Fun things to do in Leiden

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    Museum exterior
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    Carved coffin interior
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Leiden

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    Wandering #13 - Public Art In Front Of The Church

    by johngayton Written Aug 7, 2013

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    Another unexpected pleasure was this public art exhibition on the Hoogslandse Kerkegracht, in front of the Pieterskerke. The summer display is entitled "Images in Leiden 2013" and themed "Talent and Tradition", providing an exhibition space for both established and upcoming artists.

    It has been sponsored by the local construction company, Burgy, who I assume provided the plinths.

    The piece in the main picture is by a local artist, Etienne van Borlo and is entitled "Parapilum". I tried to find out what a parapilum is and my researches brought me to a comment by the artist himself. It seems a "Parapilum" is a "Hyperbolische Paraboloide" - sounds double-Dutch to me. I thought it was a cone of fries!

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    Wandering #8 - "Poems and Walls"

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    This is something that has only piqued my interest since I got back home. I'd noticed this Shakespeare sonnet on a building whilst meandering. The building also has a couple of interesting stained glass windows and so I just assumed that that was that - the abode of some arty type who'd painted the poem on the wall.

    It's only now that I'm researching it that I've discovered I've missed the other 100 poems!

    The poem is part of a project initiated by a private artistic foundation, Tegen Beeld, called "Poems and Walls". "Poems and Walls" is a public art installation which looks at the relationship between language and images. Leiden was chosen for its literary history, having been home to many famous writers over the years.

    The project ran from 1992 until 2005 when it achieved its aim of completing exactly 101 poem-paintings. Poems are roughly themed around language, colour and poetic life and the locations are chosen to reflect the various cultures around the city.

    The website below has a virtual tour but me, I reckon this would make an interesting personal project. So it looks like my revisit won't be confined to just an overnighter!

    As an interesting little addendum. The house with the stained glass windows, on the corner of Houtstraat and Rapenburg, turns out to be a shared residence occupied by a Leiden University student association called Minerva - hence the arty stuff.

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    Wandering - #7 Bridges

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    With 88 bridges crossing the 28+ kilometres of canals I couldn't help but notice the variety of designs. Here's a couple that specially caught my eye:

    Pic #1 - The Kerkbrug (Church Bridge) constructed in 1867 by the local engineering firm Schretlen

    Pic #2 - The 17 century Doelenbrug, last restored in 1981.

    Pic #3 - A more modern one, the Turfmarktbrug, completed in 1971.

    Pic #4 - The famous Koornbrug which was where the cornmarket was held. This was rebuilt in 1825 with the covered market buildings on either side of the throughfare. These are now the fish and butter markets.

    Note that they all feature the "Crossed Keys" - the symbol of the city.

    Website below has a comprehensive list of all 88 bridges, along with a set of pop-up pictorial information notes.

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    Wandering - #6 Architecture

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    Leiden is definitely a three-dimensional city and so it's necessary to keep looking up as you wander. As with Amsterdam the 17th century Leiden was a thriving city and canalside properties were in great demand from the merchants. In order to fund municipal projects property taxes on private accommodation was based on the size of the houses' frontages and so even wealthy homeowners had their houses built with narrow gabled fronts.

    These can be quite ornate and in those days the houses weren't numbered and so were identified by their "namestones" - carvings which often included pictorial representation of the merchant's speciality.

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    Wandering - #5 Tempted By A Boat Tour

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    Sitting under the umbrellas of the canalside cafe on the Beestenmarkt I was watching one of the canal tour boats being readied for the day. This mostly involved mopping puddles of rainwater and drying the seats.

    With it still raining quite heavily I was very tempted and at 10 Euros for a one-hour trip it looked like good value. However as the 11 am departure time approached no other potential passengers had arrived and so they changed the time on the clockface at the ticket office to 12.

    By now the rain had eased up and tempted though I was to hang at the cafe for another hour I decided to continue wandering instead.

