Leiden University Past and Present


History of the Netherlands

Ancient times

Geographically a difficult area to live, the ancient Netherlands had for its inhabitants Celtic and German tribes, one very important feature - safety. Its rivers, lakes, wetlands, and woods were impossible to cross for the invaders.

It is only in the 1st century BC, that the ancient Roman Empire conquered the southern part of these lands establishing an important military post in Nijmegen. North of the today’s Netherlands remained not conquered nor even invaded. Under the Roman administration, prosperity grew for almost three hundred years.

Early Middle Ages

As the Roman state got weaker, barbaric Germanic tribes started to invade the land. Most powerful of them, the Franks invaded the territory in the 5th century and brought the Christianity with them. By 800 today’s Netherlands was a part of the powerful Franks Empire of Charlemagne. It is in Nijmegen that Charlemagne built one of his palaces. Tradition says that Nijmegen was his favorite residence, while Aachen (today in Germany) was the empire’s capital.

Economical growth in the Middle Ages

After the fall of the Charlemagne Empire (he died in 814) the Low Countries territory has been divided into several smaller states – ruled by dukes and counts. At the same time, already in the Middle Ages, a strong economical development made the Netherlands one of the richest areas in Europe. Agriculture along with crafts and commerce, rich towns and important trading links reaching as far as Asia and North Africa, transformed the Netherlands into the area where the feudal power has been limited, safety of movement and economical activity established, sustained growth possible.

Renaissance and fight for independence

The neighborhood powers – first Dukes of Burgundy and later the Habsburgs (after 1477, the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to Archduke Maximilian Habsburg) tried to dominate the Netherlands and introduce its taxation there.

In 1555, Charles of the Habsburg dynasty granted the Netherlands to his son, Philip II, king of Spain. As Philip II was, a Catholic and part of the Netherlands protestant the Dutch resisted not only the new taxation, but also the intolerance and oppressive methods of administration of the Spanish king and his governor Prince Alba. A long eighty years lasting war began. Feeling of the national identity developed in the Netherlands during this war.

In 1581, the Union of Utrecht proclaimed independence from Spain. The new nation suffered a series of reverses in the war, but finally in 1648 the Spanish recognized the sovereignty of the Republic. The Dutch Republic remained until 1794 at least nominally, under the power of the Austrian throne of Habsburg.

The discoveries era

Despite all the war destructions and hardship, the Dutch continued expansion on the seas and discoveries of the new routes and lands. By the mid-17th century, the Republic was the biggest maritime power of Europe, and Amsterdam was the most important financial center of the continent. Naturally, wars about the domination on the seas with England and wars to resist growing power of France on the mainland followed.

18th and 19th Century

Beginning of the 18th century, with the domination of the big absolutist empires of France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia on the continent, and United Kingdom on the sea, the demise of the tiny Dutch Republic begins. An important economical factor has also been the fall of Poland, which lost Ukraine to Russia and was not able anymore to supply grain to the Netherlands.

Growth of the liberal and republican ideas all over the world and resistance to these ideas by the people who ruled the Dutch Republic, lead at the end of the 18th century to the creation of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which after the fall of Napoleon included also the territories of the today’s Belgium and Luxemburg.

Belgium provinces revolted in 1830 and separated into the Kingdom of Belgium. Luxemburg although independent, has been united with the Netherlands by a person of a monarch. Luxemburg finally separated from The Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1890, when Dutch King William III died not leaving a male heir, which was a condition to rule the Duchy of Luxemburg.

Time of peace and prosperity

In the second half of the 19 century, through slow but constant economical growth and important constitutional reforms, the Netherlands became a liberal and modern state. During the WWI, the Netherlands remained neutral.

World War II

During World War II (1939-1945), the Netherlands was invaded and occupied by the Germans (1940). After two years of relative prosperity, when only the Jewish population has been prosecuted, the whole country began to suffer the burden of war and increasing German terror. 
Dutch resistance against the attempts of the Nazi Germany to incorporate Netherlands into the Third Reich during the WWII, and the leadership of the Royal Family in the struggle with the occupants, are still alive in the Dutch people memory.

Last decades

After the difficult years of reconstruction directly after the WWII, the Netherlands sustained in the second half of the 20th century a continuous and fast economical growth. Today the Netherlands is one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world.


 New Amsterdam as New York: An interesting episode of the Dutch and American history is an establishment in 1609 of an urban settlement called New Amsterdam on the island called today Manhattan, by an English explorer Henry Hudson, then in the service of the Dutch Far East Company. This first urban development has been later taken by the English and became New York. And although the Dutch took back the island and the city in 1673, they lost it again next year and New Amsterdam remained known as New York.



The Netherlands

The Netherlands being the most densely populated country of the world has very interesting cities, beautifully preserved nature, and varied landscape, always fresh through the wind from the sea. This is the country, where light astonishes the visitor. No wonder, that the Dutch gave human civilization several important painters.

Official Name

Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Netherlands and its overseas islands - Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

The Netherlands or Holland?

Talking about the Netherlands, people often incorrectly call it Holland. In fact, only the central part of the Netherlands is geographically named Holland. This part of the country consists now of two provinces Noord Holland (North Holland) and Zuid-Holland (South Holland). This is the region with important cities as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague (Den Haag), Delft, Leiden and Haarlem.

Geography and Climate

The Netherlands is located in North Western Europe, at the West and North-West coastline the North Sea; the country borders with Belgium from the South and Germany from the East and Northeast. Through its long North Sea coast (451 km) the climate of the Netherlands is a typical mild maritime climate, wet and mild, winters are rarely strong, summer is never very hot.

Provinces of the Netherlands

The Netherlands are traditionally divided into 12 provinces, which have their own capital, own self-rule and administration. Each of these provinces has very different sphere, different history, and different traditions. Thus, more than in any other country of Europe, richness of the Netherlands lays in its diversity.

Population and Languages

The Netherlands is populated in 81% by Caucasian Dutch population of Germanic or Gallo Celtic descent. Contrary to the popular ideas, more Dutch are catholic 31% than protestant 21%. In the Netherlands, women slightly exceed the male population. Dutch is an official language, spoken by almost total of the population, except for the expats coming from the Anglo-Saxon countries.

Short history of the Netherlands

Feeling of the national identity developed in the Netherlands during the war with Spanish domination, which lasted eighty years - from 1568 until 1648. Dutch resistance against the attempts of the Nazi Germany to incorporate Netherlands into the Third Reich during the WWII, and the leadership of the Royal Family in the struggle with the occupants, are still alive in the Dutch people memory.


The Netherlands is one of the most developed countries of the world. It has many industries and agriculture on a very high level of productivity. The biggest world’s companies as Shell and Unilever as well as the banking giants ING Group and ABN AMRO are based in the Netherlands. GDP per head is US $42,000, which is one of the highest in the world. The Netherlands is the member of the European Union and has adopted euro as its currency.

Political system

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Dutch monarch King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands serves as representative head of state and a person uniting the divided parliamentary politics. The parliament consists of two chambers. The Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber) is elected every four years in a direct national elections together with the provincial parliaments.


History of the Dutch Royal Family

Prior to the Batavian Revolution of 1795, the semi-independent provinces of the Netherlands had chief-executives called stadtholders, who were all drawn from the House of Orange or the House of Nassau by primogeniture. After 1747 the office became formally hereditary in all seven provinces in the House of Orange-Nassau.

