The city was founded on the northernmost point of the Hondsrug area. The oldest document referring to Groningen's existence dates from 1040. However, the city already existed long before then: the oldest archaeological traces found are believed to stem from the years 3950–3720 BC, although the first major settlement in Groningen has been traced back to the 3rd century AD.
In the 13th century, when Groningen was an important trade centre, its inhabitants built a city wall to underline its authority. The city had a strong influence on the surrounding lands and made its dialect a common tongue. The most influential period of the city was the end of the 15th century, when the nearby province of Friesland was administered from Groningen. During these years, the Martinitoren was built, which loomed over the city (then) at 127 metres (417 feet) tall. The city's independence came to an end when in 1536, it chose to accept Emperor Charles V, the Habsburg ruler of the other Netherlands, as its overlord. Later, it joined the Republic of the Seven United Provinces.
In 1614, the University of Groningen was founded, initially only for religious education. In the same period the city expanded rapidly and a new city wall was built. That same city wall was tested during the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672, when the city was attacked fiercely by the bishop of Münster, Bernhard von Galen. The city walls resisted, an event that is still celebrated with music and fireworks on August the 28th (as "Gronings Ontzet" or "Bommen Berend").
The city did not escape the devastation of World War II. In particular, the main square, the Grote Markt, was largely destroyed in April 1945 in the Battle of Groningen. However, the Martinitoren, its church, the Goudkantoor, and the city hall were not damaged. The battle lasted several days.
The University of Groningen (in Dutch: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) has a rich academic tradition that dates back to 1614. After the University of Leiden, it is the second oldest Dutch university. The university educated the first female student, Aletta Jacobs, the first Dutch national astronaut, Wubbo Ockels, the first president of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg and two Nobel prize winners, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and Ben Feringa. 200,000 people were either students, teachers or researchers at the university. Groningen has the highest percentage of students by total population, approximately 25 percent.
The city is nationally known as the "Metropolis of the North" and as "Martinistad" referring to the tower of the Martinitoren, named after its patron saint Martin of Tours.
Although Groningen is not a very large city, it does have an important role as the main urban centre of this part of the country, particularly in the fields of music and other arts, education, and business. The large number of students living in Groningen also contributes to a diverse cultural scene for a city of its size.
The most important and most famous museum in Groningen is the Groninger Museum. With the construction of its current building, designed by Alessandro Mendini, the museum has been transformed into one of the most modern and innovative of its kind in the Netherlands. In addition, the city has a maritime museum, a university museum, a comics museum and a graphics museum. Groningen is also home of Noorderlicht, an international photographic platform that runs a photo gallery and organizes an international photo festival.
Groningen has a city theatre (Stadsschouwburg), located on the Turfsingel; a big theatre and concert venue called Martini Plaza; and another major cultural venue on the Trompsingel, called the Oosterpoort. Vera is located on the Oosterstraat, the Grand Theatre on the Grote Markt, and Simplon on the Boterdiep. Several cafés feature live music, a few of which specialize in jazz music, including Jazzcafe De Spieghel on the Peperstraat. The jazz music students from the Prince Claus Conservatoire have been known to hold regular jam sessions in cafés such as Peter Pan on the Voor Het Voormalige Klein Poortje and café De Smederij on the Tuinstraat 2–4. Groningen is also the host city for Eurosonic Noorderslag, an annual music showcase event for over a hundred bands from all over Europe.
Groningen's nightlife depends largely on its student population. Its cultural scene is vibrant and remarkable for a city its size. In particular, the Grote Markt, the Vismarkt, the Poelestraat and Peperstraat are crowded every night of the week, and most bars do not close until 5 in the morning. Between 2005 and 2007, Groningen was elected "best city centre" of the Netherlands. Groningen has a red-light district, called Nieuwstad. A second one in the A-kwartier (an area) has been closed as of late 2015. Both areas are in or near the city centre.
In 2014 a 3D Dome theatre, known as Infoversum, opened in Groningen. This is housed in an unusual dome shaped building made out of steel. It shows special dome films and also presents performing arts events. The Infoversum went bankrupt in 2015. It has since been bought by an independent company and transformed into a restaurant.
Groningen is twinned with the following cities:
The city council has 39 members. With 9 seats, the social-liberal D66 is the largest party on the council. The social-democratic PvdA has 6 seats, as does the Socialist Party. The centre-right VVD has 3 seats. GroenLinks holds 4 seats, and the local party Stadspartij 2 seats. The CDA and ChristenUnie are represented by 3 and 2 councilors, respectively. The Students and City (Student en Stad) holds 2 seats, and the Party for the Animals and 100% Groningen both hold one seat.
