Assen – Dutch city
Assen is the capital of the Dutch province Drenthe, which is situated in the north of the Netherlands, in between Friesland, Groningen, Germany and Overijssel.
Little scoundrel Bartje, main character in the book by Dutch author Anne de Vries, is the symbol of the province. His unpretentious statuette stands against the backside of the Ontvangershuis (House of Receivers), which is part of the regional Drents Museum.
Visitors encounter the statue easily when walking in a direct line from the train station to the shopping area behind the Brink. On their way, the visitor gets a perfect impression of the two faces the city has to offer. On the one hand Assen is a well to do, rich old city with lots of fine 19th century buildings, easygoing parks and silent spots, but on the other hand the province capital has a lively city centre with an important key role in regional commerce.
The heart of the commercial city centre is the Forum with its department stores, surrounded by numerous alleys offering smaller and much more attractive shops. These diverge from the old-fashioned drugstore selling Drents dropwater (a regional cough syrup with the taste of Dutch delicacy drop) to the ultramodern gambling hall Magic City. Wednesdays and Saturdays host the city market.
City of Palaces
Being no more than a dwelling for centuries, the last few hundreds of years Assen grew into an administrational centre with the accompanying regional government buildings. Especially around 1800, lots of executives settled themselves in Assen, building huge residences. Because of these monumental houses, the town was soon nicknamed the City of Palaces.
History on display: peat and tombs
One of the key tourist attractions is the Drents Museum (Museum of Drenthe). Housing in four buildings, the museum gives an overview of the provincial history. The collection gives a perfect outline of the special characteristics of the province, with its peat (its preserving work is demonstrated by the wonderfully kept corpses of centuries ago) and megalithic tombs called hunebedden. The museum also contains an eminent collection of Dutch art around 1900. The art nouveau interior of museum café Krul fits perfectly into this.
Other museums in Assen include the Stoottroepen Museum (Army Museum), where the Dutch forces from the World War II resistance, from the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea, and from former Yugoslavia are put on view. For kids the city has the well-known Verkeerspark (Traffic Park), where they can drive around in go-kart-like vehicles (without engines).
You’ll get to Assen by taking the train from Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam or The Hague in the direction of Groningen. The highway A28 from Utrecht to Groningen will lead you to Assen as well, in case you have a car.