Coat of Arms of "The United Kingdom of the Netherlands"

The House of Orange-Nassau came from Dietz, Germany, seat of one of the Nassau counties. Their title 'Prince of Orange' was acquired through inheritance of the Principality of Orange in southern France, in 1544. William of Orange (also known as William the Silent) was the first Orange stadtholder (ironically, appointed by Philip II of Spain). From 1568 to his death in 1584, he led the Dutch struggle for independence from Spain. His younger brother, John VI, Count of Nassau-Dillenburg, Stadtholder of Utrecht, was the direct male lineancestor of the later Stadtholders of Friesland and Groningen, the later hereditary stadtholders and the first King of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands remained, formally, a confederated republic, even when in 1747 the office of stadtholder was centralized (one stadtholder for all provinces) and became formally hereditary under the House of Orange-Nassau.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) (Dutch: Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, French: Royaume uni des Pays-Bas) was the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden,French: Royaume des Belgiques) during the period after it was first created from part of the First French Empire and before the new Kingdom of Belgium split off from it in 1830.

This state, a large part of which still exists today as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was made up of the former Dutch Republic (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) to the north, the former Austrian Netherlands to the south, and the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The House of Orange-Nassau came to be the monarchs of this new state.

William I (William the Silent), Prince of Orange (24 April 1533 – 10 July 1584)

During the Congress of Vienna in 1815 France had to give up its rule of the Southern Netherlands. These negotiations were not made easy, because William tried to get as much out of it as he could. His ideas of a United Netherlands were based upon the actions of Hendrik van der Noot, a lawyer and politician and one of the main players in the Revolution of the Southern Netherlands against the Austrian Emperor (1789–1790). In 1789, after the Southern Netherlands declared themselves independent, Hendrik knew this was a fragile state and he tried to be reunited with the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Since then William had never forgotten this and after the fall of Napoleon he saw a chance.

Three different scenarios were made:

  1. The Northern Netherlands restored within its old borders and the Southern Netherlands would become a barrier state under the rule of a great power, like Austria.
  2. If the Southern Netherlands would stay (partially) French, the Northern Netherlands should be extended to the Nete River or probably the whole of Flanders. In this scenario also portions of Germany would become Dutch. Then the border would be the line Mechelen-Maastricht-Jülich-Cologne-Düsseldorf where it ends at the river .Rhine
  3. France within its old borders, the Northern Netherlands unified with the Southern Netherlands and all of German territories on the left bank of the Rhine and north of the Moselle and the old Duchy of Berg and the old Lands of Nassau on the right bank of the Rhine.

The first two scenarios came from "Memorandum of Holland" made in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzig. The last scenario came from William himself. The first scenario never made it because the Great Powers (Great Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia) thought an independent Southern Netherlands/Belgium under an Austrian Prince was too weak and Austria was not interested in getting it back.

William I (Willem Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau (24 August 1772 - 12 December 1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg

The Dutch question became a problem. The Great Powers of Europe chose the last scenario, but didn't want to go as far in enlarging the Netherlands as William had wanted. In the end, the Eight Articles of London granted William sovereignty over the following lands:

  1. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (i.e., the Principality of the United Netherlands)
  2. The Austrian Netherlands within its borders of 1789 (so without French Flanders)
  3. The Prince-Bishopric of Liège, but on Prussia's behalf small changes were made to its borders

William was named Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands including Liege, which he temporarily ruled for Prussia. It was later incorporated into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederation. William however demanded that Luxembourg become a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions.

On 1 March 1815, while the Congress of Vienna was still going on, Napoleon escaped from Elba and he created a large army against the Great Powers of Europe. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo (at that time within the kingdom) by Prussian, British, Belgian, Dutch and Nassau (under the prince of Orange) troops.

In response, on 16 March 1815, William proclaimed the Netherlands a kingdom, with himself as King William I. Furthermore, on 31 May 1815, William concluded a treaty at the Congress of Vienna whereby he ceded the Principality of Orange-Nassau to the Kingdom of Prussia in exchange for the Duchy of Luxembourg. As part of the deal, the Duchy was elevated to a Grand Duchy in a personal and (until 1839) political union with the Netherlands - albeit remaining within the German Confederation, being garrisoned by Prussian troops on behalf of the Dutch king.

With the unification, William completed his family's three-century quest (started by his ancestor William the Silent in 1579) to unite the Low Countries under a single rule. After the liberation of the Netherlands in 1813 by Prussian and Russian troops, it was taken for granted that any new regime would have to be headed by William Frederik of Orange-Nassau, the son of the last stadtholder William V of Orange-Nassau and Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia. William returned to The Hague, where on 6 December he was offered the title of King.

Wilhelmina was queen of the Netherlands for 58 years, from 1890 to 1948

William I (Willem Frederik, Prince of Orange-Nassau; 24 August 1772 – 12 December 1843) was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In Germany, he was ruler (as Fürst) of the Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda from 1803 until 1806 and of the Principality of Orange-Nassau in the year 1806 and from 1813 until 1815. In 1813 he proclaimed himself 'Sovereign Prince' of the "United Netherlands." He proclaimed himself King of the Netherlands and Duke of Luxembourg on 16 March 1815. In the same year on 9 June William I became also the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and after 1839 he was furthermore the Duke of Limburg. After his abdication in 1840 he styled himself King William Frederick, Count of Nassau.

William was named Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands including Liege, which he temporarily ruled for Prussia. It was later incorporated into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Duchy of Luxembourg was not fully granted to William, because it was a member of the German Confederation. William however demanded that Luxembourg become a part of the Netherlands, as a unified Netherlands was stronger as a buffer for France. Historically it had been a part of the Seventeen Provinces or Burgundian Netherlands up to 1648, but Luxembourg was still a part of the discussions. With the unification, William completed his family's three-century quest (started by his ancestor William the Silent in 1579) to unite the Low Countries under a single rule.

The United Kingdom of the Netherlands collapsed after the 1830 Belgian Revolution. William I, King of the Netherlands, would refuse to recognize a Belgian state until 1839, when he had to yield under pressure by theTreaty of London. Only at this time were exact borders agreed upon. Nowadays, the Benelux Union (created in 1944 between Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) is in some ways a "distant heir" of the former United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Their respective political systems are very similar and Dutch is the official and vernacular language of 83% of its total population.

Power of the King

The newly formed kingdom was not like the Netherlands or Belgium today. Under the constitution, King William was both head of state and head of government, and had considerably more power than a King or Queen in a modern constitutional monarchy.

Juliana is inaugurated as Queen of the Netherlands

The Second Chamber of the States General of the Netherlands had 110 members. Despite the south's far greater population, both halves of the kingdom each elected 55 members—a source of considerable resentment in the south. The First Chamber was appointed by the king and consisted of old and new noblemen.

The Netherlands had eight ministers, who were responsible only to the King himself. In fact, they followed his demands. The King also could rule by "Royal Order".

The Royal family of Orange reigning now in the Netherlands, takes its roots in the 13th century. Since William I of Orange led the resistance Spanish rule in the Netherlandsin the 16th century, which resulted after prolonged wars in Netherlands remaining an independent republic, the House of Orange has a leading role in the country political life.

The Royal Family

King William III (Willem Alexander Paul Frederik Lodewijk, anglicised: William Alexander Paul Frederick Louis; 19 February 1817 – 23 November 1890) was King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg from 1849 until his death in 1890. He was also the Duke of Limburg from 1849 until the abolition of the duchy in 1866. William was the son of King William II and Anna Pavlovna of Russia. On the abdication of his grandfather William I in 1840, he became the Prince of Orange. On the death of his father in 1849, he succeeded as King of the Netherlands.

William married his cousin Sophie of Württemberg in 1839 and they had three sons, William, Maurice, and Alexander, all of whom predeceased him. After Sophie's death in 1877 he married Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont in 1879 and they had one daughter Wilhelmina, who succeeded William to the Dutch throne.

Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander in the Gold Coach in 2007

Wilhelmina (Wilhelmina Helena Pauline Maria; 31 August 1880 – 28 November 1962) was Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 to 1948. She reigned for nearly 58 years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign saw World War I and World War II, the economic crisis of 1933, and the decline of the Netherlands as a major colonial power. Outside the Netherlands she is primarily remembered for her role in World War II, in which she proved to be a great inspiration to the Dutch resistance.

