Franeker/Frjentsjer, like the other eleven cities, has a rich history, but their wealth is not due to fishing or shipping. Already in the Middle Ages the city developed significantly. In those days a kind of public administration was organized around Franeker, the first in Friesland. In addition, they started to build dikes so that the land would flood less often. During the late Middle Ages, Franeker was officially granted city rights.
From 1585 to 1811, Franeker also had its own university. This attracted many scientists, which in turn had a positive influence on the entire economy of the city. Studies that could be taken at the university included classical languages, medicine, theology and law.
Nowadays Franeker is one of the largest of the eleven cities. You can still learn a lot about history in Franeker, just by looking at the beautiful old buildings that are there. But it’s also a nice city to have a drink at a café. What makes Franeker extra worth visiting is the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium.
What can you do in Franeker?
There is a lot to do in Franeker. From museums to all kinds of sporting activities.
Franeker’s fountain, De Oortwolk, is an ode to astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort. He was born in Franeker and had a big influence in astronomy with his theory that a ‘cloud’ of billions of comet-like objects moves around our solar system. The fountain was created by Jean-Michel Othoniel, who also created a fountain for the Palace of Versailles. After your visit to the fountain, take a nice city walk through the center, which will take you directly past several highlights.
2. Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium
In a beautiful canal house in Franeker, you’ll find the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium. This is the oldest working planetarium in the world. It was built between 1774 and 1781 by Eise Eisinga. To this day, the Planetarium shows the current position of the planets. The Planetarium’s planets move around the sun in exactly the same time as the real planets. Saturn takes over 29 years, Mercury 88 days. The cogwheel made of wooden hoops and discs and teeth of six thousand hand-forged nails is powered by a pendulum clock and nine weights.
Very special in itself, but what makes it even more special is that Eise Eisinga was only interested in mathematics and astronomy for his hobby. He was a wool-comber by profession. You can admire the planetarium itself. In addition, the museum houses all kinds of historical astronomical instruments and a section dedicated to modern astronomy.
Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 to 17.00.
Sunday from 11.00 – 17.00.
April 1 – October 31 also Monday from 11 am – 5 pm.
In the Planetarium Room, each visitor is given an explanation.
3. Museum Martena
Museum Martena is located in the Martenastins, the city castle dating from 1500 in the center of Franeker. In the museum the academy room is all about the University of Franeker. You’ll also find paintings, objects from history and changing exhibitions which regularly focus on modern art from Friesland.
Fun fact: Anna Maria van Schurman probably lived in the Martenastins as a child. She was the first woman in the Netherlands who studied at the university. Not, like her brother and father, in Franeker but in Utrecht. She has been granted her own room in the museum.
4. The PC and Kaatsmuseum
Kaatsen is one of the most famous sports in Friesland. The most important match of the season is the PC. Whoever wins this match is named ‘kening’ (king). The PC came into being after kaatsen was in danger of being lost completely in 1853. In Franeker a committee was founded with the purpose to preserve the sport. With success, nowadays there is a lot of kaatsen in Friesland. The PC is held every year on the fifth Wednesday after June 30 on the Sjûkelân. If you are in Franeker then, make sure you get a ticket for the oldest annual sports classic in the Netherlands.
The Kaatsmuseum in Franeker is the oldest sports museum in the Netherlands. The museum is completely dedicated to the Frisian sport of kaatsen. Frisian kaatsen originated in the 12th century in monastery courts in France and thus found its way north via Belgium. The sport is still alive and kicking in Friesland. With thousands of practitioners, members and supporters. And thus its own museum!
5. Eat a real Franeker Loskop
At the bakeries in Franeker you can taste a real Loskop since 2020. This hazelnut meringue is not just any pastry; it used to be the favorite of professors. Back in the days, the pastry was called a Haselbol. The name changed after three students had to appear in court in 1642 for breaking into a café. The president of the court erupted in anger when he saw that one of the students was his son. He threw a Hasel ball in the direction of his son. As the president smashed the pastry he shouted, among other things, loskop to his son. The bakers saw an opportunity in this scandal and renamed the pastry Loskop (idiot).
6. Walk around the area
The Slachtedijk is a path of almost 42 km in length. This path goes through the former Frisian district of Westergo, to which Franeker belongs. Every four years the Slachtemarathon is held on this road. For those who do not want to wait that long or who prefer not to walk 42 km there is a 14 km walk that starts and ends at the Planetarium. This walk goes partly over the Slachtedijk and takes you through the area around Franeker.
7. Kleiroute (Clay route) over the water
Would you rather discover the area from the water? Then hire a boat and sail the beautiful Kleiroute. This cruise takes about five hours and goes through the beautiful landscape of this part of Friesland, you also pass small villages and Leeuwarden. The route is for sale at the tourist information office (VVV) or at the town hall in Franeker.
8. De stadsherberg
De Stadsherberg is located in a building that used to be a guesthouse. The Oosterpoort used to close at dusk. This way, travelers who arrived late could still spend the night in Franeker. Nowadays, the Stadsherberg is a restaurant where you can have dinner or lunch on a cozy terrace near the water. Each season they carefully compose the menu and the ingredients for the dishes come from the area around Franeker. You can also rent a boat here to discover Franeker.
9. The Kaatsmuseum
The Kaatsmuseum in Franeker is the oldest sports museum in the Netherlands. The museum is completely dedicated to the Frisian sport of kaatsen. Frisian kaatsen originated in the 12th century in monastery courts in France and thus found its way north via Belgium. The sport is still alive and kicking in Friesland, with thousands of practitioners, members and supporters, and thus its own museum!