Westerkwartier is a region and municipality in the west of the province of Groningen, in the Netherlands. The northern part, around the town of Zuidhorn, consists mainly of a marsh landscape with wierden (artificial dwelling mounds). This area is also known under the name Middag-Humsterland, and under that name designated a 'National Landscape'. The southern part, around the town of Leek, is characterised by its bocage landscape.
The Westerkwartier, Dutch for Western Quarter (of Groningen province), is a historical region bordering the provinces of Friesland to the west and Drenthe to the south. The region is organised as a single municipality since 2019. Until 2018, the region consisted of four municipalities: Leek, Zuidhorn, Grootegast, and Marum.
The Westerkwartier region is a rural area with dozens of larger and smaller towns, villages and hamlets. The larger towns function as commuter towns for Groningen city. These largest towns are Leek, Zuidhorn, Marum, and Tolbert. Other main villages include Grootegast, Grijpskerk, Aduard, and Zevenhuizen.
Middag-Humsterland is in the north of the Westerkwartier region, as well as partly in the Hogeland region. The region is one of the oldest cultural landscapes of Western Europe. Around 800 AD, Middag-Humsterland was one of the most densely populated areas of the Netherlands. Nowadays it is known as a quiet and historic region. Before dikes were built, starting around the beginning of the second millennium, people in this region built artificial hills (called wierde) to shelter themselves and their stock from the high tide. In 1995, this collection of 'wierden' was added to UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage Sites.
There are two tourist information centres in the Westerkwartier region. In addition, a lot of touristic information on Groningen province, including the Westerkwartier region, can be obtained from the central Tourist Information Office in the city centre of Groningen city.
- 1 Infocentrum Landgoed Nienoord, Nienoord 20, Leek (at the parking place of Nienoord museum, swimming pool, and theme park), ☏ . M-F 09:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. Information centre of the Nienoord estate, functioning also as tourist information for Leek and the Westerkwartier region.
- 2 Tourist Information Marum, Kruisweg 1, Marum (at Restaurant De Kruisweg), ☏ . Tourist information on Marum and the Westerkwartier region is available at Restaurant De Kruisweg, centrally located in Marum.
The Westerkwartier region is traversed by the A7 motorway, just 10 minutes west of Groningen city. The Westerkwartier is about 1.5 hours by car from Amsterdam, and 40 minutes from the German border (Emsland). From Groningen city, the key direct highway to the north of the Westerkwartier region (Zuidhorn and surroundings) is the N355.
Only the northern part of the Westerkwartier region can be accessed by train. A direct train service connects the stations of Zuidhorn and Grijpskerk twice per hour with Groningen (to Zuidhorn 12 minutes, €3; to Grijpskerk 17 minutes, €4.20) and Leeuwarden (to Zuidhorn 38 minutes, €8.10; to Grijpskerk 32 minutes, €6.80). The trains are operated by Arriva. From other parts of the Netherlands, transfer at Groningen station.
Local bus operator Qbuzz operates bus routes from the city of Groningen to virtually every village in the Westerkwartier region.
- Bus line 3 (Groningen-Leek-Tolbert): frequent and fast bus line (2-6 times/hour; 20 minutes; €5). There are several bus stops in Leek, with bus stop Centrum serving the town centre and southern side of the Nienoord estate; and bus stop Westerheerdtlaan serving the western side of the Nienoord estate.
- Bus line 39 (Groningen-Zuidhorn-Grootegast): local bus route serving many villages in the northern Westerkwartier, including Aduard, Niekerk, Oldekerk, Sebaldeburen, Doezum, Kornhorn and Opende, and continuing to Surhuisterveen in Friesland.
- Bus line 85 (Groningen-Leek-Zevenhuizen-Oosterwolde): local bus route serving the village of Zevenhuizen, and continuing to Oosterwolde in Friesland.
- Bus line 88 (Groningen-Oostwold-Leek): local bus route serving the villages of Oostwold, Lettelbert, and Midwolde, and the northern side of the Nienoord estate.
