Leiden On a BudgetLeiden is a city in the province of South Holland. It is south of the Netherlands capital, Amsterdam, and has a population of about 190,000. It is known for its university, museums, markets, and of course, canals. Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands and is a sister school of Oxford, which is England's oldest university.
SightsGravensteen in Leiden is a historical monument that was once a prison, and today is a building associated with the university. Centuries ago, when this building served as a prison, there was a gallery that looked out at the plaza where judges could view public executions.
The most well-known museum in Leiden is the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. It is the national archeological museum of the Netherlands and is associated with the archaeology department of the university. The focus of the museum is around ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The museum is located near Pieterskerkhof, which is in the same plaza as Gravensteen.
Molenmuseum de Valk takes you through the history of the famous Dutch windmills. You are able to actually go inside the windmill and learn how windmills work, the purposes they serve, and how they played a role in Leiden's history.
NeighborhoodsThere are a few surrounding neighborhoods in the Leiden area that are a bike or tram ride away. Katwijk and Noordwijk are two beach towns that are nearby and have restaurants, shops, and beautiful sand dunes to explore. Wassenaar is also a surrounding neighborhood to Leiden with a large waterpark called Duinrell. If you happen to be in the Netherlands during tulip season (April/May), then visit the Lisse region and you can bike around to explore the famous Dutch tulip fields.
ActivitiesLeiden has a buzzing music scene, with many international and local artists playing in music clubs and at festivals. Ontzettend is a battle of the bands festival that happens every September. Another great festival takes place around October 3rd every year and is the commemoration of the Siege of Leiden when the Spanish tried to capture the city during the Eighty Years' War. At this festival, you will find amusement rides, food vendors, and lots of live music. Seeing Leiden on foot is a great way to see the city, but seeing it from the water is even better. There are many canal tour companies all over the city that offer private or group tours around the historical city. You can also rent a rowing boat for your self if you want to explore at your own pace.
Food and DiningLeiden has a wide variety of food to offer for travelers. In Leiden, you can find typical Dutch food, burger joints, high-end French cuisine, or just order Chinese takeout. For a Dutch style meal, t Suppiershuysinghe is a great place to go. It is more of a brunch type place that has great coffee, and small sandwich type meals. It's located in a square in the city center, which is an excellent place for people watching while enjoying a day out in Leiden. David's Burger is a great place that offers an array of organic burgers. For those wanting the high-end French cuisine I mentioned above, go to Dartel. There are Asian style take away places all over town. Woo Ping is Chinese, Toko BungaMas is Indonesian, and Sushi Bento is Japanese. I suggest trying the Indonesian food!
TransportationTo get to Leiden from Schiphol Airport, or any other city that you may be visiting in the Netherlands, just take an Intercity or Sprinter train to Leiden Centraal. Exiting central station brings you right out into the city center. Once in the city, basically your options are: bike, car, taxi, bus, tram, or foot. Biking is the best way to get around, as you can really see a lot of the city and the surrounding neighborhoods as well. However, for those who aren't inclined to bike or the weather doesn't permit, there is a tram system in Leiden too. Tickets can be purchased on board the tram. Walking is also a great option because it allows you to be able to easily go in and out of shops and cafes as you venture around the city. Renting a car and taking taxis can be an option, but should be used as more of a last resort. The public transportation in the Netherlands is very efficient and easy to use; so take advantage of that before spending money on a car or taxi.
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