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Day Trip to Leiden from Amsterdam: Everything You Need to Know

by Michele
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Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden
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Leiden is the perfect destination for a day trip from Amsterdam. Want to know what to do in Leiden? Here is my comprehensive itinerary including the top things to do in Leiden, the best places to eat in Leiden, how to get to Leiden from Amsterdam, plus recommendations on where to stay in Leiden if you want to stay a bit longer.

Just thirty-five minutes from Amsterdam is the charming canal city of Leiden. Wander along Leiden’s picturesque canals lined with stunning 17th-century buildings, explore its museums, and walk in the footsteps of the world-famous artist Rembrandt, who was born and educated here.

Home to the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden is a vibrant city located in South Holland. There are a wide variety of parties and festivals and plenty of things to do and see in Leiden. This itinerary covers everything a first-timer to Leiden should see, do, taste and experience. You’ll see canals, city gates, bridges, windmills, a castle, an observatory, the botanical gardens, almshouses, stunning gothic churches, fine art, and beautiful historic buildings.

Here are the best things to do in Leiden for the perfect day trip from Amsterdam.

Looking for something in particular? Use this table of contents below to jump around using the links.


Table of Contents


Map of Leiden, Netherlands

This map shows you all the locations mentioned in this guide. Click on the pins for more information.

Blue Pins – Best things to see and do in Leiden
Orange Pins – More things to do if you have extra time
Green Pins – Where to eat in Leiden
Pink Pins – Where to stay in Leiden

Tip: For a larger view of the map, click on the icon in the top right corner.

17 Top Things to do in Leiden

1. De Burcht van Leiden (Leiden Castle)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - De Burcht van Leiden Castle entrance

Entrance to De Burcht van Leiden Castle

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - De Burcht van Leiden Castle

Path around Leiden Castle

The Burcht van Leiden, or Fort of Leiden, is a circular medieval fortification known as a Shell Keep that dates back to around 1150. The fort was built on top of an old Motte where the Rhine, Oude Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn all meet.

Located in the centre of Leiden, De Burcht is one the city’s most famous landmarks which was once used as a residence and a military keep. As the city of Leiden grew around it in the 13th and 14th centuries, the castle lost its military function. The city council bought the hill and the building in 1651 before transforming the area into the city park that you see today.

Head to the top of the hill and walk along the battlement of the ring wall for stunning views of Leiden city in every direction.

Windmills

What’s a trip to the Netherlands without a bit of windmill spotting, eh? You won’t have to go far because Leiden has two right in the city centre.

2. Molen De Put (The Well Mill)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Molen de Put windmill

Molen de Put

Three mills have stood in this very spot located on the Rhine. The original mill “The Well” dates back to 1619 but was burned down in 1640. It wasn’t until 1729 that the mill was rebuilt and used as a cornflower mill, only to be destroyed again in 1817.

In 1982, archaeologists discovered the octagonal foundation of the mill stronghold which led to the reconstruction of the windmill which stands today.

On Saturdays, visitors to the mill can buy mill byproducts such as wheat flour, rye flour, spelt flour, zeeland flour, multigrain flour and even pancakes.

3. Molen De Valk Windmill Museum (The Falcon Mill)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Molen de Valk

Molen de Valk

Step inside Molen De Valk Windmill Museum and imagine what it would be like to live inside a windmill. Explore the living quarters complete with original period furnishings.

Molen De Valk is still operated by amateur millners but serves mainly as a museum. In this unique museum, you’ll have the chance to learn how windmills work, their important role in the economical growth of Leiden as well as have the chance to climb to the very top floor.

The mill’s name ‘De Put’ comes from the owner of the original mill that stood here in the 17th century before it was rebuilt in the 1980s.

Sitting on the north bank of the Rhine, Molen De Valk can be seen from all over the city making it a prominent landmark in Leiden. Don’t miss the wonderful panoramic views over the Leiden city center from the upper floor.

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Molen de Valk Panorama

Panorama from Molen de Valk Museum

4. Canal Tour in Leiden

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Canal tour

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - boats on Stille Rijn

Boats on Stille Rijn

Did you know that over 26% of the Netherlands lies below sea level? Canals play an essential part in many Dutch cities. Originally, they were developed to help keep Dutch heads above water but today they continue to play a key role in transportation, irrigation, and water removal. The canals of Amsterdam, Delft and Leiden were all the result of excellent city planning.

