A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
I think it’s fair to say that one of the best things about Leiden is its weekly market on the Nieuwe Rijn. It’s here that on a Wednesday and Saturday – though more likely on a Saturday – you’ll find the population of Leiden wandering between the stalls and doing their weekly shopping. It’s also here that, if you’re a poor student, you can find some of the tastiest food to sample (and also cheap food if you do have spare change at the end of the week). So, I have compiled a guide to getting the cheapest food at the market, compiled from three months of weekly research. (It’s been a hard, but rewarding, job.)
For lunch options, the various stalls selling fish are a good place to go. Here, you can try out those quintessentially Dutch delicacies: kibbeling and haring. A portion of kibbeling can be had for around €3, not bad for a lunch. Similarly, haring in a bread roll – in case you’re not brave enough to try it the Dutch way, on it’s own with onions – is around €2. Of course, prices differ on different stalls, so it’s always worth taking a lap of the market first to scout out the cheapest.
Another place where bargains can be found at the market are the fruit and vegetable stalls. Market fruit/veg can be a little hit and miss at times, but browse carefully and you can find things very cheap. Most stalls sell baskets of various fruits every week for only €1, but it’s worth going every week to find limited deals on fruit and veg. Another handy tip is heading down later in the afternoon, when stalls are trying to get rid of their produce and are more willing to sell for cheaper.
If you’ve already had lunch, head down to the market in the early afternoon for maximum food-sample opportunity. Start at the cheese stalls, which always have a great selection of Dutch cheeses for you to try, as well as other varieties such as Jersey cheese. Of course, you are meant to try before you buy, but by the time you’ve nabbed the cheese and left it’s too late, right? This mantra applies to most of the stalls that offer tasters. Although, I have learnt not to be too eager, after once grabbing small pastry parcels from the counter at one stall only to find out to my embarrassment later that these were not actually free. So, to reiterate, you tread a fine line between sampling delicacies and becoming an unwitting thief. So, tread carefully – and if you try something truly lekker, support the stall and buy! (I do not advocate thieving.)
For those with a sweet tooth, the market has a whole host of offerings. My favourite are the various stalls selling fresh stroopwafels. You can smell the syrup before you see the stall, and it’s almost impossible to resist after watching the stroopwafels being made before your eyes, the syrup being poured warm and sticky onto a layer of crunchy waffle. These can be had for only €1.20 – better than any that can be bought from HEMA or Albert Heijn. Some stalls even sell kruimels, what are essentially stroopwafel crumbs, in a bag for only €0.50. You’ll also find opposite the Stadhuis on a Saturday a huge bakery stall selling all kinds of Dutch treats such as boterkoek, speculaas, and gevulde koeken for tempting prices.
There’s so much at the market that it’s difficult to summarize in a small article – it’s true that you’ll probably see something different every week. As the days start to get colder, it’s certainly worth forcing yourself out on a weekend to the market – if only for a warm stroopwafel.