Living in Leiden: 5 things to do when you move to Leiden

Discover the City of Discoveries! 🗝

So you’ve decided! You’re going to move to Leiden! Congrats! It’s a beautiful Dutch town, and living in Leiden will be a life-changing experience!

But now that you’ve decided on moving to Leiden there are some choices to be made. Where to live? How to get a job? What to do? 🤯

This article will help you get on your feet if you’ve just made the move to Leiden or planning on it — and may even help out a few Leiden locals!

Do you need a little more information on Leiden? Or would you just prefer a bit of a personal touch?

The excellent Leiden Expat Centre will be more than happy to help you out; they have way more handy information about making a move to Leiden and 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 double handy.

1. Decided you want to make the move to Leiden? Check where you want to live

Leiden is a very beautiful and historic town that is filled with authentic Dutch buildings. That’s probably why you actually want to live there!

drone-photo-of-Leiden-in-the-summer
As a small, bustling student city, getting housing in Leiden might be quite the challenge. Image: Freepik

This is also why living in the city centre of Leiden can be a bit more costly, due to the historical and sentimental values of the houses situated there.

Plus, it’s small, and there’s a high demand from students.

Living in the Leiden city centre

Everything in between the old canals of Leiden is considered the old heart and center of Leiden.

You’ll get the classic Leiden vibe at its best there, and with the city being really compact you can always walk or bike to almost anything.

But the city centre is also a bit on the pricey side when it comes to renting or buying a house, and all the events and students there make it a buzzing scene — but also a bit too busy for some.

If you venture a little further, you can find multiple neighbourhoods that are just as lovely. For instance, the neighbourhoods of De Merenwijk and Stevenshof are just a few minutes cycling away from the city center.

bikes-on-bridge-over-canal-in-leiden
One thing’s for certain: the city’s got quaint canals galore! Image: Depositphotos

These two areas are good for families, as they are fully equipped with schools, playgrounds, and shops.

The houses in these neighbourhoods were built between the 1970s and 1980s and carry the true spirit of traditional Dutch suburbs.

READ MORE | The museum town of the Netherlands: 14 great museums to visit in Leiden

Even fancier and closer to the centre of Leiden are neighbourhoods like the Tuinstadwijk, de Lage Mors and the Professorenwijk.

These Leiden neighbourhoods have some classy 1930s houses and are very popular among both Dutch and expat families.

(There are quite a few other neighbourhoods as well, we left some out — feel totally welcome to ask about these in the comments!)

Another great option is living in Leiden’s neighbouring municipalities. Leiderdorp, Voorschoten, Warmond, Oegstgeest, and Katwijk are popular with families and often offer a better space-to-price ratio.

Oegstgeest would be the most popular option as it is right next to Leiden and generally offers more spacious housing options as well as classic Dutch-style houses.

The neighbourhood is also generally safe, clean, and family-friendly. However, fair warning: the prices can be pretty steep. 💸

Katwijk (AKA Katwijk aan Zee) has more of an independent character to it.

A former fishing village, Katwijk is ideal for someone who doesn’t want to live in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and wants the beach to be just a short bike ride away.

volleyball-net-on-beach-in-katwijk-netherlands
In addition to being closer to Leiden, Katwijk is far less crowded than Scheveningen! Image: Depositphotos

However, the cost of housing isn’t that friendly here, and there’s limited availability. A lot of the accommodations here are only available temporarily for holiday-goers.

If you just want to visit Katwijk, that’s an easy 30-minute bus ride or 30-40 minute cycle from the Leiden city centre. 🚲

As with so many Dutch regions, Leiden and its neighbouring municipalities are all conveniently within biking distance of each other with lovely bicycle paths to boot.

So now you know a bit more about potential living spots in or around Leiden. Time to properly settle yourself and register with the municipality of your new home.

Moving to a new town can be quite stressful and confusing, especially if you’re new to the country as well.

Thankfully, Leiden has an excellent Expat Centre which can help you with any questions of any sort you may have.

Located in the city center, the Expat Centre has partnered up with the Tourist Information Center and is just minutes away from Leiden Central Station.

the-tourist-information-centre-in-Leiden
Your best friend when it comes to local info. Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

The employees of the Expat Centre in Leiden will help you with the most essential aspects of moving to a new town.

Moreover, the ECL provides useful information about essentials of living in the Netherlands: get a bank account, finding a school, applying for a BSN number (think of it as a Dutch social security number), signing up with a doctor, and dealing with taxes.

But also think of how to find good spots to eat in Leiden and how to have a great time in the city (such as walking in the footsteps of a young Rembrandt, who was born in Leiden)

inside-the-tourist-information-cenre-in-Leiden
Help is always at hand! Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

The Expat Centre will happily help you with answers to all your questions about life in Leiden.

And if you want to gain some general knowledge about Leiden and life in the Netherlands, the Expat Centre in Leiden also offers an excellent digital booklet for your convenience.

The good people of the Expat Centre Leiden are there for you every Monday and Wednesday from 9 AM to 5 PM at the Tourist Information Centre (also known as the VVV). The centre is conveniently by the Leiden Central station at Stationsweg 26.

3. Want to work while living in Leiden? Where to look for a job in Leiden

Leiden University

When it comes to finding a job in Leiden, there are multiple sectors that are considerably developed in this charming Dutch town.

Leiden is famous for being a university town, its biggest and most popular one being, of course, Leiden University.

This famous university was attended by historical figures such as Rembrandt and Einstein, as well as multiple members of the Dutch royal family.

Currently, the university has a large international staff spread across seven faculties.

Due to Leiden University’s ever-growing popularity among students, this institution of higher education is constantly in search of new people to hire.

