Gay Groningen!

by Adrian Gillan for Bent Gay Shop & Magazine

The Netherlands’ northern powerhouse, where one in four are students! Bent’s Adrian Gillan samples Groningen – a mere short aerial hop away from London Southend Airport, on fab Flybe!

The largest city in the northern Netherlands, and capital of a province of the same name, Groningen was once a semi-independent city-state and member of the German Hanseatic League; and now has almost 200,000 inhabitants, over a quarter of who are students (30,000 at University of Groningen; 25,000 at Hanze University of Applied Sciences), making it a noticeably vibrant, sexy and youthful focus!

An important trading centre since the 13th Century, Groningen reached its zenith in the late 15th Century, when the Martini Tower was built. In 1614, the University of Groningen was founded – the second oldest in the Netherlands after the University of Leiden – and the city expanded rapidly making a new city wall necessary which successfully protected against an attack in 1672, during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, a victory still celebrated with music and fireworks every 28 August. Towards the end of WW2 in April 1945, the main square, Grote Markt, was all but destroyed, in a battle that lasted several days.

Groningen has a buzzing nightlife thanks to its huge student population, mainly hubbed around the Grote Markt, Vismarkt, Poelestraat and Peperstraat. It is also known for its bicycles, with over 57% of journeys within the city made on bike, via a large network of paths; and for its good public transport.

And, with fab low-cost carrier Flybe serving Groningen from lovely little London Southend Airport, you too can be here, in no time at all – and with extra cash left in your pocket! Punctual, and with highly personal, yet still professional, service – we love ‘em! Groningen Airport Eelde is 10 km (6 miles) south of central Groningen.


Built 1469-1482, the now-97m-tall Martini Tower still dominates Groningen, though it was originally 127 metres high. It costs just 3 euros to ascend for some spectacular views. The biggest bargain in town!

The city’s best known museum is the eye-catching Groninger Museum, with several temporary exhibitions at any given time, held across multiple galleries – currently including David LaChapelle: Good News for Modern Man (‘til 28 Oct 2018); Portrait of Abel Tasman (‘til 6 Jan 2019), the local explorer who discovered Tasmania; and Avant-garde in Groningen. De Ploeg 1918-1928 (until 4 Nov 2018). The museum’s current architectural gem of a home opened in 1994.

The city also boasts a Maritime Museum, a University Museum (free entry but shut until mid-Nov 2018), a Comics Museum and a Graphics Museum.

Fancy a concert or show? Groningen boasts the Grand Theatre on Grote Markt; Stadsschouwburg (city theatre) on Turfsingela; major cultural complex, Oosterpoort, on Trompsingel; Vera on Oosterstraat; and Simplon on Boterdiep. By far its largest venue, the vast MartiniPlaza Theatre hosts major touring shows, imminent highlights including MindF*ck Live (19-21 Oct 2018); Seven Drunken Nights (23 Oct 2018; ABBA Gold (4 Nov 2018); Tosca (11 Nov 2018); and Evita (15-18 Nov 2018) – to name a very few! If you just missed world-class Dutch magician-illusionist and Las Vegas favourite, charismatic Hans Klok, be sure to catch him somewhere!


Groningen’s student-fuelled scene hits well above its gay weight…

  • Ons Moeke (Paterswoldseweg 42;) – Friendly gay bar, with snack menu. Open Weds/Thurs, Noon-9pm; Fri/Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, 4pm-9pm.
  • De Rits (Pottebakkersrijge 2; T: +31 (0)639560005) – Oldest gay bar in town. Cosy. Open Mon-Weds, 7pm-1am; Thurs-Sat, 5pm-3am; Sun, 5pm-2am. Post-work snacks, every Fri at 5pm.
  • Café de Prins (Zwanestraat 3;) – Modern yet cosy gay café for all, opened in Dec 2017 by owner-friend trio, Peter, Wim and Frank. Wines, beers and snacks available. Music from the ‘80s to now. Fri/Sat nights, you can even hit the dancefloor! Closed Mon, but open Tues/Weds, 4pm-1am; Thurs, 4pm-2am; Fri, 4pm-3am; Sat, 3pm-4am; Sun, 4pm-1am. Free Wi-Fi.
  • Maze (Zuiderdiep 130;) – Sex shop and paid-for cruising area. Open Mon-Fri, 10am-10.30pm; Sat, 10am-2am; Sun, 12pm-10.30pm.

Note: De Kast bar and t Pakhuis sauna are alas no more. Gents oft take airs in Stadspark (footbridge behind main carpark), after dark.


Operated by Stobart Air, Flybe flies from London Southend to Groningen up to thrice daily, with fares starting from just £39.99 per person each way, including taxes and charges. This fab, great-value airline is punctual and friendly; and has a fantastic and ever-expanding network of exciting routes, covering much of the UK and Europe.