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

Museums in Leiden. You know some of them, but here's a review of all of the 14 museums of Leiden.

Tired of all the museums in Amsterdam? Have you devoured all that the museums that the major cities have to offer? Don’t worry, the Netherlands is a small country, but Leiden has an abundance of culture and art to discover.

Hint; it’s also our homebase!

Here we have come up with a list of no less than 14 museums you can visit to get your brains tingling with rich history, culture and art. Without much further ado, here are the museums in Leiden you cannot miss out on!

Rijksmuseum Boerhaave

Are you science nerd, a history nerd, or both? Wondering how the Netherlands contributed to the field of science, and how this history of science shapes our life here? The Rijksmuseum Boerhaave should be on your list of museums to visit in the Netherlands. Named after one of the prominent scientists of the Netherlands, Herman Boerhaave, the collection at this museum spans about five centuries, and is curated with a collaboration with scientists of our times. It has something for all ages.

Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

The building itself is historically interesting and a beauty to look at as well. It has been through a lot of changes since it was built in 1440. First, it was the St. Caecilia’s Convent, then went on to be a home for the plague victims in the city and the mentally affected. After that, it became the first academic hospital in Northern Europe as St. Caecilia’s Hospital. It was here that the museum’s name-giver taught medicine some 300 years ago. Also, here’s another reason why you would want to visit Boerhaave:

Address: Lange St. Agnietenstraat 10, 2312 WC Leiden

National Museum of Antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)

The National Museum of Antiquities celebrated their 200th anniversary in 2018, and it should definitely be on your list! The highlight of the museum is their permanent Egyptian Collection, which they boast to be one of the top 10 of its kind. This collection includes the full 2000-year-old Egyptian temple from the village of Taffeh.

For anyone who wants cultural heritage to be returned to their countries of origin, me included, we can rest easy when it comes to this temple. Back in the 1960s, this was one of the few temples that was at risk due the construction of the Aswan High Dam across the Nile. After UNESCO made an international call to save the sites at risk, the Netherlands played a role in the rescue operations. To show their gratitude, this temple was a gift from Egypt to the Dutch people.

Part of the beautiful collection in the Museum. Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

Apart from this permanent collection, the museum has some great exhibitions about the classical world and will allow you to explore the history of Ancient Greece, Etruria, and the Roman Empire; the only complete survey of the archaeology in the Netherlands; explore the life of the Netherlands during Roman Times; the Dutch and the ancient Near East (from present-day Turkey to the Arabian Peninsula and from Lebanon to Afghanistan).

As you can see, there’s a lot to see at this museum, and it’s truly an underrated museum – not to be missed!

Address: Rapenburg 28, 2311 EW Leiden

Young Rembrandt Studio

The whole of Leiden is actually kind of a museum on Rembrandt, it was his birthplace!

Okay so, the sun is out, you don’t want to spend your time indoors, but you still want to do something intellectually stimulating? Sign up for the Rembrandt Experience in Leiden. We have specially curated a route through Leiden so that you can walk in the footsteps of a young Rembrandt, and still have a day in the sun!

Start with the best one: The Young Rembrandt Studio!
Address: Langebrug 89, 2311 TJ, Leiden

The highlight, and free to visit (!), of our article on Rembrandt’s youth in Leiden is the Young Rembrandt Studio. This is where he actually learnt painting from his tutor Jacob van Swanenburgh, nowadays it’s a shop with lovely Rembrandt memorabilia and even better; a free ‘experience’ which will show you all kinds of things from Rembrandt’s Leiden days in a mesmerizing way.

Tons of other locations where Rembrandt hung out in his Leiden days are there to be enjoyed: the Pieterskerk Square, the church where his parents got married; the Latin School where Rembrandt went to school; Weddesteeg, the place where he was born; and the Rembrandt Park.

Start chilling and watch the boats go by. Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

Volkenkunde Museum (Museum of Ethnology)

The Volkenkunde museum is super close to Leiden Centraal, and is one of the National Museums of World Cultures in the Netherlands. It has objects from around the world, like China, Indonesia, Japan and Korea.  To get a feel of the museum, check out our video!

Feeling your curiosity rising? Best check it out yourself, the Volkenkunde museum is massive and you can easily spend a great day there.

Address: Steenstraat 1, 2312 BS Leiden

Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Love learning more about nature? Do you want to get your little one more interested in the world around them? Want to see a T-Rex? You might want to plan a visit to Naturalis then! Naturalis is dedicated to keeping a record of all-natural life on Earth. They want to preserve the knowledge of biodiversity and nature for everyone to enjoy. They conduct research to contribute to solutions “for major, global issues involving climate, living environment, food supply and medicine”. What’s better is that they are a place for the whole family!

Address: Darwinweg 2, 2333 CR Leiden

Museum de Lakenhal – the best art museum of Leiden?

The Lakenhal’s building has been around since 1640 and underwent a huge renovation and restoration in 2019. This museum shows history and fine art, housing some of the finest paintings from the Dutch Golden Age.

The collection includes ‘The Last Judgment (ca. 1526/27) by Lucas van Leyden, the ‘Brillenverkoper’ (ca. 1624) by Rembrandt van Rijn, and ‘Contra-Composition VII’ by Theo van Doesburg. If you want to know more about the history about the Lakenhal, the exhibition, go to their website and start planning your visit!

Address: Oude Singel 32, 2312 RA Leiden

Siebold House

Looking to get a little taste of Japan here in the Netherlands? Go to the Siebold House, which has been reinstated with the support of the Japanese and Dutch governments, various Dutch and Japanese companies, and the city of Leiden. The museum features seven different rooms, each having their own story to tell, with cultural treasures collected during the 19th century by the Bavarian physician Philip Franz von Siebold.

