Leiden  is a town in the Netherlands. The city is known for its university, and for it's beautiful, if rather small, city centre.
Leiden is best reached by train. The journey takes 15 minutes from The Hague, and 20 minutes from Schiphol, the principal airport in the Netherlands. The journey from Amsterdam takes between 30 and 40 minutes.
Most trains arrive at Leiden Centraal, which is 500m North-West of the City Center, and 1km from the City Hall. Leiden Lammenschans station is on the opposite side of the city center, just over 1km from the City Hall. If you do not feel like walking from the station to the centre you can take a bus (ask which ones go to the Breestraat bus stop); this costs 1 E during off hours.
In spite of the two highways around Leiden (A4 and A44), the centre of Leiden isn't easy to reach by car. It is best to try and park your car at the transferium (FREE parking) and continue your journey by bus. For this transferium you have to follow the A44 and then take exit 8 (Katwijk, Leiden Transferium). There are also parking lots on the Morsweg (south-west of the town centre) and on the Langegracht (north of town centre, near the station). These parking lots are crowded though, and there's no guarantee there will be space here, especially during the summer.
Leiden train station is a central hub for the local bus network, so if you want to go anywhere local your best bet is to go here and ask around.
Leiden is one of the most important museum cities in the Netherlands. Three national museums are located in Leiden, among others, that worth to visit. All major museums are within 10-15 minutes of walking distance from the central station.
- Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities), Rapenburg 28, +31-71–5163163, . Tu-F, 10AM-5PM & Sa/Su/holidays, 12AM-5PM. Includes an outstanding collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities, and a small temple that was given to the Netherlands by the Egyptians for their help with the Aswan monuments transfer project. It also features an exhibition on the archeological history of the Netherlands including dug-up burial treasures and the like. Adult € 7.50, Child (4-17 y.o.) € 6.50.
- Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology), Steenstraat 1, +31-71-5168800, . Tu-Su/holidays, 10AM-5PM. The museum shows the culture of native peoples around the world in a refreshingly open-minded way. Permanent exhibitions are grouped based on geographical regions. A good, well thought-out museum with lots of background information in its bookshop, extensive library, and computer screens that are strewn about the museum. Of special interest are the temporary exhibits. Adult € 7.50, Child (4-12 y.o) & eldery (>65 y.o) € 4. Permanent exhibition is free of charge on Wednesday.
- Naturalis, Darwinweg 2, +31-71-5687600, . Tu-F, 10AM-5PM, Sa/Su/holidays, 10AM-6PM. The main part of the museum tells the story of life on earth through bones, fossils, etc. The museum also features a collection of specimens from extinct animals, including bones from a Dodo. Do not miss the treasure chamber (schatkamer) where exceptional and valuable collections, such as extinct animal bones, gemstones, etc., are on display. The treasure chamber is sometime closed for security reason. The museum is meant to be accessible for all ages; the temporary exhibitions are often (partially) aimed at children. Child (0-3 y.o.) free, (4-12 y.o) € 5, (13-17 y.o) € 6, adult (> 18 y.o) € 9.
Molen de Valk, windmill museum.
- Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Oude Singel 28-32, +31-71-5165360, . Tu-Su, 10AM-5PM. Municipal museum in the 17th century former clothmaker's hall. Permanent collection shows artifacts and art objects throughout the history of Leiden from 16th century. Adult (18-65 y.o) € 4, otherwise free of charge.
- Museum Boerhaave, Lange St. Agnietenstraat 10, +31-71-5214224, . Tu-Sa, 10AM-5PM, Su/holidays, 12AM-5PM. The Boerhaave Museum, named after the 16th century physician and biologist Herman Boerhaave, is the Dutch National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine. It features an extensive exhibition of scientific equipment from 1600 onwards. Highlights include the Theatrum Anatomicum (a mock-up of a lecture theatre where anatomical lessons were held), the 's Gravesande demonstration experiments (first demonstration experiments to show Newtonian physics), the first microscope, the first helium liquefier and the first Fahrenheit thermometer. Adults € 6, Child < 9 y.o and elderly > 65 y.o. € 3.
- Hortus Botanicus, Rapenburg 73, +31-71-5277249. . Apr. 1st-Oct. 31st, everyday open 10AM-6PM, Nov. 1st-Mar. 31st, Su-F, 10AM-4PM. It is a botanical garden that hosts different species of flowers and trees around the world. It is part of the University of Leiden. Adult € 5, Child 4-12 y.o. € 2.5, Over 65 € 3.
- Molen de Valk. It was a flour windmill and now is a windmill museum. Located in just less than 5 minutes walk from Leiden central station. You can climb through all the mill's levels. On the top, you can admire the view of Leiden.
Note: if you intend to stay for longer period of time in the Netherland and your affection is on visiting museums, then it is advised to apply for the 1-year museum card (museumjaarkaart). The museum card is only for € 25 and you gain free access to more than 400 museums at anytime. You can buy this card at any major museums.
- Academiegebouw.- Old university building still used for ceremonies and a few studies. The building borders on the Rapenburg, reputedly the most beautiful canal of the Netherlands. On the other side the academiegebouw borders on the Hortus Botanicus.
- Pieterskerk - The Church of St. Peter (the patron saint of the city) is a 16th century church, in late-Gothic style. An feature which Americans will find interesting is that this church is associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, whose leader John Robinson, lived in the nearby Pieterskerkchoorsteeg (house is marked with a plaque). The church itself features a small exhibition on the Pilgrims in Leiden. People buried here include the physician Boerhave, the painter Jan Steen (of Rijksmuseum fame) and the aforementioned Pilgrim leader Robinson.
- Canals - Oude Rijn - The oldest branch of the Rhine river is little more than a city canal here. Historically, this waterway is what gave the area it's importance, first as a Roman border, then during the Golden Age as a trade route. Nowadays, river traffic doesn't use this branch and the river just serves to fill the city's canals with water. The area between the Oude Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn is one of the most undisturbed bits of Leiden - go here if you like walking along canals without getting run over by shoppers. On the other side of the city centre (Weddesteeg, Galgewater) is the place where the canals recombine - this is one of the most beautiful spots in Leiden, with a windmill, the old city gate, a small park, and a wooden bridge over the river (see also the image at the head of this article).
According to many Leiden is the home of the first give-away shop, which can be found at Hooglandse Kerkgracht 4. Open Thursdays and Fridays 1400-1