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Leiden canals

Canals in the Netherlands: Leiden

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

If you ever thought only Amsterdam offers picturesque canal views, think again. The Netherlands offer so many wonderful historical cities where we recently spent a weekend in one of them: Leiden. Although I have been to this city before, I never went on a canal cruise. That’s for tourists, right? At least that was my first thought…

Canal windmill bridge Holland

Well, I am glad we did go! The canal tour will actually lead you by the most beautiful streets in the city. The windmill on the first picture (Molen de Put) is great and actively working. You can pay a visit (only on Saturdays) where you get a tour and explanation about the importance of such windmills in Dutch history.

Wooden bridge canal Holland

The oldest reference of Leiden is from the year 860. It nowadays has a population of 122,000 and is situated around 35 minutes by train South of Amsterdam. Many of the current buildings in the city centre date back to the 16th and 17th century. I read that it’s actually the second largest 17th century town centre in the Netherlands, the largest being Amsterdam.

Houses of Leiden

Canals of Leiden

Places to visit in Leiden

There are a lot of interesting places to visit in Leiden. What about Naturalis, the natural museum of national history. Or Hortus Botanicus, the famous botanical garden. Here you can also visit the oldest academical observatory in the world.

Canals of Leiden

Leiden canals

Characteristic Dutch house

Want to know about some famous people born in Leiden? What about the painter Rembrandt van Rijn who was born here in 1606. You can visit the area where he was born. Unfortunately his birth house was demolished by the city 100 years ago… Now there is only a little square and a sign on a wall remembering him.
And if you are totally not into painters and history…. world-famous DJ Armin van Buuren was also born in Leiden, in 1976…

Rembrandt van Rijn

Birth house Rembrandt van Rijn

And now for something completely different: while in Leiden we saw this awesome punch hole cloud (‘pilotengat’ in Dutch)!

Hole cloud

Fancy a stay in Leiden? If you do, don’t forget to visit the nearby beaches in for example Katwijk. Dutch beaches are known to be very wide and long…

Beach near Katwijk

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Verita's Visit February 6, 2019 - 06:18

Hi Emiel, great that you’re highlighting Leiden by water! Did a couple of boat tours myself: 1 through the city and the other towards the Leiden lakes. Seeing the city from a boat really gives another perspective…and love to imagine how water once played a mayor role in the freedom of the Leiden locals.

Bama May 3, 2015 - 12:42

Wow, no one has ever written on Leiden before (not the ones that I follow, though), so this post really gives me a glimpse of how the town and its picturesque canals look like. By the way molen is a word we Indonesians use to call a snack, pisang molen, made from banana wrapped in sweet thin sheet of dough then deep fried. 🙂

Emiel van den Boomen May 12, 2015 - 11:36

Thanks Bama. Leiden is indeed a bit hidden behind the big ones like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and even Delft. But that’s ok, it shows we have so many great places to discover (but make sure you travel outside of Amsterdam). Didn’t know about the use of the word molen, funny!


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