Leeuwarden is the capital and seat of government of Freisland. The city is situated in the center of the province. It has been inhabited since the 10th century and was declared a city in 1435. There are more than 800 national heritage sites in Leeuwarden and it was once the residence of royalty. Leeuwarden was the European Capital of Culture for 2018. Several museums preserve the natural, human and industrial history of the city. Mata Hari, the exotic dancer who was shot for spying for the Germans in World War I, was a resident of Leeuwarden and is a subject of one of the museum exhibitions. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.AquaZoo Friesland

AquaZoo Friesland
© AquaZoo Friesland

The AquaZoo is situated along the waterways of Leeuwarden and focuses on the aquatic animals found in the province of Friesland. There are 88 species of reptiles, fish, birds and mammals, including a few exotic species such as pandas and lemurs. Visitors can accompany the zookeepers on their polar bear inspections and observe the feeding of seals, penguins, otters and sea lions. Children can occupy themselves on the adventure routes and playgrounds or at the beach club. The self-service café sells food and beverages. Plushy animals and gift vouchers are for sale at the souvenir shop.

The Green Star 2, 8926 XE Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-11-43-12-14

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2.Fries Museum

Fries Museum
© Fries Museum

In 1827 the Frisian Society was founded to preserve the history, antiquities and linguistics of the people of the province. The Frisian architect Abe Bonnema died in 2001, leaving 18 million Euros for the Fries Museum. The museum curates hundreds of thousands of objects, ranging from archaeological finds to Old Masters and modern art. Through objects such as postcards, architectural drawings, books and paintings the museum tells the story of the 11 cities and countryside of Friesland. The new museum building was completed in 2013 and houses several permanent collections. The intrigue of Mata Hari, who was born in Leeuwarden, is among these.

Wilhelminaplein 92, 8911 BS Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-55-55-00

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3.Historische Centrum Leeuwarden

Historische Centrum Leeuwarden
© Historische Centrum Leeuwarden

The Historical Centre of Leeuwarden curates thousands of meters of documents, chronicling the city's history from the Middle Ages to the present day. Building plans, genealogy, population registers, newspapers, periodicals and official decisions are all kept in the archives. The Center coordinates Heritage Day activities and offers guided tours of the city and sites under its management. A permanent exhibition tells the story of Leeuwarden. Staff members are available to provide assistance to researchers, the media and members of the public. The shop sells publications written about the city. These could range from the history of the tennis club to a biography on Escher.

Groeneweg 1, 8911 EH Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-33-23-50

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4.Natuurmuseum Fryslan

Natuurmuseum Fryslan
© Natuurmuseum Fryslân

The Nature Museum of Friesland has an emphasis on children's activities and entertainment. The building in which it is housed was once the City Orphanage. Dioramas of a classroom and the guardians' meeting room are two permanent exhibitions. Others include the Whale Room, Darwin's Attic, the Underwater Safari and the Dragon's den. Of the 330000 items in the museum's care, only 10% are on display and temporary exhibitions are changed often. There are large collections of moths, shells, and birds and their eggs. Activities such as demonstrations, lectures and story evenings are scheduled for vacations and weekends.

Schoenmakersperk 2, 8911 EM Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-33-22-44

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5.The Boomsma (Beerenberg) Museum

The Boomsma (Beerenberg) Museum
© The Boomsma (Beerenberg) Museum

This museum is housed in the family-owned distillery in which the local bitter, Beerenberg, was produced. This herbal alcoholic beverage is the national drink of the Netherlands. The interior of the museum has been refitted to reflect the 1930s. Machinery includes an old pot still, a filling machine and a fragrance carousel. A film shows the origins of the enterprise. Admission is free. There is a tasting room which also serves coffee and cake. It can accommodate 40 people and is for hire for outside functions. The shop sells the full Boomsma range of alcoholic beverages.

Bagijnestraat 42a, 8911 DR Leeuwarden, Phone: +31-05-82-99-03-43

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© Princessehof

Princessehof, a Dutch Baroque building, in the historic city center, was once occupied by royalty. It was subsequently divided into three houses. The mathematically inspired Dutch painter, Escher, lived in the middle house during his childhood. It is now part of a Ceramics Museum and contains the world's largest collection of tiles. The collection of the last royal to occupy the palace is housed in the Nassau Room. The temporary exhibitions on the ground floor are changed regularly. Ceramics from all over the world can be found in the permanent exhibition on the upper floor. The museum has a café.

