Leiden (historically known as Leyden) is easily one of the most enchanting cities in the Netherlands. It's home to the oldest university in the country, the birthplace of Rembrandt and breeding ground for ground-breaking science and Nobel laureates since centuries. It's a charmingly compact fortified city, packed with well-preserved historic heritage but with a young and lively atmosphere due to its large student population.
With a population of nearly 120,000, and nearly 20,000 of them students, Leiden is one of the Netherlands' few true student towns (along with Groningen, Utrecht and Delft). Leiden University is the Netherlands' oldest university, founded in the 16th century to commemorate the resistance of its townsfolk to the Spanish siege. Its buildings are dotted around town, in and out of the city centre. This gives Leiden a relatively young and internationally diverse population, especially with the university having a particularly strong law and medical faculty. The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) is right behind central station. Its vibrant student population means Leiden is never short of a great place for a drink. However Leiden's Dutch students are notorious for being dominated by its 'Studentenverenigingen' (fraternities) which means many international students choose to go to nearby Amsterdam, or the Hague for late-night partying.
- 1 VVV Leiden (Tourist Information Centre), Stationsweg 26, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 07:00-19:00, Sa 10:00-16:00, Su 11:00-15:00.
Leiden is easily reached by train. The journey takes 10–15 minutes from The Hague, and 15 minutes from Schiphol Airport, the principal airport in the Netherlands. The journey from Amsterdam takes between 30 and 40 minutes.
- 1 Leiden Centraal. Most of the trains arrive at this station, which is 500 m north-west of the City Center, and 1 km from the City Hall.
- 2 Leiden Lammenschans. It is a relatively small station on the line towards Alphen aan den Rijn and Utrecht. It is on the opposite side of the city center, just over 1 km from the City Hall.
If you do not feel like walking from the station to the centre you can take a bus, just ask which ones go to the Breestraat bus stop (see #By bus below).
A square just outside of the Leiden railway station is a central hub for the local bus network, so if you want to go anywhere local your best bet is to go here and ask around.
- Arriva. Provides public bus services in the city. As elsewhere in the country OV-chipkaart is to be used to pay public transport fares here, otherwise a single journey ticket could be bought from the driver. For schedules check this page. Select "met Bus" at Reiswijzde, fill in Leiden at "Plaats", then select a busline from a pulldown list. Single journey ticket €2.
In spite of the two highways around Leiden (A4 and A44), the centre of Leiden isn't easy to reach by car. It is best to try and park your car at the transferium (free parking) and continue your journey by bus. For this transferium you have to follow the A44 and then take exit 8 (Katwijk, Leiden Transferium). There are also parking lots on the Morsweg (south-west of the town centre) and on the Langegracht (north of town centre, near the station). These parking lots are crowded though, and there's no guarantee there will be space here, especially during the summer. Otherwise there are parking lots at the Groenoordhallen and Haagweg from where free shuttle buses run to the city center. In the city center the parking fares are expensive. Also outside the old city center (inside the 'Singel' canal) parking is not free in most cases. Only far away from the center will free parking be found. A normal charge is €4.60 per hour. Leiden is perpetually rebuilding main roads and areas around the centre, making it very difficult to drive by car. The never ending rebuilding of main roads also guarantees major daily traffic jams at the rush hours.
The large majority of sights are within the old city fortifications. It's a compact area, easy to navigate on foot. The tourist information office right outside the main train station has a number of free and paid maps with main sights and walking routes, but even just strolling around for a while will allow you to see the main historic buildings and museums.
For faster exploring or to visit places further out, renting a bicycle is an excellent idea. Like all Dutch cities, Leiden is very bike-friendly and you'll find it's an extremely widely used means of transport where-ever you go. Some rental agencies offer both traditional and electric bikes.
- Park&Bike, Haagweg 8, ☏ . This place is a bit out of the main center, and is a good choice for those who arrive by car, as you can leave it there. They offer several arrangements or routes at a charge, but it's also perfectly fine to take only a bike and find your own way. Rates start at €12.50 for a day to €6 a day if you rent a full week. Electric bicycles are available from €20 a day, scooters from €30 a day. Make online reservations in advance to ensure you get the bike of your choice.
