You only need to take a few steps to get from het "Goudkantoortje" to the "Grote Markt" (or translated "Big Square"). This is the heart of the city: that is how it feels to me anyway :-) There is often a market on this square, but today (like on the "Vismarkt") it was a quiet day. But not having a market on the square isn't all that bad. Of course you miss some atmosphere of the market, but this does give you a great opportunity to have a good look at the surrounding buildings of the market. One building that probably will draw your attention is this one: the City Hall. Since 1310, but maybe even from the year 1255, there has been a city hall build of stone on this square.
The current city hall that you see in the photo dates back to the beginning of the 1800's. In 1869 the building was complete in its current form. I can't say that I find it beautiful, but it certainly is impressive.
Another typical house that you can see on the "Vismarkt". It is probably much newer than the previous ones you saw, but I like it because it is so funny and small :-))
Groningen is a city where you have to 'look up' a lot. The building are often very beautiful, but that only goes for the top part of them. Downstairs they are all taken over by shops, shops and more shops. And unfortunately those shops all look kind of the same; the charming character of the old houses is totally lost. But when you look up you can still the beauty of the city. The houses are well maintained and haven't lost much of their historic character. I think they are lovely to see.
When you've walked over the Fishmarket you automatically get to the 'Grote Markt' area. Here you can find this special building. This little building stands behind the town hall, which is at the end of the Herestraat. In 1653 the Goudkantoor (literally Gold Office) was constructed as the provincial tax office. The inscription 'Date Caesari quae sunt Ceasaris' or 'Give Caesar that which belongs to him is a reminder of this. With its richly ornate facade, this was the last building in Groningen to be built in the Renaissance style.
It acquired the name 'Goudkantoor' only in the nineteenth century when the 'Office for the security of gold and silver' occupied the building. The building underwent large-scale renovation in 1996, and is now exploited as a restaurant.
Address: Waagplein 1.
But the "Korenbeurs" is not the only interesting building on the "Vismarkt". Take a look at these lovely old houses for instance with their typical Dutch gables.
The "Vismarkt" is one of the oldest places in the city, but it wasn't always a market place. In earlier days this probably was a small harbour which was connected to the sea by the "Reitdiep" and the river "Aa".
There is one more statue on the Korenbeurs, and that's the one you can see here in the photo. It is the statue Mercury (The Roman God of Trade and Profit) and it is positioned on top of the "Korenbeurs". A very strategic position as it can overlook the Fishmarket and of course the rest of the city.
The building that dominates the Vismarkt / Fishmarket is the "Korenbeurs" and it used to be a grain exchange. It's an impressive building in Neo-Classical style from 1825. You can see two statues at the entrance of the building: he first one is Neptune (god of water and the sea) and the other one Ceres (goddess of agriculture). Nowadays the building has gotten a totally different character. It is the home of a big supermarket chain in The Netherlands called "Albert Heijn".
When you walk passed the Aa-church you come to the Vismarkt = Fishmarket. This is a big market square, often busy with life because there is some sorts of market going on. But not today, hahaha, as Thursdays seems to be "market-free" :-)) So instead a nice empty square. Not bad either, because that gives me a chance to look a bit better at the building surrounding this square. If you want to visit the market, Fridays is your best chance. Every Friday there is a big weekly market (between 08:00 - 17:00) here on the Fishmarket and also on the adjacent "Grote Markt". Please don't think that you can only buy fish here! There is much more, like flowers, herbs, cheese, fabrics... and fish of course ;-)
The big building in the picture is the "Korenbeurs". I'll tell you a bit more about this building in the next tip.
Koek (= cake) of Knol -----> THE reason I had to go here! Hahaha, I am such a fan of a specific type of Dutch cake and this is one of the best places to buy it! The cake I am talking about is 'Oude Wijven Koek', or translated 'Old Wives Cake'. Hahaha, it doesn't sound nice, but it tastes delicious! The ingredient that gives it its specific flavour is the anise.
