The town of Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden is the proud capital of Friesland! Start and finish of the Eleven Cities. A city with hundreds of monuments, museums and pearls of the best shops.
Leeuwarden is also elected European Capital of Culture 2018! Seeing is believing? On this site we will give you an overview of some tourist highlights of the capital of Friesland. However, Leeuwarden should you encounter firsthand, just come on by!

Source: VVV Leeuwarden

foto leeuwardenLeeuwarden was generated from three ‘terps’ on the shore of the Middelzee. ‘Terps’ are artificially created mounds. People built houses on them to keep their feet dry. People have been living here since before the year 1000 AD. From the tenth century on, this farming community also began to trade. The town’s location near the Middelzee was perfect for this. There were commercial ties with countries as far away as Russia. This is how Leeuwarden gradually developed into a town. However, in the thirteenth century the Middelzee became silted up. From then on, there was only regional trading.

In 1435, Leeuwarden was enfranchised and it became the provincial capital in 1504, when central government and the judiciary were established here. In addition to this, Leeuwarden became the residence of the Frisian ‘stadholders’. The town began to flourish. The number of inhabitants rose spectacularly: from five thousand round about the year 1500 AD up to sixteen thousand in 1650 AD.

At the time, Leeuwarden was one of the ten most prominent towns in the Netherlands. You can still tell this by the numerous monumental buildings dating back to that period, such as the ‘Kanselarij’ (Chancellery), where justice was administered, the ‘Stadhouderlijk Hof’ (Stadholderly Court), the ‘Waag’(Weighhouse) as trading centre, and the ‘Oldehove’-church tower.

At the time, Leeuwarden was one of the ten most prominent towns in the Netherlands. You can still tell this by the numerous monumental buildings dating back to that period, such as the ‘Kanselarij’ (Chancellery), where justice was administered, the ‘Stadhouderlijk Hof’ (Stadholderly Court), the ‘Waag’(Weighhouse) as trading centre, and the ‘Oldehove’-church tower.

On the spot where the Oldehove is now, there used to be a little church round about 1100 AD. In the 13th century, this little church was to be replaced by a bigger church, built from red so-called ‘kloostermoppen’, which resemble Roman bricks. However, only the foundations were laid. In 1435, the villages Oldehove, Nijehove, and Hoek were onsolidated into the town of Leeuwarden. People then wanted a bigger house of God, which resulted in a basilica with three naves, dedicated to Saint Vitus. But the citizens of Leeuwarden wanted a tower just as high as the Martini-tower in the city of Groningen (1469-1482). This resulted in a campaign with which a lot of money was gathered.

On May 28, 1529, the town council and the prelates of Oldehove charged master Jacob van Aaken with building the basilica. Master builder Van Aaken wanted to be completely safe and decided to give the Oldehove a broad base, accentuated by eight massive buttresses with images of saints and angels on them. Those images were never realized. The precautions were in vain, because the tower began to sag towards the northwest when it was only 10 metres high. Van Aaken died three years later, and Cornelis Frederiks became the new master builder; for one year. Then they stopped building and the citizens of Leeuwarden were stuck with an unfinished tower. The tower’s special feature was that it was not only leaning but also bent. In 1570, Leeuwarden became cathedral city for a short period and the Saint Vitus church even became cathedral church. In September 1576, the church collapsed after a rough storm. Protestant Frisians interpreted this collapse as a sign of God that the Roman Catholic Church would not last very long. Cunerus Petri was indeed the first and last bishop of Leeuwarden. He was banished from Friesland in 1578. The church walls stood upright until 1706. The tower remained a source of concern, because every century costly restorations needed to be carried out. In January 2005, the mystery of the Oldehove was unriddled: the tower turned out to have been built on the incline of an old ‘terp’, which the master builders of the day did not foresee.

As a result of the great social changes in the second half of the nineteenth century, Leeuwarden got to be a town with an important regional function. Whereas on a national level Leeuwarden’s status was sharply declining. Nowadays, the situation remains the same. Within the relatively sparsely populated province of Friesland, Leeuwarden, with more than 92,000 inhabitants, is the key town with many diverse facilities.

Tourist Highlights
– Mata Hari: the life story of this extraordinary dancer and accused spy is presented in the Fries
Museum,
– Princessehof: discover the world of ceramics,
– Oldehove: the Dutch ‘Tower of Pisa’,
– Boomsma Distillery: learn more about traditional Dutch spirits.
– Northern Film festivals in November