Are you staying in Amsterdam for a few days and would you like to see more about the things The Netherlands have on offer for you? Then the Frisian city Leeuwarden is certainly worth a visit. Leeuwarden, or Ljouwer in Frisian, is the capital of the province Friesland. According to an old tradition the whole province has even been built around the city.
Every year 2 cities are chosen as cultural capital of Europe to showcase the variety of European cultures and in 2018 Leeuwarden has won this prestigious name, together with Valletta in Malta.
From Amsterdam there are several ways to travel to Leeuwarden; from the Amsterdam Central Station you can take the train and travel through the beautiful nature reserve ‘Oostvaardersplassen’ to the station of Leeuwarden. Another option is to take the car and travel via the Afsluitdijk, the dike that connects the provinces Noord-Holland and Friesland. The Afsluitdijk (enclosing dike) is a true masterpiece of Dutch engineering and shows how we can control the ever present danger of water.
No matter which way you travel, Leeuwarden can be recognized from afar by 2 high towers, the Achmea towers, that loom from the flat Frisian country side.
As cultural capital, the city of Leeuwarden has a lot to offer. Besides the special program for this exceptional year there is plenty to see and do for both young and old. How about climbing the Oldehove? This leaning church tower offers a beautiful view over the city and with good weather you can even see the cows grazing in the fields!
If you’re not really into heights, then it is a good idea to sail along the Liwadder canals in a canal boat and see Leeuwarden from a different point of view. These so called praamvaarboten (kind of like barges) have different routes and also sail along the birthplace of the famous spy Mata Hari and through the city park; De Prinsentuin (The Garden of Princes). A whole different experience then the canal your in Amsterdam you might have already done.
Leeuwarden also offers different museums; check out the extensive ceramics collection at the Ceramic Museum ‘Princessehof’, or discover the Frisian in you at the Frisian Museum.
If you like gastronomic specialities, then there are more than enough restaurants and cafes where you can eat and drink as much as you like. Try for instance the typical beer from Leeuwarden ‘Grutte Pier’, names after the resistance hero Grutte Pier, which is delicious in combination with a Frisian dry sausage. Another thing you certainly shouldn’t miss are the ‘Fryske Dúmkes’’; these anise-spices sweet cookies are being served with coffee. But maybe the most famous product is Beerenburg. Although this herbal bitter is originally from Amsterdam, it is mainly consumed in Friesland en it is known as a Frisian regional product!
THE ultimate event to enjoy this bitter is of course the tour of all tours; the Elfstedentocht, or the Tour of Eleven Cities. This ice skating tour of almost 200 kilometres travels, as the name suggests, past 11 Frisian cities. Despite all contemporary technology, this tour is completely depended on the Dutch weather; on the complete route there needs to be at least 15 cm thick natural ice before the organization gives an OK.
The last Elfstedentocht took place in 1997 and ever since it is hoping on cold enough weather. If it is below zero a few days, the whole country is in turmoil and people are waiting on the statement of the ‘ice masters’; “It giet oan”!
Even without the Elfstedentocht, Leeuwarden is certainly worth a visit due to its cultural variety.
Oant sjen yn Ljouwert!
Ines van der Schoot – Reservations Department XO Hotels