7 Things To Do In Leiden For A Fun Visit In The Netherlands

things to do in leiden

As more travelers are taking the onus to explore different regions of Europe, the city of Leiden in The Netherlands has gained even more attention of late. The second largest city in the nation (Amsterdam leading the way in that statistic) as well as being the birthplace of the famous painter Rembrandt and home to the oldest university in the country, Leiden is home to a bevy of sights that any traveler would love to lay eyes on.

1. Leiden Loop

This highly popular tour is a grand way for visitors of Leiden to traverse the entire city on foot. Interested parties make their way to the Tourist Information Centre across the road from Leiden Station, and sign up. Then they will meet a guide (there are both Dutch and English-speaking guides available), grab a map and traipse through the streets to check out numerous landmarks. Each point of interest is marked by a pole to coincide with the map. Included among the 24 landmarks on the city walk are sights such as the Rembrandtplein dedicated to the legendary artist, and preserved windmills dating back to the 18th Century.

Leiden Loop

Address: Stationsweg 26, 2312 AV Leiden, Netherlands

Price: from 5.50 USD

Opening Hours: Daily, 7am - 7pm.

Duration: around 3 to 4 hours required for the entire tour.

Access: Head to Leiden Station, and the center is directly across from it.

Contact: +31 715166000

Near by Food: The Golden Tulip Hotel, 5 minutes away, has a popular restaurant.

2. The Wall Poems of Leiden

Dylan Thomas - Was there a time
Source: Photo by user Biccie used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Another sight to see which takes advantage of Leiden’s carefully kept city infrastructure and combines it with high art are the Wall Poems of Leiden. Beginning as a part of the “Poems and Walls” project initiated by the local Tegen-Beeld Foundation in 1992, artists began to paint selected poems by a who’s-who of writers. These hand-painted displays include poems by Langston Hughes, Sapho, William Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats and many more in their original language, and each has a plaque in Dutch and English to go with them bearing information on the poet. These poems are emblazoned on walls and bridges, sometimes rising more than 20 feet high (6 meters). The project concluded in 2005 with a poem by Francisco Garcia Lorca, but others in Leiden have continued to paint poetry on walls throughout the city. There is a website available where those interested can download a map to check each and every one of them out on their walk.

The Wall Poems Of Leiden

Address: 2312 DN Leiden, Netherlands

Opening Hours: open 24 hours.

Duration: around 3 hours required to see the entire project.

Access: Begin at Leiden Central station, follow route provided by map.

3. Leiden Observatory

Source: Photo by user Erik Zachte used under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Leiden Observatory stands tall in the annals of science history as well as European history. First established in 1633 by Leiden University, the observatory is the oldest ever that is still operational with the observatory at the Vatican being the next in line in terms of age. The complex has seen some renovations in the past decade, but a couple of the detached buildings are there for astronomy lovers and others to visit. Guided tours conducted by students are available, with such highlights as viewing telescopes and other equipment that are at least a century old.

Leiden Observatory

Address: Niels Bohrweg 2, 2333 CA Leiden, Netherlands

Price: from 52 to 77 USD for arranged guided tours.

Opening Hours: Open during university hours, check website for details.

Duration: around 3 hours required.

Access: 15 minutes via transit from Leiden Central station, 17 minutes by walking

Contact: +31 715275737

Near by Food: Verboden Toegang Restaurant Artikel 461 on Kaiserstraat.

Website: Leiden Observatory

4. Hooglandse Kerk

Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden
Source: Photo by user Edi Weissmann used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Those who are fans of ancient architecture won’t want to pass up a visit to Hooglanse Kerk. Located within the center of Leiden, Hooglandse Kerk is a Gothic church that has been part of the landscape since its initial construction in 1314 at the behest of the Bishop of Utrecht. Over time, the church was expanded into its present-day condition. Services are still conducted here as well as various other events. One striking feature are the windows, delicately crafted and gateways that light streams through copiously. Another point of interest here is the restored clock that once stood upon a prime tower here, taking up the entirety of one room in the sanctuary.

Hooglandse Kerk

Address: Nieuwstraat 20, 2312 KC Leiden, Netherlands

Duration: visitors usually spend 1.5 hours here.

