Historical Leiden, Leiden
Cross the Langebrug and go straight into the Wolsteeg you will end up in the Breestraat, right in front of you is the huge Cityhall.
Cityhall has a long history. In the early days it was a place for the government, but also for the church. In the middleages it was also used as a tradehouse for cloth and meat.
After Leids Ontzet (1574) (see general tips for more info on the most important year in Leidens history) the government decided that the wealth of Leiden had to be seen in cityhall. They gave architect Lieven de Key the assignment to design a new facade in 1595. In 1929 cityhall burnt down. The facade in the Breestraat was restored but the rest of the building is new, designed by C.J. Blaauw; building started in 1937.
At windmill de Put go right to see the Morspoort.
Leiden had originally 8 citygates, only two remain now. The Morspoort is the western citygate to Leiden. The stone gate was designed in 1669 by Willem van der Helm. It is called the Morspoort, because it led to the swampy area (moeras in dutch) outside the city.
The gate served as a prison for a long time.
The Weighing House and the Butter hall behind it were build in 1657. Since goods were usually shipped to Leiden, the weighing house is not on a square (Leiden has no main square) but is build next to one of the canals.
Everything that weighted above 10 kilo needed to be weighted here by official weighters before it was sold. This way it was prevented that people got less then they paid for.
Every year on the 3rd of october the traditional distribution of herring and white bread is here to commemorate the fact that the spaniards left the besiege of Leiden in 1574.
Leiden is a great place to make a citywalk. There are several interesting places to see in the citycentre. At the touristinfo you can buy booklets with the routes and descriptions of the monuments you see. we made a citywalk in december 2005. In this walk we combined three different booklets. So let us take you on a citywalk through Leiden.
We started from the parkingplace at the Haagweg. (max 5 euro per day, with free shuttle to the citycentre, 2005 prices) From the parkingplace we went right into the Haagweg, which after crossing the water became Noordeinde. Unexpectected we saw the first great sight across the water: the former building of the Leidsch Dagblad. It is located along the Witte Singel. Build by Willem Marinus Dudok (1884 - 1974), architect of Leiden, in 1913. The building is now restored and transformed into a courthouse (Kantongerecht Leiden).
The map of the route we took can be found in travelogue.
In 2006 it is 400 years since Rembrandt, the famous painter, was born here in Leiden.
The entire year there will be festivities and special expositions. More info about the program on the website mentioned below.
15 july 1606 Rembrandt van Rijn was born in the Weddesteeg in Leiden. He was the youngest son of Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn, a miller. Leiden is florishing city. At the age of ten Rembrandt is sent to the Latin School. (we will see the actual school during this city walk) At the age of 15 he registers at the university. Altough he didn't study much he had the benefit of taxe free beer and wine and didn't have to serve in the city army. He starts his artistic study with the artist Jacob Isaacszoon van Swanenburgh. In 1624 Rembrandt starts his artist work in Leiden.
In 1631 vindt Rembrandt starts in Amsterdam, to broaden his horizon and get more customers.
The first sign of Rembrandt in Leiden we encounter is his statue at the Witte Singel.
We proceed along Noordeinde untill the Oude Varkenmarkt. Turn right into this street. The name refers to its use in the old days. It was the place where pigs (varkens) were sold.
At your right hand you will find the Pieter Loridanshofje. It is an almshouse built in 1656 with the money of Pieter Loridan at his grounds behind his inn. Pieter was a refuge from the spanish inquisition. He lost his family and fellow refugees during the plague epidemic in 1655 and decided to built an almshouse. Shortly after he put this decission in his will he also died of the plague. His will was carried out and the 12 almshouses provided living spaces for the poor, but good people. This meant people of his origin and faith.
The text above the entrance gate freely translated: Those who were believers and honest people, but poor and old, were relieved from that burdon here, now that Pieter Loridan built this almshouses.
Bread, peat to cook on and beer (twice daily) was included with the free housing.
After the second worlwar there was no more money and the houses fell in decay. The Foundation Leidse Studentenhuisvesting bought it in 1964. Architect P. van der Stère restored the houses. Today students are living here, but no free beer anymore.........
More about the almshouses in Leiden in the general tips.
Continue through the Doelensteeg untill the canal. This is the Rapenburg.
