Leyden Tourist Attractions
The university town of Leiden (English form Leyden), one of the oldest and most picturesque towns in the Netherlands, lies in Zuid-Holland on the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine), which flows quietly through the town like a canal.
Leiden lies in an extensive flower growing and market gardening area, the produce of which is marketed in the town and surrounding area and to a considerable extent processed in factories in the town. More important than the foodstuffs industries, however, are metalworking, engineering and Leiden's world-famed printing industry. The town's textile industry, once so important, is now represented only by a few spinning and weaving mills and finishing factories.Leiden is one of the leading cultural centers in the Netherlands. In addition to the University with its library of over 1.5million volumes there are a number of other research institutions in the town, including the Rijksherbarium with its collections of dried plants, the Dutch Literature Society and the Royal Institute of Linguistics, Regional Studies and Ethnology (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde). Here too is published the "Dictionary of the Dutch Language". There are also a number of important museums in the town, including the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheiden) and the National Museum of Ethnology (Rijksmuseum van Volkenkunde).There was a settlement here in ancient times, known to the Romans as Lugdunum Batavorum. In the 11th century the Counts of Holland built a castle (De Burcht) on a mound at the confluence of the Old and the New Rhine, with a church inside the castle precincts. The only relic of this early period is the Gravensteen, a 13th century stronghold which for many years was a state prison. The medieval settlement of Leythen was granted a municipal charter in 1266 and developed during the 14th and 15th centuries into the principal center of the Dutch weaving industry. Thereafter, however, the production of cloth declined sharply as a result of frequent floods and epidemics. In the 16th century Leiden became known for the successful defense of the town against a Spanish besieging force (1573-74), when William the Silent ordered the dikes of southern Holland to be breached. Tradition has it that the citizens of Leiden, offered the choice between four years' exemption from taxation or the foundation of a university as a reward for their sturdy defense of the town, chose the university. However this may be, the University of Leiden was founded in 1575 and soon rose to European reputation. The greatest scholars of their day studied and taught at Leiden University, including the classical scholar Joseph Justus Scaliger (d. 1609), the great international lawyer Hugo Grotius (d. 1645), the mathematician and physicist Christiaan Huygens, the French philosopher René Descartes and the 18th century physician Herman Boerhaave, who established the reputation of Leiden's medical school. The fame of the University promoted the prosperity of the town, which attracted thousands of refugees, driven out of their own country for their faith, to come to Leiden. As a result the population soon passed the 100,000 mark. During the 17th century, however, outbreaks of plague reduced the population to less than 30,000, and it became necessary to build hospitals and old people's homes. Characteristic features of Leiden are its 35 hofjes, groups of between 10 and 30 almshouses for old people, most of them privately run. After a long period of decline and poverty the town's economy began to revive in the 19th century with the development of modern industry and commerce, and the population of Leiden has now risen above 100,000 again. Leiden was the birthplace of many 16th and 17th century painters, including Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt, Jan Steen, Gerard Dou, Gabriel Metsu, Jan van Goyen, Frans van Mieris and the elder and younger Willem de Velde.
The Windmill Museum in Leyden lies southeast of the Central Station, with several parking lots in the immediate vicinity. It is housed in a seven-story stone flour mill of 1743 (De Valk, the "Falcon"), standing on higher ground, which originally formed part of the town's fortifications. In the early 17th century there were 19 windmills on the town walls (and there are still 30 within the city limits). After restoration in 1964 the mill (including the dwelling house of the last miller) was opened to the public as a museum.
Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht, Netherlands
South of the Windmill Museum by way of the Nieuwe Beestenmarkt and the Turfmarktsbrug (bridge) is the Turfmarkt. To the right is the Blauwspoortsbrug, which until 1610 served as a town gate at the northwest corner of the walls.
At the end of Morsstraat stands the handsome Morspoort (with drawbridge), one of the two surviving fortified town gates of 1669 built by Willem van der Helm.
To the left of Morspoort, on the site of the old Morspoort barracks, is a windmill (De Put), built here in 1987 on the model of an old mill of 1640.
in Leyden , on the other side of the Rhine (here known as the Galgewater, "Gallows Water"), on the left, is the Stadstimmerwerf, the workshops (1612) of the municipal carpenters. On the right is the Weddesteeg, with a tablet marking the site of Rembrandt's birthplace. At the end of the street is Noordeinde, which leads to the Witte Singel, with a bronze bust of Rembrandt.
