Travel Guide Europe Netherlands South Holland Leiden



Leiden is a city in the Dutch province of South Holland. 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, literally packed with well-preserved historic heritage but with a young and lively atmosphere due to its large student population.



Sights and Activities

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Academiegebouw (Academy Building), Rapenburg 73. The old University building still used for ceremonies and a few studies.
  • 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 itself features a small exhibition on the Pilgrims in Leiden. People buried here include the physician Boerhave, the painter Jan Steen (of Rijksmuseum fame) and the aforementioned Pilgrim leader Robinson.
  • 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 originally planned when construction was halted in the sixteenth century. Houses were built against its walls during the seventeenth century. Inside you can find a lying tombstone belonging to the tomb of Justinus van Nassau, illegitimate child of William of Orange.
  • 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. Currently its a meetings venue.
  • Gravensteen, Gerecht. A nice looking 15th century building (despite of being a jail). Currently it's a part of the University.



Events and Festivals

Koningsdag (King's Day)

In 2013, the Dutch throne was passed on to King Willem-Alexander and what used to be Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) will from 2014 become Koningsdag (King's Day). The date will be changed to the 27th of April, which is the king's birthday. In 2014 however it will be on the 26th of April because the 27th falls on a Sunday. On this day the streets of almost every sizable town in the country come alive with activity.




Comparable to the rest of the Netherlands, with perhaps, because of its location near the sea a slightly milder winter and cooler summer compared to the east and south.



Getting There

By Plane

There is no airport in Leiden, but Schiphol Airport is just over half an hour away by car.

By Train

Check the Dutch Railways website for more information. 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.

By Car

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 centre. 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 centre 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.

By Bus

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.



Getting Around

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.




Leiden has a lot of restaurants and bars. Especially in the Pieterswijk (the east side of the Breestraat) are a lot of cosy restaurants.

  • 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, ☎ +31 71-5143388. Kaiserstraat 7.
  • De Branderij, ☎ +31 71 5142158. 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.
  • 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.




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 1:00am and after 2:00am on Friday and Saturday.




There are plenty of good mid-range hotels and B&B's in the city. Unfortunately for budget travelers, however, 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 kilometres) and The Hague also has options, with a "fast biking" route to Leiden (less than 1 hour by bike). Amsterdam is a half hour trip by train, but calculate that the return ticket will set you back about € 17.

  • Stochemhoeve Camping, ☎ +31 71 5721141. 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, ☎ +31 71 2 600 700. 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.
  • Hampshire Hotel Fitland, Bargelaan 180 (Building on the left when exiting the train station at the north side), ☎ +31 71 870 0260. 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.

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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.



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.


The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.


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This is version 10. Last edited at 8:10 on Apr 29, 19 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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