I know it’s been a while since I posted something new (and also since I traveled somewhere), but I’ve been super busy with my studies. I haven’t really had a chance to think about anything else, but at least now only 1 month separates me from having my degree.I shouldn’t be saying these scary words out loud because it really stresses me out.On the other hand, I can’t wait to be done and have 3 months off to travel and focus on my hobbies and LIFE.
Luckily, I managed to escape from London, the concrete jungle, for a little while and my hideout location this time happened to be Groningen in Netherlands. I’ve made a stop in Amsterdam as well, but Groningen took me by the heart. Maybe it was because I really needed to see some nature and do something different as I do in London, or because my friend Paula who lives there made it such a wonderful experience for me, even if the weather wasn’t playing on our side most of the time. The silence of the woods and fields in Groningen, where the sirens of ambulance and noise from cars and motorbikes don’t exist, soothed my heart and mind. Calm nights, only lightly infused with alcohol and music offered me a change from the busy lifestyle that I live (everyone lives) in London. And when you add a visit to Amsterdam, it leaves you with the perfect mix of adventures and relax.
So here it comes. My summary of a trip to Groningen and Amsterdam and a budget to it as always, to make sure you’ll plan your trip wisely and without having to spend a fortune.
Groningen is a small city in the north of Netherlands with a population of around 200,000 people, from which of them 80 % are students. The two universities: University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences with big art campus called Minerva are the only ones in the city and they are home to 55,000 students.
Groningen has a lot of fields and canals, just like everywhere in Netherlands, but you won’t find any big major forests or hills because the city is very flat.
An interesting fact is, that Groningen has been named a “City of Cycling” because 57% of journeys are made on a bike. Without a bike, it’s quite hard to get somewhere, unless you live in a city center ( I biked a lot during my stay, and I also brought a memory in form of ripped jeans with me back to London).
My trip to Groningen was a lot different from the other trips I make and it has carried itself in an artsy mood throughout the whole 6 days. Well, you’ll see from the pictures what I really mean, but don’t expect any fancy cocktail locations or restaurant reviews, not this time.
How to get there?
I know I’ve said this million times but best sites to search for flights are skyscanner.com and rynair.com. However, this time I bought tickets through another airline called Vueling airlines. The flight was very cheap, just 58 € for a round trip, but unfortunately, I had to fly from Luton Airport, which is the worst airport I’ve ever been to in my life. Hectic, poorly organized and because it consists of the cheapest flights around Europe, it’s always crowded and people sit even on the floor in the main hall.
From Amsterdam airport (or you can fly to Rotterdam if you wish to explore the capital) it’s only a 15-minute train ride to the city center and the main station in Amsterdam. The station is a part of the airport so there is no way you can miss it.
Attention! A great way to travel to Amsterdam is to take a bus instead of flying. The bus tickets are often cheaper, considering that you have to spend extra money to get to and from the airport. The main station to take the bus from is Victoria, and from there it takes around 12 hours, depending on which time of the day you’re traveling. Definitely go for the night travel as it takes less and you can sleep the whole time. Tickets can be found on www.nationalexpress.com and it’s better to start searching for them at least two months in advance (same as for flights).
Once you’re there, you can buy a train ticket in one of the self-service ticket machines at the station and choose whether you want to buy a whole day ticket ( in case you will be traveling somewhere else as I did to Groningen) Most of the tickets are priced at around 20- 27€
I got an all day ticket for 7 € because my friend Paula bought it for me through a specific Facebook page called Group tickets Groningen. People post the time and date of when they need to travel and one person then buys more tickets at the same time and sends it to everyone who paid for one. The money is sent by a bank transfer to the person who’s buying them. This way it’s a lot cheaper than at the station. The train ride from Amsterdam to Groningen is 2,5 hour long, so if you’re traveling this route, prepare yourself for it.
People speak Dutch, but they all understand and speak English so I had no problems what so ever. Dutch is a mix of English and German and some other nonsense and it’s very hard to learn, so don’t bother too much. The only words you need that will make the locals smile are Dank u wel (Thank you) and Goede den ( Hello).
It’s euro! which made me feel like everything was a bit cheaper than in London, but it’s a lie and everything is still fairly pricey. However, when my friend called 4 € beer expensive, I couldn’t stop myself but to giggle, as for me paying 5 £ for a bottle of Corona in Boxpark every other weekend is a normal thing to do.And in comparison to the price of cocktails in Somerset House’s new Peroni terrace, I even felt good about this type of spending.
