On the fringes of the city, is a place where you can chill beside the canal, drink great coffee in a cool bar and literally hang out.
You might not think of the flatlands of northern Nederlands as being a great place for climbing but Groningen is home to some really great walls and centres, including the world’s tallest freestanding climbing tower (the 121ft Excalibur at the Klimcentrum Bjoeks). But our favourite space so far is the Gropo indoor bouldering facility on the banks of the canal.
Gropo opened just one year ago. Set out in an industrial area and easily accessed by bike, the front of the building looks pretty normal, but canal-side you will find a waterside terrace and hip bar space that you wouldn’t be out of place in Amsterdam or North London. On its own, this would be a great place to come and relax with friends and share a drink as the sunsets.
But this is no ordinary bar. Pass through the lounge area and you are in a open space surrounded by a lovingly crafted bouldering walls. On two floors, Gropo has a good range of routes including a dedicated children’s wall and a training area. Indoor bouldering is a great fitness activity for the long winter months. Finding your way across the walls from grip to grip takes focus, agility, strength and technique and provides a great all over work out. Each route is marked using different coloured holds so you can climb alongside more experienced friends and challenge yourself to progress at your own pace. There is no special equipment except a pair of climbing shoes and these are available from Gropo for a small fee.
But the best thing about the centre is the people. Tjitze and his dog couldn’t have been more welcoming and Kiene even greets customers at the gate to show them the way in on dark autumn evenings. The climbers themselves are quick to help each other and support newcomers. It’s a great place to make friends in the city, and the club runs special events evenings, such as the Halloween fancy dress climb, and other activities like yoga.
For opening times and more information see www.gropo.nl.
Words by Louise Bloom
Photographs by Nathan Wattimena