Northern Netherlands

Obscure among foreigners, the Northern Netherlands can be a pleasant surprise. This sparsely inhabited region is home to some stunning historic fortifications, lovely cities, great museums and excellent water sports opportunities. Its nature varies from vast heathlands to beautiful lake areas.

As soon as winter shows its face, the odd chance of the “eleven-city-tour”, a major ice-skating event passing 11 pretty towns in Friesland and last held in 1997, becomes the talk of the day in all of the country. Although nature rarely allows for the tour to be held, it seems to have become part of the Dutch identity. Small chance you’ll find yourself caught in the middle of that massive event (estimations state that, would the tour be held, it would become the biggest single event in the history of the country), but the region is a lovely destination even in high summer.

Most of the Northern Netherlands consists of a flat polder landscape, with the exception of Drenthe which lies on a plateau and consists of heathlands.

. . . Northern Netherlands . . .

Map of Northern Netherlands

  Drenthe
Lying on the Drents Plateau, this area is a favorite among Dutch travelers for its heathland, sand grounds and the dolmen from the early Neolithic period.
  Friesland
Known for its lakes and ice skating culture, Friesland has a distinct culture and its own language and traditions. The Sneekweek is an annual boating event in the summer, while winter revolves around the Elfstedentocht, one of the most legendary ice skating tournaments in the world that can only be held in extremely cold winters (last one in 1997).
  Groningen
The city of Groningen is one of the most happening cities of the country, and a highlight of the northern region. The Ommelanden (surrounding lands) are very flat and very green, and historically belong to the greater Frisian region.

  • 536.551 Assen — Famously home to the Dutch TT Circuit, and therefore a prime destination for any MotoGP enthusiasts
  • 53.00677.19171 Bourtange — Stunningly restored historic fortified town and an excellent day trip in the region
  • 53.3333333333336.91666666666671 Delfzijl — Friendly harbour town and once every five years the scene for the bustling Delfsail boating event
  • 52.78116.89941 Emmen — Home to one of the most well-known zoos in the country
  • 53.2166666666676.551 Groningen — By far the biggest city of Northern Netherlands. Lively student city full of historic heritage and home to a top-notch museum
  • 53.17365.42721 Harlingen – A charming harbour town with a light house among its many historic monuments
  • 52.96586.05031 Heerenveen — The sports capital of the Northern Netherlands and home to the famous indoor ice-skating arena Thialf
  • 53.25.78333333333331 Leeuwarden — Scheduled to be European Capital of Culture in 2018, this provincial capital is full of modern and historic culture
  • 53.0333333333335.66666666666671 Sneek — At the heart of the Frisian Lake region and a centre for sailing and other water sports

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. . . Northern Netherlands . . .

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