Leiden is an authentic Dutch city with a rich tradition of knowledge, science, culture and international relations. A city with beautiful canals, some 3,000 monuments, 12 leading museums and a vibrant city centre.
Leiden is where Rembrandt was born and learned the art of painting, where the physician Boerhaave spread his knowledge and where Clusius cultivated the first Dutch tulips 400 years ago. You will undoubtedly agree that Leiden deserves the title Leiden, Key to Discovery.
More than once, Leiden has been called the most beautiful city of the Netherlands. Not too surprising, considering the extent to which the city's rich history is still visible throughout the charming city centre.
Adding the large number of museums, the endless monuments and the thriving cultural climate in Leiden, you will certainly agree that the city more than deserves its reputation.
Leiden surprises and enriches you.
Leiden has over 2700 monuments. From almshouses to windmills and churches to city gates. In fact, Leiden's entire downtown area is a historic monument in its entirety. Located within such a short distance from one another, a walk along the canals to view the most conspicuous monuments hardly takes any effort and is well worth the time!
Here is a brief introduction to several of these monuments:
Leiden's Stadhuis or town hall is one of the most characteristic buildings in the entire city. Located on the banks of the New Rhine, it has a long and turbulent history, the tragic low point of which was the fire of 1929. The old Renaissance exterior facing the Breestraat survived the fire and dates back to 1595; the part facing the Vismarkt was built in 1940 after the original section was destroyed in the fire.
In Leiden, De Burcht or 'citadel' is one of the oldest surviving examples of a 'motte' castle in the Netherlands. These early medieval fortresses were built on a man-made hill called a motte and were usually made of wood. The citadel is open to the public. The stairs are very steep, but if you manage to reach the top your efforts will be rewarded with an absolutely fantastic view of Leiden.
Dating back to the Golden Age, De Waag or the 'weigh house' is a textbook example of Dutch Classicism. The weigh house opened in 1659. For centuries, this was where merchants came to weigh and trade all sorts of goods. Gradually, business practices changed and the last cheese was sold in 1972. From then on, the building has served a cultural purpose.
When it was built in the early Middle Ages, buildings were seldom made of stone, which explains why this monument earned the nickname Het Gravensteen or 'the Count's Stone'. It was reinforced tower constructed as part of the local count's estate. Over the centuries, it has been used as a prison, a community home and a book depository. Today it is part of the university.
The Pieterskerk or 'church of Peter' was founded in 1121 as the count's chapel and was built in phases (depending on financial means). Today, the church looks more or less the way it did by the 16th century. Before 1811 many prominent people were buried in the Pieterskerk, like Jacobus Arminius, Herman Boerhaave, Jan Steen and John Robinson, pastor of the "Pilgrim Fathers".
The Hooglandse Kerk or 'Highland church' is an imposing, late Gothic cathedral in the heart of Leiden. The Gothic interplay of lines and huge windows allow a tremendous amount of light into the enormous space. The church has excellent acoustics and is famous for its elegance.
St. Anna Aalmoeshuis
Founded in 1492, this is one of the oldest hofjes or almshouses in Leiden. A striking detail is the small chapel for the residents, which was consecrated in 1509. The chapel is filled with unique furniture and fittings, and the windows feature the oldest stained glass in the Netherlands.