    Maybe next time.

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    Wandering - #2 The Medieval Canals

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    With over 28 kilometres of channels, along with 88 bridges, Leiden's canal network is second only, in The Netherlands, to that of Amsterdam. The canals had a triple purpose with the outer ring being the defensive enclosure of the Medieval city - in fact it was the city limit until 1896. The internal waterways were used for transportation and water management and in the city's 16th to 17th centuries heyday it was a major Rhine port.

    The canals are still used for transportation of goods and the canalside restaurants and businesses have their own quays.

    For tourists there are several canal tours and boats to hire and if you have your own boat there are public moorings available at the Beestenmarkt and Zijlpoort.

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    Wandering - #1 Molen de Valk

    by johngayton Written Aug 4, 2013

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    With its compactness, and the fact that much of the city centre retains its 16th and 17th centuries layout and features, Leiden is perfect for wandering. There are several self-guided tour books available from the Tourist Office for those who want to follow a specific interest, such as the life of the young Rembrandt, or the churches and almshouses. For a general walk, taking in the city's highlights, the Leiden Loop is particularly recommended.

    However I personally like meandering totally free-flow and discover things for myself, even if at the time I don't know what I'm looking at - part of the fun is coming home with a random set of pics and sitting, as I'm doing, researching them and reliving the journey.

    Arriving at the Centraal train station on a rainy Monday morning wasn't the best introduction to the city's charms, but at least it was late June and so it wasn't cold.

    My first priority was to find somewhere sheltered for a coffee and post-train cigarette but Leiden is such an immediately eye-catching place that the couple of hundred meters into the centre threw up half-a-dozen digressions for the camera, despite the rain.

    The bridge over the canal into the city is the Rijnsburgerbrug and on the left is this perfectly maintained windmill, the Molen de Valk (Falcon). This is the last remaining of the Medieval city's 19 windmills (although a smaller one, the Molen de Put is currently being restored). The Falcon is a flour mill, dating from 1743, which has been turned into a working museum, open to the public. But not on Mondays!

    Six levels of the seven storey building are exhibition areas, starting with the millers' living quarters on the ground floor ascending to the Hoisting Loft from which you can get a panoramic overview of the city. The seventh floor is the Cap Loft which swivels on its bearings to keep the sail into the wind but because of the working machinery, including the main axle and brakes, is considered too dangerous for public access.

    The mill is still used for demonstration grinding and a unique souvenir are the bags of wholemeal flour available from the gift shop.

    Website below has details of opening times, admission prices and etc.

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    OCTOBER 3

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Aug 1, 2013

    A good opportunity to visit Leiden is at October 3.

    At this date in the year 1574 the city of Leiden was liberated from the surrounding troops that were around the city for more than a year. Already 6000 inhabitants of Leiden starved from hunger and diseases. At the end of September the Spanish troops were chased away more and more by leading the water of the river Maas through holes in the dikes to Leiden.
    The "Geuzen", the Dutch liberators sailed into the city with white bread and herring. This fact is being repeated and celebrated each year at october 3.

    As thank for defending the city, in 1575 the University of Leiden was founded.

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    The Leiden Canals

    by pieter_jan_v Written May 15, 2013

    The Leiden canals were part of the defence works of the city. The last canals were dug in 1611 and formed the city limits till 1896.
    Tradesmen that entered the city through one of the gates had to pay a trading tax.

    Nowadays most gates and the earth walls are gone, but parts of it still can be seen.
    The canals still are there.

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    Go on a poem hunt......

    by leics Updated Apr 22, 2013

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    I spotted my first poem on the side of a building very near the wonderful archaeological museum. It was a chunk of Shakespeare and I thought...'Why on earth is that chunk of Shakespeare painted on the side of a house?' And then I wandered onwards, assuming it was just a foible of whoever owned the house, perhaps a romantic gesture of some sort?

