Leeuwarden Tourist Attractions
Leeuwarden, the old capital of Friesland, lies in fertile fens country formed by the dyking of the Middelzee in the 18th century. It is the economic and cultural capital of Friesland, with various institutions and higher educational establishments.
Its cattle market is the largest in the northern Netherlands. Its industrial activity centers on the foodstuffs industries, which process agricultural produce from an extensive surrounding area. The tourist trade also makes an important contribution to the economy.Leeuwarden developed out of three terp settlements which merged in 1435 and were granted a municipal charter. Thereafter the town grew into an important trading center. With the silting up of the Middelzee, however, the town lost its harbor and became instead an agricultural market town and the chief center of the Ostergos region. From 1524 to 1580 the town was the seat of the Habsburg Stadholder, who was succeeded from 1584 to 1747 by Stadholders of the Nassau-Dietz family. In the 16th-18th centuries Leeuwarden was famed for its fine gold and silverware. The notorious dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari (Margaretha Geertruida Zelle) was born in Leeuwarden in 1876. Suspected of espionage for Germany, she was executed by the French at Vincennes in 1917.Architecture is a highlight for visitors including the The Achmea building, the tallest in the city, the former chancellery and the leaning tower of Oldehove.
In the south of the old town, star-shaped and enclosed by a ring of canals, is the Wirdumerdijk, a busy shopping street. At the north end of the street, to the left, is the Waagplein, a spacious square with a statue of a Frisian horse.
In the center of Waagplein stands the Weigh House (Waag; 1595-98), a handsome building in Renaissance style in which butter and cheese were sold until 1884. It is now occupied by a bank on the ground floor and a restaurant on the upper floor.
At the east end of Willemskade is the Exchange (Beurs), built around 1880 by the city architect, T. Romein, as a replacement for the Weigh House. It now houses the Municipal Library.
To the west of the Wirdumerdijk is Wilhelminaplein, the most prominent building in which is the classical-style Paleis van Justitie (Law Courts; 1846-52), with an imposing doorway flanked by columns. The building houses both the provincial and the cantonal court.
From the Waagplein, St Jacobsstraat runs north to the Hofplein. The most striking building in this square is the whitewashed Hof, which from 1587 was the residence of the Stadholder and later of the Queen's Commissioner. When it was no longer required by the Commissioner it was taken over by the municipality.
Facing the Hof, in Raadhuisplein, is the Town Hall (Stadhuis), a Baroque building erected in 1715 on the foundations of an older house. A new wing was built around 1760. The domed bell-turret over the triangular pediment contains a carillon of 39 bells which rings every Friday between 10 and 11 am. Curiously, the town's coat of arms on the facade wrongly shows the lion with its tail turned inward instead of outward. In front of the Town Hall can be seen a monument to Count Willem Lodewijk of Nassau-Dietz (d. 1620), Stadholder of Friesland.
Frisian Museum of Literature and Documentation Center
To the north of the Town Hall, at Beijerstraat 12 (corner of Grote Kerkstraat), is the family home of the notorious Mata Hari, now occupied by the Frisian Museum of Literature and Documentation Center (Fries Letterkundig Museum en Documentatiecentrum).
From the Museum of Literature, Grote Kerkstraat runs west into Doelestraat, with the Coulonhus, an early 18th century patrician house now occupied by the Frisian Academy, which is concerned with the study of Frisian culture.
A fine classical-style mansion at Grote Kerkstraat 15, the Princessehof (17th-18th C.), houses the Municipal Museum. The house was once occupied by Princess Maria Louise, Landgravine of Hesse-Kassel (1688-1765), widow of Stadholder Johan Willem Friso. The museum buildings include a former store and a mansion of the 15th-16th centuries (Papingstins, No. 13), with a restored onion-domed tower. The nucleus of the museum was a collection assembled by a local lawyer named Nanne Ottema (1874-1944), a connoisseur of Chinese porcelain. It includes a varied range of ceramics in different styles and techniques, including porcelain from East Asia, Korea and Japan, tiles from Japan, China and Southeast Asia, Art Nouveau work (Rozenburg eggshell porcelain) and examples by contemporary potters.
