A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

The Leiden Advent Calendar – 24 tips to treat yourself during the Christmas season (Part 1)

I just love Christmas time. Everything is decorated, it smells like cinnamon and cookies and the whole city is illuminated. The earlier nightfall doesn’t matter anymore, and the city turns into a magic wonderland. Especially Leiden, with its beautiful canals in which you can see the reflection of the lights on the trees, becomes an even more beautiful place.

One of my favourite things about Christmas time is the Advent Calendar. When I was little my mother always made me these incredibly wonderful individual ones; 24 lovingly wrapped gifts with surprises, leading up to Christmas day. Only now do I realize how much work that must have been (thanks for that Mom!). With an advent calendar every morning is Christmas morning, and it is a physical countdown to Christmas Day at the same time.




Talking with my friends about this tradition, I realized, though it has spread around the world, only we Germans make such a big deal out of it. That’s not surprising, as it was invented by the Germans, as Wikipedia taught me. The first Christmas Calendar was printed in a bookstore in Hamburg in 1902 and it has now spread around the world.

I will now support this campaign by writing you a slightly different version of an Advent Calendar. Here, you have to become active. Follow my guidance to make Leiden your own Christmas advent calendar. Gifts are waiting everywhere for you. And most of the things are even for free. It can also be regarded as a last-minute exploration of Leiden for those who are already leaving before Christmas.

Enjoy yourself and have a Merry Christmas!




1.12.:    Get yourself in the Christmas mood and buy lots of “kruidnoten”

2.12.:     Everyone knows the poems on the walls in the whole of Leiden. But why not follow that guided walk around Leiden to get the impression of it as a whole. For non-Dutch speakers I recommend the Google Translate, as it is a pleasure on its own:

You can find the English translations of the poems here:

3.12.     It’s Monday Jazz at the Jazz Bar “Twee Spiegels”. Enjoy the feast for your ears with a delicious red wine.

4.12.     Have you tried our free cinema? Join the ISN Movie club, which shows a movie every Tuesday in the ISN common room at Plexus.

5.12.     Happy Sinterklaas! Meet your friends, drink lots of mulled wine and write poems for each other!

6.12.     Have a different kind of study break: Visit the Botanical Garden, the “Hortus Botanicus” and get a cup of tea in the Grand Café Clusius which is next to it.  Don’t forget your student card, as that will get you in for free.

7.12.     Forget about Facebook and Whatsapp and go the old-fashioned way today. Go to “Francobolli”, a lovely café that is also a post office. It’s located near Haarlemmerstraat and offers a huge collection of postcards you can purchase and send there. Get a coffee and an “appeltaart” and write a lovely message to one of your friends or family members and imagine their smile when they receive it.



8.12.     Treat yourself to a fresh stroopwafel at the market.

9.12.     Okay, that might sound crazy, but what do you think about a trip to the seaside? Get your warmest coat, gloves and hat and cycle to Noordwijk. Walking along the beach in winter time is a whole new experience. The lazy ones can also take the bus from Leiden Centraal for around 4 euros.

10.12.    Fancy having a calm Monday? Choose one of the cheesiest Christmas films, buy some more kruidnoten (I reckon you might have finished the first bag already) and have a cosy evening. (Okay, I cheated a bit with that one as it is not really Leiden-related. If you want to have a Dutch theme in it then watch “Alles is liefde”, which was promoted as the Dutch version of “Love Actually”.)

11.12.    De Burcht – some of you might remember it from the introduction days. The remains of this old fortress are located between Einstein and the Hooglandse Kerk.  Have a nice little wander to that spot again, and enjoy the 360-degree view of Leiden on a lovely cold winter day.


De burcht


12.12.    Have you ever skated on a canal? Though I cannot promise it’ll be cold enough in two weeks for the canals to be frozen, you will still get the chance to experience the feeling. The city of Leiden will build a platform on the canal next to the town hall where you can ice-skate every day until the middle of January (The price to rent skates is about 4 euros). They will also provide you with mulled wine which I might even recommend to drink before for the shy ones to become braver.


Part 2 is coming soon!

One comment on “The Leiden Advent Calendar – 24 tips to treat yourself during the Christmas season (Part 1)

  1. Blackburn
    December 2, 2012

    This is a fantastic idea! Might struggle to fit them all in (I’m already two days behind) but I’ll certainly have a go.

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This entry was posted on November 30, 2012 by in Culture, ISN, Katharina and tagged , , , , .

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