7 June 2022

Groningen’s city centre is known for many things: its atmospheric squares like the Vismarkt, cute shops, Noorderplantsoen and much more. But did you know that right between the buzz of the city you can find several courtyards known as ‘hofjes’?

Hofjes exist of tiny homes surrounding a shared garden, like a courtyard, originally built to house the poor and sick or even widows. Until this day, you will find nothing but peace and quiet there, as they are always surrounded by walls barring most city noise. Its modern-day inhabitants like to pay attention to detail, so don’t be surprised to find colourful flowers in front of every door. Walking into a hofje truly is a treat to the eye, and with silence all around just as much a treat for your ears. Not a unique phenomenon to Groningen, hofjes can be found throughout numerous cities in the Netherlands. It’s special, however, how many hofjes were maintained or restored in Groningen. I’ll list some of the best ones, so you’ll always know where to find one near you when you’re in need of some peace and quiet

  1.  Pepergasthuis
    This hofje was connected to a ‘gasthuis’, translating as a guest house, founded for pilgrims who came to Groningen. A small church was even built, which was once directly connected to the gasthuis. It’s still here today, making up one of the four walls of the hofje at Pepergasthuis. The gasthuis was partly turned into a ‘madhouse’ later, and on Sundays people from town could pry through the windows and watch the ‘mad’ for a few cents.Today, the hofje is a place of calm. And it comes with a surprise: there’s another hofje behind it! The two are connected through a charming gateway. Both exist of a shared garden full of flowers and trees. A place of beauty, history, and surprise: definitely add this one to your list.  
  2. TypografengasthuisYou’ll have to take quite a walk from the city centre, because this hofje is located opposite the UMCG hospital at the Petrus Campersingel. It will be totally worth it, however. This beauty is more than 120 years old and was built because local typographs in the 19th century believed their retirement fund was growing too little and proposed to receive income out of the rental of small labour-houses. Throughout the years this hofje has been very well maintained and is one of the most timeless ones out here. The red brick worker’s houses have charming dormers and chimneys, and the entrance consists of a magnificent arch. 
  3. MiddengasthuisThis hofje is located at Kleine Rozenstraat near Noorderplantsoen. This was once a place for the underprivileged elderly to invest in a house to sit out their last years. Nowadays it’s, like the other hofjes, a cheerful and quiet place where all kinds of inhabitants live and share a courtyard. This hofje is not very large, which only adds to its level of cuteness. If you’re looking for an escape from the sun on a hot day, this might just be the place for you: the garden offers lots of shade. From some places you can even see the Nieuwe Kerk, which is not far away from here. 
  4. Sint AnthonygasthuisWalk through the heavy doors of this hofje and truly find an ‘oasis of calm’, as it’s located in the heart of the city at the Rademarkt. Its garden is full of wildflowers and little hanging plant pots decorate the historical houses with white window frames. This is the perfect place for a stress-free break, yet it’s only a minute away from crowded streets like Steenstilstraat and Oosterstraat. The gasthuis this hofje was a part of, the Sint Anthonygasthuis, was founded in the sixteenth century. The place has surely been renovated since that time, but it's special to say the least that it’s still here after all those centuries. 
  5. Sint MartinusgasthuisThis hofje can be found at the charming Grote Leliestraat near Noorderplantsoen and must be entered through stately iron gates. There you’ll find another beautiful garden full of trees and flowers. The architectural style is somewhat different to the other hofjes, as this is one of the youngest in Groningen. If you’re there, check out the rest of this neighbourhood, as you will find several hofjes in this area, such as the Middengasthuis at Kleine Rozenstraat or the Pieternellagasthuis, which is literally opposite this hofje at Grote Leliestraat.

I hope this gives you an idea of what hofjes are and where you can find them. Make sure to visit them some time. Even if you’re not in dire need of peace and quiet, it will make for a good sightseeing tour.