Do you want to check out a beautiful Dutch city that isn’t Amsterdam? Are you eager to prove to your friends you travel “off the beaten path”? Or do you simply want respite from touristy and crowded cities? Then consider Leiden! We have all the tips and tricks on where to shop, eat and drink to ensure your trip to Leiden is a good one.
Leiden is a bustling and picturesque town centrally located in between Amsterdam and The Hague. Leiden University, which is nearly 435 years old, attracts students from all over the world who are eager to learn at one of the Netherland’s top universities. The fresh faces that arrive each university year keep this historic town young and vibrant. The Heineken factory is located not far from Leiden and the delicious beer is consumed in many of the bars and restaurants that spill onto cobbled stone pathways and border picture-perfect canals. The appeal of this quaint town is enhanced by its proximity to the North Sea and the many lakes with abundant sailing facilities- all of which are within cycling distance.
For all other questions regarding where to shop in Leiden and such, we can’t recommend enough to check in with our friends at Visit Leiden! If a digital visit isn’t enough, then you also visit them physically, they are located right in front of the Leiden Station if you need them (Stationsweg 26). They’re in the same building as the Tourist Information Center of Leiden, so that’s handy.
Best Bars in Leiden: Where should you grab a drink?
#1 Cafe De Uyl van Hoogland
Where: Nieuwstraat 28
This bar is located in the historic centre and boasts a terrace that overlooks the Hooglandse church. This bar, that has been around for about 40 years, keeps growing in popularity. Order a cheese platter and a delicious beer and watch the world go by.
#2 Proeflokaal 1574
Where: Apothekersdijk 38
Three friends teamed up and put their vast experience in the food industry to use when they opened Proeflokaal 1574 in 2018. This bar is known for its lovely atmosphere and top quality wines that they scoured while touring Europe searching for the best wines.
#3 Cafe de Bonte Koe
Where: Hooglandsekerk Choorsteeg 13
The interior of this bar was originally designed for a butchery that never came to be and has remained unchanged ever since. Such a well-preserved 19th century building with tiled walls is rare in the Netherlands. Bonte Koe source all their beers independently and are not in contract with corporations such as Heineken which gives them freedom to source top-quality products from smaller companies. They have nine tap beers, speciality bottled beer and a range of wines.
#4 Twee Spieghels
Where: Nieuwstraat 11
Up for something different? Grab a few friends and head along to one of the finest jazz and wine bars in Leiden. They have free live music every Monday and host regular shows by fantastic musicians.
Where: Nieuwe Rijn 19
Named after Einstein who lived in Leiden for a couple of years. This bar is centrally located and has a primely located terrace next to the canal you can sit and read a book and watch the world go by. It also hosts an international student drinking night every Wednesday that starts at 10pm and if you don’t care about your Thursday university classes, then stay on until 3pm!
#6 North End
Where: Noordeinde 55
Know a Brit that is coming abroad? Do they want grubby pub food instead of being cultured and trying Dutch food like Bitterballen? You can take them to this traditional pub where they can satisfy their brit cravings with a Guinness and Shepherds Pie.
Where: Aalmarkt 1-3
This bar and restaurant opened its doors in 2016 and is a fantastic place to come if you want to diverge away from Heineken as it has over 20 unique beers on tap. I had the delicious Kick-Start stout. The staff are exceptionally knowledgeable and can go into detail about each and every one of the beers so you will definitely find something to satisfy your personal taste. On the menu there is a rating next to each one of the beers which is generated from an app where customers have ranked the tastiness of the beer.
Next up, this place is great for eating, drinking and enjoying the views in Leiden:
#8 Lot en de Walvis
Where: Haven 1 (near the Zijlpoort)
This is a classic in Leiden nowadays. Given any sunny day, the excellent terrace of ‘Lot and the whale’ is packed. And you can see why; it has a gorgeous boutique-like terrace which catches a lot of sun all day long, with great views of the little marina next to it. Many people from Leiden are also swinging by with their boats and shoring it up there to enjoy a drink or enjoy dinner there – which is also totally a good idea.
So yeah, there are eating options here too – Lot en de Walvis also could have made it to our next list of places to eat in Leiden!
Had a few drinks too many drinks with your friends and need to soak up the alcohol? Or do you have the munchies and want to try some delicious food? Then here are some of the best places to eat in Leiden..
