Leiden is a city with a great history. The buildings are still here to show it. The street plan of Leiden has hardly changed since the 17th century. For instance have a look at the Academy building of the University, or the Gravensteen, the Weighing House and the magnificent houses on the Rapenburg. There are also the two beautiful old churches in the centre: The Pieterskerk (known as the church of the Pilgrim Fathers) and the Hooglandse kerk.  

The 35 Almshouses also tell a history of there own as does the Burcht, Leiden’s castle. History is also found in the Hortus Botanicus where Clusius brought the first tulips to flower and in the fact that 400 years ago Holland’s oldest university of Leiden was founded. Rembrandt spent years painting in Leiden and was born here on the 15th of July 1606 in a pharmacy in the street called "Weddesteeg".  

From 1614 to 1620 he attended the Latin School on the back side of the "Gravensteen" in Leiden. Other famous painters from the "Leiden School" are Lucas van Leyden and Jan Steen.

During Roman times Leiden was an important traffic crossroad and was called "Lugdunum Batavorum". Only at the beginning of the 1990's was the canal of Corbulo discovered. This canal constituted a nautical connection between Leiden at the "Old Rhine" river and the estuary of the river Maas, near the present city of Naaldwijk. Corbulo, a military commander, had the canal dug in the year 49.

Activities in Leiden

Leiden is not only a beautiful city; it is also a cultural city. The best way to see it is by simply walking and looking around. Around the corner you may find a beautiful 'hofje', which is a little courtyard, or a lively pub. Below you will find a list of some of the activities in Leiden. 


There are many wonderful museums in Leiden. Some of these are national museums. Below you will find a list of some of the museums that might be worth visiting. Almost all museums have guided tours in several languages. It is however possible that not all exhibitions are in English.


Address:          Darwinweg 2, Leiden
Telephone:       071 568 7600
Website:          www.naturalis.nl

Naturalis allows you to experience the natural world. Thousands of real animals, plants, minerals, rocks and fossils can be admired from close by. From hummingbirds to zebras, from dinosaurs to shrimps. Enjoy their astounding beauty in peace and quiet or be charmed by their baffling colours and shapes. Naturalis has a nice shop with lots of interesting books about nature and nice gifts. Naturalis is located near the Leiden central station. From the back of the station you can follow the signposts; it is only 10 minutes by foot.

Opening Hours:            Tuesdays through Sundays:                          10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Boerhaave Museum

Address:          Lange St. Agnietenstraat 10
Telephone:       071 521 4224
Website:          www.museumboerhaave.nl

Boerhaave Museum is the national museum of the history of science and medicine.  It is housed in the old Caecilia-gasthuis. There is a theatre with amazing collections of skeletons. You will also find things like the microscopes made by Van Leeuwenhoek. You sometimes do need a strong stomach to be able to look at all exhibitions showed in this museum. It is, however, extremely interesting. 

The temporary exhibition might not all have English explanatory texts, but the rest of the museum does have English explanations. Guided tours in several languages are available.

Opening Hours: Tuesdays through to Saturdays:                                10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Sundays and Public Holidays:                                                              noon – 5.00 p.m.

National Museum of Ethnology

Address:          Steenstraat 1
Telephone:       071 516 8800
Website:          www.volkenkunde.nl

The goal of the National Museum of Ethnology is to provide a picture of the history and development of non-western cultures, today and in the future. An important element in its approach is the focus on interactions between these cultures and the contacts with the Netherlands. The museum hopes that this may help to promote understanding and respect for other cultures among the wide spectrum of visitors.

Opening Hours:            Tuesdays through Sundays:                             10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Address:          Rapenburg 28
Telephone:       071 516 3163 
This is a very diverse and interesting museum. They often have very popular exhibitions. It has been known that when such a popular exhibition takes place, a queue forms out onto the Rapenburg! This museum is also a lot of fun for children. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden’s objective is to acquaint a large and diverse audience with the ancient cultures that have influenced the development of Dutch society. The museum offers access to its collections from ancient Egypt, the world of classical antiquity, the ancient Near East and the early Netherlands.

Opening Hours:            Tuesdays through Sundays:                             10.00 a.m. -5.00 p.m.

Municipal Museum The Lakenhal

Address: Oude Singel 28-32
Telephone: 071 516 5360

Since 1874 the Municipal Museum of Leiden has been housed in the Lakenhal, the former cloth makers' hall, built in 1640 by Arent van ' Gravesande. This is where the famed Leiden cloth was inspected and where the Governors and Assayers of the cloth industry held their meetings. Reminders of the textile industry which was so important to Leiden can be seen in the historical collection. The various stages of the wool production process are illustrated in a monumental series of 16th-century paintings by Isaac van Swanenburgh. This unique pictorial record is supplemented by a loom, sample books, scissors, stamps and so forth. For the celebration of the birth year of Rembrandt there are three special exhibitions in this museum.

Opening Hours: Tuesdays through Fridays: 10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays: noon – 5 p.m.

Pilgrim Museum

Address: Beschuitsteeg 9

This museum is all about the pilgrims who travelled to America. The Pilgrim Museum is in a typical pilgrim house and shows how pilgrims used to live and what their life was like. This is a small yet informative museum. You will be able to read about their short time in Leiden. In 1620 they left the Rapenburg to go to America and found a new state.

Opening hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays: 1.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Other sights

De Valk Minicipal Windmill 

Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1
Telephone: 071 516 5353

There were once nineteen windmills built on the city walls of Leiden but only De Valk is still standing today. All the information in the mill museum is in German, English and French, as well as in Dutch. Tours are also available in these four languages upon request. The audio-visual program is in Dutch and English. The mill is operational as often as possible and also grinds regularly. You can see the traditional millers’ living area, exhibition rooms, grinding loft, stone loft and hoisting loft.

Opening Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays:                                     10.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.
Sundays and Public Holidays:                                                              1.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m.

Hortus Botanicus

Address: Rapenburg 73
Telephone: 071 527 7249

Hortus Botanicus is a beautiful botanical garden with a history of its own. Plants from all over the world have been grown and studied here for more than 400 years. It is the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. The Hortus Botanicus offers a varied program of exhibitions, concerts, workshops, creativity courses, activities for the young and guided tours on specific subjects, all of which can be combined with coffee served in the conservatory.

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday:                                                 10.00 a.m. – 16.00 p.m.

Boat Trip  

Address:          Rembrandt Shipping Company
Telephone:       071 - 513 49 38

You can enjoy Leiden from a different perspective when you take a boat trip round the canals. The boat leaves from the Beestenmarkt, where you can also buy the tickets. The city canal trip in and around Leiden sails daily. The trip takes about one hour.

The Sailing Times:                                                                            11.00 a.m., 12.00 p.m. 1.30 p.m., 2.45 p.m. and 4.00 p.m.

Adults:                        € 7,50
Group discount starts at 10 people. It is possible to pay electronically at the cash desk.

Rowing Boats

Name:              Botenverhuur 't Galgenwater
Address:          Galgewater 44a
Telephone:       071 5149790

When the weather is nice it might be fun to rent a rowing boat! Ask for a map of the canals to make sure you don't get lost. Make sure you watch out for other boats, as on a warm day the canals can be full of them. If you don’t want to row, you can also rent a motor boat. 

Opening Hours:            Mondays through Thursdays:                        12.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m.
                                   Fridays through Sundays:                              11.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m.

Admission:                   Rowing boats € 6,00 per one hour (4 persons).
                                   Pedal boat € 9,00 per one hour (2 persons).
                                   Motor boat from € 80,00 per 2 hours (8 persons).

Last Modified: 29-01-2013