Having lived in Leeuwarden for a few months now, it’s interesting to compare the availability of shops and markets in Leeuwarden to what we’ve been used to in Groningen. It’s a sharp contrast, I can tell you. I already knew that Groningen had more variety in shops available, and more specific shops for certain things than Leeuwarden, so we were prepared for that lack when we moved over here. A thing we absolutely weren’t prepared for, however, was the lack of quality in the market.
Let me start off by saying that the market in the Vismarkt in Groningen on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays is absolutely wonderful. We did so much of our shopping there, and it was a source of high-quality, low-cost groceries. The potato stall is great, the chicken stall offers cheap chicken that are almost always pan-ready, and the various vegetable stalls always have good deals ready. In fact, the fish stalls were the only stalls we were a little hesitant about.
So, to us, that set the standard for market shopping, and it’s what we expected from the market in Leeuwarden. Now, we knew that it would be a smaller market for a smaller region, but given how much focus on agrarian business Friesland has, we did have some expectations. Oddly enough, despite the pride the locals have in Frisia, the quality is not what we expected at all. There’s a lot of marketing of local and organic products, with Frisian flags proudly displayed as a mark of quality, but oddly enough we end up paying much more for much less quality than we received in Groningen. Even the organic, local chicken stall (the only one in the market!) sells small fillets that need a lot of trimming for almost 1.5–2 times the price of the regular chicken stall in Groningen.
Now, we haven’t checked all the vegetable stalls in the market yet, but again many market themselves as local and organic, which mostly seems like a way to just up the price. The large stall we go to has decent prices, but the quality of their vegetables often doesn’t compare to what we had in Groningen. As an example, pretty much every single time, the bell peppers have rot in them, and we have to spend some time fishing out bell peppers without it. Now, to be fair, their pricing is good, and they do have good deals every week. One of our favorite things in that stall is that they sell red chillis by the bag for hardly anything.
A bizarre lack in the market is a butcher’s—there is just no meat stall at all. Now, there’s sausage stalls, and there’s a lunch meat stall, but no full-on butchers. Most people will refer you to a butcher shop down the street, which again fits the theme: high-priced meats marketed as local and organic, yet the quality isn’t outstanding (i.e. doesn’t seem the match the pricing). As a small side-note, we do also miss the potato stall from the Groningen market, but that did seem like a bit of a luxury.
To be fair, one thing that the Leeuwarden market does excel at is the cheeses. I’m not big on cheese, but my wife is; so we do end up buying a lot of cheese. And to be fair, the quality of cheese here is high, the price is quite nice, and the variety of cheeses is good too.
Now, having said this about the market offers, I do have to mention that the service for each of these is very friendly. We’ve always been welcomed, and the stall workers try their best to establish rapport and to build relationships. We suspect that the reason for the pricing is that there’s just less competition here. In Groningen, there were multiple stalls for every single product, so if they wanted to draw you in as a customer, they just had to offer to good service. Over here, what other choice do you have? Buy at stall X, or go to the supermarket. So, there’s no incentive to improve the wares.
To leave you with a good recommendation, though: look for Hassan’s Feinkost at the corner of the market. It’s run by a German fellow who offers good Turkish foods for decent prices, and his service is top-notch.