Leeuwarden - Holland

Jessica Basi warms to the Dutch provincial capital as she clambers on board an old canal boat, scales a mountain of cheeses and winds her way up a dark, twisted tower.

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

Stop for a moment as you wander through Leeuwarden and you’ll inevitably end up chatting to a friendly local. There’s a permanent optimism that pervades the capital of the Dutch province of Friesland: beaming residents cycle everywhere, the towering stone prison is now a funhouse of workshops and bars, and as you watch friends knock back beers together on restaurant terraces, you get a sense that the weekend feeling lasts the whole seven days here.

What to do

Narrow canals carve through the centre of Leeuwarden, mapping out a meandering route to explore the city. Stop by the open-air farmers’ market to pick up a sugar loaf – sticky cinnamon bread – or some hazelnut and aniseed dúmke biscuits for the ride. Jump on a boat tour from Nieuwestad pier and follow the emerald sheen past old beer and cattle markets, through tunnels where Second World War spies used to hide, and along the marina where families from North Friesland moor up. Crooked, crumbling and 73 metres short of its target height, the Oldehove tower in the city centre is regarded as a fond failure by locals. The beginnings of a grand cathedral in 1529, construction ceased at 39 metres because the tower began to topple. Scale its dark and twisty stairs for a panoramic view. Back on level ground, the Princessehof ( is a former royal residence turned ceramic museum. Nose through the collection of traditional Friesian pottery before ambling around the adjoining Prinsentuin city park, a stretch of amber and green that was previously the palace gardens.

Where to stay

Once a gilded and pillared post office building, Grand Hotel Post-Plaza is a contemporary monochrome manor– with a few chandeliers thrown in for good measure (00 31 58 215 9137, Several rooms have saunas and hot tubs. Hotel-Palace Stadhouderlijk Hof (00 31 58 216 2180, is a regal city centre residence that was once owned by the Dutch royal family.

Where to eat and drink

Come Autumn, restaurant terraces still brim with local patrons while waiters bustle amid the heaters and fire lanterns. Grand Café de Walrus (00 31 58 213 7740, mixes elegant starters such as smoked salmon, poached egg and lavender jus, with hefty mains, including a ‘meat trio’ of pork, steak and chicken cuts from surrounding farmland – a seriously carnivorous undertaking. Directly opposite, Restaurant Sems (00 31 58 216 2214, sources fruits of the North Sea for its shellfish-heavy menu. Panfried cod and lobster perch prettily on top of a parsley risotto and, marooned on an island of crab tartare, bundles of herring caviar sit surrounded by a fragrant cucumber broth. Restaurant Eindeloos (00 31 58 213 0835, is a holein- the-wall hideaway with a modern European tasting menu that includes dishes such as razor clams with roasted celery root, and a platter of succulent sweetbread and beef tongue. It’s the sauces here that make each plate really sing (what head chef Willem Schaafsma does with lamb broth, shiitake and a little chive is borderline alchemy). For true Frisian fare, stroll to Kleine Kerkstraat where you’ll find Zuivelhoeve (00 31 58 820 0330,, a cheese shop selling wheels of nagelkaas – mild, cumin-flecked and studded with cloves – and chains of smoked rookworst sausage. Stop in at tiny deli Priuw (00 31 58 785 0492) to try local staples such as rich plum syrup, herby Beerenburg liquor and brick-like loaves of roggebrood – vaguely sweet and densely packed with chewy rye kernels.

Time running out?

Choose a zinging single origin coffee or a rich, smooth blend at Doppio (00 31 58 216 0695, on the Wilhelminaplein square then sit back on the cafe’s terrace and watch the dancing fountains.


Travel Information

Travel Information

The currency is the euro. Leeuwarden is one hour ahead of GMT and is a three hour and twenty minute journey from London.

Getting There

KLM ( flies from various UK cities to Amsterdam. A train to Leeuwarden takes two hours and twenty minutes.
RailEurope ( operates trains between London and Leeuwarden with changes in Brussels and Amsterdam.


Holland’s official website ( and Leeuwarden Tourism provide detailed visitor information.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp0-113710121210732
Max Temp3371115182020171385

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