Things to do in Leiden

Best things to see in Leiden

Hortus Botanicus

Welcome to (possibly) the oldest botanical garden in the world - Hortus Botanicus. Created in 1587 under the direction of staff at the University of Leiden, it was originally intended to benefit the medical students in their studies! The garden is fairly small, but contains incredible plants from climates all over the world. There are amazonian tropicals, a Japanese garden and plenty of other beautiful varieties. It’s in the historical centre of the city, so no excuse for not visiting it.

National Museum of Natural History

Naturalis Biodiversity Centre is a national museum of natural history in Leiden, as well as a biodiversity research centre. It has a ludicrous collection of 37 million specimens, which makes for more than one afternoon of jaw dropping learning! They have a few different permanent exhibitions, and should be reopening from a massive refurbishment project in the near future.

Molenmuseum de Valk

It doesn’t get more Dutch than a tour around a windmill-turned-museum just outside Leiden’s centre. At the base of the mill is a small, traditional home. Inside the mill itself there are various giant millstones and machines which, as of the year 2000, are actually operationally functional again! At the top there’s also a superb view of Leiden, which is just gorgeous even on a drab day.


From the outside Pieterskerk church is an impressive-looking building, but inside it is both stunning and quite simple. Atrociously, a dispute between two warring Christian factions once destroyed all statues and stained glass windows inside, so many lovely artefacts are now lost to time. It’s still a charming building and has been standing for an impressive 700-800 years.

Wall Poems

Dotted around the city on various buildings and canal walls are 101 poems in different languages, of all different styles and lengths. There is work by famous poets like Shakespeare and Yeats, as well as many others which are not so easily recognized. Searching for the poems is a fun way to pass a little time when you can’t really be bothered attending classes ;)

Best Bars in Leiden


This is a bar by students, for students. It’s run by the universities and colleges in the city and, quite appropriately, puts on special drinks promotions during the week to help keep your wallet healthy! There’s great music and energetic dancing as well, so it’s a generally good night out if you’re not looking for a quiet one. On Friday it’s Girls’ Night Out, so it’s all about cocktails and whatever tunes the girls want to hear.


If a restaurant with a great menu also has boat trips available, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, right? Annie’s is situated on the Leiden riverbank, one of the most scenic locations in the city. The food is good, the drinks are refreshing and the staff are extremely friendly. Oh, and you get to eat on a spacious outdoor terrace during the summer. Beauty.

Mas y Mas

During the week, this is a classy and fun bar. There’s a big range of drinks and sports on the telly and there’s a huge terrace outside which, while usually busy, tends to have enough space to squeeze you in after a short wait! On the weekends, it’s the guilty pleasure night out for most students in the city - pop music blasting from the sound system, cocktails on tap (not literally) and a dance floor full of dangerously cut shapes!

The Duke Of Oz

A simple pub where you can drink beer and watch sports on the TV. There’s nothing exceptional about the Duke of Oz, and that’s exactly why it’s on this list - it’s a pretty standard place, but the service is always friendly, the kegs are always full and they even show the Super Bowl when that time of year comes around. To hang out, get a few drinks in and chat rubbish, this is the place.


Sometimes you want to drink beer. Sometimes you want to spend 20 minutes pouring over a vast selection of Belgian beers before making your decision. Well, do it here at Olivier. The drinks menu is extensive, but the bar is also massive and spacious! They also serve food, which is a big bonus.

Where to eat in Leiden?

Oudt Leyden

Oudt Leyden is a dedicated pancake restaurant, but not like you’ve seen them before. The Dutch love their pancakes as much as anyone else, but they do them savoury and have pancakes for dinner! There are various toppings (like goat’s cheese or bacon) as well as more "traditional" meals like lasagne for those who aren’t feeling too adventurous.


Pizza! Donatello’s pizzas are either €6.95 or €7.95 and are made in an almost impossibly short time. It’s always busy, but they turn around food so quickly - and the pizzas are so nice - that you’ll always come back for more anyway. If you want to guarantee a table for a larger group, you will have to call and book in advance.

Just Meet

Just Meet is probably the most affordable upmarket steak restaurant you’ll see for a while. It gets rave reviews from almost every diner, with lots of compliments to the service as much as the food. They offer all sorts of matured steak and different meats, as well as tasty alternatives and a superb drinks menu. All meats are served with handcut chips and a side salad.

Bagels & Beans

This is a just heaven for students. Offering breakfast and lunch, Bagels & Beans do all the usual hot drinks and treats you’d expect from a cafe, but then go one better and offer sweet and savoury bagels. The menu is pretty extensive and full of flavours and fillings you wouldn’t expect. The best part is that it’s super cheap. So cheap in fact that going there quite often will hardly put a dent in your monthly budget!

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