Grote Kerkstraat 9, 8911 DZ Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-94-89-58

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7.Fries Verzetmuseum

Fries Verzetmuseum
© Fries Verzetmuseum

The Friesland Resistance Museum is a subsection of the Friesland Museum and depicts life during the Second World War. Displays explore topics such as the occupation, collaboration, resistance, persecution and ultimately, liberation. The museum attempts to show that the choices people made were not clear cut. The issues were not black or white. There were many shades of gray. There are 45000 diverse objects including a piece of soap, a bar of chocolate, pistols and army boots. The museum attempts to tell the stories behind the objects using films, photographs, books, magazines and documents.

Wilhelminaplein 92, 8911 BS Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-55-55-00

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8.De Oldehove

De Oldehove
© Harry Wedzinga/stock.adobe.com

Construction on this Gothic Tower in the old city center, began in 1529. It was intended to be adjacent to a church. Almost immediately, it started sinking and leaning to one side. The builders tried to correct the lean by placing subsequent layers of bricks perpendicular to the ground. This caused the building to curve so construction stopped at 40 m, instead of the intended 120 m. The church was never built but the tower remained and has become the city's icon. There are 183 steps to a viewing platform on top of the tower. The tower is 2 m off-center and leans further than the tower at Pisa.

Oldehoofsterkerkhof, 8911 DE Leeuwarden, Phone: +31-05-82-33-23-50

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© venemama/stock.adobe.com

The block house complex was situated in a corner of the old city center, surrounded by canals. Building started in 1499 and underwent several changes. The House of Detention was rebuilt in 1754 and in the 1870s became a Special Criminal Prison. It was a prison in one form or another until 2008 when it was sold by the city to the National Society for the Conservation, Development and Exploitation of Industrial Heritage, and became the Cultural Business Center. The wood paneled boardroom has intricate carvings of the coats of arms of all the provinces of the country. The center is open to the public.

Blokhuisplein 40, 8911 LJ Leeuwarden

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10.Saint Boniface Church

Saint Boniface Church
© robnaw/stock.adobe.com

The Boniface Foundation owns this Neo Gothic monument, comprising the church and two parsonages. The west parsonage has 29 rooms and was built in 1882. It has been used as a hospital, teachers' training college and shelter home. The 13 rooms of the east parsonage are now apartments. The church has five altars, four confessionals and two organs. The Pieta, which was installed in 1929, and the carvings on the baptismal font and pulpit are worth noting. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower, which was hit by a Douglas airplane in 1947. The plane lost part of its wing but managed to land safely.

Secr. Sassingastins 50, 8925 JN Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-66-81-31

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11.Club Satay

Club Satay
© Club Satay

Indonesia was formerly a Dutch colony known as the Dutch East Indies. Indonesian cuisine is popular in the Netherlands. Club Satay is named after a dish of skewered beef and peanut sauce. Their slogan is 'everything on a stick'. Dining options include set menus, tastings and an a la carte menu. Traditionally, Indonesian dining is communal. A number of dishes are presented for all the guests at the table to enjoy. Rice is a staple, accompanied by meat, fish and vegetable side dishes. Club Satay offers seating at the restaurant, a takeout service and catering for outside functions. The restaurant is closed from Monday to Wednesday.

Maria Annastraatje 6, 8911 HP Leeuwarden, Phone: 06-53-33-07-99

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12.Grand Cafe Post-Plaza

Grand Cafe Post-Plaza
© Grand Café Post-Plaza

Two protected buildings, the former post office and a bank, have been renovated and joined, by a glass passage, to form the Post-Plaza Hotel. The architectural details of the historical buildings have been preserved and augmented with antique décor. There are 82 rooms, ranging from single quarters to family suites. The high ceilings have been retained in the reception areas and restaurant. Breakfast, high tea, lunch and dinner are served in the Grand Café, although diners can start their meals in the lounge. Meeting rooms are available for hire. The hotel has a fitness center and offers beauty treatments.