University Library and the Faculty of Letters
At the Witte Singel are the new University Library and the Faculty of Letters. The library is one of the oldest and largest in the Netherlands, with some 1.5million volumes and 20,000 manuscripts.
In the Oude Varkensmarkt, which opens off Noordeinde, is the Pieter Loridanshofje (No. 1), founded in 1655 by a wealthy wool-dyer named Pieter Loridan. Occupied for many years by refugees from Belgium and France, it has been renovated and now provides lodgings for students.
Coach Builders' Museum
Farther along Noordeinde is the Wagenmakersmuseum (Coach builders' Museum), housed in the workshops where the last coach builder in Leiden was working around 1917.
Beyond the Coach Builders' Museum is the Groenhazengracht, on the opposite side of which is a doorway (1645) with a figure of St Joris (George) and the dragon. This is the entrance to the old Doelenkaserne (barracks) and Arsenal. The whole complex is now occupied by the University.
At the end of the Groenhazengracht in Leyden, on the right, is the Rapenburggracht, one of the oldest and largest in the Netherlands, often claimed to be the finest gracht (canal) in Europe.
National Museum of Antiquities
The National Museum of Antiquities in Leyden features archeological exhibits from Egypt, the Near East, Greek and Roman Antiquity and The Netherlands.
Address: Rapenburg 28, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2311 EW, Netherlands
The Clusius Garden in Leyden follows the founder's original 16th century concept.
Address: Rapenburg 73, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2300 RA, Netherlands
At Rapenburg 8 is the Bibliotheca Thysiana, an important library housed in a handsome building erected by the city architect, Arent van 's Gravenzande, in 1655. The house at No. 31 was occupied by the famous 18th century physician Herman Boerhaave.
National Museum of Antiquities
In Leyden, on the opposite side of the gracht stands the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheiden), founded in 1818, which has a rich collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman sculpture, ancient vases and small objects, Egyptian antiquities and prehistoric and Roman material, mainly from the Netherlands. In the courtyard of the museum is the Nubian temple of Taffah, presented to the Netherlands by President Sadat of Egypt in 1979 in gratitude for Dutch help in saving monuments threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile.
Address: Rapenburg 28, Leyden, Zuid-Holland 2311 EW, Netherlands
Eva van Hoogeveenhofje
In Leyden, a side street opening off the Rapenburggracht, is the 17th century Eva van Hoogeveenhofje (No. 7), perhaps the finest of Leiden's hofjes, with an attractive facade, patterned brick paving and an old water-pump. Visitors can see the Regents' Room (side entrance on the Doelengracht).
On the left bank of the broad Rapenburggracht, a little to the east of St Pieterskerk, is the Academiegebouw, the main building of the University. The faculties of medicine and science have been world famed for centuries. The Rector's Office has been housed since 1581 in the former chapel of a convent of the White Sisters.
Akademisch Historisch Museum
The Akademisch Historisch Museum at Rapenburg 73 is devoted to the history of the University.
Beyond the University is the University Botanic Garden, the Academietuin or Hortus Botanicus, which was originally laid out in 1590 and is still a popular resort for the people of Leiden as well as for students. From here Nonnensteeg leads to the Binnenvestgracht, with the Clusiustuin, a reconstruction of the first systematically arranged botanical garden, which originally lay immediately behind the University building. On the other side of the gracht can be seen the Hortus Botanicus, with the old Observatory (Sterrenwacht) to the south of it.
Address: Rapenburg 73, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2300 RA, Netherlands
Pilgrim Fathers Documentation Center
From Hortus Botanicus, Boisotkade leads to the Municipal Archives and the Pilgrim Fathers Documentation Center (Documentatie Centrum) at Vliet 45. The Mayflower's voyage to America started from the Vliet.
National Museum of History
Information about nature on a wider scope is offered at the Naturalis. Over 10 million animal specimens, stones, minerals and fossils. The permanent exhibitions involve life on the planet Earth.
Address: Postbus 9517, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2300 RA, Netherlands
Van der Werf Park
Behind the Natural History Museum lies the small Van der Werf Park, with a monument commemorating Van der Werf, burgomaster of Leiden at the time of the Spanish siege. The park was laid out in an area devastated by the explosion in 1807 of an ammunition ship which, contrary to regulations, had been moored in the center of the town. On the east side of the park is the Institute of Geology.