After Amsterdam, Leiden has the second most number of bridges, canals and boulevards in the country with 28 kilometres of waterways and 88 bridges.

One of the top things to do in Leiden and best ways to enjoy the city is to take a canal tour to see many of Leiden’s beautiful canals including the area along Galgewater, Oude Singel, Rapenburg, Van der Werfpark, Ankerpark and De Rijn waterway.

I booked a tour with Bootjes en broodjes which translates to ‘Boats and sandwiches’. As the name suggests, you’re welcome to take food and drink on board to enjoy as you sit back and take in the gorgeous views during this educational and relaxing tour.

I also recommend taking a walking tour which will bring the city’s history to life.


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5. Rapenburg Canal

The Rapenburg deserves its own special mention being the most beautiful canal in Leiden. According to 18th-century geographers, it was once elected as the most beautiful place in the world!

Along the Rapenburg you’ll see the best collection of herenhuizen (literally ‘gentlemen’s house’) in the Netherlands. These large and luxurious homes of rich traders and famous professors line the canal which was once part of an old defensive canal dug shortly after 1200 to properly defend the city.

Taking a stroll along the Rapenburg and visiting its museums is one the top things to do in Leiden. Don’t miss the Academiegebouw, the National Museum of Antiquities, the Hortus botanicus, the Sieboldhuis and a 16th-century former nunnery where the university has its headquarters.

Most of the members of The Dutch Royal family were educated at Leiden University and lived on the Rapenburg during their student years. King Willem-Alexander lived at Rapenburg 116 and his mother, Princess Beatrix lived at Rapenburg 45.

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Herenburg

Herenbrug

6. Pieterskwartier

Located around Pieterskerk is the historic and lively district of Pieterskwartier, a charming part of Leiden with narrow streets and alleys full of boutiques providing loads of shopping potential.

The most important street in the Pieterswijk is the Breestraat, one of the two main shopping streets of Leiden (next to the Haarlemmerstraat). You’ll find specialised stores with antiques, books, jewellery and fashion, pottery, toys, tailor-made suits and Italian delicacies. There are also beauty and hair salons, cafes with homemade cakes, intimate eateries and chic restaurants.

City Gates

Leiden city originally had eight city gates during the Middle Ages but only two survived, Morspoort and Zijlpoort. The Morspoort was the former Western gate and the Zijlpoort served as the former Eastern gate. Both gates were designed by architect Willem van der Helm who designed five of Leiden’s city gates during the 17th century.

7. Morspoort (Mors City Gate)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Morspoort City Gate

Morspoort City Gate

Sitting on the western edge of Leiden city near Molen De Put is Morspoort, a gatehouse that was once where the dead bodies of criminals were hung out on display serving as a warning to all those who entered the city. Morspoort was part of the city’s defensive walls for four hundred years and its cupola served as a prison for a period of time.

Today, Morspoort is an opulent national monument with a beautiful sunny terrace where you can sit and enjoy views of the surrounding canals and Morspoort Bridge.

In 1611, this part of Leiden was marshy which inspired the gate’s name ‘Mors’ or ‘morass’ meaning muddy or boggy area.

8. De Zijlpoort (Zijl City Gate)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - De zijlpoort city gate

De Zijlpoort City Gate

The most impressive of the surviving city gates, De Zijlpoort features the mythical figures of Mars and Medusa and countless other shields and objects from the city guard. During its history, De Zijlpoort was a meeting place for poets and a school for the underprivileged.

Today, Zijlpoort houses a brasserie serving lunch and dinner throughout the year. Located right on the water, this is a local favourite for enjoying a cocktail or cold beer during summer and watch dozens of boats pass by.

Parks and Gardens

9. Hortus Botanicus (Leiden Botanical Gardens)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus at Leiden University

Located next to Leiden University is the Hortus Botanicus, or Leiden Botanical Garden, and an absolute must-see during your time in Leiden.

Hortus Botanicus is the oldest existing botanical garden in the Netherlands and amongst the oldest in the world. This isn’t just any botanical garden, founded in 1590, this is where the tulip was first introduced to Western Europe!

Explore each of the garden’s greenhouses full of subtropical plants and don’t miss the Wintergarden, Japanese garden, and the Victoria amazonica; a huge water lily and the pride and joy of Hortus Botanicus.

