Leiden is a quaint, small university town. Throughout the year you will mostly encounter students and locals, but in the summer the town is frequented by many tourists from America, southern Europe and Japan. The town has a long history, dating as far back as the Romans who even built a fort here to strengthen the northern border of their empire, now known as the Limes. The city is perfectly located within easy travelling distance from Amsterdam, Utrecht, the Hague or Rotterdam. Especially in summertime, if you have a few hours to spend during a stop over, take the train down to Leiden and relax on one of the many terraces on the canals to enjoy a glass of wine and the local snack ‘bitterballen’.
Botanical Gardens and Observatory. One of the most beautiful, quiet spots in town. Students will study in the grass next to the canal in summer, as families have their picnic in the shade of the trees. Recently, the Observatory dating from 1633 was fully renovated and its garden is now connected to the Botanical Gardens, so visitors can stroll around.
De Burcht. The borough of Leiden is one of the few remaining examples of boroughs in this part of the country. Situated on top of a hill, overlooking both waterways of the fork of the river Rhine. Get up on the walls to get a magnificent view of the city.
Museums of Leiden. Leiden has some of the best museums to offer in the Netherlands, and all located within just one town! Must see are Museum of Antiquities, Boerhaave, Museum of Ethnicity, Naturalis.
City Hall. An imposing building, not to be missed if you walk along the most important canal or shopping streets.
Churches. Both the Hooglandse and the Pieters churches are within walking distance from each other.
The Market. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the streets along the new Rhine canal cluttered with stalls that form the market. The Saturday version is biggest with most variety of food and clothes on offer. Buy your cloth or vegetables or the most delicious fish and Turkish or Moroccan delights from these stalls.
Pilgrim’s House. The Pilgrim Fathers resided in Leiden before they boarded the Mayflower and headed for America. This tiny museum incorporates a few houses where these pilgrim’s stayed. With funding they are able to restore the old interiors.
Accommodation and Restaurants
Truth be told, Leiden is not really a good town for accommodation. There are a few big mid-range chain hotels: Best Western, Ibis, Holiday Inn and Golden Tulip. They don’t come highly recommended, or they are far from all the sightseeing. We recommend a good bed & breakfast and if you do appreciate old school hotels: Nieuw Minerva is right in the city centre.
Restaurants come in good quality and high quantity in Leiden. Top range restaurants that have been around for a good time with high marks: het Prentenkabinet, de Beukenhof. In mid range: Koetjes en Kalfjes, De Dames Proeverij. Leiden has some excellent Thai restaurants: Sabai Sabai and Buddha’s. The best Greek restaurant in town is Delphi – always fabulous! Special mention should be here for Indonesian cuisine. The Netherlands has a large number of fabulous Indonesian restaurants. In Leiden you should definitely visit Surakarta.
Special mention: Bocconi. Our heaven on earth in Leiden. To wake up with a decent cup Italian espresso in the morning. Or have a delicious light lunch, or a fabulous light diner with the best pasta, sauces and Italian food around.