University Modern Buildings
On the far side of the Nieuwsteegbrug (bridge) is the Nieuwsteeg, with some of the more modern buildings of the University. Among distinguished scholars who worked here were the physicists Professor H. A. Lorenz (1853-1928; Nobel Prize 1903) and Professor H. Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926; Nobel Prize 1913). Lorenz, founder of the theory of electrons, prepared the way for Einstein's theory of relativity. Kamerlingh Onnes succeeded in liquefying helium, producing the lowest temperatures so far recorded, and discovered the superconductivity of metals.
Address: Rapenburg 73, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2300 RA, Netherlands
Natural History Museum
Farther west from the Documentation Center, in Doezastraat (entrance in Raamsteeg), can be found the Natural History Museum (Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie; open only to scholars and students with the permission of the museum authorities).
From the University Buildings in Leyden it is a short distance by way of the Pieterskerkhof to Kloksteeg; at No. 21 is the Jean Pesijnshofje, founded in 1683 by Jean Pesijn. The site had previously been occupied by the Groene Poort or Engelse Poort (Green Gate, English Gate), in which John Robinson, pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, lived until his death in 1625.
A church has stood on this site since the 12th C. The current church was begun in the 13th C with ongoing work through to the 15th C.
Diagonally opposite St Pieterskerk is the neo-classical facade of the Gravensteen, a stronghold of the Counts of Holland which in 1463 became a state prison and is now occupied by the University's faculty of law. The oldest part of the building is the two towers, which date from the 13th century, when the Gravenhof, the palace occupied by the Counts of Holland during their visits to Leiden, lay close by. The present facade was built in the 17th century, when the Gravensteen was enlarged. The last execution of a murderer took place in 1853 in the square in front of the building.
At the corner of Lokhorstraat and Schoolstraat is the Latin School (Latijnse School), built in 1599, with a striking stepped gable and red and white window shutters. The school's most celebrated pupil was Rembrandt (between 1614 and 1620).
Ars Aemula Naturae
Close to the Latin School in Leyden, on the left, is the Pieterskerkgracht; at No. 9 (restored) is the headquarters of Ars Aemula Naturae, a painting and drawing society.
From Ars Aemula Naturae, Diefsteeg leads to Breestraat, Leiden's principal shopping street, which with its continuations Noordeinde to the west and Hogewoerd to the east traverses the town in a wide S- shaped curve. It is lined with handsome gabled houses in Dutch Renaissance and Baroque style.
At Breestraat 59 is the Rijnlandshuis (Gemeenlandshuis van het Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland), headquarters of the Rhineland Dike Administration. The original building of around 1600 was much altered in later centuries. Its most notable feature is the Courtroom by Pieter Post (second half of 17th C.), with painted timber barrel-vaulting.
Opposite the Rijnlandshuis is the Municipal Concert Hall (Stadsgehoorzaal) of Leyden and the Waalse Kerk (Walloon Church; No. 64), which was formerly the chapel of St Catherine's Hospital. Originally Late-Gothic, it was enlarged in 1634, and in 1739 was given a new facade with a Baroque tower. To the right can be seen part of the old hospital.
Leyden's Mandenmakersstraat leads to the Aalmarkt, in which is the municipal Weigh House (Waag), built by Pieter Post in 1658. The gable is decorated with sculpture by Rombout Verhulst. The Weigh House is now used for exhibitions.
From the Visbrug, Maarsmansteeg runs southwest to Breestraat. At the intersection with Pieterskerkkoorsteeg and Meermansteeg, set in the paving, is a large hexagonal blue stone, the Blauwe Steen, which in 1321 marked the central point in the town. Here in the Middle Ages criminals condemned to death by the municipal council were executed (those condemned by the Count being executed in front of the Gravensteen), and here too cloth found to be of poor quality was burned.
Near the south end of Breestraat stands the Leyden Town Hall (Stadhuis), which has occupied this site since the Middle Ages. In 1597 the old Gothic gable was replaced by a Renaissance facade designed by Lieven de Key. In February 1929 the Town Hall was destroyed by fire, leaving only the facade still standing, though in a badly damaged condition. During the rebuilding the facade and the handsome flight of steps leading up to the entrance were restored. To the left of the steps is the Roepstoel, the town crier's platform, from which Jan Hout, clerk of the municipal council, announced the flight of the Spaniards and the end of the siege on October 3, 1574. The tower (with carillon) was also rebuilt after the fire.
