A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Nine things to do in Leiden you can’t miss

As I have now finished my masters studies in Leiden, I wanted to make a list of recommendations to new students who are just arriving to this wonderful university city. Even if you are not new to Leiden, maybe you still haven’t done some of these things and this could be an opportunity to get to know the city a little better. So here are nine tips and suggestions of things to do that only another international student who’s been here for two years might give. A number of these have already been discussed at greater length by other bloggers at The Leidener over the years, so I tried to link those posts in case you want to hear from their experiences and recommendations too.

The classic ones:

1. Celebrate 3 October – The city’s biggest party, Leids Ontzet, a great festival which commemorates its liberation from the Spanish siege during the Eighty Years’ War, which was around a year long. Past Leideners have blogged about it here, here and here.


Great crowds at Leiden’s biggest party (photo credit).

2. Eat some herring at the market – Nieuwe haring is raw herring soaked in vinegar pickle or brine. Truly a Dutch delicacy, which you can have by itself with a little onion or in a brodje. Tarık recently blogged about it.


Healthy and delicious (photo credit).

3. Go to the tulip fields or Keukenhof in Spring – Even if it can be super touristy, it is definitely worth cycling up to the flower fields, the amount of blossoming flowers (not only tulips) is truly breath-taking. Maya gave some recommendations about it this last spring.

photo of red tulip field

Seeing the flowers blossoming in spring is a must (photo credit).

The not so obvious ones:

4. Visit the various hofjes spread around the city centre – Hofjes are courtyards surrounded by almshouses that served as housing for elderly people, the poor or disadvantaged during the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. There are 35 hidden and quiet jewels in Leiden, my favourite one is the Jan Pesijnhof with its magnificent magnolia tree.


The Jan Pesijnhofje in spring (own photo).

5. Go to as many museums as you can – As a Leiden University student you get free entry in most museums of the city, including the fascinating Volkenkunde or the lovely Hortus Botanicus. If you are really a museum buff, definitely get the MuseumKaart, which gives you entry to more than 400 museums across the Netherlands for only €65 a year.


The Volkenkunde Museum (photo credit)

6. Attend a Sofar Sounds concert – These are intimate shows which take place once a month in someone’s living room. That’s right, you go to a strangers house to listen to some live music. It’s great. Usually three local or upcoming bands/artists preform and you have to sign up beforehand and get invited. A while ago Sophie wrote about the music scene in Leiden.


Sofar Sounds, where you listen to live music at someone’s living room (photo credit).

7. Go to the beach at Katwijk or Noordwijk – One of the best ways to take advantage of a day with good weather is to cycle to the beach, even if it’s not warm enough to swim, its lovely to go for a walk in the sand or a picnic with friends. Back in June, Esra shared some good tips about going to Katwijk.


The lovely beach of Noordwijk (photo credit).

8. Have an oliebollen in the Christmas market – These delicious, deep-fired, sugary little bombs are traditionally eaten in winter fairs and particularly at New Year’s Eve. Saimum wrote about them back in 2016.


Lovely crispy oliebollen (photo credit).

9. See great movies at the Leiden International Film Festival – This festival takes place every November and it’s a great opportunity to watch a diverse range of films and go to cinema-related events. I went to two to three films on each of the editions I was at Leiden, and I would have definitely gone to more had I had more time. Esra has blogged about the festival.


Great cinema every November at the LIFF (photo credit).

I hope this tips help you to get to know Leiden a little better. One last tip I can give is do not leave it all for later. If you have just arrived for an Erasmus semester, to do your bachelors or a one year masters, it’s always very easy to think that you have all the time in the world to do and visit around. But trust me, time flies and before you know it, just like it’s happening to me now, you’ll have finished your studies and be getting your bags ready to leave Leiden. So don’t miss any chance, get out there and enjoy the time you spend in the wonderful city of Leiden.

About Daniel Salinas

¡Hola! My name is Daniel and I’m a second year RMA student at the Faculty of Archaeology specializing in heritage. Besides my academic interests, which include history, tourism and museums, I enjoy photography, spending time in nature and drawing. Since arriving to Leiden back in the summer of 2017 I have been drawn by the history and heritage of this lovely university city. In this space I will be writing posts mainly about those topics, sharing interesting spots, art, museums, cultural events and little known stories of Leiden so you all can get to know the city a little better!

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