10. Rembrandtplaats (Rembrandt Park)

One of the best ways to enjoy Leiden is by walking in the footsteps of the city’s most famous local, Rembrandt van Rijn Rembrandt was born in Leiden on 15 July, 1606 and lived here until 1631. Sadly, the house where Rembrandt was born on Weddesteeg was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century to make way for a neighbouring printing business to be extended. To commemorate this Dutch Master, a statue and gable stone marking his birthplace is set in the wall of the new building.

Also in Rembrandt’s local neighbourhood Pieterskwartier, is Rembrandt Bridge and Rembrandt Park (Rembrandtplaats). Wander around this area and stop by the old Latin School where Rembrandt took drawing lessons that laid the foundation of his career, then visit Leiden University where he attended briefly.

11. Old Harbour and Beestenmarkt

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to see in Leiden - Beestenmarkt

Beestenmarkt

Leiden’s old harbour and Beestenmarkt square is the most picturesque part of the city. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes here with outdoor dining to sit in and watch the world go by.

12. Sint Anna Hofje (Sint Anna Alms House)

Step into this magical little spot tucked away off the beaten track. Sint Anna Alms House is one of the oldest courtyards in Leiden and the only one that has its own chapel.

A hofje is a Dutch word for a courtyard with almshouses around it which provided housing for elderly people, usually women. There are several almshouses in Leiden and like most in Leiden, has thirteen houses in memory of Jesus and his twelve apostles. These houses, including the Sint Anna Alms House, are still inhabited and no longer just for the elderly or the poor.

13. Stadhuis van Leiden (Leiden City Hall)

Located in the middle of the Breestraat, is the beautiful Leiden City Hall which dates back to 1547. The only original part of Stadhuis van Leiden is its façade which was designed entirely in Renaissance style by the Haarlem architect Lieven de Key.

In 1929, a huge fire broke out after the coal stoves inside the town hall were left on. Not only was the population register of Leiden lost but a large part of Leiden City Hall was destroyed, leaving only the façade still standing.

In 1932, the city council of Leiden commissioned architect Cornelis Jouke Blaauw to design a new Leiden city hall behind the façade which now incldues a large square.

Today, the Leiden city hall is a popular wedding location, as well as hosting regular lectures and council members.

Churches

14. Hooglandse Kerk (High Land Church)

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to see in Leiden - Hooglandse kerk

View Hooglandse Kerk from Leiden Castle

Located in the historical centre of Leiden, the Hooglandse Kerk is a Gothic church that stands on the ‘High Land’, a part of the Waardeiland on the Rhine. The original church was made of wood and constructed in the 1300’s. In the 15th century, it was replaced by the stone building you see today.

Head inside the church to see its impressive white stone arched interior. The high vaulted ceilings give way to loads of natural light that illuminates the church through the tall stained glass windows. There is a wonderful view of the church from De Burcht van Leiden (Leiden Castle).

15. Pieterskerk (Saint Peter’s Church)

Pieterskerk, or Saint Peter’s Church, was the first church built in Leiden. In 1121, the Count of Holland commissioned and dedicated a chapel to Saint Peter and Saint Paul on this spot.

Initially, it was used solely by the counts of Holland as it was located next to the former workshop of the dig, Gravensteen. When the Counts left in the 13th century, the church became a parish church. Construction for the present church started in 1390 taking 180 years to complete.

To help fund the maintenance of the church, during the first half of the 17th century more than thirty houses were built against the church to rent out.

Inside there is a large opulent organ and stunning vaulted ceilings covering an ornately decorated interior.

Prior to 1811, many prominent people were buried inside Pieterskerk, such as John Robinson, who was one of the founders of the Congregational Church.

16. Leiden Market

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Leiden Market

Cheese for days at Leiden Market

Leave Amsterdam on an empty stomach because you’ll find only the best in Dutch produce at Leiden Market. This is your chance to pack the perfect picnic or take home some quality Dutch cheese, freshly baked bread and some mouthwatering stroopwafels (caramel waffles). If you love fish, you’ll get the best herring in Holland here from fishmonger Atlantic.

Considered one of the best markets in Holland, every Saturday Vismarkt and Botermarkt come alive with dozens of food stalls. The focal point of the market is Koornbrug (Grain Bridge), which as the name suggests was where corn and grain was traded as far back as 1642. The bridge is a national monument and the oldest covered bridge.