At the west end of Grote Kerkstraat lies the Oldehoofster Kerkhof, on the west side of which is the Oldehove Toren, an unfinished church tower. From the top of this 40m/130ft high brick tower (1595-98), which is slightly off the vertical, there are extensive views. The church to which the tower belonged was left unfinished because of the subsidence of the ground.
Friesland Provincial Library
On the north side of Boterhoek is the new Provincial Library, whose books came from the Franeker Academy and the Buma Library. Adjoining is the Friesland Records Office.
To the north of Beijerstraat, reached by way of Perkstraat, is the Jacobijnekerkhof; at No. 7 is the Boshuizen Gasthuis (1652), with two doorways.
Grote Kerk (Jacobijnekerk)
In Jacobijnekerkhof is the Grote Kerk or Jacobijnekerk (Reformed), which was given its present form in the 15th century. It was originally the church of a 13th century Dominican monastery. After the Reformation the choir became the burial-place of the Frisian branch of the Nassau family, whose names and coats of arms can be seen on the walls. The choir was damaged during the French occupation and restored only in 1948. On the south side of the choir is the Oranjepoortje (1663). In the verger's house are remains of a 15th century groin-vaulted cloister.
From the Waagplein, Peperstraat and Oude Oosterstraat lead east to the Tweebaksmarkt. At No. 52 is the Provinciehuis, the seat of the provincial government, which from the 16th century was the meeting place of the States of Friesland. The present facade dates from 1784.
Near the Provinciehuis, at Turfmarkt 13, is the Kanselarij (Chancellery), one of Leeuwarden's finest buildings. Built in 1566-71, it shows a mingling of Late Gothic and Renaissance. On the gable can be seen a statue of the Emperor Charles V.
Opposite the Kanselarij, at Turfmarkt 24, is the Frisian Museum (Fries Museum), in an 18th century patrician house. The most important provincial museum in the Netherlands, it is devoted to the history of Frisian culture from prehistoric times to the 19th century. Its rich collections include Frisian silversmiths' work of the 17th and 18th centuries, ceramics from Hindeloopen and Makkum, Frisian costumes, drawings and the "Popta silver" from Popta Slot, Marssum. Outstanding among the pictures is Rembrandt's portrait of Saskia van Uylenburgh, painted before his marriage in St Annaparochie.The "New Fries Museum" is underway and scheduled to open in 2011/12
Address: Turfmarkt 24, Leeuwarden, Friesland 8911 KS, Netherlands
Opening hours: 11am-5pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €6.00, Child 13-18 €3.00, Child 12 & under FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Bus 1 or 4
North of the Turfmarkt by way of the Tuinen is the Voorstreek, in which is St Bonifatiuskerk, a neo-Gothic church built by P. J. H. Cuypers in 1882-84. The spire, destroyed in a storm in 1976, was rebuilt in 1980.
Heringa State, Marssum
About 5km/3mi west of Leeuwarden is the beautifully situated village of Marssum, with the manor house of Heringa State. The house was built in the first half of the 16th century by the Heringa family, and was bought in 1687 by a prosperous lawyer named Henricus Popta (d. 1712): hence its alternative name of Popta Slot. The "Popta silver" to be seen in the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden was commissioned by Popta. The house, which has been well restored, is set in a beautiful garden on the banks of a canal and is abundantly equipped with turrets and gables. The interior, with its original decoration, old furniture and Frisian silver, is open to the public.
The village of St Annaparochie is 15km/9mi northwest of Leeuwarden, in the fertile Bildt polder. This was brought into cultivation by Dutch settlers in the 16th century, and the language of the local people is still Dutch, not Frisian. Rembrandt was married to Saskia van Uylenburgh in the parish church in 1634.
Stania State, Oenkerk
At Oenkerk, 10km/6mi northeast of Leeuwarden, is the manor house of Stania State, now housing an agricultural museum, an outstation of the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden.
From Leeuwarden there are canals (navigable by vessels of up to 1,350 tons) to Harlingen on the Waddenzee and Lemmer on the IJsselmeer. The towns of the western Netherlands - important markets for Frisian agricultural produce - are thus easily accessible. Leeuwarden is also linked with Groningen by a canal.
Map of Leeuwarden Attractions