Groningen is in The Netherlands.
Groningen is the northernmost state in the Netherlands. It consist of merely one big city also called Groningen. Outside the city the countryside is very flat. It is not a spectacular region, but it is quite different from the rest of busy the Netherlands.
Delfzijl - Small city with busy port and industrial area.
Groningen - Vibrant student city. Historical buildings and modern architecture go hand in hand.
Appingedam - Small medieval town in the north-east of the province. Can be reached by train from Groningen (trains leave every half hour). The town has very picturesque canals with the famous "hanging kitchens".
Pieterburen - The "zeehondencrèche" or seal hospital looks after sick and weak seals. Apart from being a hospital for seals it offers a small visitor's centre, guided tours and film. During the summer months a special bus connects Groningen with the seal hospital.
Uithuizen - Small town (can be reached by train from Groningen, hourly connection). Famous for the Menkemaborg, a small castle with labyrinth and beautiful gardens. The town also has a large museum dedicated to World War II.
Warffum - Charming village (can be reached by train from Groningen, hourly connection) with an open air museum.
Bourtange - An old Dutch fort. Very interesting and popular.
The Ommelanden - The countryside north and east of Groningen (city). Small little towns, little fishing communities, little castles ("borgen") and windmills. Good area to explore, by car or on bike.
Groningen is one of the poorest regions in the Netherlands. Agriculture is one of its mainstays. In the past peat was being dug. Many villages have not really grown 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. The area is therefore regarded as the last stronghold of the communist party in the Netherlands.
Apart from agriculture there is an unsightly 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.
Locals talk a Nether-Saxon dialect called Gronings. English is of course widely spoken, as well as German. Especially on markets and fairs, many buyers will be German.
Groning is not "poorest" it is a vibrant University City, though surrounded by much agricultural land it is by no means "poor".
It is easiest to arrive in Groningen by train into the City of Groningen. 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 the south of the country. Regular services run from Utrecht, Amsterdam and Schiphol, among other locations; some are direct and some require a change at Amersfoort. From Schiphol the journey is typically 2h 30m.
Note when boarding trains to Groningen that they often divide after Zwolle, with the front half going in one direction and the rear half in another. 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 EUR 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.
Groningen has the least busy roads of the Netherlands. Only at rush-hour (monday - friday from 07.00 to 09.00 and from 16.00 to 18.00) there can be a few small traffic-jams but nothing serious.
Outside the city of Groningen, there will not be too much traffic on the road.
Parking a car on saturday in the city of Groningen can be difficult although. Park your car at a "Transferium" and travel by bus to the city for a small fee.
Almost every town has a gas-station where you can buy petrol, diesel and gas.
Car rental is available in Groningen and at the airport through Avis, Herz and Europcar.
Road maps are available at the ANWB shop in the Oosterstraat, Groningen. As a member of American Automobile Association, you can get discount at the ANWB shop.
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, but tend to be slow and far in between. 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.
"Groningen station", a very beautiful built station.
"Groninger Museum", just a few steps to the north from "Groningen Station. Beautiful architecture combined with seasonal expositions.
When in Groningen province why not try:
Wadlopen (walking through the mud during low tide). It is a great way to experience the Waddenzee an area of great natural beauty full of seabirds and some seals. For more experienced "wadlopers" there are even trips to the island of Schiermonnikoog.
Take a bath or spend a day in the sauna at the Spa of Nieuweschans.
Go for a tour along the old fortified houses called "borgen" at Slochteren (Freylemaborg), Leek (Nienoord), Leens (Verhildersum) and Uithuizen (Menkemaborg).
Go sailing or swimming at Leek at the "Leekstermeer" or Paterswolde at the "Paterswoldse Meer".
Try the Groningen City walk, a guided tour through the inner city of Groningen. Lots of interesting buildings (like the Prinsenhof) and stories.
Take the stairs at the Martini Toren. Climb to the top of the tower and enjoy the view.
There are a lot of fine restaurants scattered across the province:
Leens - Verhildersum (expensive, but high quality food, only made from regional products, 1 star Michelin rating)
Delfzijl - De Kakebrug
Aduard - Onder de Linden (expensive, but very good, 1 star Michelin rating)
Muller - Groningen (1 star Michelin rating)
Haren - Villa Sasso, Mediterranean cuisine.
Less expensive, but nice:
Groningen - Chinese restaurant Ni Hao. Very good chinese cuisine
Middelstum - De Valk
Eenrum - Abrahams mosterdmakerij
Fish restaurants in Delfzijl, Termunterzijl and Lauwersoog. Fresh caught fish from the sea on your plate.
Lots and lots of places to eat in the city of Groningen. Thai, Mexican, Subways, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Mongolean, Japanese, French, German, Dutch. Whatever you want to eat, there is a place for it.
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 'till late. Dutch pubs, student pubs, Irish pubs, bars, coffeeshops, 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 liqours 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:
Lock your car and don't leave your CD player, laptop or navigation equipment in your car.
Double lock your rental bike; the Netherlands are famous for their bikes, but also bicycle theft.
Hard drugs are illegal in the Netherlands, but possesion of a small portion of soft drugs for personal use is allowed.
Groningen city centre is observed by CCTV cameras (with noise-sensitive warning equipment). When you are the victim or the witness of a criminal act, the police will normally arrive in a few minutes.