Behind the Town Hall is the Vismarkt (Fish Market). It has a fountain with square slabs of hard stone on which the fish were cleaned. Beyond this is the Korenbeursbrug; its original name was Korenbrug (Corn Bridge), but since in earlier times corn was bought and sold here the citizens of Leiden call it the Korenbeursbrug (Corn Exchange Bridge). The bridge was roofed in 1825.
The Burgsteeg leads to the Burcht (Castle), which is entered through a gateway displaying the figure of a lion with Leiden's coat of arms. About 1150 a 12m/40ft high mound of sand was built up here, at the confluence of the Old and the New Rhine, to provide a refuge from flooding; and additional protection was provided by a circuit of walls 35m/38yd in diameter, two canals, one at the foot of the hill and one rather farther away (the Hooglandse Kerkgracht, now filled in) and later a sentry-walk round the walls. A keep was planned but was never built. In the 17th century a tower was built bearing the arms of the burgomasters, who between 1651 and 1764 were also burgraves (governors of the castle). During the most recent restoration work the original gateway of the castle on the opposite side from the present entrance, which had long been walled up, was reopened. From the castle there are fine panoramic views of the surrounding area.
From the Burcht Nieuwstraat runs southeast. In this street is the former Heereslogement (1652; beautiful inner courtyard, garden, gallery on upper floor), now occupied by the Municipal Library of Leyden.
Hooglandse or St Pancraskerk
Farther south from De Burcht is the beautiful Hooglandse or St Pancraskerk. The first church on the site, timber-built (1315), was replaced in 1377 by a stone church, which between the 14th and the 16th century, when the heyday of Catholicism in Leyden was over, was several times altered but never completed. There is a story that the building workers found that they could earn more elsewhere and stopped work on the church. As a result the nave is considerably lower than the transept and the choir. The low tower (1400) at the west end of the nave was left unchanged. The west aisle was built after the Reformation; the timber vaulting of the choir and transepts dates from the 19th century. Under the crossing, in the spacious interior, is the tomb of Burgomaster Van der Werf (d. 1604), defender of the town during the 1574 siege. In the choir can be seen the double tomb of Admiral Justinus van Nassau (d. 1630) and his wife.
Address: Hooglandse Kerkgracht, Netherlands
Nieuwstraat runs into the Hooigracht, at No. 9 of which is the St Annahofje or Aalmoeshuis (1492- 1507), a beautiful group of almshouses, with a chapel containing the only altar left unscathed during the iconoclastic fury of 1566.
On one side of the gracht is the Schachtenhofje (1671), with a restored gatehouse. In the courtyard is a pump of 1730 which dispenses both rainwater and groundwater.
National Museum of Geology and Mineralogy
THIS ATTRACTION BECAME PART OF THE MUSEUM "NATURALIS".
North of Leyden's Museum of Geology and Mineralogy the Kerkbrug, a 19th century cast-iron bascule bridge, crosses the Oude Rijn. Just beyond this is Haarlemmerstraat, which runs east and leads alongside the picturesque harbor to the second of the two surviving town gates, the Zijlpoort (1667). The other gates were pulled down in the 19th century.
From the Havenplein the Oude Vest, lined with typical Dutch house-fronts, runs west. As its name indicates (vest = "rampart"), this was part of the town's fortifications between 1355 and 1610. When the town expanded this stretch of wall was demolished and a new town wall built farther out, on the line of the Maresingel and Herensingel.
At Oude Vest 159 is the Meermansburg (1683), Leiden's largest group of almshouses (30 in number), built by Maarten Ruyckhaver Meerman, a member of the board of the East India Company. In the handsome Regents' Room, the office of the manager of the almshouses, are an interesting collection of old portraits and a clay pipe museum (Pijpenkabinet).
Farther west from Meermansburg, in Lange Mare (a former gracht, now filled in), stands the Marekerk, built between 1638 and 1648 by the city architect, Arent van 's Gravenzande. This was the first church built for the Reformed faith. The church, on an octagonal ground-plan, has a narrower upper part topped by a dome. It has a fine pulpit of 1647 and an organ of 1733 which was originally in St Pieterskerk. The sandstone doorway was the work of Jacob van Campen (1669).
On the right of Vrouwenkerkstraat are the Boerhaave Zalen (Boerhaave Rooms), originally a monastery built at the end of the 16th century, which later became a hospital for plague victims and the mentally ill. Since the 18th century physician Boerhaave taught here, it is regarded as Leiden's first university teaching hospital.
