Welcome to Leiden, the hometown of Rembrandt! This romantic and bohemian little city is not too far from the noisy Amsterdam, but far enough to be cozy and relaxed. This Dutch gem should be on your travel itinerary even if it means sacrificing a day from seeing the capital. So hop on the train!
Where to stay overnight?
Boutique Hotel d’Oude Morsch is perfect for a romantic getaway and it is located in the historical Morspoort barracks. They were built in 1817 on the Galgewater, having a military purpose until 1940. The rooms are elegant, bright and yet the army soul lies in the details, making you feel general for a day.
The view is gorgeous as well, the hotel is next to the beautiful canal, a perfect bench for two and a windmill. Plus it’s a very short walk from the train station! (only 10 minutes away).
How to spend a day in Leiden?
For me, Leiden was love at first sight. Quiet, blue skies, windmills, Rembrandt, canals and boats… I couldn’t ask for more!
Molen de Valk Museum – duration max. 1h
De Valk is one of the last 19 original mills in Leiden, dating from 1743. The mill was built in stone and had to accommodate two families, having to be the highest point in the city in order to catch the wind. The building was divided like this: the ground floor contained the common living areas (kitchens, stables), the first and the second floor were designed for the sleeping rooms and the last floor was utilized for storage of the flour.
You can climb up to the top and visit all the floors, you can find out how they used to obtain the flour in the 18 century.
Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1
Opening times: Tuesdays – Saturdays:
10.00 – 17.00 hour
2. Canal cruise – duration 1h
Take a boat cruise on the beautiful canal and find out more historical details about Leiden! Did you know that it has the oldest university in the Netherlands? Do you want to see the original city gates (The Zijlpoort), dating from 1640? Do you want to glance at the street where Rembrandt was born?
If you don’t have much time, this could be the fastest and the most satisfying way of exploring the painter’s hometown.
Address: Bootjes & Broodjes, Blauwpoortsbrug 1
3. Lunch at the market – duration max. 45 min
If you are here on a Wednesday or on a Saturday, come along the canal on Botermarkt, Vismarkt, Aalmarkt and the Nieuwe Rijn and discover the crowded market. Leiden’s market has been around for more than 900 years!
Black pepper Gouda? Smoked cheese? Raw herring? Poffertjes? Fresh stroopwafels? Have lunch and spoil your belly!
4. De Burcht van Leiden – duration 1h
De Burcht is a shell keep built in the 11th century, having at first a military function. In 1651, the keep was transformed into a water tower and a public park, the pipe system, that leads to the squares in the city center, is still intact today. The gates were built shortly after, the Southern gateway was used as an entrance to the park, but also its walls were illustrating a poem, that was teaching material for students who tried to learn Latin grammar.
Address: Van der Sterrepad 5
5. Hortus Botanicus – duration 1h
Founded in 1590 for the University of Leiden, Hortus Botanicus Leiden is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. It has a vast collection of exotic and tropical plants, as well as a variety of orchids originating from South East Asia.
Address: Rapenburg 73.
6. Notice the poems written on the walls
More than 110 poems in different languages were painted on the walls of various buildings in Leiden. The project “Wall Poems” began in 1992 with a poem in Russian by Marina Tsvetaeva and finished in 2005 with the poem “De Profundis” by Frederico Garcia Lorca.
7. Dutch pancakes
Hungry again? Grab a pancake at Oudt Leyden Pancake House! Order savory or sweet pancakes served in Delft blue plates and you get the chance to sit at the same table where Winston Churchill or Charles De Galle ate.
Address: Steenstraat 49, Leiden
Have space for more sweets? Then take a little detour from Dutch cuisine and try the Italian cannolo! Bocconi is a little Italian shop and restaurant, hidden away from the city center. You can buy fresh pasta to cook the perfect Italian dish or you can dine there.
Address: Burgsteeg 6, Leiden
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