The largest religion in Groningen is Christianity with 25,1% of the population that is Christian.
Until recently, two large sugar refineries were inside the city boundaries. The Suiker Unie plant was originally outside Groningen, but it was completely swallowed by the expansion of the city. After a campaign to close the factory, it was finally shut down in 2008/2009. Before closing down, the sugar production amounted to 250,000 tonnes of beet sugar, with 250 employees (2005 figures). The only remaining sugar factory is CSM Vierverlaten in Hoogkerk, which produces 235,000 tonnes of beet sugar, with 283 employees.
Nowadays, well known companies from Groningen are a publishing company Noordhoff Uitgevers, a tobacco company Royal Theodorus Niemeyer, a health insurance company Menzis, a distillery Hooghoudt and the natural gas companies GasUnie and GasTerra. There is an increased focus on business services; specifically ICT, Life Sciences, Tourism, Energy and Environment.
Moreover, the Hotel and Catering Industry form a significant part of the economy of Groningen.
Groningen has been called the "World Cycling City" because 57% of journeys within the city are made by bicycle. Like most Dutch cities, Groningen is well adapted to the high number of cyclists. A large network of bike paths makes it convenient to cycle to various destinations and within the town the bike is the most popular means of transportation. In 2000, Groningen was chosen as Fietsstad 2002 — top BikeCity of the Netherlands for 2002.
The city is very much adapted to the wishes of those who want to get around without a car, as it has an extensive network of segregated cycle-paths, good public transport, and a large pedestrianised zone in the city centre. The transformation of the historic centre into a pedestrian priority zone enables and invites walking and biking by making these active modes of transport comfortable, safe and enjoyable.
These attributes are accomplished by applying the principle of "filtered permeability". It means that the network configuration favours active transportation and selectively "filters out" the car by reducing the number of streets that run through the centre. While certain streets are discontinuous for cars, they connect to a network of pedestrian and bike paths which permeate the entire centre. In addition, these paths go through public squares and open spaces, increasing the enjoyment of the trip (see image). The logic of filtering a mode of transport is fully expressed in a comprehensive model for laying out neighbourhoods and districts – the Fused Grid. In the Italian TV programme of investigative journalism "Report" appeared a short film, considering the use of bikes in Groningen a good practice to emulate in Italy.
There are three stations in Groningen:Groningen
The main train station (served by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen and Arriva) has regular services to most of the major cities in the Netherlands.
The following services operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen call at Groningen:1x per hour intercity service Rotterdam - Gouda - Utrecht - Amersfoort - Zwolle - Assen - Groningen
1x per hour intercity service The Hague - Leiden - Schiphol - Amsterdam Zuid - Almere - Lelystad - Zwolle - Assen - Groningen
2x per hour local service (sprinter) Zwolle - Meppel - Assen - Groningen
The following services operated by Arriva call at Groningen:1x per hour express service (sneltrein) Leeuwarden - Buitenpost - Groningen
2x per hour local service (stoptrein) Leeuwarden - Buitenpost - Groningen
2x per hour local service (stoptrein) Groningen - Zuidbroek - Veendam
1x per hour local service (stoptrein) Groningen - Zuidbroek - Winschoten - Bad Nieuweschans - Leer
1x per hour local service (stoptrein) Groningen - Zuidbroek - Winschoten
2x per hour local service (stoptrein) Groningen - Sauwerd - Roodeschool
2x per hour local service (stoptrein) Groningen - Sauwerd - Delfzijl
As of 2017, the hourly train to Leer only runs to Weener due to a damaged rail bridge. Travellers can either take the bi-hourly direct bus connection from Groningen to Leer, or change to a local bus at Weener.
The A28 motorway connects the city of Groningen to Utrecht (via Zwolle and Amersfoort). The A7 motorway connects Groningen to Friesland and Amsterdam (South-West) and Winschoten and the direction of Bremen in the East.
