Where to wet your whistle in Groningen: the 10 best bars and cafes
When it comes to a night out in the Netherlands, Groningen nightlife has no equal. The northern city doesn’t do closing time, meaning revellers leaving clubs often cross paths with hawkers setting up their stalls on the market squares early in the morning.
From traditional brown cafes to buzzing student bars, here are ten of the best places in the city to party with the locals from dusk till dawn.
Brouwerij Martinus brews speciality beers in the centre of Groningen © Sara van Geloven/Lonely Planet
Blessed tastes at Brouwerij Martinus
This family-owned printer turned microbrewery lies somewhat hidden down a side street but is well worth tracking down. Brouwerij Martinus is named after the patron saint of Groningen and on a tour, the jovial brewer will take you through all the steps in the holy process of creating liquid gold. At the weekend, head upstairs for a drink in the tasting room or try the excellent restaurant, which serves up dishes such as lamb shank roasted in Martinus Smoked Porter paired with green beans and fresh mint. And for dessert? You can’t go wrong with the ‘beeramisu’.
Mr. Mofongo’s futuristic cocktail bar provides service via cyborg © Mr. Mofongo
Booze with a side of technology at Mr. Mofongo
From tables topped with travel memorabilia to a robot arm that pours homemade gins, whiskies and rum – Mr. Mofongo is a treasure trove of curiosities. The owner of this local favourite met the enigmatic Mr. Mofongo on a shark dive in Cuba and the traveller’s tales of adventure inspired the cafe’s different spaces. The latest addition is the wine bar; a snazzy attic room with a living wall and an ingenious robot tap system that allows you to taste over 70 wines by the glass!
The view at DOT Groningen is so good you might decide to skip the film and fill your belly instead © DOT Groningen
DOT: a cinema with a view
Situated at the edge of the trendy Ebbingekwartier, orb-shaped DOT towers over all. Built as a 3D dome cinema, DOT is now best known for its hip indoors gastro-bar, sprawling terrace and city beach. Soak up some sun in the late afternoon and come nightfall, head indoors for ticketed parties such as the 30+ DOT Dance Department or the regular movie nights. The 360-degrees planetarium shows are spectacular. Sit back in a comfy reclining chair and watch the Milky Way light up the dome around you.
Calling all beer and whisky fans to De Toeter
With a gleaming dark-wood and copper bar boasting no less than 19 taps and over 200 bottled beers, you won’t go thirsty easily at De Toeter. The bartenders don’t just pour beers – they can also help you pick from a staggering offering of 350 single malt whiskies. Start with a beer from De Toeter’s own microbrewery Rockin’ Ludina, brewed aboard the ship in the canal across the street. The deck of the Ludina is turned into a laid back terrace in summer.
Der Witz is a classic brown cafe and the place to go for a relaxed evening © Sara van Geloven/Lonely Planet
Drinks and conversation at Der Witz
At first sight, this small brown cafe overlooking the Grote Markt seems to be nothing special, but if you’re looking for a relaxed night out, Der Witz is the place. You can usually find a free table, but come a little early for the best seat in the house: the table by the window overlooking the market square and the medieval Martinitoren. Ask the attentive barkeeps for a taste of the dry sausage, a local speciality usually found hanging amongst the bottles behind the bar.
Drink o’clock at De Uurwerker
Friday nights in De Uurwerker are mayhem – in the best possible way. Chill tunes drift out from the DJ booth over a mixed crowd of students and urbanites enjoying after-work drinks. The line at the bar moves quick enough and the kitchen turns out wood-fired oven baked pizzas like there’s no tomorrow. Prepare to eat where you stand, as snagging a table in the evenings isn’t easy. You’ll have slightly more luck in the warmer months of the year, when customers share wooden picnic tables below a canopy of lights in the cosy square outside.
Saturday night fever at Het Concerthuis
Arancini with lemon aioli or loaded fries – the hodgepodge menu of Het Concerthuis nicely reflects its ragtag interior with old doors serving as tables. The vintage sofas in the back overlooking the brand-new Forum Cultural Centre, are a great place to start the evening. Try out a couple of the board games on offer while the many bars along the Poelestraat gear up for the crowds. If your night turns out to be a little too much fun, head back the following morning for the Brakke (hangover) Brunch, a headache-curing buffet served every Sunday.
Sip in style in The Stockroom, Groningen’s first speakeasy © The Stockroom
Speakeasy style at The Stockroom
Groningen’s very first speakeasy, The Stockroom is a celebration of the Roaring Twenties. You enter the intimate bar through a nondescript door halfway along the Oosterstraat and pass through a small stockroom. Once inside, the ambience of dark green tiles, a copper ceiling and soft lighting doesn’t disappoint. Bartenders dressed in uniforms that wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Peaky Blinders mix a range of high-end cocktails such as the ‘Twisted Knee’ – gin, lemon, honey, ginger tea and ‘bees’ (a bee pollen extract…not actual bees). Or try the ‘1888 Punch’ – local Hooghoudt jenever (dutch gin), Lillet Blanc, ginger, grapefruit and green tea served in a delicate tea cup.
A blast from the past at Simplon
A pop venue occupying the brick premises of an early 20th century factory, Simplon hosts about 200 performances by upcoming electronic and urban acts each year. Almost entirely run by volunteers, the venue first started hosting concerts in the seventies, when it was occupied by squatters. It’s now well-regarded as a cultural institution, but the regular club nights still retain some flair of the past. For a budget stay, check out the neighbouring youth hostel.
Groningen’s many alleys hide all sorts of treasures © Sara van Geloven/Lonely Planet
Dance the night away at Het Pakhuis
In a cobbled street filled with all-night cafes, Het Pakhuis is the odd duck. Tucked away in an alley lit up by fairy lights, the restaurant and bar has been serving patrons since 1973. On the upper floor of the old warehouse, the student dish of the day is a steal at just €8.50. Downstairs, the bar doesn’t start to get busy until 1am, but when the revellers do take to the floor, the DJ’s beats mixing rock, electropop and funk will have you dancing in no time.
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