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden - Koornburg market

Koornbrug

17. Museum de Lakenhal (Cloth Hall Museum)

Museum De Lakenhal is a history and fine art museum home to an excellent collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. The name of the museum, Lakenhal or Cloth Hall, comes from the buildings former use during the Dutch Golden Age when it was the centre of Leiden’s booming textile trade. It was here that the famous Leiden cloth was inspected and the governors and steel masters of the cloth industry gathered.

Today, De Lakenhal is one of Leiden’s cultural treasures housing Leiden’s many masters from both past and present such as Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Steen and Floris Verster.

The museum also discusses the history of Leiden in great detail.

Museum de Lakenhal is closed until Spring 2019


Got more time? Here are more things to do and see in Leiden

Plantsoen

Plantsoen is a stunning city park built between 1835 and 1842 and designed in the English landscape style. I recommend hitting up Leiden market to buy some fresh produce and have a picnic lunch here on the lush green lawn surrounded by trees and watch the boats sail by.

Go to the beach

Leiden is less than 30 minutes away from the coast which can be easily reached by public transport or by bike. The closest and most popular beaches are Katwijk and Noordwijk. All year round, locals come here to enjoy a stroll along the coastline or go for a swim in the summer.

De Kaag

Do as the Dutch do and relax with beautiful vistas over the water and meadows by renting a sloop (a one-masted sailboat) and sail around Kagerplassen (“the Kaag Lakes”).

Located just 8 kilometres (5.0 miles) northeast of Leiden this area is locally known as ‘de Kaag’. It’s a huge lake surrounded by windmills, well-preserved houses and farms.

If you love being on the water you can choose to go sailing, canoeing, rowing, water skiing, fishing and during the winter month you can even go ice-skating.

Afterwards, head to one of the many terraces at the water’s edge and dine in any of the restaurants here. You can even stay the night here too with excellent accommodation available.

Temple of Taffeh at the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)

If you like your Ancient Egyptian History like I do, then you can’t miss seeing the Ancient Egyptian Temple of Taffeh between 25 BCE and 14 CE which today stands in Leiden’s National Museum of Antiquities.

This sandstone temple was gifted to the Netherlands for its help in preserving Egyptian antiquities during the 1960s when the Aswan High Dam was built. The new dam threatened many important ancient monuments and archaeological sites in Nubia.

UNESCO asked for international support to help save these sites. As a token of their appreciation, Egypt gave several monuments to the countries who offered significant support, one of those countries was the Netherlands.

This temple is made up of 657 blocks weighing approximately 250 tons. After arriving in the Netherlands in 1971, it was placed in a new wing of the National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden) in Leiden.


Where to Eat in Leiden

Breakfast

De Catwalk

De Catwalk is a cute and quiet cafe located on the picturesque Beestenmarkt. De Catwalk offers a great selection of teas, coffee, and serve pastries, sandwiches, bagels, and toast. Cosy up inside or relax outside in their lovely spacious terrace with great views over the canal.

Address: Steenstraat 30, 2312 BW Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Mon-Fri 10.00 to 18.30, Sat-Sun 09:00 to 18.30.

Brunch

Bagels & Beans

This vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly restaurant is all about serving the best bagels you’ll ever eat. Bagels & Beans is the perfect brunch hangout serving both healthy and organic food. Their smoothies are equally healthy and are like a meal on their own. Vegetarians and vegans, make sure you come here.

Address: Maarsmansteeg 8, 2311 EE Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Mon-Sat 09.00 to 17.30, Sun 10:00 to 17:30

Lunch

Restaurant Burgerzaken Leiden

Enjoy Mediterranean style lunch in this beautifully designed art-deco-esque café restaurant. They have a great selection of vegetarian dishes too.

Address: Breestraat 123, 2311 CM Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Tues-Sat 10.00 til Late, Sun-Mon 11:00 til late

Pancakes

Oudt Leyden Leiden

For the best pancakes in town, you have to go to Oudt Leyden. Their delicious pancakes are big enough to be served in giant Delf plates.

Address: Steenstraat 49, 2312 BV Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Mon-Sun 11:30 to 21:30

Drinks

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Leiden

Head to Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Leiden for an excellent selection of Belgian beers. The café itself is gorgeous and there is a huge outdoor area and garden. The food here is also very excellent.