Siebold museum leiden
Image: Vysotsky/Wikimedia commons

The permanent collection is well complemented with their temporary exhibition called the “Japanese Nude” which shows the development of Japanese nude photography since the 19th century.

Address: Rapenburg 19, 2311 GE Leiden

De Valk Windmill Museum

With its seven floors and 29 metres of height, the De Valk Windmill Museum in Leiden is hard to miss. De Valk Windmill is one of the last remaining windmills from the 19th century, and became a museum in 1966 after the death of miller Willem van Rhijn. This museum provides for gorgeous views of the city of Leiden, so if you’re looking for great shots, this is the place to go!

Image: Ricardo Liberato/Flickr

Address: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1, 2312 BZ Leiden

Stoomtrein Katwijk-Leiden

Want to travel back in time? Head on over to the Stoomtrein Katwijk-Leiden (Katwijk is the beach town near Leiden) No, they don’t have time travel technology, but they do have a 100-year-old steam locomotive waiting for you! It is not a highspeed train, like the ones we are used to. It is a slow train for you to enjoy, just like maybe your grandparents did.

This is a relic of the past when steam engines were at its peak. You don’t see trains like this any more because obviously there have been massive advances in train technology. So if you want to know how these worked, this museum is the place for you. It’s a museum where you can smell, watch and touch to see how everything works. It is kid-friendly, so you can take the whole family there!

Address: Jan Pellenbargweg 1, 2235 SP Valkenburg ZH

Academic Historical Museum

best museums in Leiden
The Academy Building in Leiden. Image: Kees Hummel/Leiden Marketing

This historical museum is housed in the Academy building of Leiden University. Their collection is linked to this building and the history of Leiden University, where they have a plethora of items to browse through. The rich history of the university and student life is displayed for everyone to peruse through, and enjoy.

living in the Netherlands for the first time
Beautiful canals along side old academic buildings? Check! Image: Abuzer van Leeuwen/Supplied

Address: Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden


Ever wondered how the human body works? Want to brush up on some of your anatomy and human biology knowledge? Want to get your child interested more in biology, to give them a gentle nudge towards the natural sciences? Then The CORPUS Experience might just be the perfect place for you to go. You can take a “journey through the human body” in just 55 minutes, with a guided audio tour which is available in 8 languages.

Photo credit: Pedro Layant/Flickr

A visit here usually takes 2 and a half hours, but be sure to reserve a spot in one of the tours because they leave at specific times. You will go through the journey in groups of 16, and it is recommended to arrive 20 minutes before your chosen time.

Address: Willem Einthovenstraat 1, 2342 BH Oegstgeest

Leiden American Pilgrim Museum

This beautiful house was built around 1365-1370, and tells us the story of how the Pilgrims were the founders of New England but also lived in Leiden before all that. You will get to see how they used to live their daily lives, and important events are displayed through a collection of 16th and 17th-century maps.

museum Leiden visit
Image: Herenld/Wikimedia Commons

You will be able to see the Pilgrim life in Leiden, how the children studied and played, and so much more! Want to know more about their history so that you can show off to your companions when you do visit? Check our articles on this!

Address: Beschuitsteeg 9, Leiden

The Leiden Weaver’s House

You may not see this museum immediately because it doesn’t seem like your run-of-the-mill house on an ordinary street, but you have to remember that the house itself is the museum exhibit.

The Leiden Weaver’s house has an interesting history which reflects the people of Leiden’s passion for preserving their neighbourhoods. This museum was founded by the Het Kleine Leidse Woonhuis foundation in 1976, an initiative by the citizens to stop “large scale interventions in the impoverished part of the city”. This house was going to be demolished to make way for roads, but thanks to this initiative, it was preserved.

They don’t have any permanent exhibitions, but different temporary exhibitions. The current temporary exhibit is a collaboration between Adje Langen (spatial textile art) and Paulien van Asperen (weaving). While Paulien brings different threads together, Adje unravels them. They’re in direct contrast to each other. Go check it out for yourself!

Address: Middelstegracht 143, 2312 TV Leiden

Maybe not a museum in Leiden like you would expect, but definitely a spot you don’t want to miss out on.

Botanical Gardens

Did you know that the city of Leiden is home to one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world? The University of Leiden was responsible for planting the first seeds in this historical garden. It really is a sight for sore eyes because it is truly beautiful! You can enjoy a day in the sun, and stroll through the garden for a relaxing day as we say goodbye to the cold winters.

Image: Xsandriel/Wikimedia Commons

Wondering what the medicinal properties of plants are? Then go on to explore their current exhibition ‘Better with plants’ soon! It’s on display until October, so be sure to make that trip! It’s super cheap to visit and it’s right in the centre of Leiden.

Address: Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden

Quite a few museums in Leiden for you to add to your list! Be sure to tag @dutchreview on Instagram when you do take those gorgeous pictures because we want to see them! Will you be visiting one of these museums in Leiden? Or have we missed out on anything? Thinking about moving to Leiden? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Kees Hummel/Leiden Marketing
Editor’s Note: this article was originally published in May 2019, but was fully updated in June 2020 for your reading pleasure. 

Kavana Desai
Kavana Desai
Coping with the aftermath of her 3-year stint in the Netherlands, Kavana is a writer, content creator and editor for DutchReview. Hailing from India, she frequently blogs about the Netherlands, being Indian in the Netherlands, and everything in between. She envisions herself to one day be the youngest person to win that Nobel Prize for Literature (she is also not very humble but welcomes only constructive criticism). In the meantime, she fills her days with writing for DutchReview, writing her master's thesis on art theft, and writing fiction that will hopefully see the light of day soon.


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