The routine of city life can be overwhelming at times, but living in Groningen has the best of both worlds: the benefits of living in the biggest metropolis of the north of the Netherlands and being transported to the tranquil countryside in one of its plentiful parks.
As the weather finally starts to warm up, you may find yourself longing to escape the chaos of the busy city centre (or just the walls of your office) by having lunch in a nearby peaceful spot. Here are the best free spots to enjoy a leisurely picnic or just spend your lunch hour away from work in the great outdoors.
This is the place to go, especially during the summer. The park, which was created in the 19th century, is located very close to the city centre and is easily accessible. With the first rays of sunshine of the season burst through, the park becomes one big public get together with music and games. You will see hundreds of people enjoying the good weather having picnics and barbeques. When you’re done feeding yourself, you can feed the ducks who will always keep coming back for more, and if you’re lucky you may just be able to pet some puppies out for a walk with their owners.
The Martinikerkhof is an oasis of green and tranquillity located in the very heart of the city. Its history goes back to the middle ages – once upon a time, it served as a cemetery – and is flanked by buildings with a religious or administrative function. Through the ‘70s and ‘80s, the park functioned as a parking area, but nowadays it’s the perfect destination if you work in the centre and only have a short break but you’re looking for a spot to have your lunch outside. The greenery surrounding the park and the quietness will allow you to gather your thoughts and take a pleasant break from your work or studies.
If you work at the UMCG and have had enough of eating your lunch in the hospital’s facilities or even in the lab, you may consider taking a break and visiting the Pioenpark. It is flanked by the Oliemuldersweg and Pioenstraat, and located between two neighbourhoods: the Oosterparkwijk and the Bloemenbuurt. Although it might not be the most spectacular destination, it still has its charms and provides the satisfaction of enjoying the sun and the green scenery. If you are feeling up for it, you can even attend a tennis match at its free tennis court.
If you live in the north of the Netherlands and you have never visited the Stadspark in Groningen, you should: Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones have dropped by in the past. Stadspark, which literally means the city park, is the biggest park in Groningen and is located in the south of Groningen. It first opened its gates in 1926 after 13 years of construction, and it’s one of the most beautiful corners of the city to enjoy your lunch and take a break from your daily routine. Besides the walking and running areas, sports courts, ponds, canals, and wooded areas, the park is also home to a children’s petting zoo. Entrance to the zoo is free, and you’ll have the chance to see deer, goats, chickens, rabbits, donkeys and horses, among others.
Kardinge Park (Wijkpark)
This alternative source of greenery is located in the east side of Groningen near the Lewenborg neighbourhood. While it is almost 6 km away from the city centre, it can be a great destination if you happen to be working or living in this area. In the Wijkpark you can also find plenty of animals such as cows, sheep, horses, birds, and turtles, and of course, you can enjoy a picnic with friends and family.
This destination is a bit further away from the city centre, but during the summer, it is the best place to be because the Hoornsemeer is not just a park: it also has a beach. The area is rightfully described as the “sea” of Groningen, so a visit here really means getting a proper break from the hustle and bustle of city life. You can go for a swim, enjoy the sun and do water sports or, if you are looking for a slice of Dutch culture, be sure to visit “De Helper” windmill.
Along the canals
If you live or work in the city but you prefer a brief getaway during lunch time, then you have your pick of spots along the many canals in the city. A quick broodje by the water gives you a chance to take a breather, admire the boats sailing by and saying “hi” to the passengers on board. Yes, this is a real thing that the Dutch love to do when sitting canal side.