- Fietspoint Oldenburger, Stationsplein 3-S, at the north entrance of the main train station (that's the LUMC side), ☏ . This place has about 20 Batavus bicycles available for rent, and some electrical ones (which are more expensive). Best to phone ahead and ensure you'll have one when arriving. From €7.50 for a day (or part of a day).
- 1 Stadhuis (City Hall), Stadhuisplein, 1. The old renaissance façade facing Breestraat is dating from 1597. A newer building lying behind this façade (facing Nieuwe Rijn) was built to replace the older one, destroyed in a fire in 1929.
- 2 Burcht van Leiden (Fort of Leiden), Burgsteeg 13-16. An old shell keep dated back to 11th century. This elevated borough is freely accessible and right in the heart of Leiden. After climbing the stairways you can walk around and enjoy the magnificent views of Leiden from above.
- 3 Academiegebouw (Academy Building), Rapenburg 73. The old university building still used for ceremonies and a few studies.
- 4 Pieterskerk. The Church of St. Peter (the patron saint of the city) is a 16th-century church, in late-Gothic style. An feature which Americans will find interesting is that this church is associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, whose leader John Robinson, lived in the nearby Pieterskerkchoorsteeg (house is marked with a plaque). The church features a small exhibition on the Pilgrims in Leiden. People buried here include the physician Boerhaave, the painter Jan Steen (of Rijksmuseum fame) and the Pilgrim leader Robinson.
- 5 Hooglandse Kerk. Dedicated to St Pancras and located at the site of an earlier wooden chapel dating from 1314. Construction started in 1377 but parts the building were left lower than had been planned when construction was halted in the 16th century. Houses were built against its walls during the 17th century. Inside you can find a lying tombstone belonging to the tomb of Justinus van Nassau, illegitimate child of William of Orange.
- 6 Gemeenlandshuis van Rijnland, Breestraat 59. Open to the public each year on Monument Day. It was the home office of the first water management body in the Netherlands. It is now a meetings venue.
- 7 Gravensteen, Gerecht. A nice-looking 15th-century building (despite of being a jail). It is now a part of the university.
- 8 Oude Rijn (Old Rhine Canal). An old branch of the Rhine River is little more than a city canal here. Historically, this waterway is what gave the area its importance, first as a Roman border, then during the Golden Age as a trade route. Nowadays, river traffic doesn't use this branch and the river just serves to fill the city's canals with water. The area between the Oude Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn is one of the most undisturbed bits of Leiden - go here if you like walking along canals without getting run over by shoppers. On the other side of the city centre (Weddesteeg, Galgewater) is the place where the canals recombine - this is one of the most beautiful spots in Leiden, with a windmill, the old city gate, a small park, and a wooden bridge over the river (see also the image at the head of this article).
- 9 Molen De Put, Park de Put 11 (about 600 m south of the railway station), ☏ . Open most Saturdays 11:00-16:00 (but closed July & August 2018 for maintenance). This is a 1987 replica of windmill built in 1729 and demolished in 1817. The nearby Rembrandtbrug (Rembrandt Bridge) is also a 1983 replica of a 17th century bridge also demolished in 1817.
- 10 De Waag (Weigh House). A 17th-century building used to weigh and trade various goods.
- 11 Weeshuis (Heilige Geest- of Arme Wees- en Kinderhuis), Hooglandse Kerkgracht 17B. A 16th-century orphanage complex (aka Kinderrechtenhuis). It now hosts Utopa-Weeshuis managed by the Utopa Foundation, an organisation for "updating and promoting creative talents of people, where the construction of individuals for any reason whatsoever, no chance"
- 12 Marekerk, Lange Mare. A 17th-century church of an unusual round form.
- 13 Bibliotheca Thysiana, Rapenburg 25. It is the only surviving 17th-century example in the Netherlands of a building that was designed as a public library.
