Leeuwarden 4105X1929Px J


Floral extravaganzas, fine art and the freshest of Dutch cheeses vie for your attention in this elegant Frisian city, a worthy 2018 European Capital of Culture, says Stuart Forster

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

Leeuwarden, in the farming province of Friesland, has, along with Valetta, been crowned joint 2018 European Capital of Culture and the calendar is packed with celebratory events. The city’s compact core is characterised by cobbled streets, winding canals and venerable townhouses, and is ideal for exploring on foot. May’s long days bring sunny spring weather and the annual flower market, which blooms through the city centre on 10 May – the longest in the Netherlands. The recent introduction of a direct Eurostar service to Amsterdam makes it easier than ever to reach.

What to do

Get your bearings from the rooftop of the Oldehove 00 31 58 2332 350, oldehove.eu – a leaning tower that tilts more than Pisa’s. The 183 steps are worth the climb to the viewing platform. The state-of-the-art Fries Museum 00 31 58 255 5500, friesmuseum.nl dominates the city and conveys the story of Friesland from prehistoric times. Showing now is a gritty exhibition on resistance during the Second World War and, until 28 October, one on the life and work of MC Escher, the locally born graphic designer and artist. On Fridays the Wilheminaplein, the square in front of the museum, hosts a bustling market bursting with local produce including seasonal white asparagus, North Sea fish and cumin-studded Kanterkaas cheese. Take advantage of the spring weather to tour Leeuwarden’s canal network on a stand-up paddleboard with SUP Skool Leeuwarden 00 31 68 390 1293, supskoolleeuwarden.nl or try the 90-minute guided boat tours praamvarenleeuwarden.nl which depart from the Nieuwe Pijp Bridge. The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics princessehof.nl displays art by the likes of Picasso and Karel Appel, plus a huge collection of Chinese porcelain.

Where to stay

The Post-Plaza Hotel and Grand Café 00 31 58 215 9317 has been created by converting an interconnected former bank and post office building. Rooms on the top fl oor are the most spacious. Breakfast is served beneath carved, neo-gothic beams in the café, which hosts live music on weekends. The freshly renovated Boutique Hotel Catshuis 00 31 58 215 8715, catshuisleeuwarden.nl is named after 10th-century merchant Pieter Cats. Once a royal palace, The Hotel Paleis Stadhouderlijk Hof 00 31 58 216 2180, hotelstadhouderlijkhof.nl is just a few steps from the old town and boasts a tranquil garden. The well-located Oranje Hotel 00 31 58 212 6241, oranjehotelleeuwarden.com has stylish guestrooms and an inviting brasserie-style restaurant.

Where to eat and drink

Breakfast in waterside café Stek 00 31 58 203 7337, stekleeuwarden.nl and bite into a sandwich filled with goat’s cheese, walnuts and mushrooms while watching the Vrouwenpoort Bridge open and close. The Restaurant Proefverlof 00 31 58 302 0030, proefverlof.frl at the city’s former prison offers atmospheric cell dining plus a waterfront terrace. Don’t miss the steak, served with mushroom and cabbage gratin. Its chef- owner, Willem Schaafsma, is also behind Restaurant Eindeloos 00 31 58 213 0835, restauranteindeloos.nl– recognised for sustainability with a Gault Millau award in 2016. The seasonal tasting menus showcase regional produce while giving a nod to Asian influences. Organic produce forms the basis for dishes by Gilbert van der Heide at Restaurant Elevé 00 31 58 233 4900, eleve.nl which has a Michelin star. Window seats provide city views, though dishes such as crisp veal sweetbread with Frisian apple syrup mean you may not find time to look up from your plate. Buy a souvenir bottle of the herb-laced local spirit Beerenburg from the compact Boomsma distillery museum. boomsma.frl

Time running out?

As part of Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018 celebrations, 25 artists are participating in the Potatoes Go Wild project at the nearby village of Oudebildtdijk, a quirky and educational exhibition celebrating the humble spud. friesland.nl


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the euro. Time is 1 hour ahead of GMT. Flight time to Groningen is around 1. 5 hours. A shuttle connects the airport and city centre, with trains to Leeuwarden taking around 50 minutes.

Getting There

Flybe flies daily from London Southend to Groningen. flybe.com

Eurostar travels direct from London St Pancras to Amsterdam, taking around 3. 5 hours. The connecting train journey from there to Leeuwarden takes around 2 hours. eurostar.com ns.nl


Friesland is the regional tourism board and provides itinerary ideas plus information about Leeuwarden-Friesland 2018 European Capital of Culture celebrations. friesland.nl

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp0-113710121210732
Max Temp3371115182020171385

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