    It was only as I further explored Leiden that I realised there were poems painted on walls and buildings all over the place. Not just Shakespeare, and not just in English...in a variety of languages, including at least one in Arabic (I think).

    Research when I arrived home told me that the poems were painted as part of an art project which ran in the city from 1992 to 2005. There are 101 poems altogether ( I think I saw about 10 of them) and it seems there is a walking trail available from the rtourist info office which takes you round all 101 of them.

    I'd guess that the poems have been 'touched-up' over the years. They all seemed to be in excellent condition, particularly given the long, harsh winter of 2012/13. They add a vast amount of interest to an already-interesting and very pleasant town and I hope they are preserved for many years to come.

    I think a visit to Leiden would be worthwhile just to go on a poem hunt! :-)

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    Tourist Information and a sofa.

    by leics Written Apr 20, 2013

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    Leiden's Visitor Centre is on Stationsweg, right next to Leiden Centraal railway station. You can easily spot it by the 'sofa' sculpture standing outside. Covered in mirrored mosaic, the sofa features Leiden 'icons': windmill, church, spire, crossed keys (the symbol of the city).

    The tourist information people speak good English (of course!) and were able to provide me with a free streetmap. There were also hundreds of info leaflets about what to see and do, both in Leiden itself and locally...and I'm certain they would also help out with accommodation, transport, tours and so on and so forth.

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    Take the kids for a windmill visit and poffertjes!

    by ATLC Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Let me relive childhood memories!

    In Leiden, you can go to Pannenkoekhuis Schaapsbel for poffertjes (tiny pancakes eaten traditionally with butter and icing sugar).
    When I was a little girl, my mum would take me after visiting the windmill De Valk which is 200 metres from the restaurant:

    The windmill is great fun to visit and when you climb up, you can get lovely views over Leiden.

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    Hortus Botanicus

    by leplaya Updated Apr 4, 2011

    Though not the greatest botanical garden in the world, the Hortus Botanicus is a nice brief getaway in the middle of the city. There are various different types of plants, including tropical and desert plants in the greenhouses, herbs, flowers, and trees. There is also a Japanese garden. Though from the enterance in looks small, it is actually a fairly large place. It is definately a good place to relax.
    This is also the garden where the first tulip bulbs were planted (from Turkey) by Carl Linneaus (the person who came up with latin naming system for all living species). The garden is now part of the University of Leiden.

    Check out their website for special events

    4 euros for adults

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    De Burcht

    by dutchboycalledjan Updated Jul 27, 2008

    'De Burcht' at the centre of Leiden deserves its own entry. It is one of the best preserved - although restored - fortified ring-shaped 'castles' or 'motte' in Europe. Most motte's were in France, sometimes only surving in a city name ('countess De la Motte' is a good name for a fake countess), a few survived in England.

    The hill is man made, perhaps made while digging the canals. In the beginning it was a wooden wall, later rebuild in stone. It was meant to be a refuge in time of need, perhaps even against the Normans.

    The Leiden Burcht survived for centuries, perhaps because it was hidden from sight. The views from the wall are very nice, except for the direction of the Pieter's Church. A must see!

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    Boerderij 't Geertje (farm)

    by ericrijnsburger Updated Mar 9, 2008

    This is a real farm with much goats, cows, sheep, pigs, etc.
    The farmers make and sell goat chease and other farm articles in the small shop.

    The best of this place is that children and adults can get into the stables and pet the new-born animals. You can buy little milk bottles for a few cents to feed to the small goats. Children can ride a horse there.

    Something we dutch people like: It's free!! However, it is not allowed to bring your own drinks and meal. There is a small cafe there where you can get a small meal or drink for a fair price.

    There is also a small camping site (for about 10 tents) and you can also rent one of the two rooms.

    It is just a perfect place for children!

    Note: It is not easy to find, so you probably need a 'TomTom' (dutch neaverloss) to find it and with good weather in the spring time it can be very crowded on sundays.

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