The uni­ver­si­ty city of Lei­den is one of the old­est and most pic­turesque cities in the Nether­lands. Lei­den lies in an exten­sive flori­cul­ture area, whose prod­ucts are sold in the city and the sur­round­ing region. It is also one of the lead­ing cul­tur­al cen­ters in the Nether­lands. In addi­tion to its renowned library uni­ver­si­ty, the city is home to a num­ber of oth­er research insti­tutes, includ­ing the Nation­al Herbar­i­um, with its exten­sive dry plant col­lec­tions, and the Roy­al Insti­tute of Lin­guis­tics and Anthro­pol­o­gy. Lei­den is also known as the birth­place of sev­er­al great artists of the 16th and 17th cen­turies. Among them are Lucas van Ley­den, Rem­brandt, Jan Steen, Jan van Goyen and Frans van Mieris. This selec­tion con­tains the most out­stand­ing attrac­tions in Lei­den that are worth a vis­it.

sights of leiden

Entry relat­ed to place: Nether­lands

Old Leiden Castle

The path to the Old Cas­tle of Lei­den leads through the old lock, on which the fig­ure of a lion with the coat of arms of the city is installed. The castle’s 12-meter mound was cre­at­ed specif­i­cal­ly for flood pro­tec­tion. The 11th-cen­tu­ry fort was pro­tect­ed by a 35-metre-diam­e­ter wall con­tour, as well as two canals, one of which can still be seen at the foot of the hill. There is even a spe­cial one-hour tour of the walls. In the 17th cen­tu­ry, the tow­er of the bur­go­mas­ters was built, who in the peri­od from 1651 to 1764 were also gov­er­nors of the cas­tle. From the top of the cas­tle offers a panoram­ic view of the sur­round­ings and oth­er sights of Lei­den.

old leiden castle

Natural Science Museum

The love­ly lit­tle Boer­haave Muse­um offers a fas­ci­nat­ing look at the his­to­ry of med­i­cine and sci­ence through the ages. Housed in a for­mer monastery, Lei­den’s beau­ti­ful tourist attrac­tion boasts a large col­lec­tion of appa­ra­tus devel­oped at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lei­den for sci­en­tif­ic research. The muse­um is named after the Dutch physi­cian Her­mann Boer­hav, a renowned botanist and uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor, whose stu­dents includ­ed Peter the Great and Voltaire. The Nat­ur­al Sci­ence Muse­um also includes a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of carved wood­en heads depict­ing the effects of swal­low­ing med­i­cines, as well as the Lei­den Anatom­i­cal The­atre, where autop­sies were per­formed. Guid­ed tours in Eng­lish are avail­able.

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science museum

National Museum of Antiquities

The Nation­al Muse­um of Antiq­ui­ties (Rijksmu­se­um van Oud­he­den) dis­plays numer­ous archae­o­log­i­cal exhibits from Egypt and the Mid­dle East, as well as arti­facts from the Greek and Roman peri­ods. Found­ed in 1818, this top-notch Lei­den land­mark includes numer­ous sculp­tures, antique vas­es, and small­er items from pre­his­toric times to the Romans. In the court­yard of the muse­um is the Nubian tem­ple of Taffa, pre­sent­ed to the coun­try by Pres­i­dent Sadat in 1979 as a token of grat­i­tude for the help of the Nether­lands in sav­ing mon­u­ments dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the Aswan Dam.

museum of antiquities

Hortus Botanicus Garden

Part of the Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty Botan­i­cal Gar­dens, Hor­tus Botan­i­cus was orig­i­nal­ly found­ed in 1590, mak­ing it one of the old­est gar­dens of its kind in the world. More than 10,000 botan­i­cal species are found here, as well as dozens of bird species, many of which live in remote cor­ners of the globe. The high­light of this pop­u­lar his­toric gar­den is the Clu­sius­tu­in, a recon­struc­tion of the orig­i­nal botan­i­cal gar­den, orig­i­nal­ly locat­ed behind the uni­ver­si­ty build­ing. Also worth a vis­it are the Win­ter Gar­den with its col­lec­tion of cicadas and car­niv­o­rous plants, the large dec­o­ra­tive green­house from 1744, the Rose Gar­den and the Japan­ese Gar­den. Guid­ed tours in Eng­lish are avail­able with reser­va­tion. It is worth not­ing that Lei­den is an excel­lent option for a day trip from Ams­ter­dam. Read more about this in the selec­tion of 8 won­der­ful days around Ams­ter­dam.

hortus botanicus

Windmill Museum Molin de Valk

The Lei­den Wind­mill Muse­um (Molen de Valk) is housed in an impres­sive sev­en-sto­ry wind­mill built in 1773. This mag­nif­i­cent exam­ple of the ubiq­ui­tous Dutch wind­mill stands on a hill that was orig­i­nal­ly part of the city (in the ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry, 19 wind­mills were with­in the city walls). After restora­tion in 1964, the Molin de Valk, togeth­er with the last miller’s res­i­dence, was opened to the pub­lic as a muse­um. High­lights of a vis­it to this still-func­tion­ing mill include dis­plays and exhibits relat­ed to the his­to­ry of the build­ing, as well as numer­ous tools and arti­facts. Guid­ed tours are avail­able upon request. This is one of those attrac­tions in Lei­den that you should def­i­nite­ly vis­it.

