homeprogrammeUp todisablednexthelpe-mail The historic university city of Leiden

Leiden, a moderately sized town with 115,000 inhabitants, is conveniently and centrally located in the political, cultural and economic heart of the Netherlands. Only half an hour by train from the Dutch capital of Amsterdam and only ten minutes from The Hague, the seat of government, Leiden is small enough to have an intimate and cozy feel and is spared from big city problems.

However, Leiden is big enough to provide its inhabitants with a wide range of cultural and recreational options. You will find the old city centre of Leiden resembles Amsterdam with its many canals and small streets, but in miniature format. I would recommend that you include the ancient city itself in your trip, and decide to stay some extra days.

Bridge at the Galgewater

The canals, windmills and monumental buildings in the historic city centre testify to the wealth of Leiden citizens in the past. From the fourteenth through the seventeenth century, the Dutch ‘Golden Age’, Leiden was the centre of the cloth industry.

During the Dutch Revolt against the Spaniards, Leiden was besieged for nearly a year in 1574. The Dutch army, led by William the Silent, deliberately flooded the fields around Leiden, breaking the dikes, to force the Spanish armies to raise their siege. The date on which the siege ended, the third of October, is still celebrated locally every year with large scale festivities (Leidens Ontzet). Shortly afterwards, the University was founded, the first in the northern Netherlands.

Academy Building

During the 17th Century, the city of Leiden flourished industrially and academically and famous scholars from all over the world flocked to Leiden. During this time, the city also produced some of the most famous painters of the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt van Rijn.

After the inevitable deterioration of the clothing industry, the fortunes in Leiden as a whole turned around. It was not until industrialization took hold during the second half of the nineteenth century, that this process of decay was halted.

Nowadays Leiden, which was officially twinned with Oxford in 1946, is a lively university town. Leiden University is mostly located within the historic city centre, in which most students choose to live as well. The 14,000 students and 5,000 staff members of the university have a strong impact on the appearance and daily life of Leiden.