Discover the places you can’t afford to miss
Leiden is the City of Discoveries – so have you discovered all there is to discover yet? Because Leiden has a lot to offer. It’s not just the museums, terraces, charming canals and stores. There are many more great spots to find, and it would certainly be a pity if you missed them during your time in Leiden. So make sure to visit the top 10 spots!
1. De Burcht
The Burcht van Leiden (Fort of Leiden) is one of the oldest remaining forts in Holland. Itis built on a motte, an artificial hill, and was part of a so-called shell keep. Archaeologists have determined that the hill was built towards the end of the ninth century. The top of the hill was circled by a wall, and in the past also supported a tower. The fort lost its military function as early as the fourteenth century. This picturesque spot is an absolute must-see during any visit to Leiden; at the top of its numerous steps, a magnificent view of the city awaits you.
2. Historic harbour
The historic harbour at Kort Galgewater is reserved for historic commercial vessels predating 1940. Nine of such ships are currently moored in the harbour, and together they create a gorgeous scene. Most of them are inhabited, and have been restored by their skippers, whose goal is to preserve and where necessary repair these ships’ authentic images. Information signs have been erected for each of the vessels.
Next to the Old Harbour is Zijlpoort gate. In the past, Leiden had eight city gates, the only ones of which survive are Morspoort and Zijlpoort. Zijlpoort gate’s predecessor stood at the end of Haarlemmerstraat, where Havenplein square is located today. Zijlpoort gate has played a variety of roles throughout the years, ranging from conference room to school and from there to municipal storage. These days, it hosts a fish restaurant, and is a beautiful monument in its own right that more than deserves a visit and a photograph.
Rapenburg canal was dug to ensure that Leiden could be well defended. In the 17th century, it developed into the most important and most fashionable canal in the entire city, the canal where rich merchants and famous professors lived. Princess Beatrix, King Willem-Alexander and other members of the Royal Family lived on Rapenburg canal during their studies, and Leiden University’s Academy Building, the National Museum of Antiquities, the Hortus Botanicus Leiden, Japan Museum SieboldHuis and many student houses are located there.
5. Van der Werf Park
Van der Werf Park is a perfect place to relax and recharge your batteries. It’s the ideal environment in which to enjoy a good book or a pleasant picnic on the grass. It is the result of the explosion of a gunpowder-laden ship in 1807, which pulverised a large number of homes. Where the homes had stood, a park was built, and a memorial stone was placed on the quay where the ship once lay moored, which can be seen from the park. In the centre of the park stands a statue of Van der Werff, the mayor of Leiden at the time of the Relief of Leiden.
6. Nieuwe Rijn/Vismarkt/Botermarkt
A bustling area in the heart of Leiden with many appealing stores and terraces to visit and enjoy. This is also where the Leiden market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which sells vegetables, fish, fruits, flowers, clothing, delicacies from all corners of the world and everything else you might be looking for.
Koornbrug bridge is a characteristic bridge across the New Rhine and a national monument. In the past, this bridge was a trading site for various types of grain, collectively known as koren – hence its name. Its famous roof was constructed during the nineteenth century to ensure that the goods remained dry, which makes it the oldest, but not the only, roofed bridge in the Netherlands. A handsome spot that enjoys great popularity among photographers.
8. Old Observatory
The Old Observatory of Leiden is the oldest still existing university observatory in the world. In the past, the building was primarily used for education, but nowadays it serves as a lecture room for the University’s faculty of law. The Old Observatory is located in the gardens of the Hortus Botanicus Leiden. Students and volunteers still use its telescopes and domes, and open them to the public on open days, during lectures and for public tours.
Pieterskwartier quarter is one of Leiden’s oldest neighbourhoods. Located around Pieterskerk church, this is an area full of history and narrow streets and alleys. It is home to countless specialised boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants, and is a wonderful part of Leiden to amble around in and taste the nostalgia. Kloksteeg alley, commanding a view of the centuries-old Pieterskerk church, is among the most splendid and convivial pub and eatery streets in Leiden.
10. St. Annahofje
The courtyard known by the names of St. Annahofje and Aalmoeshuis was built in 1492, making it one of the oldest courtyards in Leiden. It is the only courtyard whose chapel has been preserved to this day, making it very much worth a visit. The chapel contains the oldest stained glass windows in the Netherlands, making it a true highlight of the city. The chapel is open to visitors on Saturdays from 14:00 to 16:00.