Oona Mick

Written by Oona Mick

Modified & Updated: 28 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

Source: Planetofhotels.com

Leiden, a picturesque city in the Netherlands, is steeped in history, culture, and charm. Known for its renowned university, stunning canals, and quaint streets lined with beautiful architecture, Leiden offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. With a population of around 125,000 people, Leiden retains a sense of intimacy and tranquility that is hard to find in larger cities. As you explore its cobblestone streets and bustling marketplaces, you’ll discover a wealth of fascinating facts and stories that make Leiden truly one-of-a-kind. In this article, we will delve into 42 interesting facts about Leiden, shedding light on its rich history, notable landmarks, famous residents, and much more. So, come along on this journey and unveil the wonders that this captivating city has to offer.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leiden, Netherlands, is a city steeped in history, from being the birthplace of Rembrandt to its role in the Pilgrim Fathers’ journey. With canals, windmills, and vibrant festivals, it’s a cultural gem waiting to be explored.
  • From the oldest university in the Netherlands to the birthplace of the Dutch national anthem, Leiden is a city of rich cultural heritage. Its museums, botanical gardens, and historic sites offer a fascinating journey through time and art.
Table of Contents

The Birthplace of Rembrandt

Leiden is renowned as the birthplace of the world-famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. His masterpieces continue to inspire and captivate art lovers around the globe.

Home to the Oldest University in the Netherlands

Leiden University, founded in 1575, holds the distinction of being the oldest university in the Netherlands. It has a rich academic history and has produced many notable scholars and Nobel laureates.

Canals Galore

Similar to its more famous counterpart, Amsterdam, Leiden boasts an extensive network of picturesque canals. Taking a leisurely boat ride along these charming waterways is a must-do when visiting the city.

Birthplace of the Dutch National Anthem

Leiden is where the Dutch national anthem, the “Wilhelmus,” was composed. This stirring song is a symbol of national pride and is sung during important national events and sporting competitions.

Quintessential Dutch Windmills

Leiden is surrounded by beautiful Dutch windmills, adding to its scenic landscape. These historic structures are a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage.

The Pilgrim Fathers

Leiden played a significant role in the history of the United States as it was the final destination for the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail on the Mayflower to establish the Plymouth Colony.

Museums Galore

Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the wide range of museums in Leiden. From the Museum De Lakenhal, which showcases Dutch art and history, to the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, there is something for every interest.

The Hortus Botanicus

Leiden’s Hortus Botanicus is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. With over 10,000 plant species, it offers a tranquil retreat for nature lovers.

Birthplace of the Dutch East India Company

The Dutch East India Company, a key player in the country’s trade and colonization, was founded in Leiden. This marked the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age.

Festival City

Leiden knows how to celebrate, with numerous festivals taking place throughout the year. From the Kingsday festivities to the famous Leiden International Film Festival, there is always something exciting happening in the city.

Leiden Bio Science Park

Known as the largest life sciences cluster in the Netherlands, the Leiden Bio Science Park is a hub for innovation and research in the field of biomedical sciences.

A Cycling Paradise

Like the rest of the Netherlands, Leiden is bicycle-friendly, with a well-connected network of bike paths. Renting a bike is a popular way to explore the city and its surroundings.

Leiden Marathon

The annual Leiden Marathon attracts thousands of runners from around the world. Participants race through the picturesque streets and canals, making it a truly unique marathon experience.

The Siege of Leiden

Leiden survived a lengthy siege by the Spanish army in the 16th century, which lasted for over four months. The city’s resilience and eventual liberation are celebrated during the annual Leidens Ontzet (Leiden Relief) festival.

The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum

The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum tells the story of the Pilgrim Fathers who sought religious freedom and lived in Leiden before embarking on their historic voyage to America.

The Leiden Observatory

Established in 1633, the Leiden Observatory is the oldest operating university observatory in the world. It has made significant contributions to the field of astronomy throughout its long history.

The Burcht van Leiden

The Burcht van Leiden is an ancient fortress that offers panoramic views of the city. It provides a glimpse into Leiden’s medieval past and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

The Museum Volkenkunde

The Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden is dedicated to showcasing the cultural heritage of different peoples from around the world. It offers a fascinating journey through various civilizations and traditions.

Leiden International Sculpture Route

Art lovers can enjoy the Leiden International Sculpture Route, featuring various sculptures and installations situated throughout the city. It adds a unique artistic flair to the urban landscape.

The Pieterskerk

The Pieterskerk is a historic church in Leiden that dates back to the 14th century. It is known for its stunning architecture and is a popular venue for concerts and events.

The National Museum of Ethnology

The National Museum of Ethnology, located in Leiden, displays an extensive collection of cultural artifacts from all over the world. It provides insights into the diverse traditions and customs of different societies.

Leiden’s Vibrant Student Life

With a large student population, Leiden has a vibrant and lively atmosphere. The city offers numerous student organizations, events, and activities, ensuring there is always something happening on campus and beyond.

Stadhuis Leiden

The Stadhuis Leiden, or City Hall, is an iconic landmark that showcases the city’s rich history and architectural beauty. Its grandeur and craftsmanship are a sight to behold.

City of Canals and Bridges

Leiden is often referred to as the “City of Canals and Bridges.” Its network of picturesque canals and charming bridges adds to the city’s enchanting character.

The Leiden American Pilgrimage Rail Trail

The Leiden American Pilgrimage Rail Trail is a scenic walking and cycling route that follows the historic footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers in Leiden. It offers a unique opportunity to explore the city’s significant historical sites.