- 14 Stedelijk Gymnasium (Latijnse school). The old gymnasium (1599).
- 15 Stadstimmerwerf. A former city carpenter's yard and a wharf (1612).
- 16 Koornbrug (Grain bridge). It a bridge over the Nieuwe Rijn. The bridge dates back to 1642 and it was used for corn trade. For this very reason it was covered in 1834.
- 17 Morspoort. The Western gate of the city.
- 18 Zijlpoort. The Eastern gate of the old town.
- 19 Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden), Rapenburg 73 (next to Academiegebouw), ☏ . Apr-Oct: 10:00-18:00; Nov-Mar: Tu-Su 10:00-16:00; Sterrewacht (observatory): W Sa Su 11:30-15:30. The garden hosts different species of flowers and trees around the world. It's part of the University of Leiden. €7.50.
- 20 Van der Werffpark. It is named after the mayor Pieter Adriaanszoon van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574, 6 years into the Eighty Years' War of Independence (1568-1648) against the Spaniards. The town was beleaguered for months and many died from hunger. According to legend van der Werff was accused by a frantic crowd of secretly hiding food reserves. He denied it vehemently and to prove his sincerity offered to cut off his arm to serve as food. This made people back off, ashamed of their mistrust. The Van der Werff Park is one of the small parks in Leiden's centre and is probably the most interesting one due to its history. There used to be blocks of houses here but during the cold afternoon of January 12, 1807, a disaster occurred. A ship filled with 18 tons of gunpowder blew up, leveling the surrounding blocks of houses on both sides of the canal and killing hundreds in the process. It's claimed the explosion was heard in Groningen, 250 km away. Years later, the area was turned into a park on one side and a laboratory was built on the other; the Kamerlingh Onnes laboratory: famed for at one time being the coldest place on earth, where helium was liquefied for the first time, and superconductivity discovered, which earned Kamerlingh Onnes a Nobel Prize.
Leiden is one of the most important museum cities in the Netherlands, in quantity only second to Amsterdam. Four national museums are located in Leiden, among others, that are worth to visit. With its history as a university city you will only find one art museum, but several on topics ranging from ethnology to natural history. All major museums are within 10–15 minutes of walking distance from the central station. Except for Naturalis and during school holidays, most museums are closed on Mondays. Museumkaart accepted.
- 21 Museum Boerhaave (National Museum for the History of Science and Medicine), Lange St. Agnietenstraat 10, ☏ . Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su/holidays 12:00-17:00. The Boerhaave Museum, named after the 16th-century physician and biologist Herman Boerhaave, is the Dutch National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine. It features an extensive exhibition of scientific equipment from 1600 onwards. Highlights include the Theatrum Anatomicum (a mock-up of a lecture theatre where anatomical lessons were held), Gravesande demonstration experiments (first demonstration experiments to show Newtonian physics), the first microscope, the first helium liquefier and the first Fahrenheit thermometer. Adults €7.50, child and over 65 €3.50.
- 22 Nederlands Centrum voor Biodiversiteit Naturalis (Naturalis Biodiversity Center), Darwinweg 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa Su holidays 10:00-18:00. Naturalis (aka National Museum of Natural History) is a museum on the history of life and the natural planet. The main part of the museum tells the story of life on earth through bones, fossils, etc. The museum also features a collection of specimens from extinct animals, including bones from a Dodo. Do not miss the treasure chamber (schatkamer) where exceptional and valuable collections, such as extinct animal bones, and gemstones, are on display. The treasure chamber is sometimes closed for security reasons. The museum is meant to be accessible for all ages; the temporary exhibitions are often (partially) aimed at children. A former Pesthuis (bubonic plague quarantine) is a part of the museum's complex. The museum is temporarily closed for renovations; it is only possible to view 'Trix' a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Adult (18+) €11, child (4-17) €8, (0-3) free.