The Rapenburg is one of the most pretty streets of Leiden. The canal was dug out around 1250 as a moat to protect the city. It is an important street since in the golden age the rich people built their houses along the canal. This street is a reminder of the important city Leiden once was.
This street is also the location of one of the largest disasters in the history of Holland. A ship filled with gunpowder exploded here 12 january 1807 . Distroying many houses and killing 151 people.
Today it is just a nice street to walk along and enjoy the beautifull facades. In the summer you can row along the canal.
Going down from the castle you walk straight up to the Heerenloogement. Then go left into the small street untill you reach the water of the Oude Rijn. Go left along the water. At the end left and then right. The Waag is at your left hand.
The front part of this building is the actual Waag (weighhouse) , behind it is the Boterhal (Butterhal, where butter was traded). The building is made out of brick, the facade is covered with natural stone. It was designed by Pieter Post in 1657, the large relief at the facade is by Rombout Verhulst. It stands on the spot where the three rivers of Leiden come together, the Old Rhine, the New Rhine and the mare. The perfect spot to trade, and to have a weighhouse.
Today concerts are held here.
The most important canal in the 17th century when rich merchants started to build their houses here.
Several members of the royal family have lived in houses alongside this canal
You can still see the grandeur of that century. Though many buildings have been converted in either offices or student houses.
De Burcht (Leiden Castle) dates back to the 12th century. Initially it consisted of a man made hill and a wooden fortification on top of it. Around 1150 the wooden fortification was replaced by a stone castle that still exists today. The castle consists of a tuff and brick circular wall with ramparts resting on arches. The carvings surrounding the gate are a decorative addition from the 18th century.
The castle was built in a bend of the Old Rhine. At the time, it's position was a strategic one. However, these days the river is not more than a canal that slowly flows through the town. In addition, the water can no longer be seen from the castle because so many buildings were built around the hill during the 18th century.
The castle was probably never used for permanent habitation and merely served as a refuge for the residents and their belongings in times of peril. The castle suffered considerable damage as a result of a siege in 1203 and it lost its military function in the beginning of the 14th century. It was bought by the town council in 1651.
According to some, the well inside the castle was very deep and that it received its water from the North Sea which is located about 8 kilometres away. This was allegedly so because a herring was once caught in the well inside the castle. This well is however dry nowadays.
Open: daily from 07:00 till 23:00.
Admission: free of charge
At the end of the Varkenmarkt you cross the Groenhazengracht.
In the 17th century this area was the red light district of Leiden. In this house on the corner worked a prostitute nicknamed: het groene haasje (the green hare). The entire street is now named after her. No red light district anymore, but some increadible houses are found here along the canal.
The next right, PietersKerkstraat. Pass the church and go into the far corner. Behind the tree you will find the entrance to the Pieter Gerritz. Spekhofje. Through this complex of almshouses we keep left to end up in the Langebrug.
The almshouses were built by Pieter Gerritsz Spek in 1645. He built it during his live and in his will he arranged that money was set aside to maintain it. It is the only complex of almshouses in Leiden that is painted white.
Go right into the Breestraat and then first left. Walk straight onto the Koornbrug (cornbridge)
This bridge dates back to 1642. But long before that it was the place were corn was traded. It is known that in the 15th century corn was traded from a bridge on this spot.
In the 19th century it was decided to built a shelter over the bridge to protect the goods. It is a design of Salomon van der Pauw in 1825.
Go straight into the Burgsteeg. at the end on your left hand is the gate to the castle.
The Leiden Castle (Burcht) is situated in the centre of the city. The artificial hill was constructed in the 11th century and an wooden fortification was built on top of it. Around 1150 this wooden fortification was replaced by a stone castle.
Leiden Castle was probably never used to live in and only served as a refuge for the people of Leiden. After it lost its militairy use, because the city grew too much, the castle was bought by the town council of Leiden in 1651.
Open: daily 07:00 - 23:00.
Free admission .
Follow the water, along the Beestenmarkt. Keep following the water, and you will find the old carpenters workshop at your right hand at the Korte Galgewater .
The old wood wharf, or carpenters workshop, is not as nice as the actual house of the city carpenter. Built in 1612 it was the house of the main carpenter of the city, the man who did all the cities official carpenters work. The crow-stepped gable and the red and white shutters for the windows makes it one of the nicest houses of Leiden. The actual workshop was next door. In 1651 Arent van 's Gravesande built a place to store corn here.