Article published November 2017 and updated February 2023.
Even though Leeuwarden is a small town in the North of the Netherlands it has an impressive street art scene which pays tribute to the local Frisian culture and nature.
You can either go on a self-guided tour or join a free walking tour organized by A Guide to Leeuwarden.
If you want to see more street arts, check out our comprehensive Guides to the colorful streets of Prague or Mostar.
Since 2019 Leeuwarden is inhabited by miniature people, a project by local artist Michel Tilma. What started out as a hobby became a tourist attraction. The figures which are equipped with a barcode are not easy to find. But you can follow this free map on Google maps or buy a paper map in the visitor center by the Oldehove tower.
Each miniature display has its own story to tell which you can find out by scanning the barcode. Most of them are located in the center. It’s truly an original way to explore the city. From time to time the figures are moved to new places or new figures are added.
A tribute to the local wildlife
Insects and amphibians crawling up fuse boxes
Aquarium perfectly blending into the outer environment
The Neushoorn complex is the city’s main cultural center, music venue and a college for creative education. You will also find some amazing street art in the backyard.
The first two murals can be found on opposite walls depicting opposites of life: birth and death.
The other two murals are images of birds: a bird in a space suit and a sparrow.
Mata Hari, femme fatale and key character during WW1, originated from Leeuwarden
Before landing a skyrocketing career as an exotic dancer and model, Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” was born on 7th August 1876 in Leeuwarden as the eldest of four children. Her father was doing good in the many businesses he was engaged, enabling him to build up and maintain a high education and lifestyle for his family.
In the course of growing up, first financial problems which were accompanied by marriage problems made the family bliss go out of the window, resulting in divorce.
With the age of 18 the former innocent prestigious girl from a Dutch province slowly began to take the reigns of her success into her own hands. This transformation was put into movement when she showed first interest in traditional Indonesian dances when she was married to a Dutch Colonial Army Captain. Working on her moves and holding first performances, she gave herself the artistic name Mata Hari, meaning “Sun” in the Malay language.
Being seen as the object of desire by many male Representatives of the contemporary rich and influential high society, Mata Hari was in the best position to pull the strings in the background, infiltrating as a political spy while she was flaunting wild love affairs. In the end, however, she herself was the one who got tricked by the men she once ruled, being sentenced to death after she was revealed as a spy during the First World War.
Exactly one hundred years after her death, on October 15, 1917, the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden, the birthplace of Mata Hari, organized the largest ever Mata Hari exhibition, putting the spotlight on the rise and fall of this richly gifted woman in a time when women were often oppressed by men.
Memories of another century
The Elfstedentocht (eleven cities tour) is the world’s biggest long-distance ice skating event spread out over all 11 cities of Friesland. The route covers a distance of 200 kilometers along frozen canals, rivers and lakes.
An interesting fact is that the event only takes place when the ice conditions are deemed to be safe and suitable for racing. This can be once per year or span multiple years. Once the time comes, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours.
Even though the last race is more than 25 years ago, every winter it’s a popular subject to speculations.
To keep up the spirit of this cultural heritage, 11 fountains have been placed in the 11 cities of the province of Friesland. While waiting for a revival of the traditional race, you can explore some of the original fountains designed by famous artists.
Decorating a construction site
Local theater De Harmonie
A male ballerina in a tutu created by an artist which named himself after the condition he suffers from: color blind. This alone is a powerful statement to not let prejudices keeping you away from doing what you love.
Jockey on carousel horse
The grin of Roy Schreuder, Leeuwarden street artist
The beginning is near
May all your dreams come true
King William of Oranje
Solar panels, wind turbines and bio gas extracted from cow dung. The city is utilizing renewable energy sources and promoting a sustainable life. Situated in the vicinity of the North Sea Leeuwarden is especially vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels.
Puffy elephant clouds
Trapped in Flower Power
Psycho spray can