- 23 Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities), Rapenburg 28, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-F 10:00-17:00, Sa Su holidays 12:00-17:00. This is a traditional museum on the history of people. Includes an outstanding collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities, and a small temple that was given to the Netherlands by the Egyptians for their help with the Aswan monuments transfer project. It also features an exhibition on the archeological history of the Netherlands including dug-up burial treasures and the like. Adult €9.50, Child (4-17) €3.00, (0-3) free.
- 24 Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology), Steenstraat 1, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su holidays 10:00-17:00. The museum shows the culture of native peoples around the world in a refreshingly open-minded way. Permanent exhibitions are grouped based on geographical regions. A good, well thought-out museum with lots of background information in its bookshop, extensive library, and computer screens that are strewn about the museum. Of special interest are the temporary exhibits. Adult €10, child (4-12) €4, (13-17) & over 65 €8.
- 25 SieboldHuis (Japan museum), Rapenburg 19, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. A museum on Japanese art and culture. It displays items that were collected by Philipp Franz von Siebold between 1823 and 1829 during his stay at Dejima, a Dutch trade colony nearby Nagasaki in Japan. Adult €8, child free.
- 26 Museum De Lakenhal, Oude Singel 28-32, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Municipal museum in the magnificent 17th-century former clothmaker's hall. Permanent collection shows artefacts and art objects throughout the history of Leiden from the 16th century, including those of some famous Dutch painters, including Rembrandt, as well as the De Stijl movement, which was started in Leiden. Adult (18-65) €10.
- 27 Molenmuseum De Valk (Mill Museum The Falcon), 2e Binnenvestgracht 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su holiday 13:00-17:00. It was a flour windmill and now is a windmill museum. Less than 5 minutes walk from Leiden central station. You can climb through all the mill's levels. On the top, you can admire the view of Leiden. If you have never seen the inside of a windmill this museum is well worth passing by on route to the National Museum of Ethnology or any of the other museums Adult €4.
- 28 Museum Het Leids Wevershuis (Museum The Leiden Weaver House), Middelstegracht 143, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 13:00-16:00. A small weaver house built in 1560 with an authentic operating loom from 1830. free.
- 29 Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, Beschuitsteeg 9, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. W-Sa 13:00-17:00. It's actually a small house (built between 1365 and 1370) opposite the bell tower of the Hooglandse kerk, furnished in the style common to the Pilgrim era. €4.
- 1 Muurgedichten (Wall Poems), Nieuwsteeg 1 (start at a house near the Pieterskerk). This site suggests a rather unusual way of sightseeing: walk and read poems written on the walls. More than 100 poems from all over the world are painted on the walls of houses. The poems are written in various languages, but there is also a small plaque beneath an each piece with Dutch and English translations. This project was conducted between 1992 and 2005. One can check with the map. Free self-guided tour.
- Hofjeswandeling (Almshouses walking), ☏ . Starting point Burcht: Su 14:00; Starting point VVV Leiden: Apr-Oct: daily 11:30; Nov-Mar: Sa Su 11:30. Take a tour along the almshouses (courtyards) hidden behind the façades of Leiden houses. A tour will take about two hours. A prior reservation is required. Check with the website or VVV Leiden for further information. €3; children (-12 years) - free.
- Boat hire can be a great way to see Leiden, but you're not allowed to moor just anywhere. For that very reason, boating should mostly be considered a way of sightseeing than a means to get around to different locations. That said, it is an excellent way to see Leiden, whether you're opting for a seat on one of the larger round trip boats, book a private tour or rent your own little boat and make your own route.
- Boat tours - Only Amsterdam has more water inside its old center than Leiden, making a boat trip through the canals a lovely pass-time and a great way to see the city from another angle. The beautiful canal-side streets were the domain of the elite in the Dutch Golden Age, and the expensive mansions they built make for lovely monumental canal tours today. You can opt for a guided tour or rent your own boat.
There are a few different boating companies operating small and large vessels with guided tours. Head to the Beestenmarkt, on the way from the train station to the city center, where boat trips leave every hour and pleasant cafés make waiting for the next one a comfortable experience. Large groups can rent boats (including skipper/guide) by the hour and most companies can offer arrangements including food or drinks if you make reservations in advance.
