As much as I love to explore far-away destinations, my own country the Netherlands also has a lot to offer. My favorite thing to do when traveling is looking for street art, and I heard that Leeuwarden actually has a decent street art scene. After the city’s nomination as European Capital of Culture 2018, the city has become a creative hotspot. So it was about time for me to see what Leeuwarden has to offer.
The miniature people of Leeuwarden
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post on the miniature paintings of Heerlen, a city in the south of the Netherlands. Heerlen’s tiny art pieces were created by Mexican artist Pablo Delgado and finding them was quite a challenge. They are so small! Well, Leeuwarden has a somewhat similar activity to offer, but with miniature sculptures. The sculptures represent scenes from daily life. Road workers, cyclists, a group of mountaineers, and senior citizens resting on a park bench. Together they are the miniature citizens of Leeuwarden.
Story behind the miniatures
Michel Tilma is the brain behind the works. In 2016 Tilma had to deal with serious health problems and he decided to change his life. He found his passion for photography, specifically miniature photography. He started placing miniature figures on the streets of Leeuwarden and taking photos to capture the scene. First, he removed them right away, but after receiving positive feedback on his photos he decided to leave the sculptures in place. This is how the miniature people became a part of Leeuwarden. Today, there are almost 40 locations to check out.
Find them all with this map
The quest to find the many miniature figures is a fun way to see more of Leeuwarden. All miniature scenes come with a QR code. By scanning the code you can read the story behind it. The QR code is also great for finding the sculptures as they are super small. The QR is easier to spot. Use this map on Google Maps to find all miniature people, or buy a paper map in the city for €1,50.
Street art: murals of Leeuwarden
The art on the streets of Leeuwarden is not just super small, but there are also plenty of large murals to check out. It already starts at the train station. Next to the track, there is a painting of an astronaut and a Japanese elderly woman. Unfortunately, it is not possible to view the work up-close (I tried it), so keep your eyes open when you arrive by train. In the city center, it is worth checking out the Haniasteeg, city hall, and Stadsschouwburg Harmonie. And don’t miss out on the Klanderij car parking. My favorite mural is located here: Recuerdos del Mezcal by artist Tymon de Laat.
Most of the works are the result of the Writer’s Block, a local organization that pushes for more street art, graffiti, and art in the public space. They are not just active in Leeuwarden, but also in other Dutch cities such as Emmen, Harlingen, and Lelystad. Good to know: they run a Leeuwarden Street Art Tour every Sunday at 2 pm. Planning your own little hunt? I recommend using this map of Street Art Cities.
Where to stay: the unique Alibi Hostel – a former prison
Leeuwarden is located in the north of the Netherlands and for many people visiting the city can be quite a trip. I recommend staying the night to make it a bit more relaxed. I can highly recommend staying at Alibi Hostel, located in the former prison Blokhuispoort. The building is completely renovated and now houses a library, a beach bar (with actual sand), and a restaurant. Alibi Hostel is located in the back wing (cell block H) and shares the space with boutique shops. The cells on the ground floor are the shops, the cells on the 1st and 2nd floor are the hostel rooms (dormitories and privates). Sleeping in a prison cell might not sound so great, but I felt it was a unique experience.
Click here for an overview of accommodations in Leeuwarden.
Have you ever visited Leeuwarden? Did you know about the creative side of the city?
This blog post contains affiliate links. If you book something through these links, I earn a small commission without you paying extra for it. You can read more about it in my disclaimer.