Access: take 7 minute transit ride from Leiden Central station, exit at Breegstraat then walk east 3 mins.

Contact: +31 715149636

Website: Hooglandse Kerk

5. Molen Museum de Valk

Close-up van ronde stenen stellingmolen met aanbouw - AMR Molenfoto - 20540486 - RCE
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Terpstra, Frank used under CC BY-SA 4.0

If there is one thing that comes to mind when many think of Holland, it’s the prominence of windmills. Leiden is home to one of the largest and oldest, the Molen Museum de Valk. The windmill, once owned by the de Valk family, was constructed in 1743. Visitors will be astounded once they arrive to see how well-preserved it is. The entire windmill consists of seven floors that are all accessible. There are a number of signs and plaques that detail the history of the windmill as well as Leiden itself among other artifacts throughout. Bear in mind that the stairs are intensely steep at times, but once visitors arrive at the top they are greeted with a breathtaking and sweeping view of Leiden and the surrounding area.

Molen Museum de Valk

Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1, 2312 BZ Leiden, Netherlands

Price: 4.30 USD

Opening Hours: 10am - 5pm Tuesday - Saturday. 1pm - 5pm Sunday. Closed on Monday.

Duration: visitors spend up to 2 hours here.

Access: 5 minute walk from Leiden Central station via Schuttersveid

Contact: +31 715165353

Near by Food: Stadscafe Van de Werff, on Steenstraat.

Website: Molen Museum de Valk

6. Leiden Botanical Gardens

Hortus Botanicus Leiden - De Wintertuin
Source: Photo by user Tubantia used under CC BY-SA 3.0

It was in Leiden where the first fields of tulips that The Netherlands is also known for, were planted. With that history in mind, one of the must-see places in the city are the Leiden Botanical Gardens. Standing as the oldest such garden in the country as well as Western Europe, it was created by Leiden University back in 1590. The garden grounds are located next door to the university and are a short distance from the Witte Singel canal. There are six different gardens covering about four hectares of land, each splendid and alluring. Visitors here can engage in a plentiful list of activities from drawing workshops to seminars. There are also opportunities to sign up for guided tours of the grounds in advance, and even the chance to book a canal cruise in addition. If you prefer to wing it, there are a few hiking trails and the visitors center will provide you with a detailed map. And if you’re in need of refreshment, the Hortus Grand Café is available for lunch and afternoon tea.

Leiden Botanical Gardens

Address: Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden, Netherlands

Price: 8.00 USD

Opening Hours: 10am - 4pm. Closed on Mondays.

Duration: visitors spend 2.5 hours here.

Access: 8 minute ride via transit from Leiden Central to Kort Rapenburg, then walk

Contact: +31 715275144

Near by Food: Hortus Cafe on premises.

Website: Leiden Botanical Gardens

7. Zijlpoort

Zijlpoort Leiden
Source: Photo by user FaceMePLS used under CC BY 2.0

The Zijlpoort is one of Leiden’s most cherished structures and a popular destination for travelers to get a feel for the grandeur of what the city was like centuries ago. De Zijlpoort is actually one of the last two gates remaining from the original eight that were part of the city’s wall fortifications first built in 1667. Its unique shape was designed to not only be part of a wall but also to accommodate a bridge. Taking its name from the nearby Zijl River, the monument has gone through extensive renovations to its present day look. Many come here to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the gate and the surrounding harbor whether on a stroll or on a leisurely bike ride towards the center of the city.


Address: ML, Haven, 2312 Leiden, Netherlands

Opening Hours: 24 hours access.

Access: 8 minute ride via taxi, 18 minutes via transit to Breestraat and walking east

Near by Food: Volharding Restaurant

Website: Zijlpoort

Last words on Leiden

The city of Leiden unfolds its appeal to many, not unlike the first dainty motions of a tulip in full bloom. Whether you are an artist, a horticultural Aficionado, a history buff or all of the above, making a visit here will definitely leave you with a lot of inspiration. And it might also leave you with enough great experiences to compel others to visit.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Christopher Smith is a writer who hails from New York City. Growing up, he had the love of travel instilled in him from a young age thanks to his parents to go along with a love of writing. After a...Read more

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