Places to Eat in Leiden: Best places to fill a rumbling tummy
#1 Just Meet
Where: Breestraat 18
Just Meat is located in a fabulous building. There are two large atmospheric dining rooms, divided by a hallway with a large piano in it and one of the best classic staircases you’re going to encounter in Leiden. The meat is delicious and you can even select what knife the chefs prepare your chosen dish with and see them hand-pick your meat from the curing cabinet- this involvement makes the experience very unique. It is slightly on the pricier side but if you have some extra euros then it is worth a visit.
#2 Aan de Rijn
Where: Nieuwe Rijn 37
If you’re vying for the classic canal views of Leiden, this is the place to be – but Aan de Rijn was recently redecorated their interior so it’s also perfectly nice to sit inside when it’s raining in the Netherlands. Shared dining is the thing here, and they mean it. The idea is that you select a couple of small dishes for a round and they serve it on a wooden board. I recommend the shrimp croquettes (served with a lemon and parsley mayo) and the Buddha bowl.
#3 Bar Lokaal
Where: Hartesteeg 13
This cafe and restaurant is one of the best places for deluxe veggie dishes. But fear not meat-lovers; they’ve got some top-notch cuts and meats as well. The portions (and prices) are a bit larger than Aan de Rijn, so you should be satisfied if you order between 4 and 6 dishes. Their cauliflower dish (pictured) is making a name for itself as it tastes spectacular.
Try and make a reservation if you want to be sure to have a table there for dinner – this place is packed most of the time. Luckily they do breakfasts and lunches as well.
#4 Pizzabakkers in Leiden
Where: Herenstraat 1
Pizzabakkers is a small and up-and-coming franchise. A few of them are popping up throughout the country but do not worry! The quality of a delicious pizza is not compromised. The prices are more reasonable as well if you can’t afford to splash out.
I ate the Napoletana and the Prosciutto pizza – both delicious! This place also has a terrace so it is a wonderful way to devour traditional wood-fired pizza while watching the world go by!
#5 The Rooftop at PLNT
Where: Langegracht 70
Isn’t the DutchReview office at PLNT? It sure is! And you might have spotted the rooftop in our insta-stories and posts (we might be a little biased but it is honestly one of the best views of Leiden in the city).
The Roof at PLNT is a unique place in the heart of the city and in the middle of the Singelpark. It is covered with beautiful flowers and greenery and boasts stunning views over Leiden and yes, even a chicken coop! Dutch innovation is also put to test on the roof. For example, plans are in the works to make the roof retain rain water and for plants to generate electricity.
There are events coming up regularly, and whenever there’s good weather (aka no rain) – then the rooftop is opened from two o’clock in the afternoon. Both at the roof and the indoor ‘binnentuin’ have plenty of healthy and delicious options and prices are very economical. Given the fact you might just run into us, doesn’t that make a trip here worth it in and of itself?!
A big terrace, but also plenty of seating indoors, located near the station, a good offering of drinks and some straight-forward-and-delicious stuff on the menu. ‘Stadscafe Van der Werff‘ is always a good idea to go if you’re looking for a place to eat or drink in Leiden. Pretty tasty stuff to be had too as you can see on the following pics:
Cityhall is located in the center of Leiden, right at – you guessed it – the cityhall of Leiden (which is something you need to see in Leiden anyways). It has a beautiful terrace, a big indoor area and loads of excellent Italian food to enjoy. Cityhall also has plenty of drinking options available as well on their menu, so this one could have also easily been under the ‘where to drink in Leiden’ tab.
#8 Vet Gezond
Located near Leiden Lammenschans the vintage-looking Vet Gezond brings you an excellent selection of both greasy ‘Vet’ and healthy ‘gezond’ food and all that for financially-healthy prices as well. All of that makes it a perfect spot to grab some casual diner on a week-day or have a dinner as a student without succombing to a heart-attack when you see the receipt.
Time for some history! Museums and Rembrandt in Leiden
Did you know that Leiden is the birthplace of Rembrandt?
Do you know Leiden is actually the birth place of Rembrandt? The ‘Young Rembrandt Studio’, which only opened last year, is a great museum where you can learn all about Rembrandt and his life.
The Lakenhal museum
This gorgeous and newly renovated Lakenhal museum has everything from Rembrandts to beautiful dresses made from fabric manufactured in Leiden. We also really enjoyed a stained glass window showing how a newspaper was made- pretty relevant for us, right?