Abdication of the throne has become a de facto tradition in the Dutch monarchy. Queen Wilhelmina and Queen Juliana both abdicated in favour of their daughters and William I abdicated in favor of his eldest son, William II. The only Dutch monarchs to die on the throne were William II and William III.

Juliana (Juliana Louise Emma Marie Wilhelmina; 30 April 1909 – 20 March 2004) was Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1948 until 1980. She was the only child of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry. She was married to German aristocrat Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld, with whom she had four daughters: Princess Beatrix (born 1938), Princess Irene (born 1939), Princess Margriet (born 1943), and Princess Christina (born 1947). During the Second World War she lived in exile with her children in Ottawa, Canada.

She became Queen of the Netherlands with her mother's abdication in 1948 and was succeeded by Queen Beatrix after her own abdication in 1980. During her reign both Indonesia (Dutch East Indies) (proclaimed in 1945, recognized in 1949) and Suriname in 1975 became independent from the Netherlands. Her birthday was celebrated annually as Koninginnedag (Queen's Day). Upon her death at the age of 94, she was the longest-lived former reigning monarch in the world.

Princess Beatrix following her abdication with her son and successor and his wife

Beatrix (Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard, 31 January 1938) reigned as Queen of the Netherlands from 1980 until her abdication in 2013. Princess Beatrix is the eldest daughter of Queen Juliana and her husband, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. Upon her mother's accession in 1948, she became heir presumptive. When her mother abdicated on 30 April 1980, Beatrix succeeded her as Queen.

She attended a public primary school in Canada during World War II, and then finished her primary and secondary education in the Netherlands in the post war period. In 1961, she received her law degree from Leiden University. In 1966, Beatrix married Claus von Amsberg, a German diplomat, with whom she had three children: Willem-Alexander, King of the Netherlands (b. 1967), Prince Friso (1968-2013) and Prince Constantijn (b. 1969). Prince Claus died in 2002. At the time of her abdication, Queen Beatrix was the eldest reigning monarch of the Netherlands.

Beatrix's reign saw the country's Caribbean possessions reshaped with Aruba's secession and becoming its own constituent country within the Kingdom in 1986 as well as the subsequent Antillean Dissolution in 2010, which created the new special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, and the two new constituent countries of Curaçao and Sint Maarten. On Koninginnedag (Queen's Day), 30 April 2013, Beatrix abdicated in favour of her eldest son Willem-Alexander.He is the first King of the Netherlands in 123 years.

Willem-Alexander (Willem-Alexander Claus George Ferdinand; born 27 April 1967) is the King of the Netherlands. Willem-Alexander was born in Utrecht and is the eldest child of Princess Beatrix and Claus van Amsberg. He became Prince of Orange and heir apparent to the throne of the Netherlands on 30 April 1980, when his mother became queen regnant, and he ascended the throne on 30 April 2013 when his mother abdicated.

King Willem-Alexander, his wife Princess Maxima and daugthers Amalia, Alexia and Ariane

He went to public primary and secondary schools, served in the Royal Netherlands Navy, and studied history at Leiden University. He married Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in 2002 and they have three daughters:Catharina-Amalia, Princess of Orange (born 2003), Princess Alexia (born 2005), and Princess Ariane (born 2007).

Willem-Alexander is interested in sports and international water management issues. Until his accession to the throne, he was a member of the International Olympic Committee (1998–2013), chairman of the Advisory Committee on Water to the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment (2004–2013), and chairman of the Secretary-General of the United Nations' Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (2006–2013).



History of Leiden

Leiden was formed on an artificial hill (today called the Burcht van Leiden) at the confluence of the rivers Oude and Nieuwe Rijn (Old and New Rhine). In the eldest reference to this, from circa 860, the settlement was called Leithon. The name is said to be from Germanic *leitha- "canal".

The "Brittenburg" (Classical Latin: "Batavorum Lugdunum") is a Roman ruin west of Leiden, presumedly of the even older Celtic Lugdunumfortress, that was visible on the beach between "Katwijk aan Zee"and "Noordwijk aan Zee" after storms in the years of 1520, 1552 and 1562.

Leiden has in the past erroneously been associated with the Roman outpost Lugdunum Batavorum. This particular castellum was thought to be located at the Burcht of Leiden, and the city's name was thought to be derived of the Latin name Lugdunum. However the castellum was in fact closer to the town of Katwijk, whereas the Roman settlement near modern-day Leiden was called Matilo.

The landlord of Leiden, situated in a stronghold on the hill (motte), was initially subject to the Bishop of Utrecht but around 1100 the burgraves became subject to the county of Holland. This county got its name in 1101 from a domain near the stronghold: Holtland or Holland.

Leiden was sacked in 1047 by Emperor Henry III. Early 13th century, Ada, Countess of Holland took refuge here when she was fighting in a civil war against her uncle, William I, Count of Holland. He besieged the stronghold and captured Ada. Leiden received city rights in 1266. In 1389, its population had grown to about 4000 persons.

Siege of 1420

 Leiden, "Lugdunum Batavorum Leyden in Hollant", Lodovico Guicciardini, 1581

In 1420, during the Hook and Cod wars, Duke John III of Bavaria along with his army marched from Gouda in the direction of Leiden in order to conquer the city since Leiden did not pay the new Count of Holland Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, his niece and only daughter of Count William VI of Holland.

Burgrave Filips of Wassenaar and the other local noblemen of the Hook faction assumed that the duke would besiege Leiden first and send small units out to conquer the surrounding citadels. But John of Bavaria chose to attack the citadels first.

He rolled the cannons with his army but one which was too heavy went by ship. By firing at the walls and gates with iron balls the citadels fell one by one. Within a week John of Bavaria conquered the castles of Poelgeest, Ter Does, Hoichmade, de Zijl, ter Waerd, Warmond and de Paddenpoel.

On 24 June the army appeared before the walls of Leiden. On 17 August 1420, after a two-month siege the city surrendered to John of Bavaria. The burgrave Filips of Wassenaar was stripped of his offices and rights and lived out his last years in captivity.

16th to 18th centuries

Leiden, "Leyda Batavorum Lugdunum vulgo Leyden..", Georg Braun & Frans Hogenberg, 1575

Leiden flourished in the 16th and 17th century. At the close of the 15th century the weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) of Leiden were very important, and after the expulsion of the Spaniards Leiden cloth, Leiden baize and Leiden camlet were familiar terms. In the same period, Leiden developed an important printing and publishing industry. The influential printer Christoffel Plantijn lived there at one time. One of his pupils was Lodewijk Elzevir (1547–1617), who established the largest bookshop and printing works in Leiden, a business continued by his descendants through 1712 and the name subsequently adopted (in a variant spelling) by contemporary publisher Elsevier.

In 1567, the Duke of Alva was appointed governor of the Netherlands. When a string of towns declared for the prince in 1572, Alva sent an army on a punitive expedition to capture them and teach the offenders a lesson. While many towns opened their gates as soon as the Spaniards approached, some resisted and then the Spanish troops were merciless.

As at Zutphen, for example, which the Protestant rebels had captured, ransacking the churches and killing several priests. In November 1572, the Spanish army laid siege to Zutphen. Eventually, when the River IJssel froze, they marched into the city. What followed, was a bloodbath. Over five hundred people were drowned, pushed through holes in the ice; others were sent naked to freeze out in the open. Several towns in Holland suffered a similarly cruel fate, including Naarden and Oudewater.

Leiden, "Leyda Batavorum Lugdunum"

In 1572, the city sided with the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule and played an important role in the Eighty Years' War. Besieged from May until October 1574 by the Spanish, Leiden was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town.