Leiden Bio Science Park

Another place in Leiden where a unique job opportunity may arise is the Bio Science Park.

It is the largest bioscience facility in the whole of the Netherlands, with a staggering number of 18 000 employees. It is Holland’s best life science research centre, which focuses on both education and business.

Leiden’s Bio Science Park offers a range of interesting jobs and is constantly looking for new great minds to join the team.

So if you want to work, while simultaneously conducting crucial research, the Bio Science Park in Leiden may have some great job opportunity for you.

Creative and start-up scene in Leiden

More on the creative side of life? Leiden has more than its fair share of creative companies and promising start-ups.

Want some examples? Think about the exciting start-up venue of PLNT where Leiden fosters dozens of young creative and innovative companies, or the media-imperium of DutchReview, which is also located in Leiden (hey wait, that’s us 😉 ).

Getting even more personal, but if you need a web wizard, then we at DutchReview always called Nick from Get Big Webdesign if we were in need of a digital fix! 🔥

For some more examples of sectors to work in Leiden, you might want to check out Economie071!

Work at shops and restaurants in Leiden

Aside from a very impressive educational and creative scene, Leiden is also booming with life.

That is why this rather small town has so many different types of shops and restaurants. While finding a job in customer service in Leiden may be hard if you do not speak Dutch, it is still worth the shot.

photo-of-boat-cafe-in-leiden
Imagine going to work with this view in front of you? 😍 Image: Depositphotos

After all, Leiden is a university town full of students from all over the world.

This means that the town is becoming more open to English speaker in customer service, and businesses are looking for student workers.

Let’s also not forget that Leiden is geographically located in a very convenient place. Big cities like Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht are within a 30-minute train ride.

So if you’re having a hard time finding a job within Leiden, you can always look in the nearby cities.

4. The one thing that makes living in Leiden totally worth it? Enjoying the pretty sights in Leiden!

Leiden is a very picturesque town! There is a whole lot of Instagram material to prove that!

Filled with beautiful canals, charming cafes and restaurants, an exciting street market, and breathtaking views. Leiden is truly like a fairy tale.

READ MORE | Eating out in Leiden in 2021: the top hotspots to check out!

There is also so much to do in your free time. Leiden is home to a variety of museums, such as the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the National Museum of Ethnology, and the wonderful Museum of Antiquities.

Leiden is also home to the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, the Hortus Botanicus, dating all the way back to 1590.

For all the science lovers out there, there is also an observatory in Leiden which is open to the public.

photo-of-old-observatory-things-to-do-in-Leiden
The old observatory is truly the place to be if you’ve an interest in astronomy. Image: Depositphotos

Established by Leiden University in 1633, Leiden’s observatory is the oldest operating university observatory in the world.

Also, while walking through Leiden you can’t help but notice De Burcht.

This 11th-century fort is perfect for walks and some pretty amazing photos. People even have their weddings here, and there’s a cute café at the entrance. 💖

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, there is also the Leidse Hout, a marvellous park is located on the border of Leiden and Oegstgeest.

It’s so big, that it is pretty much like a forest, so it allows for a perfect escape from the city. 🌳

Or, if you want to explore Leiden itself, you can always go on an expedition to find all the poems written on Leiden’s buildings.

Yes, that’s right! Poems!

The “Poems and Walls” project began in 1992, and today there are over 100 poems written in their original language scattered all around Leiden. And if by any chance you want to see the most popular ones, we have just the right event for you!

5. Haven’t decided to move yet? Come and enjoy these great events in Leiden

If you haven’t decided to bite the bullet and move to Leiden just yet, you can still check out some fun events held throughout the year.

Here are just a few of them to give you a taste of what life in Leiden has to offer! 👇

Guided tour of Leiden’s wall poems

Leiden offers a guided tour of its famous wall poems — also known as muurgedichten.

The entire tour takes about two to three hours and during the walk, you can expect to see a good chunk of Leiden’s 101 wall poems.

As an added bonus will also get to marvel at the beauty of Leiden itself, and all the charming bars and restaurants. It’s also a great way for snapping a ton of Instagram material. 📸

Leidens Ontzet

Leidens Ontzet, also known as the Relief of Leiden, takes place every year on October 3 and is a massive city-wide party!

It’s a time when students, working professionals, and native Leideners come together to engage in a night of carnival rides, herring, dancing, and (obviously) tons of drinking. 🍻

National Museum of Antiquities

The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) regularly has exciting and interesting exhibitions of the latest archaeological discoveries.

There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions, so find one that you like and book a ticket!


So there you have it! Whether you’ve decided you want to move to Leiden or are already living there, these tips will help you during your stay. 🤗

Can you think of any other reasons why living in Leiden is a great idea? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Veronika Licheva
Veronika Licheva
Living the short girl life in the land of giants. Veronika is a content creator who takes great interest in video, photography, and journalism. Her mission in The Netherlands is to build a vibrant and exciting career, while simultaneously petting as many dogs as possible.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. […] The university is especially known for social sciences and law, and it is made up of 7 faculties (such as arts, humanities, sciences). The campuses are all over Leiden and a few of them are also present in the Hague. The student community makes up a large part of Leiden and is actually known for its student associations, so the Leiden university is actually the heart of the community, something you should know if you’re considering moving to Leiden. […]

  2. Just correct a fact that the “good people” who are at ECL on Mondays and Wednesdays help expats, provide information and answer all the questions, are not employees of ECL, but volunteers from ACCESS – Netherlands (guess you know who ACCESS is :), these volunteers are expats themselves, that’s why they are doing a wonderful job helping other expats through their own experiences, the art of empathy!

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