Groningen is in the Netherlands. Groningen is the northernmost province in the Netherlands. The only large city within the province is called Groningen as well. The remainder consists of a low lying rural landscape.
Groningen is historically one of the poorest regions in the Netherlands. Agriculture used to be one of the mainstays, with extensive peat digging providing another source of income. Contrasting with the rural nature of the provine, the capital city, Groningen itself, is a student city, with two large hospitals, a university and multiple other higher education facilities. Many villages have grown little in the last century giving them a nice charm. If you have a few days to spare, try to explore. Buy fresh fish, eat smoked eels in Bourtange, take a stroll along a large (9 meters tall) statue of Lenin in Tjuchem, which was imported from the former GDR on a whim of an eccentric businessman. The large presence of extremely exploitative landowners in the east of Groningen during the late 19th and early 20th century left a relatively strong communist movement. This was exemplified by the appointment of a communist mayor to the town of Beerta in 1982, who led the council until it was merged into a large municipality in 1990. Apart from agriculture there is an large industrial area near the city of Delfzijl. In 1959 one of the largest natural gas fields in Europe was discovered near the village of Slochteren, leading to the continued presence of gas exploitation sites throughout the province
Locals talk a Lower-Saxon dialect called Gronings (Grunnegs). English is of course widely spoken, as well as German. Especially on markets and fairs, many buyers will be German.
It is easiest to arrive in Groningen by train. Groningen city, although on the edge of the province, is a transport hub; lines running to the north of the province join the main rail network here.
Convenient services run south towards the rest of the country. Regular services run from Utrecht, Amsterdam and Schiphol, among other locations; some are direct and some require a change at Amersfoort, Utrecht or Zwolle. From Schiphol the journey is typically 2h 30m.
Note when boarding trains to Groningen that they often divide after Zwolle, with the halves having seperate destinations (Groningen and Leeuwarden. Check with the conductor or look at the destination sign on the outside of the carriage to confirm you're on the correct section for Groningen.
Long distance buses to Lelystad are also available. Also regular connections to Emmen and Assen. Publicexpress, a German bus company from Oldenburg, offers a daily direct connection to Oldenburg, Airport Bremen and Bremen Central.
There is an airport about 10km outside the city of Groningen, in Eelde. This airport is international but quite small. Other flight connections require a train journey; Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is the biggest and best connected airport, but Bremen and Eindhoven are a similar distance away by train (2-3 hours) and are well served by budget airlines. Train tickets for these locations are typically 30 Euro one way as of the time of writing (Feb 2007). Public Express offers regular bus service from Groningen to Bremen Airport for 17 Euro one way (as of June 2008). This bus also stops in Oldenburg and Bremen for those who are interested in visiting these cities.
Best way to get around the province is by car or bike. As the province is quite spread out, take a car if you have not much time to spare. Buses and trains also cross the countryside. By train, bikes can be taken during off-peak hours for a € 5,- day ticket. Folding bikes can be taken without payment. Trains all originate in Groningen City and offer regular connections to Delfzijl, Roodeschool and Winschoten. Some buses in the country side require prior reservation ("bel bus"). Another option is the so called "treintaxi", a cab that operates as a mini-bus and connects trainstations with private addresses (even in nearby villages) for just a few euro.
When in Groningen province why not try:
There are a lot of fine restaurants scattered across the province:
Less expensive, but nice:
Groningen is famous for its nightlife. Nowhere in the Netherlands will the pubs stay open longer. Especially at the area to the southeast of the "Grote Markt", like the Poelestraat, the Oosterstraat en the Peperstraat, there are a lot of pubs that stay open until late. Dutch pubs, student pubs, Irish pubs, bars, coffee shops, you name it, Groningen has it.
Try café Hooghoudt at the south border of the "Grote Markt". Hooghoudt is a local liquor brand (it produces vodka and traditional Dutch liquors like "Jenever") and the café acts as a barrelhouse.
In whole, Groningen is a safe place to stay. There are only a few basic rules to follow: