Leeuwarden is the capital of the province of Friesland. It is a headstrong province with a language of its own (Frisian, Leeuwarden is called Ljouwert in Frisian). It is one of the eleven cities in Friesland, and it is the start and finish of the famous 200 kilometres skating race known as the Elfstedentocht.
The symbol of the city is the statue of a cow - 'Us Mem' or 'Our Mother' - which indicates the agrarian nature of the province. The city has many historical buildings, like the Princessehof, the city hall and the Waag. Parts of the old fortifications have also been preserved.
For a provincial capital, Leeuwarden has relatively few inhabitants: over 90,000. This is not enough to make it one of the 30 largest cities in the Netherlands. The people of Leeuwarden are sometimes called 'Galgenlappers' (Gallows chippers), because at one time they allegedly demanded that other Frisian cities chip in to pay for the city's gallows.
The city is located in the north of the Netherlands. At one time, the city was connection to the Waddenzee via the Middelzee, which made the city a considerably important trading post. However, sedimentation has filled the Middelzee completely. Leeuwarden is located 60 kilometres to the east of Groningen and 130 kilometres to the north-east of Amsterdam.
The province's agrarian nature still plays an important role in the city's economy. It has, for instance, the country's largest cattle market and there are big dairy plants. In addition, telecommunication and the optical industry are also represented. The the north-west of the city, there is an important air force base, air force base Leeuwarden.
There are also large education institutes, and the city is an administrative centre.
The nearest civilian airport is Groningen Airport Eelde, which chartered flights to holiday destinations in southern Europe and regular flights to the Scottish city of Aberdeen and Stavanger in Norway. The national airport Schiphol is an hour and half's drive.
In Leeuwarden, Arriva operates bus services. The company operates local and regional bus services, which come together at the train station to the south of the old city centre. Frisian places like Drachten, Sneek and Joure are easy to reach by bus, and there is also a regular bus service to Groningen.
Near the FEC (Fryslân Expo Centre) there is a large car park where you can park your car for free and take the FecCity bus to the city centre.
By train, you can travel directly to Groningen and Amsterdam. For the ferries to the Frisian Wadden islands there is a train connection to Harlingen.
Traffic and Parking
Leeuwarden can be reached via two motorways: de A31 connecting Harlingen and Drachten, and the A32 to Heerenveen and Meppel. Near Harlingen, there is a connection to the A7, which crosses the Afsluitdijk to Amsterdam. Near Drachten, there is another connection to the A7, this time to Groningen.
Although Leeuwarden is not a busy place, be aware that cars are kept out of the old city centre as much as possible. In the centre there are plenty of places to park. Along the entry roads, dynamic signs inform drivers about available parking spaces. The system takes the situation when you arrive at the car park into account.
In the area around the old city centre, there is a so-called 'blue zone'. Using a parking disc you can park there for two hours (unless indicated otherwise). Behind the train station (within walking distance of the centre) there is a large P+R area.
For a city of this size, Leeuwarden has a considerable number of hotels and bed & breakfast (in Frisian: bed & brochje) accommodations. The luxury hotels are located in the centre of the city. The prime example is the 18th century Hotel Paleis Het Stadhouderlijk Hof, which until 1971 belonged to the Royal Family. Generally speaking, you do not have to book your hotel room in advance, unless you have a particular hotel in mind.
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