In the war (eventually called the Eighty Years' War) that had broken out, Dutch rebels took up arms against the king of Spain, whose family had inherited the Seven Provinces of the Netherlands. Most of the counties of Holland and Zeeland were occupied by rebels in 1572, who sought to end the harsh rule of the Spanish Duke of Alva, governor-general of the Netherlands. This territory had a very high density of cities, which were protected by huge defense works and by the boglands, which could easily be flooded.

The Duke of Alva tried to break resistance using brute force. He used Amsterdam as a base, as this was the only city in the country of Holland that had remained loyal to the Spanish government. Alva's cruel treatment of the population of Naarden and Haarlem was notorious. The rebels learned that no mercy was shown there and were determined to hold out as long as possible. The county of Holland was split in two when Haarlem was conquered by the Spanish after a costly seven-month siege. Thereafter, Alva attempted to conquer Alkmaar in the north, but the city withstood the Spanish attack. Alva then sent his officer Francisco de Valdez to attack the southern rebel territory, starting with Leiden. In the meantime, due to his failure to quell the rebellion as quickly as he had intended, Alva submitted his resignation, which king Philip accepted in December. The less harsh Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens replaced him as governor-general.

First siege of Leiden

This painting from Mattheus Ignatius van Bree (1816-1817) shows the most famouse heroic scene from the story about the "Siege of Leiden". Mayor van der Werf offers his body to the hungry people. It was better to eat him and feed the hungry people in his city then to surrender to the Spanish Catholic Army.

The city of Leiden had plenty of food stored for the siege when it started in October 1573. The siege was very difficult for the Spanish, because the soil was too loose to dig holes, and the city defense works were hard to break. Defending Leiden was a Dutch States rebel army which consisted of English, Scottish and Huguenot French troops. The leader of the Dutch rebels, William the Silent, Prince of Orange, tried to relieve Leiden by sending an army into the Netherlands. Valdez halted the siege in April 1574 to face the invading rebel troops, but Sancho d'Avila reached them first and defeated the army of Orange in the Battle of Mookerheyde.

Second siege, and relief, of Leiden

During the brief respite from the siege, Orange had counselled the citizens of Leiden to restock their city with supplies, and take in a larger rebel garrison to help defend the town. They disregarded his advice however, with the result that when Valdez' army returned to continue the siege on May 26, 1574, they were in as poor a condition as they had been previously. The city considered surrendering, because there was almost no chance of relief and supplies were dwindling. The rebel army was defeated and the rebel territory was very small compared to the huge Spanish empire.

The Prince of Orange, however, was determined to relieve the city. Therefore he sent a carrier pigeon into the city pleading for it to hold out for three months. To fulfil this promise, he wished to break the dikes, allow the sea to flood the low lying land (in the same fashion that Alkmaar was saved), so that the siege could be lifted using the rebel fleet, and the Spaniards forced to retire before the incoming sea. But the damage to the surrounding countryside would be enormous, and therefore the population of the area resisted the cutting of the dikes.

A Plague Doctor  in the middle ages was a special medical physician who treated those who had the plague. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from putrid air, which (according to the miasmatic theory of disease) was seen as the cause of infection

However, in the end, the Prince prevailed and the outer dikes were broken on August 3. Previously, the Prince's Admiral Louis Boisot had assembled a fleet of more than two hundred small vessels, manned by 2,500 veteran Dutch seamen, and carrying a large store of provisions had been collected in preparation to lift the siege. Unfortunately, soon after the first dikes were broken, the Prince of Orange came down with a violent fever and as he was the moving force in all these machinations, the planned relief of the besieged city came to a grinding halt. More importantly, the flooding of the outskirts took longer than expected because the wind was not favourable. During this time, on August 21, the inhabitants of Leiden sent a message to the Prince saying that they had held out for three months, two with food and one without food. The Prince answered them, again by carrier pigeon that the dikes were all pierced and relief would come soon. 

However, only by the first day of September, when the Prince had recovered from his ailment, did the expedition continue in earnest. More than 15 miles lay between the relieving rebel fleet and Leiden, but ten miles were covered without difficulty. On the night of September 10, the fleet came upon the Land-scheiding, which blocked their path to Leiden and captured it in a night surprise attack which was successful. The Spaniards had neglected to strongly fortify this important post. The next morning, the Spaniards counter attacked to try to regain the position but were repulsed with the loss of several hundred men. The dike was cut through, and the fleet proceeded through the breach towards Leiden.

Admiral Boisot and the Prince of Orange had been misinformed as to the lie of the lands, and had assumed that the rupture of the Land-scheiding would flood the country inland all the way to Leiden. Instead, the rebel flotilla once again found their path blocked, this time by the Greenway dike, less than a mile inland of the Land-scheiding, which was still a foot above the water level. Again however the Spaniards had left the dike largely undefended, and the Dutch broke though it without much difficulty. Unfortunately, due to easterly winds driving the water back seawards, and the ever growing surface area of the land that the water covered, the flooding was by this time so shallow that the fleet was all but stranded. The only way that was deep enough for them to proceed was by a canal, leading to a large inland lake called the Zoetermeer (Fresh Water Lake). This canal, and the bridge over it, were strongly defended by the Spaniards, and after a brief amphibious struggle, the Admiral gave up the venture. He dispatched a despondent message to the Prince, saying that unless the wind turned, and they could sail around the canal, they were lost.

Plague and Hunger during the Siege of Leiden... In 2011, this photograph taken by the photographer Erwin Olaf. It’s a modern-day interpretation of Leiden’s siege and relief, and was commissioned by Leiden University Library and Museum De Lakenhal. Its creation revitalised the tradition of history painting, which had all but disappeared during the course of the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, in the city, the inhabitants clamored for surrender when they saw that their countrymen had run aground. But Mayor van der Werff inspired his citizens to hold on, telling them they would have to kill him before the city could surrender, and telling him they could eat his arm if they were really that desperate. In fact thousands of inhabitants died of starvation. To add to their troubles, as so often happened in that age, the plague appeared in the city streets and near eight thousand died from that cause alone. The city only held out because they knew that the Spanish soldiers would massacre the whole population in any case, to set an example to the rest of the country, as had happened in Naarden and the other cities that had been sacked. Admiral Boisot sent a dove into the town, assuring them of speedy succor.

On the 18th the wind shifted again, and blowing strongly from the west, piled the sea against the dams. With the rising water level, the flotilla was soon able to make a circuit around the bridge and canal, and successfully enter the Zoetermeer. A succession of fortified villages now stood in the way of the patriot fleet, and the Dutch Admiral was afraid even now of losing his prize, but the Spaniards, panicked by the rising waters, barely offered any resistance. Every one of their strongholds, now become islands, were deserted by the Royalist troops in their flight, except for the village of Lammen. This was a small fort under the command of Colonel Borgia, and situated about three-quarters of a mile from the walls of Leiden.

This was a formidable obstacle, but fortunately for the Dutch rebels, the Spaniards, adept at land fighting and not amphibious warfare, had despaired of maintaining so unequal a contest against the combined forces of the sea and the veteran Dutch seamen. Accordingly the Spanish commander Valdez ordered a retreat in the night of October 2nd, and the army fled, rendered more fearful by a terrible crash they heard from the city, and assumed to be the men of Leiden breaking still another dam upon them. In fact, part of the wall of Leiden, eroded by the sea water, had fallen, leaving the city completely vulnerable to attack, had any chosen to remain.

Leiden, "Leyda Batavorum Lugdunum"

The next day, the relieving rebels arrived at the city, feeding the citizens with herring and white bread. The people also feasted on hutspot (carrot and onion stew) in the evening. According to legend, a little orphan boy named Cornelis Joppenszoon found a cooking pot full with hutspot that the Spaniards had had to leave behind when they left their camp, the Lammenschans, in a hurry to escape from the rising waters. 


