A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Despite how beautiful and charming Leiden is, there is one thing all students in Leiden seem to love doing: leaving it!
Leiden is perfectly located in the center of the Netherlands, so that traveling to other cities is quite easy and usually rather cheap. Don’t know where to go? Well… keep reading!
A trip to… IKEA!
Some of you might think this is a weird suggestion. And maybe it is.
But there are some people out there who know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that going to IKEA is a fun activity!
You can get lost in the endless aisles, pick up the odd gizmos you never knew you needed and have some cheap, yet surprisingly delicious, food. And don’t get me started on all the not-so-mature fun you can have, like trying all the beds and sofas or playing an extreme game of hide-and-seek.
Small recommendation- try to avoid going on the weekends, since that’s usually when there are more people coming. The last thing you want is to go there when the place is infested with crying kids. Trust me on this.
Another possibility- you could also combine the trip to IKEA with a city walk. For example, the IKEA in Delft is a short walking distance from the city center, so you could have a nice walk and explore the city.
Delft is another charming student city, and it’s definitely worth a visit. If you happen to go on Saturday, you could visit the market held at the main square (the Markt). You can also just walk around the small canals and alleys, or perhaps visit the Delft pottery de Delftse Pauw if you’re interested in porcelain (no judgment, promise).
A quick ride to The Hague
It may be an obvious suggestion, as The Hague is two train stops away from Leiden, but it’s never a bad idea to go to the Hague. The possibilities are endless, which is especially impressive considering you wouldn’t think of The Hague as the first place to go to.
Besides shopping (which there is much of), you could visit one of the museums The Hague has to offer. The most famous one is Mauritshuis, where you can find “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”, among other classic Dutch paintings. The museum is small and lovely, and you could lazily walk through it in around two hours.
If museums are not your thing, you could try The Hague’s Japanese Garden, for a tranquil experience that can’t be beat. It’s important to take into account that the gardens are a bit far from the center, so plan your visit ahead.
There are plenty of other things to do in The Hague: walk through Paleistuin, a lovely park close to the train station, enjoy the nightlife the city has to offer, explore the local China Town, or just try one of the many good restaurants. As you can see, it’s kind of difficult to run out of things to do in The Hague.
Utrecht is well known as one of the nicest cities in the Netherlands, and once you go there it’s not difficult to understand why. It’s a beautiful city, filled with bars and restaurants on right on the canals, and on a sunny day (if you’re lucky enough to get one) it’s the perfect place to enjoy a beer trying to catch that elusive sun.
For the nerds among us (with whom I highly related), try “Game State”. Right in the center of Utrecht, Game State is a paradise for arcade lovers and a fun activity for anyone with either love of nostalgia or a secret longing to feeling like a kid again. In short- all of us.
Last, but definitely not least, is the obvious day trip. The reason I put it last is that for most of us, it’s the most obvious choice. I even think most of my friends believe I live in Amsterdam, even though I explained to them that I don’t at least a hundred times.
The thing about Amsterdam is that you either love it or hate it. It’s sometimes difficult for people to find a middle point. For me, after a while, I learned to see the beauty of Amsterdam. That’s why I had to include it on this list- because I want to offer you a new way to experience the most notorious city of the Netherlands.
So how can you learn to enjoy Amsterdam? Or, if you already love it, how can you experience it differently?
What I do when I go to Amsterdam, and what I suggest you try at least once, is to be a tourist. Personally, I haven’t been to A’dam (as the locals call it) before I moved to Leiden, so I never got to enjoy it as a tourist. But I do my best to get the experience when I do go, which means that I try to do as many silly touristic things as I can.
For example- the fries. There is an ongoing debate about which is the best fries in A’dam. The competition is, at the moment, between Manneken Pis and Vleminckx (I urge you to try both and decide for yourselves).
But other than fries there are other things in Amsterdam, such as amazing museums, great restaurants, beautiful streets and canals, and of course- world renowned coffee-shops for the smokers among you.
This is, of course, a short list. The options are really endless, and part of the fun is to look for things to do yourself. As a final note, I would really encourage you to find time to explore as many places as you can. After all, you now live in a beautiful country. Why not see it?