Qbuzz runs several city buses and regional buses. The main routes are:1: Zuidhorn-Zernike-Groningen Noord-city centre-main station
2: Groningen Noord-city centre-main station-Martini Hospital-Eelde-De Punt
3: Lewenborg-city centre-main station-Leek
4: Beijum-centre-main station-Hoogkerk-Roden
5: Groningen Europapark-city centre-main station-Haren-Zuidlaren-Annen
6: Groningen Noord-city centre-main station-Hoornsemeer
7: Groningen Noord-Korrewegwijk-main station
8: Hoogkerk-main station-Corpus den Hoorn-Martini Hospital
9: Main station-city centre-Paddepoel-Selwerd-Groningen Noord
15: Zernike-main station
163: Groningen-Lauwersoog (connecting the ferry to Schiermonnikoog)
There are also direct buses between Groningen and Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin in Germany, run by Flixbus and between Groningen and Munich run by ADAC Postbus.
Groningen planned to build a tram route connecting the main station, via the university hospital with the university complex (Zernike), and the central station via the city center with the Park & Ride and sportscenter at Kardinge . However, in October 2012 the city council decided not to build the tramlines due to the high costs.
Groningen Airport Eelde is located 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of the centre of Groningen, with scheduled services to Gdansk, Copenhagen, and London Southend, and several seasonal holiday charter services to other European destinations.
Groningen has an oceanic temperate climate, like all of the Netherlands, although slightly colder in winter than other major cities in the Netherlands due to its northeasterly position. Weather is influenced by the North Sea to the north-west and its prevailing north-western winds and gales. Winter temperatures are cool: on average above freezing, although frosts are common during spells of easterly winds blowing in from the inner European continent, i. e., Germany, Russia and even Siberia. Night-time temperatures of −10 °C (14 °F) or lower are not uncommon during cold winter periods. The lowest temperature ever recorded is −26.8 °C (−16.2 °F) on February 16, 1956. Snow often falls, but rarely stays long due to warmer daytime temperatures, although white snowy days happen every winter. Summers are somewhat warm and humid. Temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) or higher occur sporadically, most average daytime highs are around 22 °C (72 °F). Very rainy periods are common, especially in spring and summer. Average annual precipitation is about 800 mm (31 in). Sunshine hours vary, but are usually below 1600 hours, giving much cloud cover similar to most of the Netherlands. Climate in this area has mild differences between highs and lows, and there is adequate rainfall year-round. The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is "Cfb". (Marine West Coast Climate/Oceanic climate).
The local football club is FC Groningen, founded in 1971. Currently it is playing in the Dutch top football league, called the Eredivisie. Winners of the KNVB cup in 2014/15, their best league result was in the Eredivisie during the 1990/91 season when they finished third. The current stadium of FC Groningen, which opened in January 2006, is called Noordlease stadium (before the 2015-2016 season it was called the Euroborg stadium) and has 22,550 seats. There are plans to expand the stadium to a capacity of 35- or 40,000.
Donar is a professional basketball club, playing in the Dutch Basketball League. The home arena is Martiniplaza. The club won the national championship five times: in 1982, 2004, 2010, 2014 and 2016. In 2005, 2011 and 2014 they won the NBB Cup.
Each year, the second Sunday of October, the 4 Mile of Groningen takes place. This is one of the biggest running events of the Netherlands; in the year 2013, there were places for 21,000 participants: this was 1000 more than in 2012, when there were 20,000 starting spots.
Also the sport American Football is represented in the city of Groningen, which is at the highest level in the Netherlands. The Groningen Giants , founded in 2000, play their home games at Sportpark Corpus den Hoorn.
The 2002 Giro d'Italia started in Groningen, including the prologue and the start of stage 1. The city also hosted the start and finish of stage 5 of the 2013 Energiewacht Tour.Wessel Gansfort (1419–1489) theologian and early humanist of the northern Low Countries
Volcher Coiter (1534–1576) anatomist, founder of comparative osteology and first to identify cerebrospinal meningitis
Christiaan Coevershoff (1595-1659) Dutch Golden Age painter
Egbert Bartholomeusz Kortenaer (1604–1665) Dutch admiral, killed in the Battle of Lowestoft
Albert Eckhout (c.1610–1665) portrait and still life painter
Roche Braziliano (c.1630–c.1671) pirate long exile in Brazil
Joris Andringa (1635–1676) naval officer
Tiberius Hemsterhuis (1685–1766) was philologist and critic
Albert Schultens (1686–1750) philologist
Daniel Bernoulli (1700–1782) mathematician and physicist
Johannes Antiquus (1702–1750) painter.
Bernard II van Risamburgh (c.1710—c.1767) cabinetmaker in the Rococo style
Willem Arnold Alting (1724–1800) Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies from 1780 until 1797
Elisabeth Geertruida Wassenbergh (1729–1781) painter from the Northern Netherlands.
