Groningen is a very dynamic city with many events taking place throughout the year. Below we list some of the biggest annual events.
Eurosonic is the largest and most important annual showcase of music in Europe, with more than 200 bands and lasting three days. In the past, artists like Adele, Mumford and Sons, Stromae and Dua Lipa have performed here. Noorderslag is the Dutch part of the festival, where Dutch bands get the opportunity to show their talent.
Nacht van Groningen (March)
The night of Groningen is a running event in the city centre and the Noorderplantsoen. The event starts very early in the morning, while it is still dark outside. There are many different distances for every type of runner and every age.
Flower market (Good Friday / Friday before Easter)
Every year, on Good Friday the city centre is transformed into the largest flower and plant market in the north of the Netherlands. The locations are Grote Markt, Vismarkt, Oude Ebbingestraat and the A-Kerkhof.
Kings Day and Kings Night (26th and 27th of April)
Every 27th of April, the whole of the Netherlands celebrates the king’s birthday. Everything is coloured orange and everyone celebrates together on the streets and plains. There are often many events, such as flea markets and festivals. The evening before Kings Day, many people already start partying and there are often many events and festivals on this evening. If you want to know what this celebration looks like in Groningen, have a look at this aftermovie from GroningenLife.
Dodenherdenking en bevrijdingsdag (4th and 5th of May)
On the 4th of May the Netherlands commemorates the victims of the Second World War. You will often see ceremonies where flowers are placed at monuments. On the 5th of May we celebrate our freedom. During this day, there are many festivals in the Netherlands and a big festival in Groningen.
The KEI-week is the general introduction week for all new students in Groningen. It is the perfect opportunity to meet new people and to explore Groningen and every aspect of student life.
Groningens ontzet (28th of August)
Groningens ontzet, also called Bommen Berend, is the day on which Groningen celebrates that it survived the occupation by Bernhard von Galen, the bishop of Münster, in 1672. There are festivities throughout town, such as a horse show on the Ossenmarkt, and fireworks in the Stadspark, on this special local holiday.
The Noorderzon festival is an internationally renowned art festival, held each year at the end of summer. The heart of the festival is the Noorderplantsoen, where you can find the idyllic festival village which takes over the park for 11 days.
ESN introduction week (September/February)
ESN Groningen organises this introduction week for all new international students in Groningen. During this week you will be able to discover everything that Groningen and its student life have to offer. It is also the perfect opportunity to meet new people.
Museum Night Groningen (September)
During the Museum Night you can visit multiple museums in Groningen for a small fee. The museums are open till 01.00 and they often organise workshops, special performances and parties.
Open Monument Day Groningen (September)
During the Open Monument Day Groningen you are able to visit beautiful monuments throughout the Netherlands. A great opportinity to visit monuments which you normally wouldn't be able to visit. You can also participate in one of the many acitivities that are organised.
Let’s Gro (October/November)
Let’s Gro is a free city festival that lasts four days. Its goal is to inspire people to think about the future of the city and region of Groningen. It gives new ideas the opportunity to present ideas, to hear inspiring speakers and to meet new people.
Jonge Harten festival (November)
The Jonge Harten festival is a nine-day theatre festival. The performances take place in theatres and many other locations throughout the city.
Sinterklaas (5th of December)
Sinterklaas is a Dutch celebration, comparable to Santa Claus. Sinterklaas arrives mid-november and the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas evening on the 5th of December. Sinterklaas brings gifts for children (sometimes in their shoes), together with his helpers who are called Piet. They leave again after the 5th of December, going back to Spain where they live the rest of the year.
Christmas markets (December)
During December, there are often many christmas markets in Groningen, often with their own theme and different types of products.
Winterwelvaart (Last weekend before Christmas)
During Winterwelvaart the quaysides of the Hoge and Lage der A are filled with high ships, which can be visited. There are also markets, music performances and special activities during this cozy winter festival.
Other Dutch holidays
There are quite a few Dutch public holidays. It can be good to know when the Dutch holidays are, since they often influence for example the opening hours of shops and supermarkets. You can find a full overview of all the Dutch holidays here. If you want more information about the holidays that are specific to the Netherlands, such as Sinterklaas and King’s Day, have a look at this article.
Other events and activities
There is always a lot going on in Groningen. If you want an overview with more festivals and concerts, have a look here. If you want a really nice overview of almost all of the activities that are being organised in Groningen, you can have a look at Here&Now.
Saint Martin was a Roman soldier, and legend has it that after sharing half of his cloak with a shivering beggar, he had a vision that the beggar was Jesus and decided to dedicate himself to God. 11 November 397 was the date of his death, and Saint Martin is the Catholic patron saint of the poor and wine-making. The Catholic tradition for the feast day is to share a generous meal with the homeless.
Yes, although it is usually less of a big deal than Sinterklaasavond on the 5th of December. One special Dutch Christmas tradition is gourmetten, which involves a big hot plate in the middle of the table where each person can grill up small portions of food for themselves, complete with specific gourmetten sauces.
Chocolate letters in the initials of the recipient, homemade gift packaging called “surprises”, eating plenty of pepernoten, and writing (often sarcastic) poems as gifts are some of the traditional details of Sinterklaas celebrations. Children also spend the month between Sinterklaas’ arrival and his “avond” putting out treats for Sinterklaas’ horse in their shoes. But similar to Christmas, it is ultimately about giving gifts to each other.
Sinterklaas was the inspiration for Santa. Sinterklaas (full name: Nicholas) was the patron saint of children and lived in Myra (modern day Turkey) in the 4th century, and Santa Claus is the Americanized version of the same figure. Dutch settlers in New York may have been the first to introduce the white-bearded, kindly old man in red as a concept to America.