Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Northern Netherlands
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Including Drenthe, Friesland and Groningen

Archaeology & History Sites in Northern Netherlands

Casemates Museum

Still accessible by car or public transport, the Kazemattenmuseum (Casemates Museum) is situated on the afsluitdijk: the 32 kilometre long dam which separates the Zuiderzee from the North Sea. This dramatic landscape feature was the setting of one of the lesser known battles of World War II, the Battle of the Afsluitdijk in May 1940. Thanks to the casemates, another term for fortified gun emplacements, this was one the few places where the German Blitzkrieg was successfully halted. Visitors can learn more at the visitor’s centre before exploring the casemates themselves.

De Hondsrug UNESCO Global Geopark

Spread across parts of the provinces of Drenthe and Groningen, De Hondsrug is the only UNESCO-certified geopark in the Netherlands. A natural geographical feature formed by a glacial ridge of sand and boulder clay, it provided prehistoric peoples an area of safe passage through boggy terrain. Over 5000 years ago (Neolithic), the Funnelbeaker people erected a number series of megalithic tombs here. Next to the Geopark’s visitor centre is the Hunebed Centrum, and a number of the dolmens are close by.

Marine Flak Battery Fiemel

Termunten has long been recognised by various armies for its strategic importance, including the Germans in WWII. The battery at Fiemel was built in 1943 for the Stützpunkgruppe Delfzjilk. Made up of about 40 buildings, which included bunkers, barracks and foundations for artillery. Many of these were destroyed when the dyke was widened in the 1970s. A good place to start is at the nearby Groninger Landschap, where you can get an overview of this section of the Atlantic Wall, and follow a number of routes to see the various remains that still survive.

Martini Tower

The tallest building in the city of Groningen, this 15th-century church tower not only offers impressive views of the structure’s surroundings but also possesses a colourful history. Its two predecessors, built in the 13th and 15th centuries, were both destroyed by lightning. The third and final construction stands at around 96.8 m tall and has become a well-known symbol of the city. Today’s visitors can still spot small holes in the walls of the tower where bullets pierced it during the Second World War.

Westerbork Remembrance Centre

Westerbork camp was built in 1939 to house Jewish refugees fleeing Germany and Austria. Following Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the camp became known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’; a transit camp where hundreds of Sinti, Roma and Jewish people were sent before being transferred to concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. Following the liberation of Europe Westerbork became an internment camp for ‘bad Dutch’ and members of the SS. In the 1950s and 1960s it served as a camp for Indo-Ducth citizens being repatriated from the newly independent Indonesia. Through personal stories, the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork tells the layered history of the site.

Museums & Art Galleries in Northern Netherlands

De Spitkeet

Established in the 1990s, this small open-air museum in Friesland showcases historic buildings from this northern region of the Netherlands. Among the structures that have been preserved here is a small turf hut of a kind that would have been used by agricultural labourers as temporary accommodation, as well as the similarly cramped cave-house also used by the very poor in the 19th century. This selection of structures give visitors a good idea of what rural Friesland life was like in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Ellert and Brammert Open-Air Museum

The Ellert and Brammert Open-Air Museum (Openluchtmuseum Ellert en Brammert) in Schoonoord is named after two giants who, according to legend, inhabited the Drenthe region. The open-air museum focusses on the built heritage of this area from prehistory to the 19th century; with both reconstructions and original, preserved buildings. Its exhibits include various houses, a schoolhouse, a church, a village prison, and reconstructions of a Neolithic dolmen and a Saxon farmhouse.

Fries Museum

Based in Leeuwarden, the Fries Museum first opened its doors in 1881. Created by a group committed to the preservation of Frisian culture, it explores the distinct heritage of the Frisian people, different in various respects from that of communities elsewhere in the Netherlands. Collections include substantial quantities of medieval and early modern material as well as a display devoted to the famous spy Mata Hari, who was born in Leeuwarden. The museum relocated to a new, state-of-the-art building in 2013.

Hoogeland Open Air Museum

Launched in 1959 at a high point in the village of Warffum, the Hoogeland Open Air Museum (Openluchtmuseum het Hoogeland) hosts over 20 buildings dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of these stand in the original locations where they were first built, but others have been brought to the museum from other parts of the province. Among the structures on display are a range of domestic dwellings, shops, and a windmill, helping to give visitors an impression of village life in the Groningen Hoogeland of past centuries.

Hunebed Centre

At the Hunebed Centre (Hunebedcentrum) archaeological museum in Drenthe, visitors are transported back into prehistory. Located only a short distance from D27, the largest known dolmen (‘hunebed’) in the Netherlands, the Hunebed Centre focuses on the story of the Neolithic (New Stone Age) people who build these monuments. As well as an indooor museum displaying archaeological finds from the area, the Hunebed Centre includes a reconstructed Neolithic village. The museum is located inside the De Hondsrug UNESCO Global Geopark.

It Damshûs

At the open-air museum of It Damshûs in Nij Beets, Friesland, the lives of the local peat diggers are put centre stage. Focusing on the period between the 1860s and the 1920s, the museum preserves a number of historic cottages where the workers once lived as well as several windmills and a local church, helping to capture an important facet of Dutch social history. Nearby, the Suder pumping station, built in the 1920s to help drain the peatlands, can be seen. Boat trips and excursions from the museum are available by prior arrangement.