Etta Palm d'Aelders (1743–1799) early feminist and spy
Egbert Benson (1746–1833) lawyer, jurist, politician one of the Founding Fathers of the USA
Leopold Friedrich Günther von Goeckingk (1748–1828) German lyric poet, journalist and Prussian official.
Johann August Just (c.1750–c.1791) keyboard player, violinist and composer
John Goodricke (1764–1786) astronomer observed the variable star Algol
Jonkheer Albert Dominicus Trip van Zoudtlandt (1776—1835) lieutenant-general of cavalry who headed the Dutch-Belgian heavy cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo
Petrus Hofman Peerlkamp (1786-1865) classical scholar and critic.
Geert Adriaans Boomgaard (1788-1899), first validated supercentenarian and last living veteran of Napoleon's Grande Armée
Schelto van Heemstra Baron of Heemstra (1807–1864) politician, Prime Minister 1861/2.
Jozef Israëls (1824–1911) painter of the Hague School
Joseph Ascher (1829–1869) composer and pianist
Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831–1915) marine art painter
Samuel van Houten (1837–1930) politician, cabinet minister, founder of the Netherlands Liberal Party
Jonkheer Alexander de Savornin Lohman (1837–1924) politician, leader of the Christian Historical Union
Otto Eerelman (1839-1926) painter, known for his depictions of dogs and horses
Klaas Plantinga (1846–1922) distiller, founded the Plantinga Distillery in Bolsward, Friesland province
Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853–1926) was Nobel laureate physicist who pioneered refrigeration and superconductivity
Gerard Bolland (1854–1922) autodidact, linguist, philosopher, biblical scholar and lecturer
René de Marees van Swinderen (1860–1955) diplomat and politician.
Barbara Elisabeth van Houten (1863–1950) painter
Gerrit van Houten (1866–1934) painter and artist.
Jonkheer Dirk Jan de Geer (1870–1960) statesman and Dutch Prime Minister (1926/29, 1939/40), advocated peace settlement between the Netherlands and Nazi Germany in 1940
Jantina Tammes (1871–1947) botanist and geneticist, first professor of genetics in the Netherlands.
Johan Huizinga (1872–1945) historian one of the founders of modern cultural history
Bert Nienhuis (1873–1960) ceramist, designer and jewelry designer
Gerrit David Gratama (1874–1965) artist, writer, and director of the Frans Hals Museum
Jan Gratama (1877–1947) architect
Albert Hahn (1877-1918) political cartoonist, poster artist and book cover designer
C. U. Ariëns Kappers (1877-1946) neurologist and anatomist
Dr. Herman de Vries de Heekelingen (1880–1942) scholar and author, professor of palaeography at the University of Nijmegen
Julia Culp (1880–1970), the mezzo-soprano, the "Dutch nightingale"
Jonny Heykens (1884–1945) composer of light classical music
Wilhelm Baehrens (1885–1929) classical scholar
Pieter Korteweg (1888–1970) philatelist
A.W.L. Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer (1888–1978) last colonial Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies
Jaap Kunst (1891–1960) ethnomusicologist
Michel Velleman (1895–1943) Jewish magician, killed in World War II
Hendrik de Vries (1896–1989) poet and painter, an early surrealist
Paul Schuitema (1897-1973) graphic artist, he designed furniture and expositions
Ulbo de Sitter (1902–1980) geologist at Leiden University, founded the school of structural geology
Jan Wolthuis (1903–1983) lawyer and Dutch Nazi collaborator, active in far-right politics after WWII
Hans Dirk de Vries Reilingh (1908-2001) geographer and professor
Elie Aron Cohen (1909–1993) Jewish doctor, survived the Auschwitz concentration camp
Theodoor Overbeek (1911–2007) professor of physical chemistry at Utrecht University
Pieter Meindert Schreuder (1912–1945) resistance leader in the occupied Netherlands during WWII
Lucas Hoving (1912–2000) modern dancer, choreographer and teacher
Jacob B. Bakema (1914–1981) modernist architect
Anno Smith (1915-1990) artist, ceramist, painter, sculptor and art teacher
Jan C. Uiterwijk (1915-2005) entrepreneur and shipping line owner in the USA
Evert Musch (1918–2007) painter and professor at Academie Minerva
Dirk Boonstra (1920-1944) active in the WWII resistance movement, caught and executed
Poppe Damave (1921–1988) painter.
