The region has been continuously inhabited since the 10th century. It came to be known as Leeuwarden in the early 9th century AD and was granted city privileges in 1435. It is the main economic hub of Friesland, situated in a green and water-rich environment. Leeuwarden is a former royal residence and has a historic city center, many historically relevant buildings, and a large shopping center with squares and restaurants. Leeuwarden was awarded the title European Capital of Culture for 2018.
The Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour), an ice skating tour of eleven cities in Friesland, started and finished in Leeuwarden.
The following towns and cities within the municipality have populations in excess of 1,000 people: Leeuwarden, Grou, Goutum, Wergea, Jirnsum, Reduzum, and Wirdum. The municipality is governed by the mayor Ferd Crone and a coalition of the Labour Party, Christian Democratic Appeal, and GreenLeft.
The name "Leeuwarden" (or older variants of it) first came into use for Nijehove, the most important of the three villages (the other two being Oldehove and Hoek) which in the early 9th century merged into Leeuwarden (Villa Lintarwrde c. 825). There is much uncertainty about the origin of the city's name. Historian and archivist Wopke Eekhoff summed up a total of over 200 different spelling variants, of which Leeuwarden (Dutch), Liwwadden (Stadsfries), and Ljouwert (West Frisian) are still in use.
The second part of the name is easily explained: Warden, West Frisian/Dutch for an artificial dwelling-hill, is a designation of terps, reflecting the historical situation.
The first part of the name, leeuw, means lion in modern standard Dutch. This interpretation corresponds with the coat of arms adopted by the city, which features a heraldic lion. However, modern standard Dutch was not used in this region in the Middle Ages, when the city was called Lintarwrde. Some scholars argue that the name of the city is derived from leeu-, a corruption of luw- (Dutch for sheltered from the wind, cf. the maritime term leeward) or from lee- (a Dutch word for waterway). The last one suits the watery province of Friesland.
The name is also similar to that of the French commune Lewarde, located in the Nord Department, an originally Flemish-speaking area annexed to France in the 17th century.
The oldest remains of houses date back to the 2nd century AD in the Roman era and were discovered during an excavation near the Oldehove. Inhabited continuously since the 10th century, the city's first reference as a population center is in German sources from 1285, and records exist of city privileges granted in 1435. Situated along the Middelzee, it was active center of maritime trade until the waterway silted-up in the 15th century.
In 1901 the city's population was 32,203. After long-term occupation by German forces, the Royal Canadian Dragoons disobeyed direct orders on 15 April 1945 and charged into the heavily defended city, driving out German forces by the end of the next day. The anniversary of the liberation is celebrated by the Dragoons and the city, who fly each others' flags on the day.
On Saturday 19 October 2013, a fire broke out in a clothes shop on a busy pedestrian street. The fire started late in the afternoon and burned through the night, destroying five shops and eleven flats. The only casualty was a 24-year-old man who was living in one of the flats. The birthplace of Mata Hari was at first thought to be destroyed, but survived, albeit with considerable smoke and water damage.
The coat of arms of Leeuwarden is the official symbol of the municipality. It consists of a blue escutcheon, a golden lion, and a crown. The fact that Leeuwarden carries a lion in its seal seems logical, considering that "Leeuw" is Dutch for "Lion". However, it is very plausible the oldest name of the city conceals an indication of water rather than an animal, and some sources suggest that the lion may have only been added after the name became official. It is also possible the coat of arms was a gift to the city from the powerful Minnema family.
Leeuwarden is located centrally in Friesland at 3°12′N 5°47′E.
19 population centers make up the Leeuwarden municipality as of 1 January 2014, when parts of the neighboring Boarnsterhim municipality were added to Leeuwarden.
On 6 September 2013 Leeuwarden was voted European Capital of Culture for the year 2018. The region has 617 national monuments (one of the most of any municipality), 375 recognized iconic buildings, and many areas within the city center are protected for their historic or expected archaeological value. The oldest monuments, like the Jacobijnerkerk monastery church, date from the 13th century.
The city is also host to many events throughout the year (see below) and several museums: the largest and general Fries Museum, the former city palace Princessehof which is now the National Sculpture Museum, the Tresoar devoted to the Frisian language, the former prison Blokhuispoort which is now also a frequent event venue, the Verzetsmuseum Friesland documenting resistance against the German occupation during World War II, the Nature Museum of Friesland, and one devoted to the local sculptor Pier Pander.
Well-known buildings in the city center include the Kanselarij (former chancellery), the Stadhouderlijk hof (former residence of the stadtholders of Friesland), the Waag (old trade center), Saint Boniface church (an important part of the neogothic movement), and the leaning unfinished church, Oldehove. The tallest building in the city is the 114-metre (374 ft) Achmeatoren (Achmea insurance tower), built in 2001 and designed by Abe Bonnema – who also designed the second-tallest building, Averotoren at 77 m (253 ft). The historic train station was built in 1863.
Leeuwarden is also the site of the country's largest cattle market. On Ascension Day, the largest flower market in the Netherlands, Bloemenmarkt, is also held there. Built in 1896, the Froskepôlemolen is the last surviving windmill to have stood in Leeuwarden. The remains of the Cammingha-Buurstermolen were demolished in 2000. The bases of two other windmills, Wielinga-Stam and De Haan also survive.