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windmill museum

Museum de Lakenhal

On the north side of the city is the Lei­den City Muse­um (Muse­um De Lak­en­hal). It is housed in the city’s for­mer Woven Hall (Lak­en­hal), built in 1640 and used for its orig­i­nal pur­pose until 1800. The present muse­um was opened in 1874 and boasts an impres­sive col­lec­tion of paint­ings by lead­ing Dutch artists of the 16th and 17th cen­turies, includ­ing Jan van Goyen, Rem­brandt and Jan Steen. Also inter­est­ing is the col­lec­tion of applied and dec­o­ra­tive art of the muse­um. Oth­er notable exhibits include a refur­bished inspec­tion room where fab­ric qual­i­ty was checked, as well as a large col­lec­tion of reli­gious arti­facts.

sights of leidenBiodiversity Center Naturalis

The Nation­al Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry of the Nether­lands, Nat­u­ralis Bio­di­ver­si­ty Cen­ter offers excit­ing infor­ma­tion and exhibits from the nat­ur­al world. This large muse­um hous­es over ten mil­lion spec­i­mens of ani­mals and insects, as well as stones, min­er­als and jew­els. You should def­i­nite­ly vis­it the The­ater of Nature, which deals with ani­mal and plant life, and the Pri­mor­dial Hall with its fas­ci­nat­ing views of fos­sils. For chil­dren, hands-on exhibits are avail­able, includ­ing games and fun exper­i­ments that encour­age play­ful learn­ing.

naturalis museum

National Museum of Ethnology

The Nation­al Muse­um of Eth­nol­o­gy in Lei­den is con­sid­ered the first such muse­um in the world, and not just a col­lec­tion of curiosi­ties. The attrac­tion is con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed next to the Molin de Valk mill and is con­sid­ered a great pas­time option. Found­ed in 1837, the cen­ter was ini­tial­ly housed in sev­er­al build­ings scat­tered through­out the city, until it took over the premis­es of the for­mer uni­ver­si­ty hos­pi­tal in 1937. Its exten­sive col­lec­tions come from all over the world with a focus on arti­facts from Indone­sia and Japan. Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is the Bud­dha Room with a col­lec­tion of stat­ues depict­ing the prophet in var­i­ous pos­es.

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Leiden Pilgrim Museum

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est to US vis­i­tors is the small Amer­i­can Pil­grim Muse­um, hid­den behind the Hor­tus Botan­i­cus gar­den. The muse­um ded­i­cat­ed to the Pil­grim Fathers tells the sto­ry of the group’s escape from Eng­land and their arrival in Lei­den. Here they stayed until 1620 before start­ing their epic jour­ney to North Amer­i­ca via Southamp­ton. The muse­um pro­vides inter­est­ing mate­r­i­al about the life of the Pil­grims in the city, as well as tells the sto­ry of the 14th cen­tu­ry house in which it is locat­ed. High­lights include exhi­bi­tions of fur­ni­ture, books and oth­er mate­ri­als, as well as his­tor­i­cal maps and prints.

Pilgrim Museum

St. Pieterskerk

One of Lei­den’s most promi­nent attrac­tions, St. Pieterskerk is famous for its annu­al cel­e­bra­tion of the city’s lib­er­a­tion from the Span­ish. The late Goth­ic fortress basil­i­ca Pieterskerk dates back to 1121, when the city’s first church was built here. The cur­rent church appeared in the 13th cen­tu­ry, with the com­ple­tion of the choir in 1339, and the nave with its dou­ble aisles was added in the 14th cen­tu­ry. High­lights include the build­ing’s wood­en vault extend­ing to the west front and many mon­u­ments to var­i­ous uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors. Of par­tic­u­lar note is the tomb of John Robin­son, a dis­tin­guished mem­ber of the Pil­grim Fathers, a late Goth­ic carved wood­en altar dat­ing from the ear­ly 16th cen­tu­ry, and an organ built around 1640. For a tru­ly unique expe­ri­ence, stay overnight at the near­by Vil­la Rameau, a for­mer 16th-cen­tu­ry almshouse.