One of the things which just doesn’t make any sense to me in my brain is the fact that in Netherlands it’s almost impossible to pay with a VISA card. My lovely sky blue Barclay card with a loaded bank account and money to spend (not really) suddenly felt like a little piece of sh*t to me. So hurray to ATMS and unnecessary fees for withdrawal.
If you don’t have a Mastercard or Maestro card, you should have a look at Monzo. It’s a new bank, still yet to be established, but their credit cards are already ready to use. Monzo is also an app and it tracks how much money you spend on food, travel, accommodation etc and gives you a pie chart review. The pie chart in my case, is very sad because it proves that I spent most of my money on food and clothes. The card is free and can be used anywhere in the world. It also doesn’t charge you for ATM withdrawal, no matter where in the world you are. So far the best thing that happened to me in terms of travel/card relationships.
I was set up! The weather in Netherlands changes so quickly I didn’t know if the next few hours are not going to bring me a tornado or something. It was supposed to be warm and sunny, but when I checked weather the last time before take off, the smile quickly disappeared from my face. It was cold most of the days- those days when the bastards(just kidding- my friends) in London experienced one of the first tastes of summer, this time with 25 degrees and hot sun rays crawling through the streets.
Luckily, there was one extra sunny and warm day (22 degrees) during which we had BBQ party in the garden, so at least that was nice.
My advice is to check the weather forecast consistently and be prepared for everything.
I don’t know how it’s in Groningen, but in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, you can find nice hotels for a good value of money (try booking.com). Otherwise, I’d check Airbnb and try out a typical Dutch lifestyle for a while, in a house with huge windows where everyone can see the modern interior and stalk you haha. I lived with my friend Paula a 20-minute bike ride from the center- quiet and convenient. If you’re planning a trip during summer, you can easily find discounted accommodation from students who travel back home to their countries for holidays.
Transport in the city
Bikes on bikes on bikes on bikes. Cycling everywhere is the only option and many cars don’t even have the permission to drive through some of the areas.If you live in the center and don’t have the need to go any further from the city, you can also bike or use a tram. If you borrow one, make sure to lock it properly because bikes get stolen here/anywhere in Netherlands on a daily basis.
I didn’t do any major sight-seeing as the purpose of my trip was to relax and have fun with my friend. I saw a museum in Amsterdam and a museum in Groningen and I’ve been to my friend’s friend’s exhibition, but otherwise, I’ve only seen the nature, nice architecture of buildings whose names I don’t remember and a lot of canals- which, don’t get me wrong is exactly what I wanted.
Some places worth to visit in Groningen are:
Even if from its name it might suggest that this place will be full of Martinis but this time it isn’t quite right. Martinitoren doesn’t sell fancy cocktails full of vodka and olives, in fact it has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s a gothic church dating back to 1220. Apart from being majestic and having a Baroque organ inside, visitors can climb up to explore the panoramic views of the city and enjoy a joint while up there too.
The main museum in Groningen, consisting mostly of modern and contemporary art. The building itself is very modern and artsy and it often hosts fashion and design exhibitions, for those of you looking for something special.
This maritime museum should definitely be on your list and it’s in fact one of the most visited museums in Groningen.(I know it might not look like it, but there are many!)
Food and Drink
As I said previously, no fancy cocktails or mocktails and luxury food can be found here. So if you’re looking for some food tips, I don’t have many ( but they have Wok to Walk). I had a proper, low budget and hippie and healthy (hurray) life during my stay. We bought most of our food in a grocery store and cooked it ourselves, which made it sooo much easier to eat healthily!
On Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays there are food and flower markets in the city and you can buy very cheap and good quality stuff there, ranging from fruit and vegetables to meat, cheese and specialties from Italian and Spanish cuisine, as well as typical Dutch fried food.
We bought there a lot of fresh fruit and veg, like 3 avocados for 1€, a fresh fish and squids for 6 € and two ready-made, organic beef burgers for 3€.
A thing you definitely need to try is Dutch cheese. You can find cheese shops in every corner in every city, so it’s almost impossible to miss them. They often do tastings, so you can try it before buying it, or simply munch on the tastings after a joint and fill yourself up, as you can do cheese-hopping from one store to another.(I highly recommend this type of “eating out” for free :D) Try old Amsterdam cheese and variations of goat cheeses! So yummy.
It’s a Dutch classic, however, you can only find it in Kebab shops. It consists of fries topped with kebab meat baked with a layer of melted gouda cheese and consistently layered with salad and white garlic sauce. It tastes almost like a kebab, but it’s bigger and much better! I fell in love with it when I went to Netherlands for the first time, but as the ingredients suggest, you might want to avoid it if you’re trying to cut carbs. For those who love to have kebab from time to time, this is the way to go!
