A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
After my last exam period, this was my first Saturday off. As much as I love being in Leiden, Saturday is the day I enjoy being here the least, because it is the only day when most people are not at work and the market is in full swing. The combination of these two factors leaves Leiden city center flooded with people, and I prefer its calmer side. Therefore, I decided to get a change of scenery at a Dutch city I haven’t visited before. The choice was narrowed down to Breda, which I knew nothing about and decided it is time to change that.
Breda is an hour away from Leiden by train, and it is definitely worth visiting. It is actually the of the larger cities in the southern part of the Netherlands, and you get to see a glimpse of the largest Dutch cargo port just outside Rotterdam as well as some amazing street art near the train stations along the way.
As soon as you exit the Breda train station there is a main road leading to the center. To make your way there you pass by a large park with plenty of greenery, artificial lakes with fountains, and (surprisingly) chickens running around from roosters crowing to get their attention.
Right after the park you see the Castle of Breda, which is closed for the public as it is used for government purposes, but its exterior can be appreciated and photographed nonetheless. From there the tower of the main church of Breda, which is located on the main square (grote markt), is peaking in sight. Google suggests visiting several other historical sights, but they are more than 3km away from the center, so in the interest of time I decided against that.
The Grote Markt in Breda is a bit different than in Leiden, as there are no canals, but instead one central square with café-restaurants on both sides. It is surrounded by shopping streets from all sides, and I got the impression that there is more to choose from than when shopping in Leiden. There was positive energy all around, with packed cafes both during the day and in the evening. Some even had specific offers for students, which is always appreciated.
After a full day of exploring the center, the restaurant with self-proclaimed ‘best burgers in Breda’ was worth a try. The burgers were quite okay and they had some vegetarian and vegan options as well, but what truly impressed me was the homemade strawberry lemonade. Even if burgers are not your cup of tea, visiting this place just for the lemonade and desserts is well worthwhile.
The largest and most popular Dutch cities do not provide a genuine picture of the Dutch culture. If you are interested in local culture and the differences between regions in the Netherlands, living in Leiden and visiting not so famous Dutch cities like Breda, can in fact be much more insightful.