20 Must-Visit Attractions in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

Fries Museum, Leeuwarden
Fries Museum, Leeuwarden | © Wutsje / WikiCommons
Photo of Tom Coggins
3 February 2018

Friesland’s provincial capital, Leeuwarden, has more than its fair share of cultural and historical attractions, including some of the best museums in the Netherlands, several important ecclesiastical buildings, and a charming zoo.

Aquazoo Friesland

Aquazoo Friesland ranks among the biggest zoo in the Netherlands and looks after a large menagerie of adorable critters from around the world. Although the zoo mainly accommodates aquatic creatures like beavers, sea-lions and polar bears, it also cares for land animals including tapirs, snowy owls, and wallabies.

AquaZoo Friesland, De Groene Ster 2, Leeuwarden +31511 431 214

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A penguin at Aquazoo | © Hans Pama / Flickr

Fries Museum

Museum
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Fries Museum, Leeuwarden
Fries Museum, Leeuwarden | © Wutsje / WikiCommons
Leeuwarden’s principle museum mainly collects items that are related to Friesland province’s past and organises exhibitions that revolve around specific facets of the area’s history or individual Frisians. In 2018, the museum will host exhibitions covering two of the most famous Frisians from the 20th century; Mata Hari and M.C. Escher.

Fries Verzetmuseum

The Fries Verzetmuseum retraces moments from Frisian World War II history and examines the effects of the German Occupation of the Netherlands on the province’s people, culture and identity. The museum is part of the Friesmuseum and hosts several fascinating, temporary exhibitions per year.

Fries Verzetmuseum, Wilhelminaplein 92, Leeuwarden +31 58 255 5500

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© Fries Verzetsmuseum / Friesmuseum

Boomsma Distillery

Boomsma has been distilling delicious traditional Dutch liquor for generations. It is possible to take a short tour around the distillery and discover its history at the onsite museum (before stopping by Boomsma tasting room).

Boomsma Distillery, Bagijnestraat 42a, Leeuwarden +31 58 213 5135

Mata Hari Birth House

Infamous World War I spy and dancer Hata Mari was born in Leeuwarden and spent her childhood in the city. Her first home and birthplace on Kelders (which is now a hair salon) currently houses a small information spot dedicated to her memory.

De Binnenstad

Leeuwarden’s medieval town centre (de Binnenstad) is surrounded by several historic canals that form a defensive ring around its borders. The whole area is steeped in history and features many iconic buildings including Oldehove, the Friesmuseum and Blokhuispoort.

© C messier / WikiCommons

Saint Boniface Church

This stunning 19th-century church was designed by famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuiypers, whose work includes many other neo-classical masterpieces like the Rijksmumem or Amsterdam’s Central Station. Services are still given inside the church and it often hosts public events like concerts.

© L-BBE / WikiCommons

Jacobijnerkerk

Leeiuwarden’s largest medieval church was constructed between the 13th and 14th centuries and was converted into a Protestant place of worship after the Dutch Reformation in the 1600s. The church has been expanded several times over the years and includes a stunning 18th-century organ.

Jacobijnerkerk, Bredeplaats 4, Leeuwarden

Prinsentuin

Prince Willem Frederik van Nassau commissioned the construction of this park in 1648. Although the gardens were closed to the public for almost 200 years, in the 18th century, the Dutch Royal Family bequeathed them to Leeuwarden’s citizens, creating one of the city’s most popular public parks.

Prinsentuin, Leeuwarden

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A World War II memorial in Prinsentuin | © FaceMePls / WikiCommons

Stadsschouwburg de Harmonie

De Harmonie was originally established in the late 19th century as a private arts club for wealthy citizens of Leeuwarden but has since been converted into the city’s municipal theater. The theater hosts performing arts events throughout the week and has a charming café.

Stadsschouwburg de Harmonie, Ruiterskwartier 4, Leeuwarden +31 58 233 0230

Apotheek Centraal

This incredible piece of architecture was built in the early 20th century at the height of the Art Nouveau period. The building features many elements that are clearly inspired by Art Nouveau including almost organic brickwork and a central motif that depicts the Greek goddess of medicine Hygena. The pharmacy still welcomes customers and is open from Monday to Friday.

Apotheek Centraal, Voorstreek 58, Leeuwarden