- Bus line 89 (Groningen-Leek-Tolbert-Marum-De Wilp-Drachten): local bus route serving several villages around Marum, and continuing to Drachten in Friesland.
There are many bicycle routes leading into the Westerkwartier region. From the central square in Groningen city, the Grote Markt, Leek (18 km) and Zuidhorn (13 km) are clearly signposted the entire way for cyclists.
The fastest way to get around in the Westerkwartier region is by car. But bicycling is easy as the main towns and villages are clearly signposted with dedicated signposts for cyclists, and in most cases separate cycle paths are available.
The bus routes as mentioned above may be used to get around within the region. However, these mostly offer east-west connections, and north-south connections are scarce. For example, to get from Zuidhorn to Leek by public transport, the fastest way is via Groningen (using the train and bus line 3).
- 1 Borg Nienoord (Nationaal Rijtuigmuseum), Nienoord 1, Leek (on the south side of the Nienoord estate). Mar–Oct: Tu-Su 11:00-17:00. Historic manor house with beautiful gardens and the Dutch national carriage museum with a wide range of carriages and sleighs. Adults €6.
- 2 Kloostermuseum Aduard (Sint Bernardushof), Hofstraat 45, Aduard, ☏ . April-October Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 13:00-17:00; November-March only Su 13:00-17:00. Museum on the monastery of the Cistercian Order that was here in Aduard. The museum is in a 16th-century house and the 13th-century infirmary of the monastery. Adults €4.
- 3 Abel Tasman Museum, Kompasstraat 1a, Lutjegast (3 km north of Grootegast), ☏ . Tu-Sa 13:30-16:30. Museum on the famous Dutch 17th-century seafarer, explorer, and merchant that was born here. Abel Tasman was the first European to reach Tasmania, New Zealand, and Fiji. The collection includes old nautical charts, books, and art from the islands that Abel Tasman visited. free entrance, but a donation is appreciated.
- 4 [dead link] Museum 't Steenhuus (Iwema-steenhuis), ‘t Pad 15A, Niebert (along the main road from Leek to Marum), ☏ . May-October Th Sa Su 13:30-17:00. In a fortified villa building from around 1400 AD, with a small museum on old crafts including the baking craft. Adults €2.50.
- 5 Museum het Joodse Schooltje, Samuel Leviestraat 10, Leek. Tu-F afternoons. Monument and museum on the Jewish history of Leek, in a very small old school building.
- 6 LEGiO-museum, Legolaan 1c, Grootegast. W F 13:00-17:00, Sa Su 10:00-17:00. In the former headquarters building of LEGO Netherlands, a museum on the Danish plastic brick toy. To see and to play. €5.
- 1 Familiepark Nienoord, Nienoord 20, Leek. Mar-Oct: daily 10:00-18:00. Family theme park with large playground, petting zoo, and large model train park. €8.
- On the website Westerkwartierpluspad a walking route of 165 km across the entire Westerkwartier region (and the border region in Friesland province) has been outlined. The route consists of nine day hikes of about 20 km each. Even though the website is in Dutch, the maps are self-explanatory.
- 2 't Blôde Fuottenpaad (Het Blotevoetenpad, The Barefoot Path), Opende (the path starts at the farmhouse at Kaleweg 5 in Opende). A short walking trail of about 3 km designed to walk barefeet. While underway you will have to climb, hang and especially walk over paths, bridges and obstacles.
- 3 Watersportcentrum Westerkwartier, Hoofdstraat 190, Lettelbert, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Canoe and kayak rental for paddling around the Westerkwartier canals and the Leekstermeer lake.
- 4 Cnossen Leekstermeer, Meerweg 13, Nietap, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Sailing boat, canoe, kayak, and surfboard rental, and sailing courses, at the Leekstermeer lake.
The town centres of Leek, Zuidhorn, Grootegast, and Marum have a variety of shops. In many of the other villages there are a few shops such as supermarkets and bakeries. In general, shops are opened M-F from 09:00 to 18:00 and on Saturdays from 09:00 to 17:00. In Leek, Zuidhorn and Grootegast, shops are open until 21:00 on Friday nights, and in Marum on Thursday nights. Supermarkets are open 08:00 to 21:00 or 22:00 daily, except for Sundays. Most shops are closed on Sundays, but some supermarkets in Leek and Tolbert open in the afternoon 13:00-18:00.