At the corner of Caeciliastraat and Lijsbethsteeg is the St Elisabethsgasthuis, a hospice built in 1428 by Jan Dirk Coenen. From 1773 until 1970, when it was restored, it served as an almshouse and later as an old people's home.
National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine
At Agnietenstraat 10 the Boerhaave Museum on the history of science and medicine was reopened in new premises in 1991; the original museum at Steenstraat 1A had been closed for some years. The collection includes many pieces of apparatus (including microscopes) developed in the University for the purposes of scientific research and used by physicists such as Kamerlingh Onnes, Zeeman, Snellius and van 's-Gravenzande. There are also many exhibits associated with such great names of the past as Christiaan Huygens, Leeuwenhoek and Boerhaave.
Address: Lange Sint Agnietenstraat 10, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2312 WC, Netherlands
On the north side of the Oude Vest, at Oude Singel 32, is the Municipal Museum, housed in the Lakenhal (Cloth Hall) built in 1638-40 and used for its original purpose until 1800, when it was converted into offices. In 1874, after restoration, it was opened as a museum. It has a collection of pictures which includes works by such leading 16th and 17th century artists as Gerard Dou, Jan van Goyen, Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt and Jan Steen and a collection of applied and decorative art.
Address: Oude Singel 28-32, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2312 RA, Netherlands
Farther along the Oude Vest is the Municipal Theater (Schouwburg). Beyond this is Vrouwenkerkstraat, leading into the district known as De Camp, in which there were a number of religious houses in the Middle Ages, as some of the street names still testify.
National Museum of Ethnology
Near the Valk windmill, at Steenstraat 1 in Leiden, is the National Museum of Ethnology (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde), the oldest of its kind in Europe. Founded in 1837, it was housed in a number of separate buildings all over the town until 1937, when it found a new home in the former University Hospital. Its extensive collections come from all over the world, particularly from Indonesia and Japan. The first Japanese items were collected by F. van Siebold, a doctor who lived and worked in Japan from 1823 to 1829.
Address: Steenstraat 1, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2300 AE, Netherlands
Farther west of the Musuem of Ethnology in Leyden is the Pesthuis, built in 1658 to house plague victims. Until a few years ago it was occupied by the Army Museum, the collection of which has now been transferred to Delft. It was restored in 1989.
Market Along the Nieuwe Rijn Canal
Market Along the Nieuwe Rijn Canal.
The Museum of Miniature Arts
The Modelbouwmuseum (Miniature / Model Museum) in Leiden contains hundreds of models and modeling techniques in various categories including railroads, airplanes, cars, building and dollhouses. The regular exhibits change occasionally and special exhibits occur at least 3 times per year.
Address: Noordeinde 2-A, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2311 CB, Netherlands
National Museum of Coins and Medals
The origin of the National Museum of Coins and Medals in Leyden goes back to the 18th century. There are coins from sunken ships, African money bracelets, old coin scales, gold medals and engraved gems - all on exhibit.
Address: Rapenburg 26, Leiden, Zuid-Holland 2301 EA, Netherlands
A number of events occur around the year that are of interest to visitors.
Leiden Jazz Week.This annual festival takes place in January and presents a broad range of performers.
There is an attractive boat trip on the Kager Plassen (Lakes) to Schiphol by way of Leiderdorp and De Zijl to the Kager Plassen (water sports center), then on the Braassemer Meer and through Aalsmeer to Schiphol, and from there back to Leiden.
Summer Trips to Kager Plassen
In summer there are also boat trips daily between 2 and 6 p.m. to the Kager Plassen and Braassemer Meer.
The second most important flower auction in the Netherlands (after the one at Aalsmeer) is held in the village of Rijnsburg, to the west of Leiden. At Laan van Verhof 1 is a nursery which seeks to develop new varieties.Rijnsburg was the home of well-known philosopher, Spinoza, and his home has been preserved and opened to the public.
Baruch Spinoza lived in Rijnsburg from 1661 to 1663, and the Spinozahuis at Spinozalaan 29 has a collection of letters, documents and mementos of the philosopher.
Leave Leiden on the road to Alphen aan den Rijn, which runs along the Levendaal and then keeps close to the left bank of the Oude Rijn, along which are long straggling villages with brickworks, old fishermen's houses and windmills. About 3km/2mi from Leiden is Leiderdorp. In another 2km/1.25mi we reach Zoeterwoude-Rijndijk, and 3km/2mi beyond this the old mill in which Rembrandt's father lived.
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