- Leiden International Film Festival. A small yearly film festival in October encompassing mainstream and smaller art-house films shown at a variety of museums and cinemas throughout town. It gets some Dutch premieres.
- Leidsche bluesweek A yearly festival with performances by mainly (but not exclusively) Dutch performers. The Wednesday night pub-crawl is a blast with many bars hosting live music (for other venues you do have to buy tickets though they're not expensive).
- Werfpop (in Dutch). A small scale music festival with performances ranging from metal to dance. July.
- Leidsche lakenfeesten (in Dutch). A week of different activities in the city center and on the canals. There's a culinary festival, and the museum night. June.
- 3 October celebrations (3 Oktober Vereniging). Celebrations commemorating the end of the Spanish siege of Leiden (in 1547). Part of the festivities is a huge fun fair. The festival is overwhelming, noisy and heavily beer drinking. The town hall has strongly increased policing and crowd management of the event to make it reasonably safe to visit. Beware that in evening hours, it still remains more like a mega pub crawl than a family event.
A comprehensive program of all of the festivals and activities can be found at the VVV site.
- Lido/ Studio. (Dutch) Offers mostly regular Hollywood fare. The 1970s interior is in serious need of an upgrade.
- Trianon. (Dutch) Grand old dame and with a brilliantly restored art deco/art nouveau main theatre. Offers Hollywood fare but also a smaller/ independent pictures.
- Kijkhuis. (Dutch) Opposite olive garden's kitchen is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall type of place but still sports two small (ragged) theatres which show mostly arthouse films. It does the job but looks like a metal band performed there.
Theatres and performances
- 2 Stadsgehoorzaal Leiden (Stedelijk concertgebouw Leiden). A concert hall. The building in rare for the Netherlands Neo-Renaissance style is dating back to 1891. It was reopened in 2009 after a renovation.
- 3 Scheltema complex (at the corner of Marktsteeg and the Oude Singel). It is a cultural centre located at a former old factory. It offers musicians, contemporary artists and scientists a place to get in touch with one another, leading to performances and expositions and such. There's also a restaurant.
- 4 Leidse Schouwburg. A beautiful theatre, built in 1705 it is amongst the oldest ones in the Netherlands. Tickets can be purchased on their website however you need a username.
- De X. (Dutch) Multicultural stage for performers of jazz-, world, crossover and pop music as well as poetry and boogy nights.
- De Snookerij. Utrechtse Veer 34, This is a very nice snooker center in Leiden, with 10 snooker tables. The owner is very friendly, and if you ask behind the counter, there are various events held for fun for regular customers, such as pub quizzes or barbecues. During snooker season, expect to see a lot of snooker tournaments and great quality snooker.
Leiden is home to the Netherlands' oldest university, Leiden University, which was founded in 1575. Internationally recognised, Leiden University houses more than 40 national and international research institutes. The university is particularly well known for its law programs, and has a very strong medical faculty, attracting students from all over Europe. The international community is very strong, organising great parties throughout the year. For more information about studying as an international student at Leiden read the leidener, a blog run by some international students.
- 2 Regionaal Archief Leiden (Leiden City Archive), Boisotkade 2a, ☏ , fax: . M 13:00-17:00, Tu-F 09:30-17:00, Sa 09:00-13:00.
Haarlemmerstraat and Breestraat are the main shopping streets at the heart of the city center. They are both reachable within 10-15 min. walking from the central station. Shops include bookstores, fashion shops and other ordinary shopping items. In the areas around the Pieterskerk and Hooglandsekerk, small boutiques and antique shops are worth a visit. On Monday, shops open late from 12:00 until 17:00 or 18:00. All the shops are open on every Sunday (Only a few smaller shops remain closed). On Thursday, shops are open late, till around 21:00 (koopavond).
