Raw Herring... that is one of the Dutch mysteries that is hard for me to understand.
I have lived in the Netherlands for almost 5 years now and it still gives me the goosebumps to see someone push a raw fish down the throat.
If you are in Leiden on a Saturday you must walk down to the end of the market and at least look at people while they perform this ritual. If you are really brave, you can try it yourself. You can start by eating the version on bread.
There is also often a stand in front of the station that sells it.
Many of the streets of the central section of Dutch towns are quite narrow. Because of that, the restaurants in Leiden have come up with a unique spin on the outdoor café. By mooring a couple of barges against the buildings they created instant patios. The Dutch are ever inventive about making the most of their land (and waterways).
Wandering the city I couldn't help but notice the profusion of keys used as ornamentation on all sorts of buildings and structures including bridges and gateways.
Doing a little post-trip research I find that this is, of course, the city's symbol and that in 1293 the city's first seal featured St Peter with the keys to heaven in his hand. Since then all notable buildings and signs have included keys as decoration and the local nickname for Leiden is "Sleutelstad" which means "Key City".
Although I didn't have cause to use this the local tourist office is the conspicuous white building to your left as you leave the railway station, heading into the city - Stationsweg 41
Here you'll find multi-lingual staff offering pretty much any information or service you could require including accommodation assistance, tickets for local events, advice on things to do and public transport.
They have a freebie city map and the usual leaflets along with guidebooks and souvenirs for sale.
Even without a map Leiden is very easy to find your way around. The city centre is compact and easily walkable (or cycleable) and there are plenty of helpful signposts pointing you in the direction of the main attractions.
There are also strategically located city maps which are easy to read and most of the main places of interest have external information boards in Dutch and English.
Leidseplein is an adorable little coffeeshop. It's located in the corner of a really cute side street, near the Pieterskerk. Looks like a place where locals hang out and as most of Leiden, it isn't very touristy. There's a small bar where you can sit and there are also tables and booths. The staff is friendly and helpful and you could probably spend hours in here!
I needed to check where my hotel for the night in Arnhem was and so popped into this friendly little internet place on Steenstraat, heading towards Centraal Station. They have about half-a-dozen machines and I think it cost 35 cents for 15 minutes.
They also offer cheap phone calls, cards and money transfer services.
The second or third of October is a festival in Leiden. Wonderful experience, all the bars cover the sky between the houses, on the usually pretty narrow streets. And everyone is out drinking and dancing on the streets. Wonderful experience
To study is expensive, so students look for the cheapest rooms. Often apartments and rooms are shared to keep the living costs low. So, don't be surprised by a dozen of door bells at a Leiden frontdoor.
Weddings get the local legal approval at the Leiden City Hall, that is surrounded by beautiful historical buildings. No wonder that the Koornbrugsteeg leading to the covered Koornbrug bridge also is known as Trouwstraatje (Wedding alley).
As you can see, it's nice just to walk around in leiden. But hey, i'm probably biased. The view on the
canal is from my apartment.
Click on the pic to enlarge.
One of the best things about visiting the Netherlands is that you can get warm Stroepwaffels at the local markets.
Leiden is a typical student town. Traditionally the students come from different backgrounds than the original Leiden people, so we have a funny mixture here.
Stay on the paths! There are bushes alongside the path with nasty thorns....;-).This is the other tile I have hanging on my wall.