Presentation of the destination
Smack bang in the heart of the tulip-growing district in the Netherlands, Leiden is a picturesque old town that is home to the Netherlands’ oldest university and famous for being the birthplace of Rembrandt. Crisscrossed with a network of canals and home to plentiful friendly cafes and bars, Leiden is often called the most beautiful city in the Netherlands for its rich history and glorious buildings. The city has a population of around 120,000, but is part of a larger conurbation with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp and Voorschoten. It is situated on the Old Rhine River, 20 km north of The Hague and 40 km south of Amsterdam. The currency is the euro, and Dutch is the national language although English is also widely spoken. The climate features warm summers and mild winters, and the time zone is the Central European time zone, UTC +1.
Points of interests / things to see
As one of the Netherland’s most illustrious university cities, you might expect Leiden to boast some world-class museums, and you would be right. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden is the National Centre for Archaeology, with an unbelievable range of antiquities and artefacts that grew out of the collection of Leiden University, with a focus on the antiquity of Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome as well as the prehistoric, Roman and medieval periods of Dutch history. The pride of the collection is the incredible Temple of Taffeh, an original Egyptian temple that stands proud in the central hall after having been disassembled in Egypt and reassembled in Holland in the 1960s. The building was given by the Egyptians as a gift to thank the Dutch for their role in protecting Nubian sites threatened by the building of the Aswan Dam. The museum is also home to the remarkable Papyrus of Qenna, named after the merchant in whose tomb it was discovered. The papyrus consists of part of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, including spell 151, which refers to the embalming process. As well as an incredibly rich and impressive collection, the museum has a jam-packed schedule of fantastic events, from exhibitions and lectures to hands-on fun for kids. Visit the English language website www.rmo.nl/english for more details.
Continue your tour of Leiden’s unbelievable museums with a trip to the National Museum of Ethnology, the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde. This is the world's oldest ethnographical museum, once known as the Museum Japonicum, and founded on four principles: the collection, research into and presentation of artefacts and the offering of education to the general population. At its inauguration in 1837, the museum was based on the 5,000-object Japanese artefact collection of Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, a Belgian traveller with a love for the Far East. The museum is also home to the famous Leiden Plate, a Mayan belt plaque from Guatemala, fashioned in jade and intricately decorated, which now graces Guatemalan banknotes. The Buddha Room is another highlight, with a collection of five-century-old Buddha statues that were once housed in the museum garden among the cherry trees, before being moved indoors to protect them from the inclement Dutch winters. And incredibly, every Sunday morning from 10am to 11.30am September to June, visitors can enjoy listening to a genuine Balinese gamelan orchestra called Sekar Alit, directed by Henry Nagelberg, who also offers weekly lessons for €26 per month. The shop features fantastic handcrafted items from all over the world. Visit the website for more information: www.volkenkunde.nl/en.
Naturalis Biodiversity Centre is both a wonderful natural history museum and a world-class research centre specialising in biodiversity and related topics, which was constructed in 1986 at a cost of around €60 million, making it the second most expensive museum building in all of the Netherlands. With approximately 10 million zoological and geological specimens in the collection, there's plenty to keep your attention as you explore the 60-metre-high landmark tower that houses the museum. Permanent exhibitions include the Nature Theatre, which displays animals, plants and other life forms in all their various shapes and sizes; the Primeval Parade which shows the history of earth and the evolution of life through fossils; Earth, in which visitors can learn about the geology of our planet; and Life, where you can learn about the survival strategies of animals. The Treasure Chamber protects a range of valuable jewels including the collection of Dutch king William I, as well as taxidermied animals that have since become extinct. In the Biotechnology section you can learn about DNA through games and movies, and in Earth Inside children can learn how nature works with a range of hands-on activities. LiveScience brings working scientists face-to-face with visitors, offering displays of everything from dissections to digging for fossils. Learn more about the museum at www.naturalis.nl/en/.
The Hortus Botanicus, or botanical garden is the oldest in the Netherlands, one of the oldest in the world. Situated in the beautiful historic centre between the Academy building and the old Leiden Observatory, it was established in 1590 under the expert supervision of the famous botanist Carolus Clusius, who began to develop an incredible extensive collection of plants from all over the explored world, with many specimens being brought back to the Netherlands by the Dutch East India Company, who collected seeds and dried specimens for him. A reconstruction of his garden was opened a few years ago, based on a list of plants dating from the end of the 16th century. Philipp Franz Balthasar von Siebold, whose ethnographic collections are displayed in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, also contributed many Japanese specimens from his time stationed there between 1823 and 1829, and he inspired the Japanese garden that opened in 1990. Some of the oldest plants include a laburnum from 1601, a tulip tree from 1682 and a ginkgo biloba from 1785. The greenhouses and orangeries are full of flowering water lilies and other remarkable tropical and subtropical plants, as well as one of the biggest collections of Asian orchids in the world. Visit Leiden University’s page on the garden to learn more: www.hortusleiden.nl/index.php/english.
Located a little way outside of Leiden in neighbouring suburb Oegstgeest, Corpus lets you take a journey through the human form when you enter a 35-metre-tall body full of different exhibits that shed light on the remarkable workings of our biology. Corpus is an ideal day out for children of all ages, as its hands-on and interactive vibe is perfect for learning everything there is to know about the science of the body. Pop on a headset and enjoy one-hour audio video tour available in eight languages, travelling down through the different body parts and organs, playing games and learning from the various computer displays, as well as enjoying 3-D films and the opportunity to check your health with a range of machines. Stand on the soft tongue inside a human mouth, take a lift up through the knees, listen to the beating of the human heart while you battle bad bacteria and vanquish viruses. How do you intestines handle a cheese sandwich? What happens when you sneeze? How does your tongue taste sugar and salt? You’ll find all the answers, and learn how to look after body with some top healthy living tips, at the Corpus museum. Address: Willem Einthovenstraat 1 , 2342 BH. All information is at the website: www.corpusexperience.nl/en/corpus-experience.