Historically, all the city's lively markets were situated along the Nieuwe Rijn canal. Some names of the bridges over this canal remain as reminders of the trades that took place there once. There's the "buttermilk's bridge", the covered "grain bridge" and the "chicken bridge", to name a few. Today, there are only two general markets. On Saturdays from 07:00 and on Wednesdays from 12:00, there is an open market along the canal between the Nieuwe Rijn and Vismarkt streets. The one on Saturday is larger, but at both there are stalls with vegetables, fruits, fish, flowers, bread, and meat.
- Souvenirs of Leiden can be found at the VVV tourist office, Stationsweg 2D. Some major museums also sell their own souvenirs.
- Maps, routes and other travel accessories are mostly found at the ANWB shop, Stationsweg 2, but they are not always complete. A special shop that sells almost complete map of cycling routes, walking routes, and any other maps is the Reisboekhandel Zandvliet at Stille Rijn 13.
- Travel accessories including maps, travel guides, backpacks, and airplane tickets can be bought at the joho company a few doors from Reisboekenhandel Zandvliet at Stille Rijn 8-9.
- Treinreiswinkel is a travel agency specializing in rail travel. Treinreiswinkel is the official agent of Deutsche Bahn in The Netherlands, they are also travel agent for NS Hispeed, SNCF, Thalys, Eurostar, CNL and Interrail. They are well informed and can arrange international train tickets and even a complete package tour if you wish. It's at Breestraat 57, 2311 CJ +31 (0) 71 5137008. They also have an Amsterdam office.
- De Slegte A 3-floor bookstore found on the Breestraat with a large selection of second hand books at great value. Many English options available.
- Galerie Zone, Nieuwstraat 17b (opposite the Hooglandskerk), ☏ . Contemporary crafts gallery collectively run by 12 people, whose work is permanently on display and for sale. It has been going since 1991, and one of the original members is still part of the collective. The work represents ceramics, furniture, glass, jewellery, and textiles.
Leiden has a lot of restaurants and bars. Especially in the Pieterswijk (the east side of the Breestraat) are a lot of cosy restaurants.
Some of the restaurants in Leiden:
- Delphi, Nieuwe rijn 52, 0715141778. This restaurant serves the best Greek food in Leiden and can get quite busy because of its great value for money.
- Donattelo's, Haarlemmerstraat 20, 071 5147938. Good pizza, if you enjoy a student atmosphere!
- La Piccola Italia Boommarkt 2, A small restaurant that makes good pizzas and pasta dishes. Good value.
- Olive Garden. Vrouwenkerkhof 1, 071 51.22.529, Italian. Not pizza, but true Italian food. Not cheap, reservations a must on Thursday, Friday and Weekends. (This is not the same restaurant as the popular chain in the United States.)
- Porto Pino, Haven 40, 071 5219505. Serves the same type of delicious Italian foods as 'Olive garden' so no Pizza! It's a bit to the east of the centre at the recreational harbour, near the Zijlpoort.
- Sabai Sabai, Noordeinde, 071 51.31.914, Thai. Best Thai in town, visited even by Thai embassy officials.
- Verboden Toegang, ☏ . Kaiserstraat 7.
- De Branderij, ☏ . Nieuwstraat 32. Great food in a somewhat higher price range.
- Het prentenkabinet. Just about the best culinary experience (in French oriented cuisine) Leiden has to offer (bring your wallet though) and situated in a monumental building opposite the Pieterskerk. Kloksteeg 25, 2311 SK Leiden +31 (0) 71 5126666.
- Tandoori way Indian restaurant next to the Praethuis bar (see under drinking section) opposite the remains of the 'onze lieve vrouwe kerk' and Olive garden
For fast(er) food lovers there are several options:
- Smulshop Spare ribs, Gyros and other fare. It seems to get mixed reviews though. Morsweg 40, 2312 AE, +31 (0) 71 5130819
- AK-AL At the corner of the Haarlemmerstraat and the Pelikaanstraat (opposite the English pub called Bad Habits) serves delicious Turkish Pizza's on the go and the infamous 'Kapsalon' (French Fries, topped with doner kebab meat, lettuce, onions, cheese, spicy sauce and garlic sauce) which will fill you up for the rest of the week. It's also a bakery offering tasty Turkish and loaf-type breads and great croissants!
