Leiden City Guide
The city of Leiden is a preserved masterpiece of 16th and 17th century architecture, situated on the Old Rhine in the province of South Holland. Leiden is criss-crossed with dozens of quiet little canals that can be explored endlessly on a sunny afternoon. Leiden’s waterfront buildings are very picturesque, you can see that they are chequered with hundreds of years of history.
Any Leiden city guide will tell you that this watery city is over-flowing with culture and history. It is the birthplace of Rembrandt, it battled through the Spanish sieges of 1574 and is home to one the oldest university’s in Europe. Leiden tourist information suggests that it is one of the most learned cities in the world, and this reputation certainly seems true when you are enjoying one of its many world-class museums like the Museum De Lakenhal or sharing the vibrant culture and nightlife with the 20,000 students resident in the beautiful city.
Things to do in Leiden
One of the best ways to explore Leiden is via its waterways. Leiden city cruises will give you the chance to see many of the museums and famous old buildings from the water. There are many museums to choose from - make sure to visit as many as possible! If you can, make sure to check out the Museum De Lakenhal. Set in an impressive 16th century building that acted as the headquarters of a Leiden’s cloth industry, the museum holds paintings by many of the Dutch masters and is an interesting insight into Leiden’s history. Another thing to do in Leiden, particularly of interest to history enthusiasts, is visiting Pieterskerk church, a building closely associated with the Pilgrim Fathers before they boarded the Mayflower.
Things to see in Leiden
One thing to see in Leiden that may not be so apparent at first glance is the selection of poetry murals scattered across the city. The painting project was started in 1992 and there are now over 100 poems by famous writers painted on walls around the city. Following the poetry trail is a great way to tour Leiden’s city centre. The Pilgrim Museum is an interesting look at Leiden's connection with the first American Pilgrims and a great family day out. The Van de Werff Park is also well worth a visit for the tranquil atmosphere but also as a place of historical interest. The park is built on the site of ruined houses, destroyed when a gunpowder ship exploded in a nearby dock.
Leiden is just a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and just ten minutes from The Hague. Trains pull into the Leiden Centraal train station. Transport in Leiden itself is fairly easy to master: for traveling by bus, simply purchase an OV card. However, the town centre is fairly small and for this reason most Leiden transport takes place on foot! For the real Dutch experience why not hire a bike for a trundle along the side of Leiden’s beautiful canals?
There are hundreds of Leiden events to choose from, an early October visit is highly recommended. The 3rd is the date that the Spanish Siege ended in Leiden and is celebrated with a riotous festival, parades and feasting. The Leiden International Film Festival in November is a wonderful event that is growing in reputation every year. On the last weekend in August the Rapenburg area of the city is transformed into a diverse concert venue. The Laken (or Cloth) Festival in July is a charming celebration, the highlight a procession of lavishly decorated boats.
Restaurants in Leiden
Leiden is blessed with many beautiful locations to eat, the canal sides are strewn with cafes and interesting drinking spots. Track down some warm, filling Hutspot stew: this famous Leiden dish was reportedly created from bits of cooked potato left behind by Spanish siege soldiers after they fled. There are hundreds of restaurants in Leiden, many of them housed in beautiful, historic buildings. It’s also a good idea to head to the Pieterswijk area, its narrow and atmospheric streets are home to some of Lieden's best eateries.