Home to the Leiden Jazz Festival

Music lovers flock to Leiden every year to enjoy the renowned Leiden Jazz Festival. The city comes alive with the sounds of jazz, showcasing both local talent and international artists.

The Lakenfeesten

Leiden hosts the annual Lakenfeesten, a week-long festival filled with music, dance, theater, and culinary delights. It is a celebration of the city’s cultural heritage and community spirit.

Leiden’s Historic City Gates

Leiden’s city gates, such as the Morspoort and Zijlpoort, are remnants of the city’s medieval fortifications. They provide a glimpse into Leiden’s defensive past and add to its architectural charm.

The Leiden International Short Film Experience

The Leiden International Short Film Experience, also known as LXS, showcases a diverse selection of short films from around the world. It is a platform for emerging filmmakers to showcase their talent and creativity.

The Boterhuis

The Boterhuis is a historic building in Leiden that once served as a butter market. Today, it houses a vibrant cultural center that hosts exhibitions, performances, and workshops.

Birthplace of the Dutch Herring Festival

Leiden is where the Dutch Herring Festival originated. This annual event celebrates the arrival of the first barrel of new herring, a traditional delicacy in the Netherlands.

The De Valk Windmill Museum

The De Valk Windmill Museum allows visitors to explore the inner workings of a traditional Dutch windmill. It offers insights into the history and significance of windmills in the Netherlands.

Leiden’s Historic City Center

Leiden’s city center is a treasure trove of historic buildings, picturesque streets, and charming squares. It is a perfect place to wander and soak up the city’s unique ambiance.

The Wall Poems of Leiden

Leiden is adorned with an impressive collection of wall poems. These larger-than-life poems, painted on the sides of buildings, add a touch of literary beauty to the city’s streets.

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden is dedicated to showcasing the archaeology and ancient history of the Netherlands. It offers a captivating journey through time.

Birthplace of the Leiden Jar

The Leiden Jar, an early form of a battery, was discovered in Leiden. It is an extraordinary testament to the city’s scientific and technological contributions.

The Leiden International Film Festival

The Leiden International Film Festival is a major cultural event that showcases a diverse selection of films from around the world. It attracts filmmakers, industry professionals, and film enthusiasts alike.

Leiden University Library

Leiden University Library, with its extensive collection of books and manuscripts, is a remarkable institution known for its historical significance and academic resources.

The Leiden Market

The bustling Leiden Market, held every Wednesday and Saturday, offers a vibrant array of fresh produce, flowers, cheese, and other local delights. It is a true feast for the senses.

The City of Rembrandt’s Masterpieces

Rembrandt spent a significant part of his life in Leiden, and the city served as a source of inspiration for many of his masterpieces. Leiden honors its connection to the renowned artist through various exhibitions and events.

Leiden’s Hidden Courtyards

Leiden is known for its picturesque hidden courtyards, tucked away behind the city’s historic buildings. These tranquil oases offer a peaceful escape from the bustling streets.

The Pieterskerk Choorsteeg

The Pieterskerk Choorsteeg is Leiden’s narrowest street, measuring just over 80 centimeters wide. It is a unique and quirky feature of the city’s charming streetscape.

Leiden, with its rich history, cultural vibrancy, and scenic beauty, is a city that truly captivates visitors. Explore its winding canals, immerse yourself in its artistic and academic legacy, and experience the unique charm of this Dutch gem.


Leiden is truly a fascinating city with rich history, captivating architecture, and a vibrant cultural scene. From its famous university and museums to its charming canals and bustling market squares, there is no shortage of things to explore and discover in Leiden. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply want to experience the unique charm of a traditional Dutch city, Leiden has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty and wonder of Leiden.


1. What is the best time to visit Leiden?

The best time to visit Leiden is during the spring and summer months, from April to September. The weather is pleasant, and you can enjoy outdoor activities, visit the colorful flower fields, and soak up the sunshine.

2. How do I get to Leiden?

Leiden is easily accessible by train from major Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. The city also has a well-connected bus network, and if you prefer to drive, there are parking facilities available.

3. Are there any famous attractions in Leiden?

Absolutely! Leiden is home to several famous attractions, including the iconic Leiden University, which is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The city also boasts the stunning Hortus Botanicus, the National Museum of Antiquities, and the beautiful canals lined with historic buildings.

4. Is it possible to take a boat tour in Leiden?

Yes, you can explore the city’s picturesque canals by taking a boat tour. It’s a great way to see Leiden from a different perspective and learn about its history and architecture.

5. Are there any annual events or festivals in Leiden?

Absolutely! Leiden hosts several exciting events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Leiden International Film Festival, the Leiden Jazz & Blues Week, and the Leiden Carnival. These events showcase the city’s vibrant cultural scene and offer a unique experience for visitors.

6. Are there any accommodations options in Leiden?

Leiden offers a wide range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels and cozy bed and breakfasts. Whether you prefer to stay in the city center or in a more peaceful neighborhood, you’ll find plenty of choices to suit your preferences.

7. Can I explore Leiden on foot?

Absolutely! Leiden is a compact city that can easily be explored on foot. The city center is pedestrian-friendly, and you can stroll through its charming streets, visit museums, and stop by cafes and restaurants along the way.

Leiden's rich history, cultural heritage, and vibrant arts scene make it a captivating destination for travelers and locals alike. From Rembrandt's birthplace to the oldest university in the Netherlands, this charming Dutch city offers a wealth of fascinating facts and hidden treasures waiting to be explored. If you're curious to learn more about Leiden's academic prowess, be sure to check out our article on the intriguing facts surrounding Leiden University. Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or simply looking for a picturesque place to wander, Leiden has something to offer everyone.

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