In 1575, the Spanish treasury ran dry, so that the Spanish army could not be paid anymore and it mutinied. After the pillaging of Antwerp, the whole of the Netherlands rebelled against Spain. Leiden was once again safe.

The Leiden University was founded by William of Orange in recognition of the city's sacrifice in the siege. According to the ironical fiction still maintained by the Prince, that he was acting in behalf of his master Philip of Spain, against whom he was in fact in open rebellion, the university was endowed in the King's name.

Herring and white bread distributed at the Relief of Leiden, 3 October 1574. Otto van Veen, c. 1575-1600

The 3 October Festival is celebrated every year in Leiden. It is a festival, with a funfair and a dozen open air discos in the night. The municipality gives free herring and white bread to the citizens of Leiden.

As a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the University of Leiden was founded by William I of Orange in 1575. Yearly on 3 October, the end of the siege is still celebrated in Leiden. Tradition tells that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes and chose the university. The siege is notable also for being the first instance in Europe of the issuance of paper money, with paper taken from prayer books being stamped using coin dies when silver ran out.

Leiden is also known as the place where the Pilgrims (as well as some of the first settlers of New Amsterdam) lived (and operated a printing press) for a time in the early 17th century before their departure to Massachusetts and New Amsterdam in the New World.

In the 17th century, Leiden prospered, in part because of the impetus to the textile industry by refugees from Flanders. While the city had lost about a third of its 15,000 citizens during the siege of 1574, it quickly recovered to 45,000 inhabitants in 1622, and may have come near to 70,000 circa 1670. During the Dutch Golden Era, Leiden was the second largest city of Holland, after Amsterdam.

1595 painting by Isaac van Swanenburg illustrating Leiden textile workers

From the late 17th century onwards Leiden slumped, mainly due to the decline of the cloth industries. In the beginning of the 19th century the baize manufacture was altogether given up, although industry remained central to Leiden economy. This decline is painted vividly by the fall in population. The population of Leiden had sunk to 30,000 between 1796 and 1811, and in 1904 was 56,044.

From the 17th to the early 19th century, Leiden was the publishing place of one of the most important contemporary journals, Nouvelles Extraordinaires de Divers Endroits, known also as Gazette de Leyde.

19th and 20th century

On 12 January 1807, a catastrophe struck the city when a boat loaded with 17,400 kg (38,360 lb) of gunpowder blew up in the middle of Leiden. 151 persons were killed, over 2000 were injured and some 220 homes were destroyed. King Louis Bonaparte personally visited the city to provide assistance to the victims. Although located in the center of the city, the area destroyed remained empty for many years. In 1886 the space was turned into a public park, the Van der Werff park.

In 1842, the railroad from Leiden to Haarlem was inaugurated and one year later the railway to Den Haag was completed, resulting in some social and economic improvement. Perhaps the most important piece of Dutch history contributed by Leiden was the Constitution of the Netherlands. Johan Rudolf Thorbecke (1798–1872) wrote the Dutch Constitution in April 1848 in his house at Garenmarkt 9 in Leiden.

The Rapenburg, Leiden, three days after the explosion of a powder ship on 12 January 1807 in the Dutch town of LeidenLouis Bonaparte, seen on the left, inspects the damage (Carel Lodwijk Hansen (1765 - 1840)

Leiden's reputation as the "city of books" continued through the 19th century with the establishment of publishing dynasties by Evert Jan Brill and Albertus Willem Sijthoff. Sijthoff, who rose to prominence in the trade of translated books, wrote a letter in 1899 to Queen Wilhelmina regarding his opposition to becoming a signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. He felt that international copyright restrictions would stifle the Dutch publishing industry.

Leiden began to expand beyond its 17th-century moats around 1896 and the number of citizens surpassed 50,000 in 1900. After 1920, new industries were established in the city, such as the canning and metal industries. During World War II, Leiden was hit hard by Allied bombardments. The areas surrounding the railway station and Marewijk were almost completely destroyed.

Leiden today

Leiden (Historical Leyden) is a city and municipality in the Dutch province of South Holland. The municipality of Leiden has a population of 122,000, but the city forms one densely connected agglomeration with its suburbs Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp, Voorschoten and Zoeterwoude with around 190,000 inhabitants. Leiden is located on the Old Rhine, at a distance of some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from The Hague to its south and some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Amsterdam to its north. The recreational area of the Kaag Lakes (Kagerplassen) lies just to the northeast of Leiden.

A university city since 1575, Leiden houses Leiden University, the eldest university of the Netherlands, and Leiden University Medical Centre. It is twinned with Oxford, the location of England's eldest university.


The city's biggest and most popular annual festival is celebrated at 3 October and is called simply 3 Oktober. The people of Leiden celebrate the end of the Spanish siege of 1574.[15] It typically takes place over the course of two to three days (usually two but three if there's a Sunday involved) and includes parades, a hutspot feast, historical reenactments, a funfair and other events. The city has recently started to host the Leiden International Film Festival, the fastest growing festival of its type in the Netherlands.

Leiden has important functions as a shopping and trade center for communities around the city. The University of Leiden is famous for its many developments including Snells law (by Willebrord Snellius), the famous Leyden jar, a capacitor made from a glass jar, invented in Leiden by Pieter van Musschenbroek in 1746. Another development was in cryogenics: Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913 Nobel prize winner in physics) liquefied helium for the first time (1908) and later managed to reach a temperature of less than one degree above the absolute minimum. Albert Einstein also spent some time at Leiden University during his early to middle career.

The city also houses the Eurotransplant, the international organization responsible for the mediation and allocation of organ donation procedures in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Leiden also houses the headquarters of Airbus Group, a global pan-European aerospace and defence corporation and a leading defence and military contractor worldwide. The group includes Airbus, the leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft worldwide.

Rivers, canals and parks[edit]

The two branches of the Old Rhine, which enter Leiden on the east, unite in the centre of the town. The town is further intersected by numerous small canals with tree-bordered quays. On the west side of the town, the Hortus Botanicus and other gardens extend along the old Singel, or outer canal. The Leidse Hout park, which contains a small deer park, lies on the northwest border with Oegstgeest. The Van der Werf Park is named after the mayor Pieter Adriaansz. van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574. The town was beleaguered for months and many died from famine. The open space for the park was formed by the accidental explosion of a ship loaded with gunpowder in 1807, which destroyed hundreds of houses, including that of the Elsevier family of printers.

Buildings of interest[edit]

Because of the economic decline from the 17th to the early 20th century[citation needed], much of the 16th- and 17th-century town centre is still intact. It is reportedly the second largest 17th-century town centre in the Netherlands, the largest being Amsterdam's town centre.

Hundred buildings in the centre are decorated with large murals of poetry, part of a wall poem project active from 1995 to 2005.[17][18]



This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.(May 2011)

At the strategically important junction of the two arms of the Old Rhine stands the old castle de Burcht, a circular tower built on an earthen mound. The mound probably was a refuge against high water before a small wooden fortress was built on top of it in the 11th century. The citadel is a so-called motte-and-bailey castle. Of Leiden's old city gates only two are left, the Zijlpoort and the Morspoort, both dating from the end of the 17th century. Apart from one small watch tower on the Singel nothing is left of the town's city walls. Another former fortification is the Gravensteen. Built as a fortress in the 13th century it has since served as house, library and prison. Presently it is one of the University's buildings.


The chief of Leiden's numerous churches are the Hooglandse Kerk (or the church of St Pancras, built in the 15th century and containing a monument to Pieter Adriaansz. van der Werff) and the Pieterskerk (church of St Peter (1315) with monuments to ScaligerBoerhaave and other famous scholars. From a historical perspective the Marekerk is interesting too. Arent van 's Gravesande designed that church in 1639. Other fine examples of his work in Leiden are in the Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal (the municipal museum of fine arts), and the Bibliotheca Thysiana. The growing town needed another church and the Marekerk was the first church to be built in Leiden (and in Holland) after the Reformation. It is an example of Dutch Classicism. In the drawings by Van 's Gravesande the pulpit is the centrepiece of the church. The pulpit is modelled after the one in the Nieuwe Kerk at Haarlem (designed by Jacob van Campen). The building was first used in 1650, and is still in use. The 'Waalse Kerk' (Breestraat 63) was originally part of the Katharina Hospital. In 1584 it became the church of Protestant refugees from the Southern Netherlands (Brugge) and France.