Selma Engel-Wijnberg (born 1922) is a Dutch Jewish Holocaust survivor
Henk Visser (1923–2006) arms and armory collector
Jan Drenth (born 1925) chemist, was professor of structural chemistry at the University of Groningen
Cor Edskes (1925–2015) important authority on the history of organ music and building
Wim Crouwel (born 1928) graphic designer, type designer and typographer.
Maarten Schmidt (born 1929) astronomer named and optically identified a quasar
Jan Borgman (born 1929) astronomer and university administrator
Dirk Bolt (born 1930), architect and town planner in Australia
Ida Vos (1931–2006) writer and poet
Arie van Deursen (1931–2011) historian whose focus was the early modern period
Nico Habermann (1932–1993) computer scientist
Gerrit Krol (1934−2013) author, essayist and writer
Ad van Luyn (born 1935) Roman Catholic bishop.
Bert de Vries (born 1938) retired Dutch politician
Wim T. Schippers (born 1942) artist, comedian, television director and voice actor
Driek van Wissen (1943–2010) poet
Chas Gerretsen (born 1943) war photographer, photojournalist and film advertising photographer
Joanna Gash (born 1944), Australian politician, emigrated aged six to New South Wales
Jan Sloot (1945–1999) inventor, claimed to have invented a revolutionary data compression technique
Andy Anstett (born 1946) former politician in Manitoba, Canada
Wubbo Ockels (1946–2014) physicist and astronaut of the European Space Agency
Alphons Orie (born 1947) former lawyer specialising in criminal law
Alfred Lagarde (1948–1998) voice actor
Diederik Grit (1949–2012) translator and translation scholar
Sierd Cloetingh (born 1950) Professor of Earth Sciences at Utrecht University
Pete Hoekstra (born 1953) American Republican member of Congress representing Michigan's 2nd congressional district
Ellen van Wolde (born 1954) biblical scholar
Rob Nanninga (1955–2014) skeptic, writer, board member of Stichting Skepsis
Bert Meijer (born 1955) organic chemist, works on supramolecular chemistry, materials chemistry and polymer chemistry
Gerard de Korte (born 1955) Roman Catholic bishop
Joep Franssens (born 1955) composer, regarded as a representative of New Spirituality in the Netherlands
Jan van der Kooi (born 1957) painter and drawer in the style of figurative art
Anita Buma (born 1958) pioneer Antarctic researcher, worked on ecophysiology of marine microalgae
Tjibbe Veldkamp (born 1962) author of children's books
Wilma Mansveld (born 1962) politician
Aernout Mik (born 1962) artist, known for his installations and films.
Harm Peter Hofstee (born 1962) physicist and computer scientist
Hans van den Hende (born 1964) Roman Catholic bishop
Didy Veldman (born 1967) choreographer
J. Maarten Troost (born 1969), travel writer
Sharon Dijksma (born 1971) politician
Diederik Samsom (born 1971) politician
Michiel van Veen (born 1971) politician
Attje Kuiken (born 1977) politician and former civil servant
Rudmer Heerema (born 1978) politician
Henk Nijboer (born 1983) politician
Kim Feenstra (born 1985) model
Manja Smits (born 1985) politician
Dope D.O.D. Hardcore hip hop group (founded 2001), made up of Skits Vicious, Jay Reaper and DJ Dr. Diggles
Noisia, Electronic Music trio (founded 2003), made up of Nik Roos, Thijs de Vlieger and Martijn van Sonderen
Vicetone DJ and production duo (formed in 2012) by Ruben Den Boer and Victor Pool
Jaap Eden (1873–1925) only male athlete to have won world championships in both speed skating and cycling
Dirk Janssen (1881–1986) was gymnast in the 1908 Summer Olympics who was 105 at the time of his death, making him the longest-lived Olympic competitor
Jan Janssen (1885–1953) gymnast, competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics
Corrie Winkel (born 1944) backstroke swimmer and silver medalist 1964 Summer Olympics
Gerard Kemkers (born 1967), speed skating bronze medalist at 1988 Winter Olympics
Stephan Veen (born 1970) field hockey player in the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics
Rutger Smith (born 1981), track and field athlete competing in shot put and discus throw, winning medals in both events
Sophie Polkamp (born 1984) field hockey athlete, 2 time Olympic champion
Marijn Nijman (born 1985) former international cricketer
Bauke Mollema (born 1986), cyclist
Lorena Klijn (born 1987), kickboxer
Tom-Jelte Slagter (born 1989) professional road racing cyclist
Lois Abbingh (1992) handball player