Things to do in Groningen

Groningen is one of the most popular cities for festivals throughout the entirety of Europe, starting back in 1903 at the Groningen World Exhibition. Since then, the festivals keep coming in Groningen, centered around everything from sports to all genres of music and theatre, along with world-renowned events like the Film Festival Rotterdam in Groningen or Noorderlicht. This makes the city an exciting, fun places for students relocating to Groningen.

Where to eat in Groningen

Groningen has a pleasing array of restaurants in Groningen, with many offering fantastic student prices. However, there are so many dining options that it can be a bit daunting, so let’s take a look at some of the best, and put them in a few easy-to-remember categories.

Our initial category can best be described as bars that are under the pretense of actually being restaurants when it’s time for dinner, which is known as an Eetcafe in Dutch. Some delicious places to try are De Eerste Kamer and Het Pakhuis. They both offer several dishes to choose from, as well as a dish of the day, which is usually served at a discount price, just perfect for the budget-conscious student. They may not be as fancy as a regular restaurant, but the food is really tasty, and they have comfortable seating and a relaxed vibe. Plus, as soon as dinner is over, you can wait around until the bar is in full swing for the night. Talk about the best of both worlds, right?

Out of time and need a quick meal? Our second category highlights eateries that are dubbed "fast food." Many offer student favorites like shoarma and döner kebab, which are international items that have become part of the local Dutch cuisine and are really inexpensive options. A “lekker broodje” kebab is very popular with students after a long night at the nightclub. However, you can also swing into a tasty “snackbar,” where you can find typical foods like burgers, fries and other sandwiches. Yet, the king of the quick options is called Pappa Joe, and this nearly famous little spot offers unique burgers with toppings like Jalapeños and guacamole, or even pesto and mozzarella cheese.

Groningen nightlife

Due to a large number of students and young people residing in Groningen, the vibe is colorful, fun and vibrant. It has the type of energy that is almost tangible, and this exciting scene gives a huge economic boost to the entire city, providing a thrilling area for nightlife.

In particular, the Grote Markt and the Poelestraat are home to vivid cafés and clubs, all of which are ridiculously popular with university students. Most have no actual closing time, so as long as the party is still thumping, you have several hours to explore the city’s nightlife, even until nearly dawn.

Student parties can pop up anywhere throughout the city, but some places are somewhat more popular, such as bars like Shooters, De Negende Cirkel and Het Feest. Expect to hear loud music blaring from speakers, expert bartenders mixing and serving drinks to the beat, and DJs on their microphones asking if everyone is ready to party in Groningen! The Kokomo Beach Club is also a much larger, popular spot, boasting cheap beer for students and some of the best colorful dance parties in the entire city.

If you’re in the mood for live music, then you’ve come to the right place, that’s for sure. Many big acts have gotten their start on a small stage right in Groningen, and it continues to introduce talented performers each and every week. If you’re interested in seeing a performance that will require a larger venue, De Oosterpoort is home to international events and highly recognizable names. And for more intimate acts, head over to De Spieghel, a trendy Jazz bar that is very popular among students.

Are you also hoping to find a spot with just the right amount of ambiance? The Het Newscafé is very trendy, drawing in a young clientele into the former bomb shelter of the town hall. The &ZO is a club with lounge areas to provide a pleasing mix of relaxation and late-night dancing, while it serves food and drinks during the day.

While many students thrive in the heavy party scene, there are also many relaxing places to have a few drinks and a nice conversation with some of the new friends you’ve been making. Close to the Academy building, you’ll find De Pintelier, a Belgian café with the largest variety of beers in all of Groningen. If you want a bit more formality and the possibility of being called "Sir" or “Madam,” you may enjoy De Wolthoorn, which often plays no music at all, making it a nice place if you want a little peace and quiet served with your drinks.

Of course, if you want to really surround yourself with a crowd of foreign students, be sure not to miss the international students nights that are organized by ESN-Groningen. At De Drie Gezusters, you’ll also find have an eclectic mix of Dutch locals and international students. And if you’re really keen on spending some time with some English-speaking young people, stop into O'Ceallaigh or O’Malleys, both local Irish pubs.

Events and festivals in Groningen

In Madonna’s popular song "Music," she sings that “Music makes the people come together.” This thought is at the very epicenter of Groningen’s music scene, pulsating right to the beat of the music. Therefore, it’s not hard to see why so many of the city’s festivals are based on music.

Whether it be the small stages of Technooties, popular techno nights, or Eurosonic, the largest showcase in all of Europe, everyone who has a love for music will find something to suit their tastes. In fact, Groningen has even been dubbed "the music capital of Europe."


  • Eurosonic/Noorderslag

Eurosonic provides a showcase for over 200 bands at this three-day extravaganza, making it the largest festival of its kind in all of Europe. Along with the musical performances, this festival also sponsors a large conference, where A&R execs and artists alike can spend time socializing, with the time often ending in a few record deals for emerging performers.

Noorderslag is the Dutch-only portion of the music festival, where local performers can demonstrate their talents. In fact, many artists get their big start on the Noorderslag stage.

