The Center of the Center: Grote Markt

4 October 2023

One of the first places every new student visits in Groningen is the Grote Markt in the city center. The Grote Markt, meaning ‘Big Market’ in English, is exactly that. It is hard to miss as it is the very heart of the city and is home to some of the most
significant spots in Groningen’s history. As one of the central squares in Groningen, the Grote Markt is also a famous spot for a bunch of public events and activities like markets and concerts. Historically, this square was used as a marketplace and was a focal point for all town activities.


The Grote Markt has quite a few historically significant buildings surrounding it, such as the Town Hall, the Martini Tower, the Forum and the cafe De Drie Gezusters. These local highlights define the city center. Apart from these, there are a number of cafes and shops in the area that make for a great weekend hang-out

The big church tower called the Martinitoren or Martini Tower is a local highlight and is the tallest building in Groningen, standing at 97 meters. In fact, there is a local law that does not allow any other building to be taller than the Martini Tower! This 15th century building is especially beautiful when it glows under the golden light of a sunny evening. Even better, you can climb to the top and look at all of Groningen. The only catch is that there is no lift in the tower, so you have to climb more than 200 steps. It is a truly beautiful building that is deeply rooted in Groningen’s history. A great advice locals of Groningen will give you is to look for the Martini Tower if you ever get lost in the city and it will guide you right to the center.

Across the square from the tower is the Town Hall building, standing at the head of the Grote Markt. Although not a famous spot among students, this building is a highlight of the city’s history and architectural beauty. Its main purpose is to hold council meetings and it is even a common venue for weddings.

Another interesting building that you can see from the Grote Markt is The Forum. It is that strangely shaped, very tall building that looks almost unreal. The Forum is a modern building among the old traditional buildings of Groningen. It has a library, a cinema, spaces for community events and exhibitions, a rooftop cafe, and a lot of spots to sit and study or just relax. Exploring the inside of the Forum is also an interesting experience due to its unusual architecture. If you have time in between classes and are looking for a place to study, this is a great place to go. Plus, you get
free WiFi!

The next highlight of the Grote Markt is De Drie Gezusters or “The Three Sisters’, which is one of the biggest cafes in all of Europe. This is pretty evident when you arrive at the Grote Markt, as the terrace of the cafe extends onto the square, almost becoming a part of it. The cafe is a very popular spot among locals and is always packed, no matter the day or time. It offers great food and drinks and is a fun way to become a part of the local Groningen life. The atmosphere is always lively and there is something comforting about sitting among a bunch of people and enjoying
a beer on the terrace on a hot summer evening.

Overall, the Grote Markt is the main spot for Groningen’s social life. It hosts markets, festivals and other public events and gatherings, making it a defining part of the city’s historical identity and a great place to start your exploration of its culture.