- Eazy Oriental style wok dishes. Freshly made, delicious and healthy. Breestraat 157, 2311 CN Leiden. +31 (0) 71 5138867
- Maoz Vegetarian Falafel and more falafel and pretty good too. Haarlemmerstraat 61, 2312 DL, +31 (0) 5144424
- Toko-mini Excellent Indonesian food, take-away only. Indonesian food can be very hot and spicy, but you have a choice of ingredients, just ask. Haven 6, 2312 MH, +31 (0) 71 5233066
If you don't find anything of your liking above, there's a plethora of places offering anything from French fries to Shoarma and Pizza and yes; there is a McDonald's (two in fact).
The city is full of students, and cafes and bars are clearly by far the most frequented 'faculty'. There is a healthy and lively cafe and night life. You cannot help wondering if the students actually get time to study from time to time between the many festivities and drink parties all over town. If you are out for a drink, you will not be disappointed. Be aware that you can't enter the bars after 01:00 and after 02:00 on Friday and Saturday.
- Einstein Great for lounging on summertime evenings. Popular on Wednesday evenings (International Student Night).
- De Burcht Grand cafe, a mix of 1930s grandeur and 1950s and 60s furniture. Hosts a quiz night every Tuesday for €2 per person (maximum 6 to a team, with usually with wine as the prize).
- Haar gangetje Small but cosy cafe.
- De Kroeg Fun staff, fun atmosphere, fun times.
- The Duke of OZ Great place to follow Football, Cricket and other sports.
- Roebels Tiny but usually packed student bar. Famous for its 'Zwevertjes' (shots)
- Cafe Storm Tiny and not so packed student bar.
- 't Keizertje A nice bar on the kaiserstraat opposite the student plexus building
- Babbels A cosy place on the corner of the Witte Singel, Boisotkade 1.
- Olo Rosso A bar for most of the week but in the weekends it turns into a club.
- In den Oude Maren Poort Larger, and usually packed student bar.
- Lemmy's Belgian beer bar. Free peanuts and digital fireplace!
- Olivier. Another Belgian beer bar on the Hooigracht. Ladies night on Thursdays means free cava for ladies. A nice atmosphere and outside drinking space.
- De Twee Spieghels Cozy, friendly, fabulous location (near the Burcht and Hooglandsekerk).
- Dranklokaal de WW Hidden in a small back alley opposing the Breestraat entrance of the Stadhuis, this place is hugely popular in the weekends. The place has been cut into 2 equal sections since the smoking ban came into effect and the smoking section is the biggest in Leiden
- Praethuis A local haunt with a dark interior coupled with dark brown furnishings and finishings and mainly 1960s and 70s music. It has a great terrace around the remains of the 'onze lieve vrouwenkerk' (of pilgrim fame).
- Odessa Small bar with artistic crowd and great atmosphere. Very popular on Monday (International Students' night - with 2 for 1 pitchers during happy hour) and in the weekend. Attracts a lot of students and other young people.
- Vi-kings Bar, Noordeinde 28. A great bar for sports fans, with multiple TV screens, board games and a pool table. Upon request, Karaoke evenings, can be organized.
Music and clubs
- [dead link] Qbus. (Dutch) Different types of live music and ranging from local heroes to international names.
- CityHall (located at the back of the Stadhuis). Billed as a cafe/restaurant, it's really a bit of everything and gets crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings. There is a DJ on these days.
- InCasa. Leiden's only real club. It attracts a very young crowd and mainly plays popular music.
- Mas Y Mas. Bar dancing with enthusiastic crowd, especially on Saturdays.
- Club Next. Three floors. Upstairs smoking area, middle floor is just a bar, and the ground floor has a decent dancing area. Allegedly the club where world number one DJ Armin Van Buuren learnt to ply his trade. Usually no cover.
