6pm, Th 9am-8pm, F 9am-6pm, Sa 10am-5pm. Walking tours Su l-3pm, M 2:30-4:30pm. ‚3.50, under-12 ‚2.25.)
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. A fun crowd hangs out at Simplon Youthhotel O, Boterdiep 73-2, where a heavy-metal loving staff offers very clean rooms. Take bus #1 from the station (dir.: Korrewegwijk) to Boterdiep; the hostel is through the yellow- and white-striped entranceway. (s 313 52 21; www.xs4all.nl~simplon. Breakfast ‚3.40. Free lockers. Sheets ‚2.50, included in private rooms. Lockout noon-3pm. All-female dorm available. Dorms ‚11; singles ‚29; doubles ‚42; triples ‚59; quads ‚76.) Martini Hotel , Gedempte Zuiderdiep, about halfway between the train station and Grote Markt, has recently been renovated, with a classy new lobby and private bathrooms all around, (a’312 99 19; www.martini-hotel.nl. TV in every room. Breakfast ‚7.50. Singles and doubles from ‚66; triples ‚75; quads ‚96.) To get to Hotel Friesland , Kleine Pelsterstr. 4, cross the canal at the Groninger Museum and walk up Ubbo Emmiusstr. turn right on Gedempte Zuiderdiep, left on Pelsterstr. and right onto Kleine Pelsterstr. Enjoy friendly service, bright bedrooms with high ceilings, and impeccably clean bathrooms. (312 13 07. Breakfast included. Singles ‚24; doubles ‚44; triples ‚60; quads ‚80.)
Try liDe Kleine Moghul , Nieuwe Boteringstr. 62, an entirely organic Indian restaurant with a beautiful decor, (s 318 89 05. Entrees ‚8-11. Open daily 5-10pm.) At iiBen’z , Pepperstr. 17, in the heart of Groningen’s party district, dinner is served in a Bedouin tent upon Turkish cushions lit by lantern. Finish your meal off with a puff on the nargila, a traditional water pipe. ( 313 79 17; www.restaurantbenz.nl. Special student menu ‚7.60-9.10. Cash only.) Eetcafe De le Kamer , Pepperstr. 9, serves some of the cheapest fare in town in a classy setting. Choose between pep-persteak or vegetarian stew (‚7.20), or fill up on the daily special for just ‚6. (-318 1721. Beer ‚1.50. Kitchen closes at 9:30pm. Open daily 5pm-6am.)
SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. The town’s spectacular iiGronlnger Museum, housed in a vibrant, almost entropic building exhibits both modem art and traditional paintings. The multicolored galleries create a futuristic laboratory atmosphere for their contemporary art exhibits, (www.groninger-museum.nl. Open July and Aug. M l-5pm, Tu-Su 10am-5pm; Sept.-June Tu-Su 10am-5pm. ‚7, seniors ‚6, children ‚3.50.) Admire the city from atop the Grote Markt’s Martinitoren Tower, a 97m tower that weathered the German attacks during WWII. Built as a Catholic church, the middle section dates from the 13th century. Midway up the tower, you can pull cords to simulate bell ringing. You can also see the bells up close, under which people were occasionally tied for torture. (Open Apr.-Oct. daily llam-5pm; Nov.-Mar. noon-4pm. ‚2.50, under-12 ‚1.50.) A great spot to relax is the serene 16th-century Prinsenhoftuin (Princes’ Court Gardens); the entrance is on the canal lOmin. away from the Martinitorin. (Open Apr. to mid-Oct. daily lOam-dusk.) Inside the gardens, the tiny Theeschen-kerij Tea Hut offers 130 kinds of tea (‚0.80) under charming canopied underpasses. (Open M-F 10-6pm, Sa-Su noon-6pm.) Finally, cool off at Noorderplantsoen, a rolling, fountain-filled park that serves as host space to the huge Noorderzon Festival of art in late August, Groningen’s annual cultural climax.
Groningen parties beyond its size; there are over 160 pubs and discotheques crammed in this medium-sized city. For cheap pitchers of beer and shoulder-to-shoulder packed bars, head to the southeastern corner of the Grote Markt on Poelestr. and Peperstr. where students boast that the bars close when people stop drinking. For the club scene, head to Vera, Oosterstr. 44, which bills itself as the club for the international pop underground. Considering that Vera hosts unmissable parties nearly every night, they may well be right. Pick up a copy of VeraKrant, the newsletter in the box outside, for a schedule of events. The intimate, candlelit de Spieghel Jazz Cafe, Peperstr. 11, has two floors of live jazz, funk, or blues every night. Tokers are welcome at this club that caters to a slightly older crowd. (Wine ‚2.20. Open daily 8pm-4am.) Groningen’s coffeeshops offer cheap alternatives to their Amsterdam brethren. Cafe Dee’s, Papen-gang 3, is tucked unassumingly in a small alley, but it is just as much a night spot as other shops on the main streets. (Internet ‚1 per 30min. Open M-W 1 lam-midnight, Th noon-lam, F llam-3am, Sa noon-3am.) The Glory, Steentilstr. 3, is another super-chill spot with a projection TV, a Bob Marley motif, and the-ater-style seats. (Open daily lOam-lOpm.) Postal Code; 9725.