17 unforgettable things to do in Leiden in 2024

Albeit small and charming, there are loads of things to do in Leiden. As one of the most beautiful cities in the Netherlands, it never fails to amaze! 😍 

From windmills to secret courtyards, you can easily fill a week with things to do in this gorgeous, old, university town. Here are my 17 top tips!

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1. Delve into history at the Burcht van Leiden

It’s quite unique to come across a hill in the Netherlands, so enjoy the steep climb while you can. 😅

This medieval fortification gives you the best view of the stunning Hooglandse Kerk, and of Leiden in general!

Let op! A hill in the Netherlands! Image: Depositphotos

The 11th-century construction was once a medieval fort and is now an adorable park open to the public. It’s also seen as a national symbol signalling the Dutch defeat of the Spanish in 1574. 💪

READ MORE | Why is the Netherlands so flat? The complete explanation

Climb the hill, but don’t stop there! You can also walk on top of the walls themselves if you take the stairs inside the Burcht.

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 8 AM to 8 PM
📍 Location: Van der Sterrepad 5, 2312 EK Leiden

2. Stop to smell the flowers at Hortus Botanicus

The oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands is definitely worth a visit during your trip to Leiden.

Beautiful, romantic, and packed with interesting plants, Hortus Botanicus is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. 🌺

Of course, some tulips. Image: Depositphotos

The garden has several greenhouses and is open for anything from casual strolls to event rentals. There’s also an adorable café for when the rain (inevitably) sets in

READ MORE | Penis plant comes to bloom for first time in 24 years — smells like ‘rotting flesh’

Here’s a hot tip; if you study at Leiden University, it’s totally free to enter! But watch out, you’re going to want to buy everything they have in the gift shop. 💸

💰 Price: €8.50 for adults, €3.50 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Sunday: 9 AM to 6 PM (summer), 10 AM until 5 PM (winter).
📍 Location: Rapenburg 73, 2311 GJ Leiden

3. Experience real Dutchness at Molen De Valk windmill museum

You simply cannot visit the Netherlands without seeing a windmill, and if you’re going to Leiden, you’re in luck — there’s one hanging out right in the centre! 

Dutchness overload! Image: Freepik

De Valk is the only windmill left of the 19 that once stood within the city walls of Leiden. Originating in the 1600s, the windmill offers great insight into 300 years of milling history. 

READ MORE | Best windmill site in the Netherlands: Kinderdijk or Zaanse Schans?

You can enjoy the windmill museum or simply admire the construction from the outside — believe us, you won’t want to miss it. 

💰 Price: €6.00 for adults, €3 for children
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday 1 PM to 5 PM
📍 Location: 2e Binnenvestgracht 1, 2312 BZ Leiden

4. Get lost at Wereld Museum Leiden

The first museum of Ethnography in Europe is hard to miss if you’re visiting Leiden.

The museum is one of the oldest of its kind in the world, and it’s a crown jewel in the university city’s long and proud research tradition. 🦸‍♀️

Wereld Museum Leiden offers mind-blowing exhibitions. Image: DutchReview

Book a guided tour, or just admire the museum at your own pace — but be warned that you can easily lose yourself in the many exhibitions for hours and hours! 

READ MORE | Something for the whole family! Let your kids run wild at Wereld Museum Leiden’s Animal Academy

If you have some extra time on your hands, why not check out some of the fascinating exhibits on show?

You can currently wander through eye-opening installations on maps and enjoy contemporary African art.

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, how about enrolling in traditional New Zealand Haka war dance workshops and checking out Buddhist and Islamic creative drawing workshops?

💰 Price: €16 for adults, €8 for children, €10 for students
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10 AM until 5 PM 
📍 Location: Steenstraat 1, 2312 BS Leiden

5. Take a refreshing boat tour on Leiden’s canals

With its 28km of canals, a boat tour in Leiden should be on every visitor’s bucket list. There are tons of companies to choose from, offering a range of options.

There’s nothing like cruising around those Dutch canals. Image: Depositphotos

Private or group, morning, midday, or evening, open-air or protected from the rain — there’s something for every taste! ⛵

READ MORE | Renting a boat in the Netherlands: all you need to know

Being less infested with tourists than bigger cities (*cough* Amsterdam *cough*), a boat tour in Leiden is a peaceful and tranquil experience. 

If you’re sure the weather is going to be good, it’s definitely worth it to book an open-air boat — you see way more than if you have a roof! 

💰 Price: from €12.50 for adults, from €8.50 for children (depending on the company)
⏰ Opening hours: Daily
📍 Location: All over the city centre!

6. Explore the human body at the Corpus Museum

The world’s first-ever museum dedicated to exploring the human body is located in Leiden!

The Corpus museum building is quite unique! Image: Bic/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

What happens with your body when you listen to music or get a splinter? This museum is super interactive and suits all age groups (although kids find it especially fun). 

On your visit, you’ll literally be walking around ‘inside’ a massive human body, whilst being inside a 35 metres tall building that looks like — you guessed it — a human body.  🧍‍♀️

READ MORE | Living in Leiden: 5 things to do when you move to Leiden

However, reservations are almost a must because this museum fills up quickly! Also, make sure you book your tickets online, for a small discount.