Tweebaksmarkt 25-27, 8911 Kw Leeuwarden, Phone: +31-05-82-15-93-17

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13.Restaurant Wannee

Restaurant Wannee
© Restaurant Wannee

This restaurant is named after Miss Cornelia Johanna Wannee, a teacher at the Amsterdam Household School. It is situated in the Hotel Stenden and is run by students of the NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences. They serve simple Dutch cuisine with the emphasis placed on vegetables grown in their own garden. Proteins are considered to be secondary or 'a garnish'. There are set menus of 3-6 dishes paired with different wines. They also serve coffee, cocktails and a range of alcoholic beverages. The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 7 am to 9 pm. The bar is open until midnight.

Rengerslaan 8, 8917 DD Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-83-03-08-00

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14.Restaurant eleve and Cafe Zero

Restaurant eleve and Cafe Zero
© Restaurant élevé and Café Zero

The slogan for the Restaurant élevé is 'wine and dine in the sky'. It derives its name from its position on the 11th floor of the WTC Hotel. The atmosphere is casual in a modern setting, with panoramic views of Leeuwarden and beyond. The restaurant serves classic meat, fish and vegetarian dishes and has recently added sushi to the menu. Chef Gilbert van der Heide has his own vegetable garden and enjoys foraging for fresh herbs and edible flowers. The Skybar offers an extensive range of wines and alcoholic beverages. Café Zero is on the ground floor of the Hotel.

Heliconweg 52, 8914 AT Leeuwarde, Phone: +31-05-82-33-49-00

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15.Restaurant by US

Restaurant by US
© Restaurant by ÚS

Everything about this restaurant has been kept simple, from the name to the menu. There is only one menu and it changes seasonally. Diners need only choose how many courses they would like and what wine to drink. Each course is prepared with passion and the ensemble is designed to appeal to all the senses. The atmosphere is relaxed and tranquil and diners are welcomed with amuses-bouche to set the mood. The restaurant is consistently rated in the top 10 and booking is advised. Any allergies, aversions and preferences should be stated when the booking is made.

Over de Kelders 24, 8911 JG, Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-15-86-63

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© Sems

Jeroen Meppelink had a vision to own a hospitality business by the age of 30. He achieved this a year early. He first worked at Sems as a manager and then bought the restaurant. It is set in what used to be the governor's residence and then the Land Registry. Sems was the name of the cartographer, the man who literally put Leeuwarden on the map in 1603. The wine café and restaurant, with open kitchen, are on the ground floor. Diners can choose the chef's menu or from twenty items on the a la carte menu. Upstairs is available for meetings and functions.

Gouverneursplein 36, 8911 Hh Leeuwarden, Phone: +31-05-82-16-22-14

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17.Restaurant Eindeloos

Restaurant Eindeloos
© Restaurant Eindeloos

The starting point for this restaurant is the sourcing of local products. The chef has formed partnerships with farmers, fishermen, butchers and hunters to ensure that he receives the freshest and finest ingredients. The cuisine is European, cooked in the classic way with a modern and creative flair. There are three multi-course menus – the chef's signature dishes, 'surprises' and vegetarian. Diners can choose the paired wines or purchase bottles. This is a slow dining experience in an elegant setting. The restaurant is situated in one of the historic buildings in the old city center. It opens at 5:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday.

Korfmakersstraat 17, 8911 LA Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-82-13-08-35

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18.Restaurant Onder de Kelders

Restaurant Onder de Kelders
© Restaurant Onder de Kelders

Situated on a canal, below street level, this restaurant offers seating inside the cellars or on the terrace at the water's edge. It is a popular venue for locals, students and diners looking for value. Traditional Dutch fare such as bitterballen is on the menu, alongside soups, salads, sandwiches and international snacks such as nachos and wraps. There are also set menus and winter specials available. House wine is sold by the glass and there is a selection of beers. In October, an evening of dining by candlelight is held to highlight the effects of light pollution.

Bierkade 1, 8911 JD Leeuwarden, Phone: 05-88-44-20-20

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18 Best Things to Do in Leeuwarden, Netherlands

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