- 1 Restaurant Breed, Nieuwe Streek 35, ☏ . Daily except Tuesday. 'World restaurant' with all-you-can-eat concept. €25-30 for all-you-can-eat.
- 2 [dead link] Samiramis, Hoofdstraat 109, Grootegast, ☏ . W-Su from 17:00. Mediterranean restaurant in Grootegast's town centre, operated by an Egyptian owner. Main courses about €20.
- 3 Pannenkoekenburcht Nienoord, Midwolderweg 19, Leek. Daily 12:00-20:00. Traditional Dutch pancakes
- 4 Eetcafé De Buren, Tolberterstraat 13, Leek. Tu-Su 10:00-21:00.
- 5 Borg Piloersema (Hamsterborg), Sietse Veldstraweg 25, Den Ham GN, ☏ . W-Sa for dinner, Su for lunch. A borg (manor house) that is now in use as a restaurant. There are also appartments and rooms to stay overnight. €60 for four-course meal, €80 for six-course meal.
Cafés and coffee housesEdit
- 1 Koffie- en Theehuis Tante Til, Dorpsstraat 5, Enumatil, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Coffee, tea, cake, and homemade local pastries. Terrace with windmill view.
- 2 [dead link] Blotevoetenhof (Theetuin De Kleine Zanden), Peebos 1a, Opende, ☏ . Tu-Th 11:00-17:00; F-Su 11:00-18:00. Coffee and tea garden near the 'barefeet path' (see Hiking above).
Nightlife is rather limited, as the Westerkwartier is a rural area with small towns and villages. In each of the larger towns there are some bars and pubs that open until late on weekends. For more serious nightlife you will have to go to the city of Groningen. On Saturdays, there is a night bus route (line 417) connecting Leek to Groningen.
- 3 Café De Oude Bank, Tolberterstraat 4, Leek. Until midnight on weekdays, until 03:00 on Fridays/Saturdays. Closed Tuesdays. Traditional Dutch pub ('brown café') in Leek's town centre.
- 4 De Kruisweg, Kruisweg 1, Marum, ☏ . Opening hours depend on the specific events. Bar and restaurant, with regular events (theme parties).
- 1 Best Western Hotel Aduard, Friesestraatweg 13, Aduard (along the main road from Groningen city to Zuidhorn), ☏ . from €84 for a double room.
- 2 Hotel In 't Holt, Hoofdstraat 2, Zuidhorn, ☏ . from €79 for a double room.
- 3 Landgoedcamping Nienoord, Midwolderweg 19, Leek, ☏ . Campsite within the Nienoord estate
- 4 Camping 't Strandheem, Parkweg 2, Opende, ☏ . Campsite with indoor swimming pool, recommended for families with teenagers
- 5 Camping de Watermolen, Openderweg 26, Opende, ☏ . Campsite and rental cottages
- 6 Natuurkampeerterrein Lettelbert, Hoofdstraat 190, Lettelbert, ☏ . Campsite at the Lettelberterdiep canal, near the Leekstermeer lake
- 7 Camping Cnossen Leekstermeer, Meerweg 13, Nietap, ☏ . Campsite along the shores of the Leekstermeer lake
The larger towns have postal service points, typically located inside supermarkets and bookstores. Besides mail and package services, they also sell the OV-chipkaart for public transport. Convenient ones include:
- Postal service point Zuidhorn, De Dorpsvenne 1D (inside Poiez supermarket).
- Postal service point Leek, De Schans 4 (inside Bruna bookstore).
- Groningen — economic and cultural centre of the Northern Netherlands
- Roden — forested area just across the border in Drenthe province
- Schiermonnikoog — quiet West Frisian island just north of the Westerkwartier
|Routes through Westerkwartier|
|Amsterdam ← Drachten ←||W E||→ Groningen|