Address: Hooigracht 23, 2312 KM Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Mon-Wed 14.00 til Midnight, Thur 16:00 – 02:00, Fri 12:00 – 02:00, Sat 11:00 – 02:00, Sun 12:00 – Midnight

Waag

Day trips from Amsterdam - Top things to do in Leiden

Stop by Waag for a drink by the canal

If you want a drink with a view, head to Waag, its outdoor area is located right next the canals. Inside is an excellent bar and restaurant.

Address: Aalmarkt 21, 2311 EC Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: 
Sun-Tue, Thurs, & Friday from 10:00,  Wed & Sat from 09:00.

Dinner

In Den Doofpot

End the day with delicious flavours, inventive and beautifully presented dishes by dining at In Den Doofpot. This restaurant serves excellent traditional Dutch ingredients and some of the finest wines all in a relaxed and cosy environment. This place does not disappoint.

Address: Turfmarkt 9, 2312 CE Leiden, Netherlands
Opening times: Mon-Fri 12:30 til Late, Sat 17:00 til late, closed Sundays.


Where to Stay in Leiden

After reading this itinerary you’re probably thinking you want to extend your time here by staying a night or two in Leiden, and I don’t blame you. While Leiden is the perfect day trip from Amsterdam, there is so much you can do in and around Leiden city.

Here are some excellent accommodation options in Leiden what will suit any budget.

Boutique Hotel Rembrandt (Mid-Luxury)

Where to Stay in Leiden - Boutique Hotel RembrandtCosy up in Boutique Hotel Rembrandt, just a few minutes walk from Leiden train station and located in the historic heart of Leiden. This lovely hotel was fully renovated in 2018. Each of its 20 rooms is spacious and very comfortable.

Address: Nieuwe Beestenmarkt 10, 2312 CH Leiden, Netherlands

Check availability and prices for Boutique Hotel Rembrandt here

Ibis Leiden Centre Hotel (Mid-range)

Where to Stay in Leiden - ibis Leiden CentreLocated near the train station and a short walk into Leiden city centre, Leiden ibis Hotel offers 3-star accommodation with contemporary design rooms, flat-screen cable TV, free WiFi, desk, private bathroom with free toiletries. There is an in-house bar which serves an extensive breakfast every morning.

Address: Stationsplein 240-242, 2312 AR Leiden, Netherlands

Check availability and prices for Leiden ibis Hotel here

De Barones Van Leyden (Luxury)

Where to Stay in Leiden - De Barones Van LeydenFor a truly special experience, stay in this heritage-listed property dating back to 1644. Located right next to the Oude Singel canal in the historic centre of Leiden, this beautiful 4-star hotel still has many of its original features. Each room has a flat-screen TV with a comprehensive package of channels, free WiFi, and a shuttle service from/to Schiphol Airport and Leiden Central Train Station.

Address: Oude Herengracht 22, 2312 LN Leiden, Netherlands

Check availability and prices for De Barones Van Leyden here

Airbnb (All budgets)

For an alternative accommodation option, I also recommend renting out one of these apartments or rooms through Airbnb. Cute Airbnb options are available all over the city so you’ll find some really beautiful places at very affordable prices. Airbnb has numerous options from as low as US$56 per night. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link.


How to Get Leiden

There is an excellent train network in the Netherlands so travelling by train is definitely the best option when it comes to getting to Leiden.

Most trains arrive at Leiden Centraal which is only 500 metres from Leiden’s historic centre. If you don’t fancy the walk, take a bus outside of the station and head to Breestraat.

Amsterdam to Leiden: How to Get Leiden from Amsterdam

The quickest and easiest way to get to Leiden from Amsterdam is by train. There are six trains that stop in Leiden city every day. The average journey time is 37 minutes and tickets cost €10.

Schiphol to Leiden: How to Get Leiden from Schiphol

If you’re coming from Schiphol Airport, taking a train is also recommended as there are eight trains that go to Leiden every hour. The journey from Schiphol last between 18-25 minutes and tickets cost €7.


Conclusion

I hope this guide has answered all your questions about Leiden and helped you plan your day trip from Amsterdam. If you still have any questions or concerns, please reach out and leave a comment below. I’d be happy to help where I can. If not, then I wish you a wonderful trip!

Dank je (thank you) for reading! 😉


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Day Trip from Amsterdam - Top Things to do in Leiden Netherlands

Sources NetherlandsTourism.comVisit LeidenPieterskwartier.nl


Over to you!

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