How the people from Leeuwarden dream...
The route through Leeuwarden starts at the imposing LOVE fountain on the square Stationsplein. Two heads, standing 7 metres tall, enveloped in mist, symbolise how children dream about their future. The mist is inspired by the dew that artist Jaume Plensa saw on the fields in Friesland.
Walk north from Stationsplein, down the street Sophialaan. Turn left before the canal, into Willemskade. Here, stately mansions and beautiful boats add to the charm of this area. At Zuiderplein, cross the canal, turn into Beursplein with its historic Mercury Fountain, then follow the canal to the former prison Blokhuispoort. Up till a few years ago, the inmates of this centuries-old prison could only dream of a way out, but in the last few years it has become an open breeding ground for creativity. The original elements of the 16th century prison can be seen everywhere. Artists now work in the cells, and in the wings around you will find the brand-new Leeuwarden library, an excellent restaurant (with a waterfront terrace) and a lunch café.
From the Blokhuispoort, walk further north, through Druifstreek, then turn left into Oosterstraat. A narrow street with some unique shops. At the end of this street, follow the canal to the right. At the second bridge, cross the canal and walk past the statue of Mata Hari, the famous dancer who in the First World War dared to dream of exciting adventures and, with her sensual movements, worked as a spy. She was born in Leeuwarden as Margaretha Zelle, here in the house at number 13.
Turn around and cross the bridge De Brol. Take the first street on your left, Naauw. Here, the canal is so narrow that people used to jump over it. If you keep walking, you end up in the main street of Leeuwarden, but for now, we turn right, into Sint Jacobsstraat. Don’t forget to look up to admire the beautiful façades. At the end of Sint Jacobsstraat, on your right, there is the lively Gouverneursplein. On your left is Hofplein, where you can find the old Stadhouderlijk Hof, a city palace that was owned by the royal family until 1971. Nowadays, a hotel is housed in the building. Opposite it, you will find the stately City Hall and further on the Wilhelmina tree, with its cast iron fence adorned with little oranges.
We turn into Beijerstraat, which goes up. At the end, we turn right, into Grote Kerkstraat. There, an old cobblestone street takes you to the church Grote Kerk. On your left, at A.S. Levissonstraat, you will find the Jewish Monument and the Jewish school. Walk through this street to the houses further on, that are hidden behind the trees. There, you can catch a glimpse of a court of alms houses that takes you back in time a hundred years. Poor widows used to live here, and nowadays it provides independent living for senior residents.
If you follow the A.S. Levissonstraat again, you will reach a square with the Nature Museum and the historic Sint Anthony Guesthouse. Both are beautiful buildings, which are absolutely worth seeing. We turn right, to go to Prinsentuin, but you can also walk straight ahead for a bit, to admire the gorgeous garden of the guesthouse.
You will find the street Prinsentuin on the other side of the road Groeneweg, after the Nature Museum. This ‘green heart’ of Leeuwarden, once a park of William Frederik, prince of Nassau, is now a public park with a marina that was voted the most beautiful marina in the Netherlands in 2019. In summer, the marina will be full of boats and the quayside will be brimming with people. Follow the path along the canal, which leads all the way to the west side of the city centre, to the tower Oldehove. The Frisians dreamt of building the tallest church tower in the north, but the ground turned out to be too soft and the tower began to sink and tilt. It resulted in a tower that leans even more than the Tower of Pisa. When the tower is open, you can walk all the way up the spiral staircase to enjoy a view of the city.
Cross the square to Kleine Kerkstraat, named the nicest shopping street in the Netherlands several times. Here you can stroll around the lovely boutiques and delis. At the end of the street, you reach the canal in the city centre, with plenty of restaurants and cafés with outside seating areas. Cross the canal and turn right. Wolvesteeg takes you to Haniasteeg, with its wonderful graffiti murals by Dutch and international artists. Colourful political statements from artists dreaming of a better future. These monumental works can be found in more places in the city and they are very dear to the people from Leeuwarden.
The alley leads to Ruiterskwartier, which has been renovated in recent years. Turn left at Prins Hendrikstraat, past the Gerechtsgebouw (courthouse)and Wilhelminaplein square, where you will find the hyper-modern Fries Museum. On Fridays there is a very lively market on this square, but on all other days children play in its fountains. When you walk straight ahead, you will find yourself back where you started the route. All restaurants and cafés in Leeuwarden can be found here.