Please note: children under the age of six are not permitted in the museum. 

💰 Price: €23.95 (all ages, online price)
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 9:30 AM to 3 PM, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Willem Einthovenstraat 1, 2342 BH Oegstgeest

7. Be inspired by Leiden’s many wall poems

Leiden is full of beautiful poetry, simply painted onto the walls of its houses. More than 100 poems written by local poets have given the city a lovely creative vibe for over 30 years! 🧾

There are poems in tons of different languages. Image: Depositphotos

The poems are written in several different languages, so it might be an idea to check out their translations for maximum enjoyment. 

READ MORE | 7 of the best free things to do in Leiden

If you want some deets to complement your art experience, and you’re down to test your Dutch skills, most bookstores in Leiden sell a handy book called Dicht op the Muur, containing information about the first 101 wall poems. 

Or even better, you can try out one of these pre-made routes completely for free! 

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: All day, every day
📍 Location: Throughout the city

8. Stroll among the stalls at the Saturday market in Leiden

Every Saturday, you can enjoy lovely Dutch treats in Leiden’s weekly street market. There’s no better way to be introduced to Dutch delicacies, crafts, or just Dutchies in general! 

Prices tend to be lower than other shops in the Netherlands, so it’s really an opportunity to let loose and secure all those souvenirs and travel gifts! 🎁

READ MORE | Eating out in Leiden in 2024: the top hotspots to check out!

If you can’t find enough food and drinks to satisfy your tourist belly at the market itself — fear not! There are tons of cafés and restaurants surrounding the market too. 

💰 Price: Free entrance 
⏰ Opening hours: Saturday 8 AM to 5 PM
📍 Location: Aalmarkt, 2312 JC Leiden

9. Admire Leiden’s beautiful Pieterskerk

With 900 years of history, there are few better ways to explore the city of Leiden than through a visit to the Pieterskerk

Impressive enough! Image: Depositphotos

What used to be Leiden’s main Catholic church has its roots all the way back to the 1300s. Today it serves as a museum and event venue, but the impressive building is still worth a visit. ⛪

READ MORE | The pilgrims in Leiden: Where were the pilgrims before they sailed to America?

Enjoy a concert, ponder the historical exhibitions, or simply admire the building.

💰 Price: €5 for adults, free for children up to 12 years
⏰ Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11 AM to 6 PM 
📍 Location: Kloksteeg 16, 2311 SL Leiden

10. Explore secret courtyards in Leiden

A poorly kept secret is that most Dutch cities are full of gorgeous hidden courtyards. These romantic gems are also all over Leiden if you know where to look. 🧐

Leiden is full of hidden gems. Image: Depositphotos

The courtyards are enclosed by so-called hofjes — 13th- to 19th-century shelters for elderly, poor, and homeless people.

Today, the houses surrounding the inner courtyards look like real fairytale castles, and most constructions are open to the public. 

READ MORE | Hidden gems in the Netherlands: unique places you wouldn’t think to visit

Some are even open without any entrance requirements! To find the best ones yourself, all you need is on a hofjes map that’s easily purchased for €3.50 at the tourist information office. 

However, the easiest and most rewarding (albeit not too private and romantic) way to explore Leiden’s 35 hofjes is with a tour, so you get the most out of the local history knowledge.

💰 Price: from €0, depending on the tour company 
⏰ Opening hours: Daily, depending on the hofje 
📍 Location: Leiden city centre 

11. Enjoy a drink on the water in Leiden

Leiden is full of canals, and the canals are both framed and covered with cute little restaurants, bars, and cafés as far as the eye can see. 

There’s no shortage of bars and cafes on Leiden’s canals. Image: Depositphotos

If you’re visiting the Netherlands, you might have heard of the quintessentially Dutch concept of the borrel (if not, educate yourself here). An afternoon on a floating terrace in Leiden is the perfect way to really blend in with the locals. 🍻

READ MORE | A local’s guide to Leiden – the best places to eat, drink, and shop

If drinking on the water makes you nauseous, don’t stress: there are tons of borrel-worthy bars on more steady ground as well. The centre is packed with places to satisfy all tastes (and budgets). 

The area with the most options is along the canal De Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn, although areas outside of the immediate city centre are less crowded.

💰 Price: a small biertje is typically €3 – €5
⏰ Opening hours: All day, every day (depending on the specific location)
📍 Location: Leiden city centre

12. Embark on Leiden’s Rembrandt-themed walking route

Famous Dutch painter Rembrandt spent several years of his life in Leiden, so you can easily learn about loads more than just his pictures by taking the Rembrandt Route.

Stroll around the adorable streets of Leiden. Image: Depositphotos

As part of the tour, you’ll explore Rembrandt’s first years as an artist in the studio of his first teacher, Jacob van Swanenburgh (the so-called Young Rembrandt Studio). 👟

READ MORE | Rembrandt masterpiece reconstructed and expanded with AI: see it like never before

The route is accessible via a purchasable booklet, and the tour also can be downloaded via the Rembrandt Route App!

