Leeuwarden Travel Guide

Browse 19 travel reviews, 21 travel blogs and 1,036 travel photos from real travelers to Leeuwarden.

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Leeuwarden Overview

Leeuwarden is a little-known town in the northern part of the Netherlands. It is the capital of Fryslân, well-known for its Frisian cattle and Frisian horses. An agricultural province, tourism nevertheless makes up a major part of the region’s income, both from the various lakes in the southwest and the islands in the north, in the Wadden Sea, while Leeuwarden itself is a major draw due to the cattle market, the annual flower market on Ascension Day (the largest in the Netherlands), and various technical institutes and universities catering to applied sciences.

Home to just over 90,000 people, Leeuwarden can date its history back to that least the 10th century, although recent remains have been unearthed which point to a history as early as the 2nd century. It was initially granted its first town charter in 1435 and since its inception has been an active trade-related town, which has also been a center for artists over the years. The town boasts a variety of architectural wonders, from the former chancellery building known as Kanselarij to the old trade center of the town known as the Waag. There is also the leaning tower of Oldehove, which has an even greater keel than that of the leaning tower of Pisa, even though it is much less well-known.

Along with its large student population and various agricultural-based activities throughout the year, Leeuwarden is famous for being both the starting and the finishing point for the 200 kilometer-long speed-skating race known as Elfstedentocht. It is only held when the winter conditions are perfect, with the last race being held in January of 1997, and its first race held in 1909. Being such a rare occurrence, the race sparks a frenzy of activity, and transforms Leeuwarden from a simple university town into a massive headquarters for over 15,000 amateur skaters.

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