The cake is a speciality of the Province of Groningen. And the best place to buy it is at the bakery! Don't go to the supermarket to buy the cake there, because those taste not nearly as good.
I never found a 'good' Oude Wijven Koek anywhere else in The Netherlands (or in the world) than in the Province of Groningen. All my friends and relatives know this, so every time they visit me, they bring a cake with them..... Yummy!!! Now they even bring it with them to Sweden for me! So sweet of them! :-)) I do miss it very much now I live abroad.... Hahaha, so I HAD to visit Knol's today to stock up and buy several of these delicious cakes :-))
They have several stores in the city:
tel +31 (0)50-3126266
tel +31 (0)50-3136357
When you enter the post office you have to look up and around you. The post office is a big hall, with high walls and ceilings. The whole interior is painted white giving the illusion of an enormous space..... mmmm, maybe it is an enormous space! Hahaha, I do know that I felt quite small in here ;-)) The white colour of the walls and ceilings are probably so striking because of the strong contrast with these little colourful accents, dozens of small figurines.
I don't know how many of these little figures were decorating the walls, about two dozen maybe. I just stared up to look at them, trying to figure out what they symbolised. Luckily my mom was with me to help me remember why I was here.... to buy stamps! I almost forgot as I was just in awe! Hahaha, so with stamps and a lot of ooooh's and aaaaah's later, we went on our way again..... next stop: the bakery!!! :-)
Post office: Munnekeholm 1
Across the street from the Aa-church on the "Munnekeholm 1", you can find the main post office of Groningen. This is not only a great place to buy stamps and send postcards to your VT-friends from, but the interior might surprise you as well. That happened to me anyway! I just popped inside to buy some stamps, but in the middle of the hallway I stood still and looked up and around me. The post office is a striking building to see! The post office was built in 1909 and was designed by C.H. Peters.
Post office: Munnekeholm 1
In the night of the 1st of May 1671 lightning struck the church tower and a fire started. The top of the tower and the western part of the church were completely destroyed. The tower was rebuilt, but so badly that it collapsed again in 1710. In 1718 they gave it another try and now with much better result. The top of the tower was designed by Allert Meijer. I just love this tower. The yellow-golden colours are so striking and always shine brightly on a sunny day. It's a cheerful sight that always brings a smile to my face.
+31 (0)50- 318 14 33
While walking further on in the "Brugstraat" it is hard not to notice the striking tower of the "Aa-kerk" (Aa-church). This building dates back to the year 1200. They started building a chapel here for the skippers and merchants that settled here on the river "Aa". In the following centuries the chapel turned into a church. But something happened in the year 1671 that changed the appearance of this church drastically.....
+31 (0)50- 318 14 33
In the previous photo you could already see one of its windows, but now you can see it in full: the Gothic House,home of the "Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum" / "Northern Maritime Museum".
In the museum you can see and learn everything about the history of shipbuilding and shipping of the northern parts of the Netherlands. It shows you the history from the Middle Ages until the present day and a wide variety of subjects is covered. You can read much more about this museum on their website:
Tuesday till Saturday: 10.00-17.00 hrs.
Sunday: 13.00-17.00 hrs
Northern Maritime Museum:
From the bridge we follow the road towards the city centre. This is the Brugstraat. On your right side (nr 24-26) you will soon see a wonderful building called the "Gotisch Huis" (=Gothic House). This building dates back to the 15th century. It is one of the big merchant houses from the time that trade in Groningen flourished. Nowadays it is home to the Maritime Museum (see next tip).
This is another view over the "Hoge der A". I love this photo with the big old boats and beautiful historic houses. It looks so picturesque! In the travelogue on this page, I've placed some historic photos of Groningen. The last photo in that travelogue is a view over the "Hoge der A"; same area as you see here. The photo was taken from the opposite direction, but you can see clearly that it is the same area. The wonderful thing about it is that everything is still the same! It looks almost like time has stood still in this part of the city! I think that is amazing! The boats, the houses, they are all still there. The only difference is the cars you can see parked along the street.