💰 Price: €6.95 for the route booklet
⏰ Opening hours: The Rembrandt route is accessible at all times, but the Young Rembrandt Studio is open Tuesday to Sunday 12 PM until 5 PM
📍 Location: Langebrug 89, 2311 TJ Leiden (Young Rembrandt Studio)

13. Get starstruck at the Heineken Star Bar in Leiden

Ever wondered where the famous Dutch beer brand Heineken got its logo? I’ll tell you anyways! One of the oldest brown pubs in Leiden, De Vergulde Kruik, allegedly sold their red-star logo to Heineken for about €400 in today’s money. 😎

Old and classic, nothing beats a traditional Dutch borrel. Rudolphus/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

The pub is centrally located and really feels like a time machine when you step inside.

With its 19th-century stained glass, original silver taps, and cosy atmosphere, De Vergulde Kruik is a favourite among locals, students, and occasionally a tourist or two. 

If you’ve had enough of the endless supply of Dutch beer (like a crazy person), you might be happy to hear that the pub also serves delicious food! 

💰 Price: a small biertje is typically €3 – €5
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Friday 3 PM to 12 AM, Saturday and Sunday 12 PM to 10 PM
📍 Location: Haarlemmerstraat 22, 2312 GA Leiden

14. Watch the stars at Leiden’s Old Observatory 

As the oldest of its kind, the Observatory in Hortus Botanicus is one of the things to do in Leiden that is well worth a visit. It’s frequently used as a university building, but it’s also open to visitors. 

FUN BONUS FACT BOX: Another academic hotspot that’s open for visitors is a sink once used by Albert Einstein

Check out the visitors’ centre, book a private tour, or join one of the monthly open evenings of one of Leiden’s astronomy societies. ✨

Enjoy an astronomy lecture and try out a telescope at the open evenings — the perfect date idea if you ask me!

💰 Price: from €10 for entry, €95 for a private tour, €4 for an open evening ticket 
⏰ Opening hours visitors center: Tuesday to Friday 1 PM to 5 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11 AM to 5 PM 
📍 Location: Sterrenwachtlaan 11, 2311 GP Leiden, Nederland

15. Take a green break at Het Plantsoen Park 

This 19th-century city park of Leiden is a popular spot for weekend strolls along the water.

It’s always nice to take a green break when you’re on a busy city trip! Image: Depositphotos

In addition to fresh air, green grass, and beautiful flowers, there are also other interesting sights in Het Plantsoen, such as the old aviary, the fountain, and the 350-year anniversary monument of the relief of Leiden. 🌳

READ MORE | The Singelpark in Leiden: how citizens created one of the best parks in the Netherlands

The park was designed by architect Salomon van der Paauw in English style. In its time, the project was funded by the municipality of Leiden, which hired several unemployed people for the construction. 

Stay up to date on the activities in the park and its surroundings via the Het Plantsoen newsletter, produced by the Het Plantsoen Association. 

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: all day, every day
📍 Location: Plantsoen, 2311 NT Leiden

16. Let your history geek loose at the Bibliotheca Thysiana in Leiden

Founded in 1653 in honour of the Dutch legal expert Johannes Thysius, this old library contains over 2500 books and several thousand pamphlets. 

Law students have been coming to Bibliotheca Thysiana for centuries. Image: Unknown author/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The building is the only surviving 17th-century construction in the Netherlands that was built for the purpose of being a library — an interesting piece of history if ever there was one!

READ MORE | Photo report! An ode to the lovely city of Leiden

Not only is the library a great source of legal reading material, but you can also book meeting rooms or join a guided tour of the building (albeit for quite a fee).

💰 Price: €125 for a guided tour
⏰ Opening hours: By appointment
📍 Location: Rapenburg 25, 2311 GG Leiden

17. Admire the beautiful Leiden’s Marekerk

The round dome of the Marekerk is quite striking and impossible to miss if you visit Leiden.

The reformed Protestant church was the first of its kind in Leiden and keeps lots of history and beauty between its walls. 😍

A landmark in the Leiden skyline. Image: Helena/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

There are usually lots of concerts taking place in this historical building, but if you’re just in the mood to sit and relax, you can also enjoy a coffee at the Marekerk café.

READ MORE | Organ concerts and vaulted ceilings: 15 churches to visit in the Netherlands

The church is still very much active, so make sure you check the schedule if you’re just popping by for a look. 

💰 Price: Free
⏰ Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 
📍 Location: Lange Mare 48, 2312 GS Leiden

There’s no shortage of things to do in the beautiful city of Leiden, so get your walking shoes and cameras ready! It’s the perfect blend of exciting and calm and should be on any traveller’s bucket list.

Which attractions will you visit in Leiden? Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Freepik
Juni Moltubak
Juni Moltubak
Juni moved to the Netherlands after realizing how expensive tuition fees in the UK are, and never regretted her choice of studying in The Hague. After three years of Political Science, she is ready for a new adventure — an internship at DutchReview! When you don’t see her typing on her laptop she can be found strolling around Haagse Bos or sitting in her lovely garden scrolling through interior design TikToks.

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