Destinations,  Europe,  Friesland

Leeuwarden with kids in winter

In winter, it seems like everyone and everything are hibernating. Well, I have to say that there’re enough activities in Leeuwarden with kids in the winter, so no excuse to stay home. Not even if it’s cold, Germans used to tell me “there’s no bad weather, but bad clothes”. So put your jacket, hat, and gloves on and enjoy what Leeuwarden has to offer!! I have sum up some ideas and we even have a giveaway at the end of this post to take you out of the couch:

What to do in Leeuwarden with kids


Going to a zoo in winter could seem like a bad idea, but not if you go to visit the ice bears of Aquazoo. Yes, ice bears!! The two new inhabitants of Aquazoo are used to the cold and they’re most of the time walking outside or swimming. But even if they’re inside, once a day, there’s a keeper coming to tell you about the ice bears and answer all the questions. When we were there, she didn’t come with empty hands, but with an “ice-cream” for one of the ice bears. She threw it in the water and the ice bear was more than happy to jump into the water in order to get it.

visit the ice bear

Ice bears are cute, but also big and dangerous. Therefore the keepers will never feed them by hand, but putting the food over the fence. Quite a different way than for the rest of the animals in Aquazoo! You can join one of the feedings, like the “seal safari”: you accompany the keeper in a boat to the middle of the lake and feed the seals. You can even feed some animals like the ring-tailed lemurs (you can buy special food for them). In a quiet day, they will come to eat from your hand.


Natuur museum fryslan

Another idea, if the weather is bad, is to visit one exposition of natuur museum fryslan, like the “kerststal” (nativity scene). This exposition is available until the 8th of January 2017. There’re a lot of nativity scenes in Spain, but this one should be the biggest of Europe. So we will come to check it’s true 😉 For sure the best way to get into the Xmas mood.


Well, the best way to enjoy the pre-Xmas spirit would be by visiting the Xmas Market of the Blokhuispoort. The blokhuispoort is Leeuwarden’s old prison. It was used until 2007 and nowadays is being renovated. Once finished, it will be a cultural hotspot. It shelters already the city’s library, many handicraft shops, the tourist information, the museum as well as many events. Events like the Xmas market that will be held this weekend, 17th and 18th December. This year the entrance is free, so for sure a good plan with kids. With older kids, you can also join one of the tours of the prison with an old guard.


I’m sure that during the Xmas market will be enough stalls with food and drinks, but if you come any other time, you can have a pitstop at the cafe de bak. (closed at the moment) proefverloof.  This cafe is located in the second square of the Blokhuispoort.



If there isn’t (enough) ice outside,  you can still ice skating in the Elfstedenhal. For the inexperienced ones, there’re (kind of) chairs that you can use to skate without falling. When I came to The Netherlands I barely could ice skating, but after taking classes in the Elfstedenhal I was able to skate better than Paul 🙂


Where to sleep in Leeuwarden with kids

For those wanting to stay the night in Leeuwarden, there are a couple of options:


Alibi is a hostel that just opened and it’s located in the Blokhuispoort as well. As I mentioned before, the Blokhuispoort is Leeuwarden’s old prison and Alibi has transformed the cells into hostel rooms (they also have family rooms). I’m sure the kids will love to sleep here! They could even have their own adventure: let them get dress up as a prisoner or as a policeman and use their imagination to create a story.

Leeuwarden with kids: sleeping in a prison

De Uil

Another cool option would be De Uil, which you can also book via Alibi’s website. De Uil is a treehouse, not really far away from blokhuispoort (it’s just on the other of the canal). We loved sleeping in a treehouse, so this would be a perfect one with a great location.


Giveaway (closed)

Are you ready to go out? We’re giving away 2 tickets for the Aquazoo (for the week between Xmas and New Year). Just let us know who will you take with you in a comment here or on facebook. You only need to follow us in one of our social media channels (facebook, Instagram or twitter) or to be subscriber of our newsletter. We will randomly pick a winner on 24th December. It’s not mandatory, but we will appreciate if you share the giveaway.


  • Rhonda Albom

    It looks like there is lots to do and it’s not isolated to just the kids. The winter sports are fun but the hostel in an old prison intrigues me.

    • shere

      we’re planning to spend a night there and then write a post about it. I’ll let you know how it is.

  • Sara Broers

    Great tips on where to experience ice with kids. Did you make it to the Christmas Market? Christmas Markets seem be to be growing in popularity. I have yet to visit one, and I’m sure this looks to be a good one. What a fun picture feeding the ring tailed lemur. Both of them look to be enjoying the experience.

    • shere

      Unfortunately, this year we didn’t make it!! But we have visited other Xmas markets and the kids loved it 🙂

  • Christina

    I hadn’t heard of Leeuwarden until reading your post. We have the same motto for winter- just keep exploring. Del Uil would be my kids choice for accommodation. Although, I am fascinated by the idea of staying in a converted prison.

    • shere

      The winter is too long to stay at home 😉 we’re planning to stay one night in the converted prison, let’s see how fun it is.

  • Elaine J Masters

    Looks like a great outing. Bundle up and go out is a great bit of advice for making the best of a cold winter.

    • shere

      This year hasn’t been so cold, so we don’t have frozen channels. Otherwise, it’s fun to ice skating just out of your house.

  • knycx.journeying

    Thanks for an introduction of Leeuwarden and I always enjoy the cold even though everyone seems hibernating. I was always the one who looked for something to do outside. @knycx.journeyig

    • shere

      we prefer warm weather, but we enjoy cold weather as well. Germans say “there’s no bad weather, but bad cloths”

  • Lara Dunning

    Our kids are grown, but I would love to stay in the tree house and the prison. And, I’d be totally game for the prison tour too. Thanks for sharing!

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