Six months ago I found myself sitting on a train headed to a place I could barely pronounce called Enschede (En-skuh-day, for the record) on the very eastern edge of the Netherlands. I didn’t know what to expect or what I would see.
The guy behind the counter at Schiphol airport selling train tickets asked me, “Where are you going?”
I answered, “Enschede.”
He gave me a strange look. “Why would you go all the way over there?”
And that was my introduction to my new home.
Six months later, people still ask me what I am doing in Enschede. The other day at H&M the kid working behind the counter said, “Where are you from?”
I answered, “The United States.”
He responded, “What the HELL are you doing here?”
I just smiled, laughed, and told him I like it.
Enschede really isn’t that bad. Sure, it’s a bit small. Sure, it’s not Amsterdam. And sure, it’s not very well-known. But it has a lively student population and some cool places to hang out. Pretend you’re me stepping off the train for the first time and follow my footsteps to discover the best spots in Enschede.
Stop one: Happy Italy
If you’re hungry from your journey, a good first stop would be this little Italian chain restaurant near the station. Maybe it’s not the most “authentic” Italian food, but I ate here with an authentic Italian person, and he said it was pretty good. It has a vibe perfect for families or groups of friends.
Stop two: Ons Eten & Drinken
This cute little tavern is off the beaten path and away from the noisiness of the center. It has a cozy, intimate feel, serves bitterballen stuffed with goat cheese that are to die for, and has over 85 beers on its menu!
Stop three: Cafe Het Bolwerk
This bar/restaurant is a favorite meeting place for locals, and boasts the title “the oldest pub in Enschede.”
Stop four: The Grolsch Brewery
When you are in Enschede you are in the land of Grolsch, and a trip here would not be complete without a tour of the Grolsch Brewery. Tours cost only €15 per person.
Stop five: Stanislaus Brewskovitch
If you’re not too drunk from the Grolsch tour you can make a stop at the coolest craft beer shop in the area (with a fun name, too) to drink beers sourced from local breweries.
Stop six: Brood Bode
Although this restaurant is also a chain, it’s become a frequent lunch spot for me and my American colleagues. Some of our favorite sandwiches are the Mozzarella and the Brie and Walnut. They also have huge brownies if you’re a dessert fanatic like me.
Stop seven: The trail of new architecture near Roombeek
Most people in the Netherlands know of the tragic fireworks factory explosion that took place in 2000 in Enschede in the neighborhood of Roombeek. Although this was a traumatic experience for many of the residents, the silver lining is that the Roombeek neighborhood is now an experimental architecture spot where residents can build their own (sometimes very unique) houses.
Stop eight: The trails surrounding the town
The Netherlands obviously has an extremely developed biking infrastructure, but most of it goes through cities. Since Enschede is located in the “green heart” of the country, some of the bike trails here go through some heavy forests and farmland. You could get lost exploring the endless trails surrounding Enschede (trust me, I’ve done it).