Additionally, Eurosonic is an excellent place to take part in local Groningen traditions and to experience the city’s culture. Tickets must be purchased to attend this event, but there are a few free portions of the celebration that you can still take part in.

Some of the acts from the festival also provide free showcases at Plato, a local music store, and the next door Coffee Company. And if you’d like to have some friends over and enjoy the music from the comfort of your own room, most of the performances are broadcast as they happen on Dutch TV stations.

  • Noorderzon

Noorderzon is a world-class performing arts festival, set right in the fascinating city of Groningen. All forms of art can be expected at this unique event, from music and plays to sculptures and paintings. And the best part is that a majority of the offerings are absolutely free!

Spread out over 11 days in August and with an average attendance of 120,000 from all across Europe and beyond, this is a spectacular way to experience the spirit of Groningen. You can relax in the park with a picnic lunch, just after viewing an alternative dance performance or listening to a Dutch band perform. Maybe you’ll catch a Tunisian play or watch an alternative American piece of theatre. The eclectic mix of performances and culture truly sets this festival apart!

  • StuKafest

Now, if you’re on the search for originality, StuKafest will definitely not disappoint. What makes this festival so interesting is that it occurs in the studentenkamers, otherwise known as the student rooms. Yes, at this vibrant event, students in Groningen make their rooms available to performers, creating the most intimate vibe imaginable. You can also see plays and other types of art, and most are free of charge. You will, however, need to make reservations, due to the limited space.

And if you can’t wait for the festival, there’s a new volunteer-based initiative called WishfulMusic. This organization will schedule what can be called "living-room concerts," promoting everything from local performers to international artists.

Concert venues

Groningen is also known for its regular musical performances and concerts. Due to the city’s strong musical background, there are several concert venues that are drawing in acts from across the globe. Let’s explore a few!

  • Vera

Back in 1980, U2 actually performed at Vera, and it’s become a bit of an urban legend that Kurt Cobain threw up here during one of Nirvana’s earlier performances. Groningen also welcomed other well-known acts, such as Pearl Jam, The Libertines and The Simple Minds. The venus is known for up-and-coming artist performances, which is why many bands and singers have gotten their big breaks on this intimate stage. This year, Vera’s concert goers voted that Ireland’s The Villagers and Sweden’s The Tallest Man on Earth were the best performances seen on the venue’s stage.

But musical performances aren’t the only source of entertainment at Vera. Each month, Vera plays host to what is called a "Zienema," which is pronounced “cinema.” This is when a film centered around a current social situation is screened, but not before being introduced by an expert in the field, causing many debates and philosophical conversations.

  • Simplon

Mentioned above, Technooties are held at Simplon, making it a popular concert venue with young people, especially university students. However, Simplon also hosts plenty of other musical styles and preferences, such as hip hop, Latin and pop. This spot is also well-known for its open and talent nights, where local and national acts can perform in front of an intimate audience. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even form a band during your time abroad in Groningen!

  • De Oosterpoort

Deemed to be the largest venue for pop music in the northern area of the Netherlands, De Oosterpoort is both unique and eclectic. Close to both the Central Station and the city center, it’s located at the Trompsingel 27, making it convenient for students at the universities.

This venus actually sports two different concert halls: the "Grote Zaal," or “big room,” and the “Kleine Zaal,” or “small room.” You may recognize some of the more recent performers at De Oosterpoort, such as Wolfmother, Queens of the Stone Age, The Wombats and Band of Horses. Along with these larger shows, you can also expect performances from classical artists, as well as dancing exhibitions and cabarets.


While you’re studying abroad, you’ll surely want to keep in shape, and you’ll be in good company. In fact, the ACLO, Groningen’s student sport organization, is one of the most popular organizations for university students. With over 18,000 members, it’s the largest of its type in all of the Netherlands. It offers both group classes and free hours so that you have a variety of ways to enjoy yourself and stay fit at the same time. This is also a wonderful place to meet new like-minded friends and experience some of the culture of Groningen.


The ACLO offers opportunities for students at the University of Groningen and the Hanze University Applied Sciences, Groningen. For a very nominal fee, students receive unlimited access to the ACLO and its courses, just after activating their college cards so that they may be utilized as sports cards.

The great thing about the ACLO is that its courses regularly introduce students to new sports, or assist in improving already honed skills. Lasting six to ten weeks, you can also opt to join scheduled classes for martial arts, indoor soccer, swimming, climbing and well over 60 additional sports and physical activities. Be sure to sign up early, though, because many popular classes (like Pilates, for example) fill up quickly, or even go to a lottery system to select participants. But the best news is that, with your ACLO card, both registering and participating in the courses are always completely free.

Free hours

Speaking of "free,", the ACLO also hosts what is known as “free hours,” which is ideal for students who have busy schedules or don’t like to commit to weekly courses. While making reservations are often recommended, you’ll find that the tennis and squash courts, the swimming pool and the climbing wall are available during free time. Many students like to get together with a few friends or classmates to play basketball or soccer. There are also walk-in classes, such as spinning or BOHmen, where you can drop in unscheduled and take part at a moment’s notice. The ACLO regularly posts a schedule for the times and dates for free hours.

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