Visit Leiden: things to do and see

The Amsterdam canals, but without the tourists? Visit Leiden! This beautiful historic city is one of our places to see in the Netherlands. Sebastiaan even lived at one of the canals for three years. Maartje also visits Leiden often for the amazing museums it has to offer. The historic architecture, the huge range of museums, the lovely hotspots and charming streets make Leiden a perfect destination when visiting the Netherlands! These are the best things to do in Leiden according to locals.

Leiden | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | The Orange Backpack

The best Leiden accommodation

Do not stick for just a day, but make a weekend trip to the canal city in South Holland. Leiden has boutique hotels in beautiful buildings. Completely in line with the ancient city center, these hotels have impressive rooms in historical and monumental style.

Leiden | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | The Orange Backpack

Leiden to do: museums, monuments and hotspots

The Leiden museums

After Amsterdam, Leiden has perhaps the largest selection of museums. In Leiden you can admire Egyptian mummies, prehistoric dinosaurs, exotic world treasures, the human body, the universe and also tropical plants. This is a selection of our favorites:

  • The Archaeological Museum of Egyptian Mummies, Greek Vases and Roman Statues.
  • Naturalis for prehistoric dinosaurs and impressive natural treasures.
  • Corpus for a journey through the human body.
  • Museum of Ethnology for exotic world treasures.
  • Hortus Botanicus for tropical and unique plants.
  • Old Observatory for a historical observatory of the universe.

If you are willing to leave the center of Leiden, you can also visit great museums in the area. Maartje’s favorite is Duivenvoorde Castle near Voorschoten, the earliest history of which dates from the thirteenth century. You can visit the castle with a tour of the historic interior. The castle garden is always open.

For modern art you should go to Voorlinden in Wassenaar. This private museum has the coolest contemporary art in the Netherlands. How about a huge, but lifelike artwork of an older couple on the beach? Or Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool where you can go underwater without a wet suit? On a beautiful day, don’t forget to take a walk through the beautiful park.

Historical Leiden

The center of Leiden is packed with historical monuments, characteristic canals and secret courtyards. Leiden is actually a large open-air museum: in the center there are about 2800 monuments! From city gates to bridges and from churches to university buildings.

One of the historical highlights is the ancient fortress. The round structure was built high on an artificial hill in the heart of the city. So from these high walls, you’ll have a great view of Leiden and you can see the beautiful diversity of church towers. It’s also a popular spot for picnics in the sun in the summer. The entrance is free.

Tip: rent a boat for a cruise through the canals of Leiden!

On the visitor site of Leiden you will find an overview of the most important monuments. Combine a city walk along these sights immediately with the courtyards of Leiden. Of the 35 picturesque inner gardens, some are always open to visitors. Check this overview of almshouses to visit and this overview map.

Leiden | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | The Orange Backpack

Leiden hotspots: eating, drinking and shopping

The monumental city is full of coffee bars, lunch spots, vintage shops, concept stores, gift shops, breakfast spots and restaurants. At Chummy they serve the best coffee, Roast and Toast serves delicious toasties, ROOS has the most instagrammable breakfast, De Waag is a beautiful location, Lot & De Walvis has a wonderful living room atmosphere and Logica is a must for vegetarians and vegans.

Leiden is also the place for vintage shopping and scoring living items at beautiful concept shops. KOSi has unique clothing items, Lucies sells jewelry according to her own design, at Wonderful Nature you can browse between natural items (yes, also a stuffed lion), Flamingo, VNTG and Hartendief are the best vintage shops and Eduard is a beautiful concept store in a monumental building.

And so we have dozens of other favorites. Check our map below for the best spots!

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