University buildings[edit]

The 1860 Leiden Observatory, after restoration (2013)

The town centre contains many buildings that are in use by the University of Leiden. The Academy Building is housed in a former 16th-century convent. Among the institutions connected with the university are the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnology and geography; the botanical gardens, founded in 1587; the observatory (1860); the museum of antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden); and the ethnographical museum, of which P. F. von Siebold's Japanese collections was the nucleus (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde). The Bibliotheca Thysiana occupies an oldRenaissance building of the year 1655. It is especially rich in legal works and vernacular chronicles. Noteworthy are also the many special collections at Leiden University Library among which those of the Society of Dutch Literature (1766) and the collection of casts and engravings. In recent years the university has built the Bio Science Park at the city's outskirts to accommodate the Science departments.[citation needed]

Other buildings[edit]

Some other interesting buildings are the town hall (Stadhuis), a 16th-century building that was badly damaged by a fire in 1929 but has its Renaissance façade designed by Lieven de Key still standing; the Gemeenlandshuis van Rijnland (1596, restored in 1878); De Waag (weigh house in Dutch), built by Pieter Post; the former court-house (Gerecht); a corn-grinding windmill, now home to a museum (Molen de Valk) (1743); the old gymnasium(Latijnse School) (1599) and the city carpenter's yard and wharf (Stadstimmerwerf) (1612), both built by Lieven de Key (c. 1560–1627). Another building of interest is the "pesthuis", which was built at that time just outside the city for curing patients suffering the bubonic plague. However, after it was built the feared disease did not occur in the Netherlands anymore so it was never used for its original purpose, it now serves as the entrance ofNaturalis, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

Leiden or Leyden [1] is a town in the Netherlands. The city is known for its oldest university in the country, the birthplace of Rembrandt and its beautiful, old city centre (the second biggest after Amsterdam). It is a friendly, small city which has a large population of students.


A population of just over 100,000, and just under 20,000 students makes Leiden one of the Netherlands few true student towns (to go along with Groningen and Delft). Leiden University is the Netherlands oldest university, founded in the 16th Century to commemorate the resistance of its townsfolk to the Spanish siege, its buildings are dotted around town in and out of the city centre. This gives Leiden a relatively young and internationally diverse population, especially with the university having a particularly strong law and medical faculty. The LUMC is located right behind central station. Its vibrant student population means Leiden is never short of a great place for a drink. However Leiden's Dutch students are notorious for being dominated by its 'Studenten verenigingen' (fraternities) which means many international students choose to go to nearby Amsterdam, or the Hague for late night partying.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Leiden is best reached by train. The journey takes 10-15 minutes from The Hague, and 20 minutes from Schiphol Airport, the principal airport in the Netherlands. The journey from Amsterdam takes between 30 and 40 minutes.

Most trains arrive at Leiden Centraal, which is 500m North-West of the City Center, and 1km from the City Hall. Leiden Lammenschans station (relatively small station on the line to Alphen and Utrecht) is on the opposite side of the city center, just over 1km from the City Hall. If you do not feel like walking from the station to the centre you can take a bus (ask which ones go to the Breestraat bus stop); this costs €1 during off hours.

By car[edit]

In spite of the two highways around Leiden (A4 and A44), the centre of Leiden isn't easy to reach by car. It is best to try and park your car at the transferium (FREE parking) and continue your journey by bus. For this transferium you have to follow the A44 and then take exit 8 (Katwijk, Leiden Transferium). There are also parking lots on the Morsweg (south-west of the town centre) and on the Langegracht (north of town centre, near the station). These parking lots are crowded though, and there's no guarantee there will be space here, especially during the summer. Otherwise there are parking lots at the Groenoordhallen and Haagweg from where free shuttle buses run to the city centre. In the city center the parking fares are expensive. Also outside the old city center (inside the 'Singel' canal) parking is not free in most cases. Only far away from the centre will free parking be found. A normal charge is €4,60 per hour. Leiden is perpetually rebuilding main roads and areas around the centre, making it very difficult to drive by car. The never ending rebuilding of main roads also guarantees major daily traffic jams at the rush hours.

By bus[edit]

Leiden train station is a central hub for the local bus network, so if you want to go anywhere local your best bet is to go here and ask around. It is worth buying an 'OV' card at the station, which is a sort of chip card that can pay buses and trains everywhere in the Netherlands.

Get around[edit]

Everything is easily reached on foot and the city is positively charming as a walking pleasure. Alternatively you can rent a bike at the railway station's bike shops.

See[edit][add listing]


Leiden is one of the most important museum cities in the Netherlands. Three national museums are located in Leiden, among others, that worth to visit. All major museums are within 10-15 minutes of walking distance from the central station.

  • Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities), Rapenburg 28, +31-71–5163163, [2]. Tu-F, 10AM-5PM & Sa/Su/holidays, 12AM-5PM. Includes an outstanding collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities, and a small temple that was given to the Netherlands by the Egyptians for their help with the Aswan monuments transfer project. It also features an exhibition on the archeological history of the Netherlands including dug-up burial treasures and the like. Adult €9.50, Child (5-17) €3.
  • Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology), Steenstraat 1, +31-71-5168800, [3]. Tu-Su/holidays, 10AM-5PM. The museum shows the culture of native peoples around the world in a refreshingly open-minded way. Permanent exhibitions are grouped based on geographical regions. A good, well thought-out museum with lots of background information in its bookshop, extensive library, and computer screens that are strewn about the museum. Of special interest are the temporary exhibits. Adult €7.50, Child (4-12) & Over 65 €4. Permanent exhibition is free of charge on Wednesday.
  • Naturalis (National museum of natural history), Darwinweg 2, +31-71-5687600, [4]. Tu-F, 10AM-5PM, Sa/Su/holidays, 10AM-6PM. The main part of the museum tells the story of life on earth through bones, fossils, etc. The museum also features a collection of specimens from extinct animals, including bones from a Dodo. Do not miss the treasure chamber (schatkamer) where exceptional and valuable collections, such as extinct animal bones, gemstones, etc., are on display. The treasure chamber is sometime closed for security reason. The museum is meant to be accessible for all ages; the temporary exhibitions are often (partially) aimed at children. Child (0-3) free, (4-12) €5, (13-17) €6, adult (> 18) €11.
Molen de Valk, windmill museum.
  • Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Oude Singel 28-32, +31-71-5165360, [5]. Tu-Su, 10AM-5PM. Municipal museum in the magnificent 17th century former clothmaker's hall. Permanent collection shows artifacts and art objects throughout the history of Leiden from 16th century, including those of some very famous Dutch painters. Adult (18-65) €4, otherwise free of charge.
  • Museum Boerhaave, Lange St. Agnietenstraat 10, +31-71-5214224, [6]. Tu-Sa, 10AM-5PM, Su/holidays, 12AM-5PM. The Boerhaave Museum, named after the 16th century physician and biologist Herman Boerhaave, is the Dutch National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine. It features an extensive exhibition of scientific equipment from 1600 onwards. Highlights include the Theatrum Anatomicum (a mock-up of a lecture theatre where anatomical lessons were held), Gravesande demonstration experiments (first demonstration experiments to show Newtonian physics), the first microscope, the first helium liquefier and the first Fahrenheit thermometer. Adults €6, child (<9) and over 65 €3.
  • Hortus Botanicus, Rapenburg 73, +31-71-5277249. [7]. Apr. 1st-Oct. 31st, everyday open 10AM-6PM, Nov. 1st-Mar. 31st, Tu-Su, 10AM-4PM. It is a botanical garden that hosts different species of flowers and trees around the world. It is part of the University of Leiden. Here you can also find the entrance to the visitors centre of the Astronomical Observatory, which is the oldest academical observatory in the world. Adult €6, child (4-12) €2.5, over 65 €3.
  • Molen de Valk[8] It was a flour windmill and now is a windmill museum. Located in just less than 5 minutes walk from Leiden central station. You can climb through all the mill's levels. On the top, you can admire the view of Leiden.
  • The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum [9] It's actually a small house (built between 1365 and 1370) opposite the bell tower of the Hooglandse kerk, furnished in the style common to the Pilgrim era. Beschuitsteeg 9, +31 (0) 71 5122413. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Entrance costs €4,-
  • Corpus [10] is a 6 story high statue of a human body. Inside the statue, you will experience a spectacular Journey through the Human Body, unique to the Netherlands and even the whole world. There is also an interactive part. Willem Einthovenstraat 1, Oegstgeest (next to Leiden University, besides the A44). You can reach this by taking busy 57 direction Nieuw Vennep from the station, busstop Corpus. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 9 AM to 7 PM. Entrance costs €17,50. Not suitable for children below 8 years.
  • Old Observatory Leiden [11] is the oldest university observatory in the world. Armed with four historical telescopes and many modern ones, this building from 1860 is the epicentre for amateur astronomers of this region. For €90 per 15 people, you get a tour trough the entire building and if the weather allows it can look trough the telescopes!

