Liwadders, as Leeuwarden's down-to-earth residents are known, are not used to bigging up their city. That changed when the city became a European Capital of Culture in 2018. The compact culture bomb that is Leeuwarden perfectly represents the northern parts of the Netherlands. Historical and cutting-edge with plenty of space to relax and unwind.

Like a local
Liwadders do things their own way

Liwadders do things their own way

Cosy Leeuwarden city centre around the water

Leeuwarden is one of the eleven Frisian cities. Like many other Dutch cities, it offers attractive city canals, charming shopping streets, inviting terraces and green city parks. But it can really feel like a different place because the Netherlands' second official language, Frisian, is spoken here. As an added bonus, you can hop on a boat in Leeuwarden and arrive at one of the beautiful Wadden Islands in less than 30 minutes. The city is also a fertile place for artists and scientists who are looking for a sustainable and green future, without losing sight of history and traditions.

The Blokhuispoort is an imposing, historic building in Leeuwarden’s city centre. This former prison has an extraordinary past, but above all a rich future as a cultural hotspot. The cells where inmates once awaited sentencing are now occupied by small shops run by local entrepreneurs. It’s also home to the city library and you can visit an escape room or take workshops in ceramics or silversmithing. Grab a bite to eat at café de Bak (’the Nick’) or restaurant Proefverlof (’Probation’) and, for a really unique experience, book a night in a cell at Hostel Alibi.

Blokhuispoort Leeuwarden
Leaning tower Oldehove in the center of Leeuwarden in Friesland

Anyone who has ever been to Leeuwarden will have seen the Oldehove. This tower leans more than that famous one in Pisa. Constructed in the early part of the 16th century, you can climb Leeuwarden's famous landmark for a view over the historical city centre. A lot of activities are organised in the vicinity of the tower and events regularly take place at the Oldehoofsterkerkhof public square. From here you can walk straight into the Prinsentuin city park, where you can also moor your boat.

A stone's throw away from the Oldehove is Kleine Kerkstraat, considered to be Leeuwarden's most inviting shopping street by locals and tourists. It earned its inviting reputation due to the entrepreneurs who take the time for you and are happy to chat. Coffee, clothes, local produce and other refreshments – you will never walk away from this street empty-handed. This cosy little street has been awarded the title 'Nicest shopping street in Leeuwarden' twice, and the Frisians are rightly grutsk (the Frisian word for proud) of that.

Circular to the last detail

Circular to the last detail

There is an interesting garden tucked away in the Blokhuispoort cultural centre. It is the garden with which sustainable artist Claudy Jongstra won the silver medal at the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show. All the plants in this garden can be used as natural dyes. With its many city parks, Leeuwarden is and has always been a green city. Go for an environmentally friendly stroll and walk the city gardens route.

Leeuwarden Honeysuckle Garden
NØRD concept store is a shop & coffee bar in historic downtown Leeuwarden

This bustling capital of Friesland is also one of the best places for sustainable shopping. There are plenty of vintage and second-hand shops, including, for example, the trendy Nørd with design items based on recycled materials. Speaking of recycling, did you know that Omrin is the largest and most sustainable waste processor in the northern Netherlands? So feel free to sneup (snoop) around at the Estafette charity shop and admire what the circular workshop is doing with second-hand goods.

Frisian for forest, the extraordinary Bosk recently won a Dutch Design Award. In the words of the jury, "Bosk is a brilliant, nature-inclusive protest with protesters you will love; the whole trajectory is exemplary, with trees as prominent protagonists.” What exactly are we talking about? Well, Bosk is an actual walking forest. Yes, you read that right.

As many as 2,000 trees took to the streets of the city centre for a summer to demonstrate what greenery does to you. The main message is the role of arts and culture in driving transition and creating new perspectives. The trees have all found a permanent home in the city and province. This network of volunteers, cultural ambition and an artistic view of the future is what Leeuwarden and the province of Friesland is all about.

Bosk Leeuwarden
Hidden gems
A compact culture bomb

A compact culture bomb

Keramiekmuseum Princessehof Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden is bursting with stories and bears the title UNESCO City of Literature for a reason. The historical city centre is full of surprises for observant visitors. The winding streets through the Frisian capital are an open invitation to discover these stories. Walk the Poetry Route, for example, where you'll be bombarded with poems or discover the city's noble touch. The Miniatures Route tells a wonderful story and is a unique route for the whole family.

By the way, did you know that Leeuwarden is built on three man-made hills? You will learn about that and more with the city guides of A Guide to Leeuwarden. From historical buildings to trendy, modern street art, these city experts will tell you the best and most interesting stories to be found in Leeuwarden. At the end of the tour, you get to decide what you think the tour is worth through a voluntary contribution, which means that the city's valuable secrets are accessible to all incomes.

Leeuwarden Street art
Boat with flag of Friesland sailing through the Alde Feanen National Park

What is a city without its province? This is especially true for Leeuwarden. Step outside the city gates and within less than half an hour you will find beautiful nature areas. Water lovers will feel right at home in National Park de Alde Feanen. It's a great place to enjoy boating, cycling or hiking. At only half an hour’s drive is the town of Heerenveen, known for the Thialf ice skating arena where many a famous athlete has won a gold medal.

Visit Park Vijversburg where art and nature come together in landscape architecture. Of course, a visit to the Wadden coastline is not to be missed. This unique nature reserve stretches across three Dutch provinces and rightly bears the title UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a voyage of discovery through salt marshes and dunes or go on one of the mudflat walks and walk on the bottom of the sea at low tide.

Vijversburg Leeuwarden

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