Assen is a city and also a municipality in the north eastern part of Holland in the province of Drenthe and has a population of around 65,000. The main reason that most people will know the name of Assen is that,once a year at the end of June, the Dutch TT motorcycle race is held there. Then for a short period of time, this sleepy little place becomes filled with the noise of motorcycle engines of both the professionals and the keen observer alike.

History Of Assen


Assen was first recorded in the early 13th century when a new Cistercian Convent was to be built there. This was to replace the original convent, which had been built as compensation for the killing of the bishop of Utrecht and his army by the local peasants, in the Battle of Ane. The convent needed a new site due to constant flooding of the original one. The new abbey was built around the latter part of the 1200’s and once it was there other buildings began to be built around it.

The convent no longer exists, except for the church and some old bits of the walls of the abbey. In around the turn of the 17th century the abbey had fallen into misuse and the buildings around it put to other uses. The local government needed somewhere to build and Assen was in an ideal place. Although Assen had a church, it was not until 1615 that they actually got their own priest. At the beginning of the 19th century Assen became a city in it’s own right. It became more of a municipality which could decide more of it’s own matters, although they were still answerable to the Provincial Government. In the late 1800’s a new building was built to house the local provincial Government, which although still in use, now gives a home the Drents Museum.

At the time of the invasion by Napoleon, Assen was thought to be a good site for a large city, but these plans were forgotten when Assen was assimilated into France. But Assen was a center for government and, as such, the population began to grow and attract business and the more well off people that went with it. In the 19th century Assen became a city,started a newspaper, built a school for the study of Latin, acquired a post and built a garrison, a railway station and a canal. At the beginning of the 20th century the city began to gain more of a foothold in industry with the building of an abattoir, an ironworks and a factory for producing milk products. In 1930 they also built several health centres and hospitals. After WW2 the city began to grow more quickly and still, it is the city with the fastest growth in the north of Holland.

Getting To And Around Assen

There is a good train service to Assen, with trains every hour from Rotterdam, Amersfoort, Utrecht, Groningen, Zwolle, Schiphol, The Hague, Lelystad, and Almere. If you are flying into The Netherlands, you can get direct trains to Assen from Rotterdam and also from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. If you are driving, then you can take the A28 from Zwolle and Groningen and the N33 from Veendam. A car is not the best means of getting around Assen as the center is quite small and parking fees can be high, but if you are intending to go to the outlying villages then it could be very beneficial.

There is a very good bus service in Assen and it is usually very quick and reliable. You will need an ov-chipkaart from the station to pay for your travel on the bus. If you would like to get around by bicycle, then you can hire one easily in the city. There are many good cycle lanes to help you to get around and even the local villages are in easy cycling range. If you want to hire a taxi then you can find them at taxi stands, such as at the station, or you can book one by telephone, Taxi Kolk, +31 592 331 122, or, Taxi Farhan, +31 6 81686780.

Tourism in Assen

Drents Museum
Drents Museum

The Drent Museum is housed in the old Government building on the site of the ruined convent. The museum has an  excellent collection of archaeological artifacts, as well as a large standing collection of exhibits from various times that give a good explanation of how the pattern of rural life unfolded in years gone by. But the museum is not only concerned with the past, it has more the one and a half thousand artworks of contemporary realism. it is a good museum and well worth a visit. The yearly TT motorcycle racing is a great show to go to if you can time your stay to it. Every November Assen plays host to some of the best ballroom dancers in the world for the Assen dance festival.

Shopping And Eating

As befits it’s status as a city Assen has a very good range of shops. You will find most of the usual Dutch shopping brands here, the best streets for shopping are Kruisstraat, the Forum, the Mercuriusplein, Koopmansplein and the new shopping center called the Cite Assen. There is a good market in Assen every Wednesday and Saturday, which, a few years ago, won the award for the friendliest market in Holland

Tastoe is a friendly and informal restaurant serving good Dutch food. They have very good helpful staff and the quality of food for such an unassuming restaurant is very good indeed. Yume is a stylish sushi restaurant that also sells grilled dishes. They have a good fixed price menu that allows you to eat all you want and to sample many of their excellent dishes. The service is very good and friendly as well.

Assen is a nice quiet place for a short break, or even as a base for touring the local villages by bicycle. Although it is small Assen has everything that you would expect in a city with some lovely green spaces as well.