A stunning archaic city centre, Rembrandt’s home town and host to the oldest and arguably most notable university in the Netherlands: Leiden’s certainly not lacking in claims to fame, but it’s the quaint, backwards style of the old town combined with an artistic heritage that’s still going strong to this day that makes modern day Leiden more than worthy of your time.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, given its background, that Leiden is real hot spot for museums. Egyptian Antiquities, Ethnology, Natural History (check out the Dodo bones in particular) and an American Pilgrim Museum all have their place, but the cute, if slightly inevitable, windmill museum - housed somewhat predictably inside a windmill – gives enticing views of the city, allowing you to climb through the mammoth mill’s oversized levels and glance out over the entire historic city from the top.
The tiny courtyards tucked in behind the facades of many of the old-world houses can be explored through a tour that takes place every Sunday, while one of the best ways to get to grips with Leiden’s notable artistic side is in following the trail of international, modern-world poetry around the city. There are more than 80 poems painted flamboyantly onto walls around the city on the whole, and a special self-guided tour will take you on a picturesque jaunt around 25 of the best.
If you time your visit right, a blues festival, a small rock festival, a celebration marking the end of the Spanish siege of Leiden way back in 1547 and a small film festival come to town every year, too, and adding yet another layer of charm to an already inviting town.
There’s little you can’t reach in Leiden with a quick stroll down the road: it’s a tiny, charming place yet to circum to the pace of modern life, a fact that’s just as appealing as the city itself, and it’s impossible not to be enchanted by the city gates and winding, peaceful canals. The kind of place to take a walk around with your camera, soak up the striking sights around every corner, and make the most of an enticing, small-town vibe.
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