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Leeuwarden ( , Stadsfries: Liwwadden, Frisian: Ljouwert) is the capital city of the Dutchmarker province of Friesland. It is situated in the north of the country.


The area has been occupied since the 10th century (although recently, remains of houses dating back to the 2nd century AD were discovered during a dig near the Oldehovemarker), and was granted a town charter in 1435. Situated along the Middelzee, it was an active trade centre, until the waterway silted up in the 15th century. In 1901 the city had a population of 32,203.

Famous natives of Leeuwarden include stadtholder William IV of Orange, graphic artist M. C. Escher, and dancer-spy Mata Hari, as well as the theologian Dr. N.H. Gootjes.
During World War II, after extensive occupation by the Germanmarker forces, on 15 April 1945, the Royal Canadian Dragoons, disobeying direct orders, charged into the heavily defended city and defeated the Germans, who were driven out by the next day.


The name "Leeuwarden" (or old spelling variants) first came into use for Nijehove, the most important one of the three villages that later merged into one, in the early 9th century (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 syllable is easily explained. "Warden", Dutch/Frisian for an artificial dwelling hill, is a designation of a few terp, in accordance with the historical situation.The problem is the prefix, which could be interpreted as leeu- or 'leeuw-' (Dutch for lion). Some scholars believe the latter to be true, for a lion is also found in the city's coat of arms. For this to be so, however, an extra "w" would be required. It should also be noted there have never been lions in Friesland. Other scholars argue the name came from the prefix leeu-, a corruption of luw- (Dutch for sheltered) or lee- (a Dutch denotion of a water circulation). The last one suits the watery province of Fryslân.


The coat of arms of Leeuwarden is the official symbol of the municipality of Leeuwarden. It consists of a blue escutcheon, a golden lion and a crown. The fact 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. Some sources tell the lion had been called into life after the name became official. It's also possible the coat of arms was a gift to the city from the powerful Minnema family.

Population centres

Dutch name Frisian name 2005 census
Leeuwarden Ljouwert 86,324
Goutummarker Goutum 2,624
Wirdummarker Wurdum 1,236
Wijtgaardmarker Wytgaard 626
Lekkummarker Lekkum 469
Snakkerburenmarker Snakkerbuorren 206
Hempensmarker Himpens 175
Swichummarker Swichum 60
Teernsmarker Tearns 16
Total 91,766


Well-known buildings in the city centre include the Kanselarij (the former chancellery), the Waag (old trade centre of the city), the church of St. Bonifatius and the leaning tower Oldehovemarker. One of the eye catchers in the city centre is the ‘Achmea building’ (it belongs to Achmea insurance) which is near the train station. The Achmea building is the tallest building in the city.

Leeuwarden is also the site of the country's largest cattle market, and on Ascension Day, the largest flower market in the Netherlands is held here.


Leeuwarden has a number of respected universities of applied science (HBO in Dutch), such as the Van Hall Instituut (agricultural and life sciences), the Stenden University(economical and catering) and the Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden (economical, technical and arts).

Although the city has no scientific university, several dependencies are located here, including the Wageningen Universitymarker, Universiteit Twentemarker and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. About 16,000 students, among them an increasing number of foreign students, study at technical schools. Besides higher education, the city is also home to two regional vocational schools (MBO): the Friese Poort and Friesland College.


Leeuwarden is the starting and finishing point for the celebrated Elfstedentocht, a 200 km-long speed skating race over the Frisian waterways that is held when winter conditions in the province allow. It last took place in January 1997, preceded by the races of 1986 and 1985. The city's local soccer team, Cambuur Leeuwarden plays in the 1st Division of the professional Dutch soccer league. In the season 2005/06, the club narrowly escaped bankruptcy. Its Cambuurstadion opened in 1995.


Leeuwarden, as capital of the province of Friesland, is seat of the provincial authorities.

Notable people from Leeuwarden


Train routes with starting number of the train number series:

There are also bus lines
  • 10 Leeuwarden -> Drachten (Burgum,Suameer)
  • 13 Leeuwarden -> Drachten (Surhuisterveen,Harkema)
  • 14 Leeuwarden -> Drachten
  • 22 Leeuwarden -> Warten
  • 28 Leeuwarden -> Heerenveen (Grou)
  • 50 Leeuwarden -> Dokkum
  • 51 Leeuwarden -> Dokkum (Damwoude)
  • 54 Leeuwarden -> Dokkum (Stiens,Holwerd)
  • 60 Leeuwarden -> Dokkum (Stiens,Holwerd)
  • 62 Leeuwarden -> Buitenpost (Kollum)
  • 66 Leeuwarden -> Ameland (Holwerd)
  • 70 Leeuwarden -> Sint Annaparochie (Minnertsga)
  • 71 Leeuwarden -> Harlingen (Minnertsga)
  • 72 Leeuwarden -> Sint Annaparochie (Minnertsga)
  • 73 Leeuwarden -> Oude Biltzijl (Minnertsga)
  • 93 Leeuwarden -> Sneek
  • 94 Leeuwarden -> Sneek
  • 95 Leeuwarden -> Joure (Grou)
  • 97 Leeuwarden -> Harlingen (Franeker)
  • 320 Leeuwarden -> Drachten
  • 350 Leeuwarden -> Alkmaar

And there are citybuses the most buslines are done by Connexxion a few (line 10,13,14 and 320) are done by Arriva

See also


  1. Groot p. 10
  2. Groot p. 12
  3. Jansma p. 45

Further reading

  • Groot, P.J. de, Karstkarel, G.P. & Kuipers, W.H., 1984. Leeuwarden, beeld van een stad. Zeven eeuwen stadsleven in woord en beeld. ISBN 90 3301341X.
  • Jansma, K., 1981. Friesland en zijn 44 gemeenten ISBN 90 6480 015 4.

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