Enjoying Groningen’s grandeur
Explore Groningen, a city rich in unusual architecture which boasts the youngest population in the Netherlands largely due to its student inhabitants.
Of the 188,000 people living in Groningen, around 50,000 are students. Half of its inhabitants are under 35 years of age, making it the most youthful city in the Netherlands. Groningen makes a youthful impression in many ways. Just about everyone here rides a bicycle, for instance and usually at a brisk pace.
During the Middle Ages, Groningen was a member of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trade association in northern Europe. The city's mercantile heritage can be seen in the old brick warehouses - typical of Hanseatic cities - along the banks of the Aa River, which links Groningen with the North Sea. Long home to boat men and shipbuilders, this district is the site of the Northern Maritime Museum on Brugstraat.
"But our landmark is the Olle Grieze," noted city guide Koos Lammers. He was referring to the "old, grey" Martini Tower, which is part of Martini Church and stands on Grote Markt, the main square. "It leans a little to the right," Lammers said.
Completed in 1482, the tower has gone through a lot, Lammers explained. It burned down at one point, and was rebuilt. Today it rises to a height of 97 metres.
Grote Markt remains the heart of the city. The locals head there regularly not only to shop, but to visit the abundant restaurants, cafes, and pubs. De Drie Gezusters (The Three Sisters) pub alone boasts 21 counters.
Groningen: A cafe restaurant near Korreweg
Groningen is ambitious architecturally and a casual stroller in the city centre will spot quite a few unusual buildings.
The large Town Hall is one of them. Another is the nearby Gold Office, built in the 17th century and crowned with a splendid gable. Since the mid-1990s the structure has been linked, by means of a glass-and-steel roof, to a modern building beside it.
The design, by Adolfo Natalini, continues old traditions: "Italian architects worked here in previous centuries too," Koos remarked.
Groningen has no shortage of historic buildings which merit a visit. Another example is the neoclassical Grain Exchange on the Vismarkt (Fish Market).
Many proud Groningers are firmly convinced that the country's architecturally most unusual museum is in their city too. The Groninger Museum is closed for renovation from 12 April and 18 December 2010, but many people come just to look at the building. The Austrian architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au designed one of the museum's pavilions. The floors seem to be uneven, the walls are tilted, and piping under the ceiling is exposed. The building's chief designer was Italian architect Alessandro Mendini, whose style is colourful and cheerful. Even his walls are gaily coloured, which is something exhibition organisers are not always happy about.
Until the museum opens again, you can visit the exhibition entitled Now, in the former Groninger Museum! 100 years of collecting 1894 -1994 in the former Groninger Museum on the Praediniussingel 59 in Groningen, from 30 May to 5 September 2010.
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