Wednesday, 11 April 2012



Groningen is the main municipality in as well as the capital city of the eponymous province in the Netherlands. With a population of around 190,000, it is the largest city in the north of the Netherlands. Groningen is a university city, inhabited on average by about 37,000 students.

The city was founded on the northernmost point of the Hondsrug area. The oldest document referring to Groningen's existence dates from 1040. However, the city already existed long before then: the oldest archaeological traces found are believed to stem from the years 3950 BC–3720 BC, although the first major settlement in Groningen has been traced back to the 3rd century.

In the 13th century, when Groningen was an important trade centre, its inhabitants built a city wall to underline its authority. The most influential period of the city was the end of the 15th century, when the nearby province of Friesland was administered from Groningen. During these years, the Martini Tower was built, which loomed over the city at (then) 127 metres tall, making it the highest building in Europe at the time. The city's independence came to an end when it chose to join forces with the Spanish during the Eighty Years' War in 1594. It later switched sides, joining the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.

In 1614, the University of Groningen was founded, initially only for religious education. In the same period the city expanded rapidly and a new city wall was built. That same city wall was tested during the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, when the city was attacked fiercely by the bishop of Münster, Bernhard von Galen. The city walls resisted, an event which is celebrated with music and fireworks on 28 August (as "Groningens Ontzet" or "Bommen Berend").

The city did not escape the devastation of World War II. In particular, the main square, Grote Markt, was largely destroyed in April 1945, at the Battle of Groningen. However, the Martinitoren, its church, the Goudkantoor, and the city hall were not damaged. The battle there lasted several days. 

The city is nationally known as the "Metropolis of the North" and as "Martinistad" referring to the Martini Tower. Although Groningen is not a very large city, it does have an important role as the main urban centre of this part of the country, particularly in the fields of music and other arts, education, and business. The large number of students living in Groningen also contributes to a diverse cultural scene for a city of its size.

Recently, Groningen was rightfully chosen as the city with the best city centre in the Netherlands. The selection of shops is enormous and incredibly varied. From large chain shops to small and charming ones, anything can be found in Groningen. Books, clothing, shoes, accessories, antiques and furniture. The Zuiderdiep is paradise for lovers and collectors of antiques, curiosa, and art. A considerable number of antique shops are located here. Maupertuus is Groningen’s interior and design centre; stock includes furniture, accessories, and an art consultancy bureau. They also have a brasserie, a children’s play area, and a bookstore: all in all a great place to spend hours on end. 

Groningen's nightlife depends largely on its student population. Its cultural scene is vibrant and remarkable for a city of its size. In particular, the Grote Markt, the Vismarkt, and the Poelestraat and Peperstraat are crowded every night of the week, and most bars do not close until 7 in the morning. Between 2005 and 2007, Groningen was elected "de beste binnenstad" (the best city centre) of the Netherlands . 
Groningen has no fixed closing times, so this is the perfect opportunity to party until the wee small hours. Groningen is also a musical city where live music performances take place regularly in various cafés. And there are other options: the cinema, a visit to the casino or take in one of the many theatre performances.

Groningen has been called the "World Cycling City", since 57% of journeys within the city are made by bicycle. The city is very much adapted to the wishes of those who want to get around without a car, as it has an extensive cycle network, good public transport, and a large pedestrianised zone in the city centre. The transformation of the historic centre into a pedestrian priority zone enables and invites walking and biking by making these active modes of transport comfortable, safe and enjoyable. 

Aa Kerk

                                                        Groningen’s Top 5:
  1. The Martini Tower.  The most important Groningen monument is the Martini tower which has overlooked the city for over five hundred years. The tower is located at the north-eastern corner of the Grote Markt (Main Market Square), is part of the Martinikerk (Martini Church). The tower contains a brick spiral staircase consisting of 260 steps, and the carillon within the tower contains 62 bells. It is considered one of the main tourist attractions of Groningen and offers a view over the city and surrounding area.  Twice before a tower has stood on the site of the current Martinitoren. The first was built in the 13th century; this was approximately 30 metres high and built in the Romanesque style. This tower was destroyed by lightning. In the 15th century a second tower was built, approximately 45 metres high, but it also was devastated by lightning in a storm. The third and current tower was largely built between 1469 and 1482 from blocks of Bentheimer sandstone. The steeple was not finished until the mid-16th century. This tower was initially an estimated 102 metres high.
  2. The Groninger Museum. The Groninger Museum was founded in 1894. Although not as well known as other Dutch institutions of fine art, the opening of its new building in 1994 caused a sensation and it has since established a reputation of being among the finest museums in the nation. The radically modernist structures forming the Groninger Museum stand in a canal opposite a railway station consist of three main pavilions: a silver cylindrical building designed by Philippe Starck, a yellow tower by Alessandro Mendini, and a pale blue deconstructivist space by Coop Himmelb(l)au. A bridge that connects the museum to the train station is part of a cycling and walking path to the central city. Alderman Ypke Gietema, a strong proponent of the new museum, was responsible for siting the museum at its present location despite acrimonious objections. During site preparation, protesters managed to halt construction in high court for one year. Citizen's objections centered on the controversial design, fearing their homes would not sell with such a peculiar and eccentric structure nearby. Despite controversy, building resumed in 1992 and it was completed in 1994. Local residents had to get used to the shapes and colours of the building, but it soon became a popular success. The Groninger Museum is the home to various expositions of local, national, and international works of art, most of them modern and abstract. Some have provoked controversy, like the photo exhibition of Andres Serrano, but others are more main stream, such as the exhibition of the works by Ilya Repin, the "Russian Rembrandt".
  3. The Goudkantoor otherwise known as the Gold Office in English, is a building built in 1635 and located on Waagststraat near the Grote Markt. Originally it was built as an office for the receiver of taxes of the province of Groningen when it was called Collectehuis. The text on the building, Date Caesari quae sunt Caesaris (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's) refers to the original function. The coat of arms of the city of Groningen is located on the building. The name Goudkantoor goes back to 1814-1887, when the Waarborgbureau voor Goud- en Zilverwerken was located in the building. Gold and silver could get a hallmark so people could prove it was real. Prior to World War II the Northern Ship Transport Museum was located in the building. Just before the liberation of the city, in April 1945, the entire collection was transferred to a building on the north side of the Grote Markt, because the owners of the museum were afraid that the Goudkantoor would get damaged during the liberation, but in fact it was one of the few buildings that wasn't heavily damaged, because fire-fighters saved it from burning down. After the war, the museum was located in the building again for a short time and later it was used as an information centre (Het Stadjershuis) and as a tourist information centre. The Goudkantoor was restored during the construction of the Nieuwe Waagstraat and is currently a restaurant.
  4. The Aa Church. Originally there was a chapel situated on the site of the current church. This chapel was devoted to Mary and to Saint Nicholas, the patron of the bargees who cast off the vesels at the Westerhaven (Westerharber). In 1247, the chapel became the parish church and was named Onze Lieve Vrouwe ter Aa (Our Lady at the Aa) - Aa being the nearby river. Groningen had two centers at the time. One of them was around the chapel. Here lived the fishermen and the traders. Between 1425 and 1465, the chapel was changed into a brick church with a transept. On 23 April 1710, the tower spontaneously collapsed killing two people. In 1711, a new tower was built.
  5. The University of Groningen was founded in 1614. It is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands as well as one of its largest. Since its inception more than 100,000 students have graduated. It is a member of the distinguished Coimbra Group. In April 2012, according to the results of the International Student Barometer, the University of Groningen has been voted the best University of the Netherlands.

    University Main Building

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