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The Frisian 11 Cities are not the biggest towns in Friesland. This has to do with the fact that some of the cities are very old and became their city rights of the international trading function in the early days. Other cities has its origin from acquiring market rights on the countryside.
This way Leeuwarden is far-out the biggest town in Friesland, but Drachten is second with almost 45.000 inhabitants, Sneek becomes third and Heerenveen is the fourth biggest town in Friesland with approximately 30.000 inhabitants. On ground of their inhabitant number, Drachten and Heerenveen can also be regarded as cities.
The eleven Frisian cities owe their reputation to the ‘Frisian Eleven Cities Tour’ (Fries: Âlvestêdetocht, an ice-skating race along the frozen canals). From the first one in 1909, the tour has been held only fifteen times, usually under harsh conditions, raced by thousands of skaters. The ‘tour of all tours’ has become less and less frequent, due to climate change. But as soon as the first night frost appears, the Frisians suffer from “elfsteden” fever.
Within The Netherlands, Friesland is the only province with its own official language. Many people are brought up bilingual, so don’t be surprised if people talk Frisian to you in a shop or restaurant. You’ll often see two names on the place name signs in the province, the Frisian and the Dutch names. Below is an overview of the eleven Frisian cities.
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