if you intend to stay for longer period of time in the Netherlands and your affection is on visiting museums, then it is advised to apply for the 1-year museum card (museumjaarkaart). The museum card is only for €45 for first time cardholders and you gain free access to more than 400 museums at anytime. You can buy this card at any major museum.


  • Academiegebouw.- Old university building still used for ceremonies and a few studies. The building borders on the Rapenburg. On the other side the academiegebouw borders on the Hortus Botanicus.
  • Pieterskerk - The Church of St. Peter (the patron saint of the city) is a 16th century church, in late-Gothic style. A feature which Americans will find interesting is that this church is associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, whose leader John Robinson lived in the nearby Pieterskerkchoorsteeg (house is marked with a plaque). The church itself features a small exhibition on the Pilgrims in Leiden. People buried here include the physician Boerhave, the painter Jan Steen (of Rijksmuseum fame) and the aforementioned Pilgrim leader Robinson.
  • Hooglandse Kerk Dedicated to St Pancras and located at the site of an earlier wooden chapel dating from 1314. Construction started in 1377 but parts the building were left lower than originally planned when construction was halted in the sixteenth century. Houses were built against its walls during the seventeenth century. Inside you can find a lying tombstone belonging to the tomb of Justinus van Nassau, illegitimate child of William of Orange.
  • Stadhuis with an old renaissance facade dating from 1597. The newer building lying behind this facade was built to replace the older one, destroyed in a fire in 1929.
  • Burcht Dated back to at least the middle ages. This elevated borough is freely accessible and right in the heart of Leiden. After climbing the stairways you can walk around and enjoy the magnificent views of Leiden from above..
  • Canals - Oude Rijn - The oldest branch of the Rhine river is little more than a city canal here. Historically, this waterway is what gave the area its importance, first as a Roman border, then during the Golden Age as a trade route. Nowadays, river traffic doesn't use this branch and the river just serves to fill the city's canals with water. The area between the Oude Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn is one of the most undisturbed bits of Leiden - go here if you like walking along canals without getting run over by shoppers. On the other side of the city centre (Weddesteeg, Galgewater) is the place where the canals recombine - this is one of the most beautiful spots in Leiden, with a windmill, the old city gate, a small park, and a wooden bridge over the river (see also the image at the head of this article).


  • The Van der Werff Park is named after the mayor Pieter Adriaanszoon van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574, 6 years into the Eighty Years War of Independence (1568-1648) against the Spaniards. The town was beleaguered for months and many died from hunger. According to legend van der Werff was accused by a frantic crowd of secretly hiding food reserves. He denied it vehemently and to prove his sincerity offered to cut off his arm to serve as food. This made people back off, ashamed of their mistrust. The Van der Werff Park is one of the small parks in Leiden's centre and is probably the most interesting one due to its history. There used to be blocks of houses here but during the cold afternoon of January 12, 1807, a disaster occurred. A ship filled with 18 tons of gunpowder blew up, leveling the surrounding blocks of houses on both sides of the canal and killing hundreds in the process. It's claimed the explosion was heard all the way in Groningen (250 kilometers away). Years later, the area was turned into a park on one side and a laboratory was built on the other; the Kamerlingh Onnes laboratory: famed for at one time being the coldest place on earth, where helium was liquefied for the first time, and superconductivity discovered, which earned Kamerlingh Onnes a Nobel Prize.

Do[edit][add listing]

There are two wonderful ways to stroll the old centre of Leiden. One way is to print out a paper guide that will guide you along the poems on the wall, the Muurgedichten. In 1992, the painting project was started and it was recently finished. More than 80 poems from all over the world are painted on the walls of houses. The tour will show you about 25 poems, the whole tour taking about two hours. The guide is downloadable at [12].

The other way is to take a tour along the courtyards that are often hidden behind the facades of houses. The Hofjeswandeling will start at the Burcht in the city centre all year round on Sundays at two, and from March until October on Tuesdays and Thursdays at two. The costs of the tour are €2.25 for adults and children (-12 years) for free. No need to buy tickets, just be present at the starting time. The tour will take about two hours.

boat trip through the canals is also a wonderful thing to do. There are many canals, and they lead you by the most beautiful streets of the city centre. You can buy tickets for the canal cruises at the Beestenmarkt, just two minutes from the Central Station. There you can also go aboard.


  • Leiden International Film Festival [13] A small yearly film festival in October encompassing mainstream and smaller art-house films shown at a variety of museums and cinemas throughout town. It gets some Dutch premieres.
  • Leidsche bluesweek A yearly festival with performances by mainly (but not exclusively) Dutch performers. The Wednesday night pub-crawl is a blast with many bars hosting live music (for other venues you do have to buy tickets though they're not expensive).
  • Werfpop [14] (in Dutch) A small scale music festival with performances ranging from metal to dance. (in 2009 Infadels, Voicst, Napalm Death, Dio and the Dead letters played). July.
  • Leidsche lakenfeesten [15] (in Dutch) A week of different activities in the city center and on the canals. There's a culinary festival, and the museum night. June.
  • 2nd & 3rd of October celebrations [16] (site of the 3 Oktober Vereniging; in Dutch). Celebrations commemorating the end of the Spanish siege of Leiden (in 1547). Part of the festivities is a huge fun fair. The festival is overwhelming, noisy and heavily beer drinking. The town hall has strongly increased policing and crowd management of the event to make it reasonably safe to visit. Beware that in evening hours, it still remains more like a mega pub crawl than a family event.

A comprehensive program of all of the festivals and activities can be found on city council website. [17]


  • Lido/ Studio [18] (Dutch) Offers mostly regular Hollywood fare. The 70s interior is in serious need of an upgrade, although it does give an authentic feel.
  • Trianon [19] (Dutch) Grand old dame and with a brilliantly restored art deco/ art nouveau main theatre. Offers Hollywood fare but also a smaller/ independent pictures.
  • Kijkhuis [20] (Dutch) Opposite olive garden's kitchen is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall type of place but still sports two small (ragged) theatres which show mostly arthouse films. It does the job but looks like a metal band performed there. Yet, just as Lido and Trianon, this 'vintage' feel also adds positively to the cinema experience.

