Leiden; city of knowledge! How Leiden might just be the smartest city of the Netherlands

13 September 2018

Is Leiden the smartest city in the Netherlands? Leiden; known for it’s beautiful and picturesque canals, Dutch houses and the home of DutchReview. It’s also a city that puts the university at the heart of the community and sports an amazing range of different museums. So besides being pretty, Leiden also has plenty of brainpower going on, here’s what makes it one of the smartest cities in the Netherlands:

1. It’s home to Leiden University – the oldest one in the Netherlands

Leiden actually has the oldest university in the whole of the Netherlands, as it was founded in 1575 (wow!). The university is one of Europe’s leading international research universities. As a result of this and the university being around so long, the university has taught a lot of students over the years and it currently has 28,130 students and over 6,700 members of staff.

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The university is especially known for social sciences and law, and it is made up of 7 faculties (such as arts, humanities, sciences). The campuses are all over Leiden and a few of them are also present in the Hague. The student community makes up a large part of Leiden and is actually known for its student associations, so the Leiden university is actually the heart of the community, something you should know if you’re considering moving to Leiden.

So, what makes the university so good? Well, the university not only creates future brainiacs, but it has an impact on policy, economy and science. It’s made Leiden a very desirable place to live in a business sense. Take for example the expertise center of the university called LURIS. LURIS helps students and researchers create alliances with other people and companies, helping them with funding and also with startups. The university also collaborates with businesses in the Leiden Bio Science Park (we’ll explain what that is later) and the museums. Basically, we couldn’t picture a Leiden without the Uni.

The Academiegebouw at the Rapenburg canal – such a beauty.


2. It’s home to the Leiden Bio Science Park

Leiden is the home of the Leiden Bio Science Park, which is the largest life-science cluster in the whole of the Netherlands. It also holds the largest number of bioscience start-ups in the Netherlands, with over 106 medical life science companies residing there. The park mainly focuses on the use of biotechnology in relation to biopharmaceuticals.

Not only is it home to incredible research institutes, but the companies are made up of over 12 nationalities. A true multicultural hub in Leiden.

Source: Wiki Commons // Biccie

Each year the Leiden Bio Science Park gets bigger and better, and it’s going to be buzzing as well in the future since the city of Leiden plans to develop a whopping 1000 new homes in the area. In case you would love to both work and live in the park, here are their vacancies.

Furthermore, with the EMA coming to Amsterdam you can expect plenty of more activity for the Leiden Bio Science Park as well.

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Want to know more about the Leiden Bio Science Park? Check their brochure with plenty of more info!

3. It was like home to Einstein (he was a frequent visitor)

Albert Einstein first visited Leiden back in 1911 with his wife, when he was around 30 years old. He originally visited as a number of students had invited him to the city and he was a guest lecturer. When he arrived he was very fond of Leiden, saying that it was “that delightful piece of land on this barren planet.” After his first visit, he then visited Leiden often, as he was friends with other Dutch physicists. Leiden was actually the home of his closest friend Paul Ehrenfest (professor at Leiden University) and father-figure Hendrik Lorentz.

Einstein at the home of Leiden physics professor Paul Ehrenfest, June 1920 (source: wikipedia – cc)

When he came to Leiden, he would often discuss his theories with his friends. In 1916, he came to Leiden again to stay with Ehrenfest, during the midst of WWI. He discussed the General Theory of Relativity to Leiden’s astronomer and mathematician William de Sitter during his time there. For the next 20 years, he came to Leiden often to meet with friends and lecture at the university. To honor his work, “Magnetwoche/Magnet week” was organized in 1921.

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Einstein was present at Queen Wilhemina’s ceremony for an honorary doctorate in the Pieterkerk. He was wearing a blue silk outfit that came from the academy in Madrid. It stood out so much that to this day, other professors dress similarly when their doctorates are awarded in Leiden. 

Einstein mural in Leiden
Source: Wiki Commons

4. It’s home to some amazing museums

Call Leiden a mini-Amsterdam if you will, but I can guarantee that Leiden will have some museums that you would even rate higher than the capital itself. Leiden is home to some pretty amazing museums – The Museum of Antiquities, the National Museum of Ethnology, Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, the Lakenhal Museum and of course the big and famous Naturalis. I could go on. Each one provides something a bit different and just adds that cultural and educational aspect to Leiden.

Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)

The National Museum of Antiquities sits alongside the Rapenburg canal, the most well-known and arguably one of the most scenic canal streets in Leiden. This 200-year-old museum is definitely underrated, as it is filled with so many impressive historic artefacts. It is home to a 2,000-year-old temple, a collection of mummies and old Egyptian jewellery, not to mention the hundreds of other artefacts they have there


This is actually shot at the museum, how impressive!

National Museum of Ethnology (Volkenkunde)

The National Museum of Ethnology is a museum in Leiden decided to humans. Throughout the museum, they have a variety of interesting objects than all tell a human story. It’s basically a way of bringing together anything that is culturally diverse (there are themes of usual human behavior such as celebrating, moaning and praying), and putting it all together to showcase how we are both different, and the same.

Source: Wikipedia-cc-by Erick B

Rijksmuseum Boerhaave (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave)

Rijksmuseum Boerhaave is a museum dedicated to the Dutch history of science. It delves into the work of different researchers, their inventions and how it has influenced our society and world as a whole. Their collection showcases 5 centuries of scientific innovation. It’s both fascinating and important.

5. Leiden is home to tons of tech and science companies

Besides the University and the Leiden Bio Science Park there are also tons of other smart companies in Leiden. There’s the maritime company Heerema, the leading hosting company of TransIP and Astellas in its signature building located at Leiden Bio Science Park.

Source: Wikipedia-cc-Bic

There’s also a thriving start-up scene with at the heart of it the PLNT building & community. PLNT is Leiden’s centre for innovation and entrepreneurship and hosts a variety of innovative and young startup companies. So in case you’re reading this and you need some office-space and help with your tech-start-up: this is the place. Right now they’re looking for student entrepreneurs to join their Venture academy, have a look here what that’s all about.



That’s it? Well, one last addition – DutchReview is also located in Leiden! Yeah, we venture out tons of times to other cities, but this cute smart canal-filled town has us hooked!

I also have the feeling that this isn’t the last time we’re talking about the scientfic side of Leiden as it will be the European City of Science in 2022!

Want to see Leiden for yourself? Visit the town this upcoming Saturday when the ‘Night of Discoveries’ is happening!

This is an article by dutchreview.com