Getting to Groningen in the North of Holland is quick and easy if you start from the compact Southend Airport, as an up to eight times a week Flybe service, in conjunction with Stobart Air, makes the trip in powerful ATR 72 turboprops in 57 minutes, leaving a fifteen-minute ride in an airport bus for the five miles to the city’s bus station. Failing that a flight to Amsterdam and a three-hour train journey gets you to the same spot.
On a recent press trip to the area, hosted by the Groningen Congress Bureau and Holland North we stayed a night at the new-last-year Apollo Hotel. This is a smart, modern 105-bedroom unit occupying three floors in two high-rise residential blocks just south of the city centre and catering for the business traveller, with comfortable beds, tea and coffee facilities, baths and showers, good work areas and a good range of shops and supermarkets within a five minute walk for those who like to self-cater. There are also a few small meetings rooms for up to 30 on-site, but more to the point, for those in town for a large conference or other event the very large MartiniPlaza is also a five minute walk in the other direction. This offers the Middenhal, which has 4,500 upholstered and retractable seats overlooking a central arena, but can be turned into a congress hall for 3,600, or a 2,700 square metre exhibition space. There is a fully-equipped 1,580 seat theatre, with 978 seats downstairs and 616 on the balcony, and a smaller fully equipped theatre for 365. Complementing these are 16 meeting rooms and combinations with theatre-style capacities of one at 30, one at 42, two at 45, two at 55, two at 80, one at 100, three at 120, one at 140, one at 144 and two at 160. Also very close to the MartiniPlaza is the Mercure Hotel.
Groningen itself is very much a university town, with a high student population, student-friendly prices in bars and restaurants and a huge pub that has 17 bars and a capacity of 4,000. Other Groningen venues viewed on the trip included a large deconsecrated church, the Aa-Kerk, the stylish and traditional Prinsenhof Hotel, the very reasonably priced Martini Hotel, a range of restaurants viewed on a walking dinner, the Martini Tower with spiral staircases of 170+ steps to see the view and the Hooghoudt distillerry where serious educational events involving the drinking of jenever – Dutch gin – and other alcohols can be staged. (More on jenever in Foodie News for March, after our extensive UK based tasting.)
Organisers who would like to see what the North of Holland can offer can contact Erika Pater on email [email protected] A piece on Leeuwarden will appear in our March issue.