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Canals lined with cafés, tranquil parks and quirky museums make the Dutch city of Groningen rich in culture. This green city is car-free in the centre and renowned as one of the Netherlands' top cycling spots, so you can hop on a bike to explore like a local. Crackling with creative energy, Groningen also has lots of festivals with music and dance.
Hostels in Groningen range from the sustainable to the sociable. There's one in a former sugar factory with a common room and a herb garden where you can pick fresh flavours to add to your dinner, if you're making use of the on-site kitchen. Or choose a central Groningen hostel with an on-site bar for socialising over a couple of Dutch beers. For an authentic farm feel, choose a hostel just outside the city which has chickens, rabbits and pigs – and also a hot tub and a fire pit for something a bit different.
Groningen's old town centre is where the action happens. By day, Vismarkt (the fish market) and Grote Markt (great market) are the places to try local treats. By night, the pubs come alive (and stay open later than any in the Netherlands). Away from the bustle, Noorderplantsoen is a park that often hosts events like its annual theatre festival. Only 40 minutes by train, the small town of Uithuizen has a castle museum and gardens giving you a taste of life in the 18th century.
Groninger Museum is hard to miss: it's the bright geometric structure on the canal in front of the train station. Wander its exhibits to see local and international modern art. There's also Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum – a maritime centre that used to be a distillery in the 16th century. For some leisurely browsing and snacking, you can visit Zwanestraat. There you'll find plenty of boutiques and delis with tasty local cheeses (it was also voted the country's most beautiful shopping street in 2017).
Coming from overseas? Flights arrive in the Netherlands at Schiphol, Amsterdam's international airport. The journey from here to Groningen takes around two hours by train. The closest airport is Groningen Airport Eelde (15km away). From this airport, you can catch a bus to Groningen Central Station in about 50 minutes. Groningen has cycle routes to other towns and there's bike hire in the city. Walking the city is easy, and there are also regular buses.