Leiden is a well-known university city in the province of South Holland, north of The Hague, near the North Sea. Water flows through the city just like in Amsterdam and the sight of the numerous canals alone is worth the trip! Leiden is not as well known as other large cities and seaside resorts in Holland, but this means that you can have a unique experience away from the hustle and bustle of tourist hotspots.
Sightseeing in Leiden
Probably the best thing about Leiden is the beautiful cityscape. There are countless canals, historical houses and a lively city center. Explore the city by foot, by bike or get on board of a canal cruise (grachten vaart).
1. Molen de Valk
Leiden is very easy to navigate, particularly by foot. From the central station in the direction of the city center, do not miss the famous Molen de Valk! This old mill was converted into a municipal museum in 1966 and is certainly worth a visit.
2. Burcht van Leiden
One of Leiden’s landmarks is the famous castle, Burcht van Leiden. It was built in the 11th century on an artificial hill and was once used to protect the citizens. The castle is located in the middle of today’s city center. The climb is worthwhile, as you’ll have a great view over the city once you reach the top.
3. Old Town House
Heading in the direction of the city center from the castle, you will come to the old town house, which is open to visitors. Nowadays it is mainly used for weddings and guided tours for visitors are offered regularly. The lower floor houses City Hall and various restaurants.
4. Pieterskerk and Hooglandse Kerk
About 100 meters further west you will come to the Pieterskerk, which has been the central point of Leiden since the 12th century. Formally, a huge west gate (which no longer exists) could be seen from the sea and provided orientation for ships. The construction of the church took 180 years, as it took a while to raise the funds to build it. Many famous Dutch men and women are buried in it. Today the Pieterskerk is used for concerts, events and exhibitions.
5. Botanical Garden
Leiden University is also home to the Hortus Botanicus, a huge botanical garden with over 5,000 species of plants and flowers. It is located directly on the Witte Singel canal on the edge of the city center. The grounds are very well maintained and it is certainly worth a visit in all seasons, but especially in summer. Hortus Botanicus tickets are €8.00 and can be purchased online. Entry is free with a Museumkaart (annual subscription for Dutch museums).
6. Naturalis Biodiversity Center
If you love nature and history, take a look at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. This national museum is home to more than 10,000 animals, plants and fossils. Time travel through history and find out how our planet has changed over the centuries.
Canal Cruise in Leiden
One of the highlights of Leiden are the canals that give the city its unique and special charme. In addition to exploring the city and its sights by foot, a canal cruise allows you to explore Leiden from a different perspective.
Events and Nightlife
A typical student city, Leiden offers a wide range of entertainment. Whether you’re looking for a cosy restaurant for dinner or a trendy bar, there are plenty of options to choose from. Relax by the water, wander the beautifully lit alleys and canals, and enjoy the city’s diverse culinary and cultural offerings.
In July the four-day Laakenfeest and the famous Ontzet, the Liberation Festival, take place. During these days there is a lot happening in Leiden. If you like it a bit quieter of a trip, you can take a leisurely stroll along the canals and take a boat trip. As in many European cities, Leiden also has a Kerstmarkt (Christmas market) in December.
In the Area
Fancy a day at the beach? Only 12 km from Leiden is the North Sea with well-known seaside resorts such as Scheveningen, Katwijk and Noordwijk. While Scheveningen is very popular for sunbathing and swimming, Katwijk and Noordwijk are popular for their extensive dunes which are ideal for long walks and cycling tours.
Famous cities are within easy reach from Leiden. The Hague is about 20 km away and Rotterdam just under 35 km. By car or train you can reach The Hague or Rotterdam quickly and easily.