After you’ve filled your head with history, why not break up the day by going shopping? Everything in moderation after all, right? Here are our recommendations for a great and unique shopping experience in Leiden.
Shopping in Leiden: Where to go and what to buy
Leiden is great for shopping, well – if you know where to go. Here’s a nice list of places to shop in Leiden. Vintage clothing,
Where: Breestraat 113
Babooka is a bookstore situated opposite the grand Leiden City Hall. This architecturally beautiful building boasts a plethora of attractive and interesting coffee table books. Themes range from Warhol to “How to Be a Better Tourist” and contemporary houses to vintage bicycles so you are sure to find something that peaks your interest. Head along to this bookshop and have a look. The stunning downstairs of the store is worth a visit in and of itself!
Where: Botermarkt 11
A cheap vintage shop that has everything from leather bags to funky earrings and patterned shirts. The store tries to source sustainable clothing and up-cycles, reuses and donates when possible. It’s a fun place to explore even if you are not on the look out for anything in particular.
Where: Urgsteeg 2
An eclectic store full of Scandanavian-styled assortments that are minimalist, contemporary and stylish. Head here if you’ve forgotten your friends birthday and need a last minute gift – you’re bound to find something. It is located down a cute street very near Einstein and Twee Spieghels (be careful shopping if you’re planning a pub crawl though..)
#4 Wonderful Nature
Where: Breestraat 114C
An array of all things nature such as stuffed animals, polished sea shells, fossils and ceramics. There are taxidermy animals in the store (see lion pictured) but the shop assures customers they have been bought and killed in a responsible manner. The protected animals such as baby rhinos were only bought after dying a natural death (I certainly hope so). It is also possible to have an animal commissioned (is taxidermy an ode to nature or for those who have a superiority complex?) Regardless, you’re bound to find browsing this shop a intriguing.
Where: Hooglandsekerkgracht 6
Eduard is a cute shop situated in between the Hooglandse Kerkgracht canal and the Oude Rijn canal. The shop is filled with beautifully crafted items such as wallets, office supplies, ceramic bowls, watches, jewellery and so much more. They aim to source sustainably and from artisan companies who are experts in their field. They also have bags by the brand FREITAG which are renowned for being stylish yet durable. Head to this store to browse amazing items! You can also shop online but their website is currently only available in Dutch. However they are more than happy to assist non-Dutch speakers via email.
The Leiden Street market
If you happen to be in Leiden on a Wednesday or Saturday, then make sure you check out the market along the Nieuwe Rijn. You can buy organic vegetables, fresh fish, delicious fruit, flowers, clothes and delicacies and exotic spices from all over the world. The Leiden street market runs from 8 am until 5 pm.
Body and mind in Leiden
Get a massage with Alexandra from Alexmassage
Alexandra set up the first mobile massage business in Leiden, and now travels throughout Leiden and the surrounding villages giving top quality, extremely relaxing massages in each of her clients’ homes. Not only does that mean that you don’t need to brave the disgusting Dutch weather post massage, it also means you get to save time and know that any money you pay is going directly towards the quality of the experience.
Talk your problems out with Roy from BrightMind
Roy is a clinical and organisational psychologist working in Leiden who grew up in Israel. After his masters at Leiden University, he set up his practice in this beautiful city, and uses an integrative approach with a focus on cognitive behavioral interventions, interventions from mindfulness-based approaches, schema-therapy, and psychodynamic methods.
Are you ahead of the game and already shopped, ate and drank it all? Want something fresh to do?
Why not plan a day trip to another beautiful Dutch city? Leiden’s central location makes day trips to a myriad of different cities and locations more than feasible. Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Haarlem are all less than an hour journey away. Or perhaps you could educate yourself by visiting one of the many interesting museums Leiden has to offer – there are over 13! Or perhaps a friend is visiting and you both fancy a deep chats while meandering around the city? Check out the recently opened Singelpark which is Leiden’s equivalent to the New York ‘High Line’
This walk will allow you to get lost among the pretty sights of Leiden – there are so many quaint and beautiful buildings that will leave you mesmerised! An added bonus is you won’t have to compete with endless tourists and selfie sticks to snag a great photo!
So there you are – the ultimate guide to beautiful Leiden. Where to eat, drink, and shop – you have it all! Have you ever been to Leiden? Are there any shops, bars or restaurants you think are worth a mention? Let us know in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 1 August 2019 but was updated for your reading pleasure on 11 January 2020.