Leiden is home to the first university in Holland (1575), which has developed into a world-famous science institution. Its hortus botanicus, or botanical gardens, were started in 1578 and are still a prime attraction for the tourist. It's also the birthplace of Rembrandt.
Leiden is also where the Pilgrims landed before coming to America, and is home to the Pilgrim Museum, where you can find out more about the Pilgrims and their interactions with the people of Leiden.
Leiden's tourist office is near the central train station, at Stationsweg 2D. They'll provide you with information and maps of Leiden. You can get a map of various walks through the charming town, some focusing on almshouses, some on art and Rembrandt, or you can take a large boat tour down the canals, or rent your own row boat.
Map of Leiden
Leiden Travel Toolbox
Leiden lies between motorways A44 and A4 in South Holland, northeast of The Hague.
Leiden Centraal station is a ten minute walk from the city center; buses and taxis can also take you there. To see other destinations in the Netherlands, see the rail map.
The train from Amsterdam to Leiden takes around thirty minutes
If you plan on visiting the Benelux countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembough by train, a Benelux Pass might save you some money.
The widget below will show you the prices and times for a journey from Leiden (if you enter it) to anywhere on the bus, airplane, train, or even, in some cases carpool.
What to See
Get a map from the tourist office near the train and bus station. If you miss it, there are other information points in the city.
The ‘Tourist Information Points’ are located at various businesses in the city centre and can be recognized by a ‘Tourist Information Point’ sticker on the window. At every location, a display with maps will be available, as well as the event calendar and the city guide for visitors. Also, the staff members at every location will be informed regularly about the situation in the city centre. This way, visitors are being informed correctly as well.
On the way from the train station, have a gander at the Molen de Valk, the iconic windmill that's now a museum where you might discover how the darn things work.
Walk along the Rapenburg canal, Leiden's most alluring waterway with architecture from the Dutch golden age.
As mentioned, Leiden's botanical garden, the Hortus botanicus, is the oldest in the Netherlands. Parts of the garden have been around since 1590. And, if you're so inclined, you can get married there. Get skip the line tickets for the botanical garden.
The Pieterskerk is the oldest church in Leiden, dating back to 1390 and built upon an older church. The neighborhood around it is worth a look around as well. Some of the earliest buildings from Leiden University are here.
The 15th centry Hooglandsekerk is one of the most famous churches in Leiden.
If you come across the public library you can use the free wifi in the beautiful courtyard, it's a cultural center as well as having been a prison.
The Pilgrim story often eliminates the time they spent in Holland and the fact they found religious freedom in the country. You can learn about this period of the immigrant history at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, which is run by a foundation entrusted with "running the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum, which tells the Pilgrim story using collections of furnishings and artworks in a house built in 1370 whose rooms recall Pilgrim times," and "carrying out a project to transcribe, edit and publish 17th c. documents related to the Pilgrims – thus providing the raw material for historians to use: e.g. in writing history books and articles." Find visiting information here.
Koornbrug, The Corn Bridge ( a trading site for various types of grain, collectively known as koren – hence its name.) The roof, added in the 19th century, makes it the oldest roofed bridge in the Netherlands.
Take a canal cruise. Get tickets.
Floating Restaurant and the Catholic Hartebrug Church
De Valk Windmill
Where to Stay
The highly rated Boutique Hotel Steenhof Suites is not only highly rated but a great value as well.
A bit less expensive is De Barones Van Leyden. The boutique hotel is set in the historic center of Leiden, right next to the Oude Singel canal and the Port of Leyden. The heritage-listed property dates from 1644.
For other choices see the booking box and Vacation rental links below (and vacation rentals include house boats!).