The Kaag Lakes, called Kagerplassen in Dutch, are a small lake system just northeast of the city, and are a real favourite with Leiden locals. Popular for boating, swimming, fishing, camping, watersports and walking, the area around the lakes is quintessentially Dutch. Typical Dutch windmills, animals grazing in the waterfront meadows, cute old wooden boats and gorgeous spring flowers make the Kaag Lakes a wonderful escape from the city. Hire a boat and explore the islands, take a lesson in sailing in one of the many schools and learn about the unique ecology of this beautiful wet fenland area.
The Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is a jewel in the heart of the Randstad, the densely populated area containing Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Despite the general urbanisation of this area, Zuid-Kennemerland has escaped intact, and is famous for its beautiful sand dunes, forests and beaches. The dunes are used as a watershed for the nearby city of Haarlem, and owing to their lime-rich composition are home to some rare plant species, as well as a variety of songbirds and mammals including deer, hedgehogs and squirrels. There is also a population of European bison or wisent, introduced into the park in 2007 and viewable from a purpose-built platform. There is a small public swimming area between Bloemendaal and Zandvoort known as the Wed.
Just north of Leiden near the small town of Lisse, the Keukenhof Gardens are a Dutch institution. Known as the Garden of Europe, Keukenhof, which means ‘kitchen garden’. is the world's largest flower garden, with around 7 million flower bulbs planted annually. Between mid-March and mid-May the gardens explode in a riot of colour, with tulips of every shade and shape on display. Back in the 15th century, the gardens were a hunting ground, as well as providing herbs for the nearby castle of Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut. Now, with an annual flower parade plus fantastic events such as the Christmas fair and many classical music performances, Keukenhof is an unmissable destination for anyone visiting Leiden.
Edam-eaters, gouda-guzzlers and Leerdammer-lovers would be really cheesed off to miss Alkmaar, famous for its fantastic cheese market or ‘kaasmarkt’. With arcane traditions a-plenty, the Friday cheese market has been running for centuries, where huge rounds of cheese are hand-weighed, inspected and sold in the shadow of beautiful mediaeval buildings. Nowadays it's more for show than business, as attested to by the rather silly hats, ceremonial bell-ringing and tongue-in-cheek atmosphere that surrounds the whole affair. The cheese connoisseurs even barter in the old style, clapping each others hands and shouting, and carry the cheese around on strange boat-shaped ‘barrows’ which gives the cheese carriers their distinctive walking rhythm, known as the ‘cheese carriers’ dribble’. Don't forget your camera and make sure to say cheese!
Vacation rentals in Leiden (South Holland)
How to get there ?
International travellers arriving by air are likely to land at Schiphol Airport, the country's main airport situated just outside Amsterdam in Haarlemmermeer. Schiphol is Europe's fourth busiest airport, and the primary hub for KLM as well as lesser-known Dutch airlines Arkefly, Corendon Dutch Airlines, Martinair and Transavia.com, as well as serving as the European hub for Delta and a base for Vueling. From the airport it’s around 20 minutes by train to arrive at Leiden Centraal, the centrally located station. Leiden is also only around 10–15 minutes from The Hague. It is possible to drive comfortably and safely in the Netherlands, with two highways linking with Leiden, although driving is close to impossible in the old city centre, particularly during the summer months when parking spaces are as rare as hen’s teeth. Visitors who do arrive by car would do well to use the park-and-ride car parks, located at Groenoordhallen and Haagweg. There are plenty of local buses, and the city centre is a delight to walk around. Of course, Dutch people will tell you that the very best way to travel is by bike, and you can experience their legendary cycle network when you rent a bike at the railway station's bike shops.
Leiden city hall
Hotels in Leiden (South Holland)
Bastion Hotel Leiden Voorschoten
2324 NE - Leiden
Indicative price : 59 EUR - 122.5 EUR
Golden Tulip Leiden Centre
2316 XB - Leiden
Indicative price : 89.1 EUR - 144 EUR
City Hotel Nieuw Minerva Leiden
2311 EA - Leiden
Indicative price : 83.72 EUR - 108 EUR
Van der Valk Hotel Leiden
Haagse Schouwweg 14
2332 KG - Leiden
Indicative price : 78 EUR - 184 EUR
Tulip Inn Leiden Centre
2316 XB - Leiden
Indicative price : 98.1 EUR - 209 EUR
2312 CC - Leiden
Indicative price : 65 EUR - 133.5 EUR
Best Western City Hotel Leiden
Lange Mare 43
2312 GP - Leiden
Indicative price : 65 EUR - 207 EUR
ibis Leiden Centre
2312 AR - Leiden
Indicative price : 79 EUR - 155 EUR
Huys van Leyden
Oude Singel 212
2312 RJ - Leiden
Indicative price : 112.5 EUR - 220 EUR
Appartement Leiden City Center
2316 XV - Leiden
Indicative price : 105 EUR - 120 EUR
Apartments van Leyden
Oude Singel 212
2312 RJ - Leiden
Indicative price : 109.5 EUR - 240 EUR
B&B Het Vogelhuis
Blauwe Vogelweg 4
2333 VK - Leiden
Indicative price : 75 EUR - 122.5 EUR
2331 AA - Leiden
Indicative price : 72.5 EUR - 90 EUR
2311 SL - Leiden
Indicative price : 190 EUR - 225 EUR
De Barones Van Leyden
Oude Herengracht 22
2312 LN - Leiden
Indicative price : 99.5 EUR - 149.5 EUR
2313 BJ - Leiden
Indicative price : 95 EUR - 140 EUR