When visiting a new city, most tourists would prefer to blend in with the locals. Who are they, what do they do, where do they go, how do they get there and why do they go there? These tips and tricks will allow you to explore Leiden in a way never described in the travel guides.
Experience the water: After Amsterdam, Leiden is the city with the greatest number of bridges, canals and boulevards. It has 28 kilometres worth of waterways and 88 bridges. Tour boats and little electric boats can be found on Beestenmarkt. Go to Galgewater 44 for a rowboat.
De Kaag: Rent a sloop for the day and sail to the Kagerplassen lakes, which everyone calls ‘de Kaag’. De Kaag is a large lake area less than 30 minutes by boat from Leiden. With dozens of windmills and old farms along the water, this is one of our country’s most beautiful boating areas.
3 October: Leiden’s biggest annual celebration occurs on 3 October. The city is filled with a fairground, dozens of concerts and thousands of partying people. If you want to party, come to Leiden on this date.
Café de Bonte Koe (Hooglandsekerkkoorsteeg 13): A former butcher’s shop has become the most beautiful cafe in Leiden. Order a beer or a coffee and take your time admiring the wonderful interior.
Rapenburg: You have not seen Leiden if you have not strolled along the most beautiful canal in town. It is lined by several museums, the Hortus Botanicus and the Academiegebouw with its famous ‘sweating room’. This is also where members of the Royal Family resided during their student years. A plaque on the wall at number 51 commemorates a special encounter with the Japanese emperor.
Saturday market: The Saturday market dominates Leiden’s inner city and is something everyone should experience. Come with an empty stomach and taste Dutch cheeses, fresh bread and stroopwafels, ‘caramel waffles’, as well as the best herring in Holland from fishmonger Atlantic.
Renting a bicycle: Leiden is in a beautiful location. It is just half an hour away from Amsterdam and The Hague. On a bicycle, just half an hour’s ride will take you to the flower-bulb region or the beaches of Katwijk and Noordwijk. In summer you could also cool down near the water of the Kagerplassen lakes, just a 15-minute ride to Warmond away.
Latin School (Lokhorststraat 16): The old Latin School where Rembrandt van Rijn took drawing lessons and the foundation of his career was laid is near the Pieterskerk.
Plantsoen (Plantsoen): The Plantsoen is the most beautiful city park within Leiden’s boundaries. Bring along a picnic basket and a book, find a good spot on the grass and relax in the shadow of the tall trees while the boats sail by.