Big, chunky fries layered with a specialty sauce of your choice. Great snack if you get hungry and need a quick fix as they sell them in stalls everywhere in the city.
A thin waffle made from two layers of dough and filled with caramel-like syrup. If you have a sweet tooth, this is definitely your go to.
Parties and night-life
Since Groningen is a student city, you can find a lot of bars and few clubs here to get the party started. However, people prefer to have house parties or garden parties instead.
Groningen is a home to famous drum ‘n’ bass formation Noisia as well as DOPE D.O.D and sometimes they perform here.I heard that Noisia threw a huge rave in Groningen and it was one of the best ones they ever played. However, they mostly play in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, so if you’re really interested in going to one of the big raves, check the dates before planning your trip.
We’ve been to a drum ‘n’ bass party in a club called Vera. It was perfect, as the entry was 6€ (not like Fabric or XOYO where entry costs you around 20£). It wasn’t too crowded and the music was good as well.
(Of course, you need to get to and from the club on a bike, but falling on your face, in this case, is totally acceptable)
I have so many of them. Whether it was Amsterdam or Groningen I had a really great time.
I liked the walks around the canals and seeing the beautiful modern houses and houseboats, with many of them having sailboats or motorboats parked in front of them and beautiful gardens. What made me happy was to see a lot of animals such as goats, sheep, cows and farms/ something I never see in London, and a lot of nature of course.
Here are some of my high-lights and top places:
Located in Amsterdam, this little vegetarian restaurant serves great hot food, breakfast bowls, tea and coffee. At the end, you can pay as much as you feel like for your meal and no one will judge you. (card payments available) I had an unsweetened homemade ice tea and yogurt with granola and fruit. Soo good.
Exhibition of Banky’s artwork is located in Moco Museum in Amsterdam. You can look forward to seeing some of his famous wall art, posters and also two-dimensional sculptures that are available to buy for your home.
A place where you pay 3€ and have a free entry for the rest of your life. You can look forward to seeing all types of plants and learning more about cannabis and hash. It’s a very cool place loved by tourists and you shouldn’t miss it, whether you’re interested in cannabis plants/ you’re a smoker or not.
One of the cute cafés I’ve been to while in Amsterdam. Very close to the train station if you’re looking for a quick coffee and quiet space to work in. Read my review here.
Since my friend Paula is an artist herself, we did a lot of artsy stuff, for example, we visited her university and studio where she works. I watched her paint a friend of hers for one of her projects and we also took a lot of artistic photos. One of the exhibitions we’ve been to was full of tents and reminded me of summer festivals!
You probably know that I love flowers and that I have a full room of cactuses and plants. Well, tulips are a typical Dutch thing and you can find them everywhere you go. I bought myself a bunch of tulip seeds which I’m planning on planting. You can also plan a trip to one of the many tulip fields to see the beautiful strips of colours. Find the closest one here: www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/regions/flower-fields.htm
I totally love Netherlands and I think If I haven’t gone to study in London, it would be my next choice. The weather is quite bad, maybe even worse than in the UK, but other things, such as the currency and the nice architecture make up for it. If you get a Mastercard and don’t mind a lot of biking, you should be alright. The rent is definitely cheaper than in the UK capital and accommodations are of a higher standard too. Plus no one will judge you when you smoke weed on the street…Actually, why not move there right now?
I’m not able to tell you how much I spent as I haven’t had any budget set up for this trip, but I know it wasn’t a lot.
The fact that everything is reachable on a bike is perfect and saves you a lot of money (take it as a free work out too)
The fact that I lived with my friend and not in a hotel, saved me a lot of money too and we were able to cook food ourselves, so we didn’t spend much on eating out. That’s why I highly recommend Airbnb, as you can usually cook and store food there.
Plane tickets- 58€
Train tickets from the airport to Amsterdam and Groningen and back to the airport- 14€
Souvenirs around 15€
Weed about 20€ per person
Party and drinks-15€
All together 122€ without the food. It depends on you and your habits, whether you like to cook and prepare your own food or you prefer eating out while on holidays. For me it was one of the most enjoyable and cheapest holidays so far (after Budapest)
If you live in Europe, you can plan an affordable trip to Amsterdam/Netherlands full of fun and interesting activities as well as relaxation. It’s a unique and a must see country and you won’t regret it, whether you’re coming because of the weed decriminalization, tulip fields or museums and architecture.
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