The Slauerhoffbrug is a fully automatic bascule bridge named after Jan Jacob Slauerhoff. It uses two arms to swing a section of road in and out of place within the road itself. This movable bridge is also known as the 'Flying' Drawbridge. One of the main designers is Emile Asari.
Leeuwarden is the starting and finishing point for the celebrated Elfstedentocht, a 200 km (120 mi) speed skating race over the Frisian waterways that is held when winter conditions in the province allow. As of 2015, it last took place in January 1997, preceded by the races of 1986 and 1985. In 1986, the Dutch king Willem-Alexander participated in the Eleven cities tour, with the pseudonym W.A. van Buren, which is the pseudonym of the royal family of the Netherlands.
The city's local football team, Cambuur Leeuwarden, plays in the Jupiler League. In the 2005/2006 season, the club narrowly escaped bankruptcy. Its Cambuurstadion opened in 1995. The football team has proposed plans for a new stadium in the east side of the city, which will cost €35 million. The city's basketball team, Aris Leeuwarden, has played in the Dutch Basketball League since 2004.
The Frisian Solar Challenge is a solar boat race that starts and finishes in Leeuwarden. The race follows canals, rivers, and lakes, with the occasional portage, to traverse the 11 historical cities of the region. The race features 40 teams from eight countries, including Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the one long-distance entry, a team from the Federal University of Rio in Brazil.Bloemenmarkt, the biggest flower market in the Netherlands, which takes place (floating) on the Hemelvaartsdag.
Cityrock Leeuwarden, an annual rock music festival.
Elfstedentocht, a national ice-skating competition that begins in Leeuwarden and travels 200 km along 10 other historical cities in Friesland. The competition has been held 15 times between 1909 and 1997.
Holy Stitch, a craft market in Blokhuispoort.
Media Art Festival, an annual event for audiovisual media art.
Noordelijk Film Festival, an annual event for national and international film makers to show their works.
Noorderlicht, a photofestival that is held annually alternatively in Leeuwarden or Groningen.
Veemarkt, the largest cattle market in the Netherlands.
Fries Straatfestival, an annual festival in May with musical performances in the city center.
Dancetour, an annual dance music festival in June.
Welcome To The Village, an annual three-day music festival in July with various types of music held in De groene ster.
Into The Grave, another annual rock music festival.
Jailbreak Festival, an annual tattoo, rock and roll and art festival in Blokhuispoort.
Racing Expo, an annual motor sport event.
90's XXL, an annual party in December with 1990s music.
Koningsdag, the birthday of the King, featuring performances and a large flea market throughout the city.
Bevrijdingsdag, a day filled with performances around venues throughout the city.
In the Netherlands, a municipality is governed by the college of mayor and aldermen and the municipal council. Ferd Crone of the Labour Party has been mayor of Leeuwarden since 2007. Since the 2014 municipal elections, the Labour Party (3 aldermen), Christian Democratic Appeal (2 aldermen), PAL GroenLinks (1 alderman) form a coalition. The municipal council of Leeuwarden has 39 seats.
As provincial capital, Leeuwarden is also the seat of the King's Commissioner John Jorritsma and the States of Friesland.
Oryol or Orel (Russian: Орёл; IPA: [ɐˈrʲɵl], lit. eagle) located in the Oryol Oblast, Russia on the Oka River, is a sister city of Leeuwarden. It is approximately 360 kilometers (220 mi) south-southwest of Moscow.
The Leeuwarden railway station is the main railway station of Leeuwarden. The station was finished on 27 October 1863. The first line went from Leeuwarden to Harlingen. The station has since been expanded and now also includes a supermarket, hairdresser, drugstore, bookstore, and a flower shop. There are local, regional, and national trains connecting the city to the surrounding area, the neighboring provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, and the rest of the Netherlands. The other stations in the municipality are Leeuwarden Achter de Hoven, Leeuwarden Camminghaburen, and Grou-Jirnsum. A fifth station Leeuwarden Werpsterhoek is planned to be opened in 2018.
In Leeuwarden, there are 40 local, regional, and national bus services provided by Arriva with destinations in the city, to other towns in Friesland, and to Alkmaar in North Holland. There are also six regional bus services provided by Qbuzz eastward to Oosterwolde and Drachten.
Leeuwarden has a number of respected schools of applied science (HBO in Dutch), such as the Van Hall Instituut (agricultural and life sciences), the Stenden University of Applied Sciences (hotel management, economical and media management) and the NHL Hogeschool (economical, technical and arts). In addition to higher education, the city is also home to three regional vocational schools (MBO): the Friese Poort, Friesland College, and Nordwin College.
Although the city has no university of its own, several satellite campuses are located here, including those of the Wageningen University, Universiteit Twente and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. About 16,000 students, among them an increasing number of foreign students, study at technical schools. The city has recently begun to invest more in science, professional universities, and in future development and research. Leeuwarden is proud of its collaborations with scientific institutes such as Wetsus (Water technology), Center of Expertise Water technology (CEW), the Dairy Campus, the Wadden Academy and the University Campus Fryslan (UCF).