Like every other town in the Netherlands Leiden doesn't lack the presence of Coffeeshops. This town definitely has a few nice options if your interested. They are open between 16:00 and 22:00.
- Leidseplein Pieterskerkgracht 28. Probably the most popular coffee shop in all of Leiden. Great atmosphere and classy decor. Next door to the bar Sam Sam.
- Bebop A stones throw from Leidseplein, Diefsteeg 3.
- Le Palais Friendly personnel, Morsstraat 14.
There are plenty of good mid-range hotels and B&Bs in the city. But there's no youth hostel and sleeping in town for less than €50 per room can be challenging. If your budget is tight, you might consider visiting Leiden on a day trip while staying in hostels in the area or bring your camping gear. There's a hostel in Noordwijk (10 km) and The Hague also has options, with a "fast biking" route to Leiden (<1 hr by bike). Amsterdam is a half-hour trip by train, but calculate that the return ticket will set you back about €17.
- Stochemhoeve Camping, ☏ . Cronesteyn 3. A family-managed small camping near a park and recreational area just outside of Leiden.
- Nieuw Minerva. Boommarkt 23. In six prestigious 16th-century canal houses. Central, close to museums and faculties of Leiden University.
- De Doelen. Rapenburg 2. Hotel in an ancient Patrician mansion, built in 1638.
- Golden Tulip, Schipholweg 3. In a bland modern building just north of the railway station.
- Huys van Leyden, Oude Singel 212, ☏ . If you're not on a budget, sleeping in this small 4-star boutique hotel will make your historic experience complete. Housed in a monumental building, all rooms have their own style and while equipped with modern bathrooms and comfortable beds, they have a nice historic feel to them. The hotel has no elevator (due to its monumental status) and there's no AC, but staff is very friendly and will help you with your luggage. There's a small sauna and whirlpool available for guests. From €113 for a double, breakfast €7.50.
- Fletcher Wellness-Hotel (formerly Hampshire Hotel), Bargelaan 180 (Building on the left when exiting the train station at the north side), ☏ . A new hotel in a large building right outside the north side of the main train station. The surrounding area is still a bit under construction, making it slightly hard to locate, but the rooms are modern and comfortable, there's wellness centre in the building (use at a discounted rate) and a nice bar/restaurant with a view on the top floor. If you're arriving by car you can make use of the parking garage under the building, but note that the entrance is not well-indicated. Ignore the sign of "buses only" when you see the building, and proceed another 25 meters or so to see the parking garage. All rooms are on the 10th or 11th floor; ask for one with a view over the old city. Book through online booking sites for the best deals. From €90 for a double.
Some cafes and fast food places have free WiFi. Ask the cafe staff for advice. Leiden is a student town, free WiFi is highly appreciated there. There are also 'hot spots' e.g. at the station, however, these are run by the previous state monopoly 'KPN'. These are free to use.
Free WiFi is also provided in various places in Leiden by Stichting Wireless Leiden, you can recognize this by a SSID which start with 'ap-WirelessLeiden-'.
Leiden is a city in the Green Heart (Groene Hart) between the largest cities in Holland. It is surrounded by green meadows, little villages, and, in spring time, the world famous flower fields.
From Leiden Central Station a bus (number 54) goes directly to the Keukenhof, an huge park open from the end of March until the end of May, in which more than 7 million flower bulbs bloom. But you can also take your car or rent a bike and find the fields yourself. The route will lead you through lovely villages.
Bordering Leiden is the town of Oegstgeest, where you could visit the CORPUS, an interactive walk-through giant human body installation.
Leiden is also very close to the beach: Katwijk and Noordwijk aan Zee are the closest seaside villages, at 20 minutes by car. Be aware that on beautiful summer days, the car will probably be stuck in traffic. You can also take a bicycle, which will take you approximately 45 minutes.
Cycle routes in the Leiden area (in English):
|Routes through Leiden|
|Amsterdam ← Hoofddorp ←||N S||→ The Hague → Rotterdam|