Theatre/ other[edit]

  • De Snookerij Utrechtse Veer 34, [21] This is a very nice snooker center in Leiden, with 10 snooker tables. The owner is very friendly, and if you ask behind the counter, there are various events held for fun for regular customers, such as pub quizzes or barbecues. During snooker season, expect to see a lot of snooker tournaments and great quality snooker.
  • Stedelijk concertgebouw Leiden [22] (Dutch) is scheduled to be opened in September/ October 2009.
  • Leidsche schouwburg [23] (Dutch) A beautiful theatre located on the Oude Vest. The oldest in the Netherlands. Tickets can be purchased on their website however you need a username.
  • De X [24] (Dutch) Multicultural stage for performers of jazz-, world, crossover and pop music as well as poetry and boogy nights.
  • Scheltema complex [25]. Offers musicians, contemporary artists and scientists a place to get in touch with one another, leading to performances and expositions and such. There's also a restaurant.
  • Zumba® Fitness classes Partycentrum De Zijl, Paramaribostraat 66, Looking for something fun and cheap to do? (Or maybe you want to get out of the wind and rain!) Try a one-hour Zumba class (in English) with a licensed instructor from the UK. There is an excellent variety of music, the choreography is fun and energetic, and you get to mingle with the local expat community. Cost is only €2.50 for wiki-travellers. Just search Facebook for 'Zumba Fitness Classes with Hayley.'


Leiden is home to the Netherlands' oldest university, Leiden University, which was founded in 1575. Internationally recognised, Leiden University houses more than 40 national and international research institutes. The university is particularly well known for its law programs, and has a very strong medical faculty, attracting students from all over Europe. The international community is very strong, organising great parties throughout the year. For more information about studying as an international student at Leiden read the leidener [26], a blog run by some international students.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Haarlemmerstraat and Breestraat are the main shopping streets at the heart of the city center. They are both reachable within 10-15 min. walking from the central station. Shops include bookstores, fashion shops and other ordinary shopping items. In the areas around the Pieterskerk and Hooglandsekerk, small boutiques and antique shops are worth a visit. On Monday, shops open late from 12 noon until 5 or 6PM. All the shops are open on every Sunday (Only a few smaller shops remain closed). On Thursday, shops are open late, till around 9PM (koopavond).

On Saturdays from 07:00 and on Wednesdays from 12:00, there is an open market along the canal between the Nieuwe Rijn and Vismarkt streets. They sell vegetables, fruits, fish, flowers, bread, meat, you name it.

Specialty shops:

  • Souvenirs of Leiden can be found at the VVV tourist office, Stationsweg 2D. Some major museums also sell their own souvenirs.
  • Mapsroutes and other travel accessories are mostly found at the ANWB shop, Stationsweg 2, but they are not always complete. A special shop that sells almost complete map of cycling routes, walking routes, and any other maps is the Reisboekhandel Zandvliet at Stille Rijn 13.
  • Travel accessories including maps, travel guides, backpacks, and airplane tickets can be bought at the joho company a few doors from Reisboekenhandel Zandvliet at Stille Rijn 8-9.


  • Treinreiswinkel is a travel agency specializing in rail travel. Treinreiswinkel is the official agent of Deutsche Bahn in The Netherlands, they are also travel agent for NS Hispeed, SNCF, Thalys, Eurostar, CNL and Interrail. They are well informed and can arrange international train tickets and even a complete package tour if you wish. It's at Breestraat 57, 2311 CJ +31 (0) 71 5137008. They also have an Amsterdam office.
  • De Slegte A 3 floor bookstore found on the Breestraat with a large selection of second hand books at great value. Many English options available.
  • Galerie Zone, Nieuwstraat 17b (opposite the Hooglandskerk),  +32(0)715126307, [27]. Contemporary Crafts Gallery collectively run by 12 people, whose work is permanently on display and for sale. It has been going since 1991, and one of the original members is still part of the collective. The work represents ceramics, furniture, glass, jewellery, and textiles.  edit
  • Uitjes Leiden, (everywhere in the city),  071 - 76 000 45, [28]. Best outings in Leiden and other things to do for groups.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Leiden has a lot of restaurants and bars. Especially in the Pieterswijk (the east side of the Breestraat) are a lot of cosy restaurants.

Some of the restaurants in Leiden:

  • Asia2Go, Morsstraat 26, 0715148880. This restaurant is very good value for money and has a great fusion of Asian food. The owner is Vietnamese, so you can expect most of the Asian dishes to be a Vietnamese interpretation. Don't be fooled by its name, Asia2Go cooks their food from scratch and offers delivery.
  • Delphi, Nieuwe rijn 52, 0715141778. This restaurant serves the best Greek food in Leiden and can get quite busy because of it's great value for money.
  • Donattelo's, Haarlemmerstraat 20, 071 5147938. Good pizza, if you enjoy a student atmosphere!
  • La Piccola Italia Boommarkt 2, A small restaurant that makes good pizzas and pasta dishes. Good value.
  • Olive Garden, Vrouwenkerkhof 1, 071 51.22.529, Italian. Not pizza, but true Italian food. Not cheap, reservations a must on Thursday, Friday and Weekends. (This is not the same restaurant as the popular chain in the United States.)
  • De Oude Harmonie, Breestraat, 071 5122153. Student fare, the dailies are good value for money.
  • Porto Pino, Haven 40, 071 5219505. Serves the same type of delicious Italian foods as 'Olive garden' so no Pizza! It's a bit to the east of the centre at the recreational harbour, near the Zijlpoort.
  • Sabai Sabai, Noordeinde, 071 51.31.914, Thai. Best Thai in town, visited even by Thai embassy officials.
  • Verboden Toegang, Kaiserstraat 7, 071-5143388, [30].
  • De Branderij [31], Nieuwstraat 32, +31 (0) 71 5142158. Great food in a somewhat higher price range.
  • Het prentenkabinet [32]. Just about the best culinary experience (in French oriented cuisine) Leiden has to offer (bring your wallet though) and situated in a monumental building opposite the Pieterskerk. Kloksteeg 25, 2311 SK Leiden +31 (0) 71 5126666.
  • Tandoori way Indian restaurant next to the Praethuis bar (see under drinking section) opposite the remains of the 'onze lieve vrouwe kerk' and Olive garden

For fast(er) food lovers there are several options:

  • Smulshop Spare ribs, Gyros and other fare. It seems to get mixed reviews though. Morsweg 40, 2312 AE, +31 (0) 71 5130819
  • AK-AL At the corner of the Haarlemmerstraat and the Pelikaanstraat (opposite the English pub called Bad Habits) serves delicious Turkish Pizza's on the go and the infamous 'Kapsalon' (French Fries, topped with doner kebak, lettuce, onions, cheese, spicy sauce and garlick sauce) which will fill you up for the rest of the week. It's also a bakery offering tasty Turkish and loaf-type breads and great croissants!
  • Verswinkel Great breadrolls made right in front of you. Botermarkt 3, 2311 EM +31 (0) 71 5141214.
  • Eazy Oriental style wok dishes. Freshly made, delicious and healthy. Breestraat 157, 2311 CN Leiden. +31 (0) 71 5138867
  • Maoz Falafel and more falafel and pretty good too. Haarlemmerstraat 61, 2312 DL, +31 (0) 5144424‎

If you don't find anything of your liking above, there's a plethora of places offering anything from French fries to Shoarma and Pizza and yes; there is a McDonald's (two in fact).

Drink[edit][add listing]

The city is full of students, and cafes and bars are clearly by far the most frequented 'faculty'. There is a healthy and lively cafe and night life. You cannot help wondering if the students actually get time to study from time to time between the many festivities and drink parties all over town. If you are out for a drink, you will not be disappointed.


  • Einstein Great for lounging on summertime evenings. Popular on Wednesday evenings (International Student Night).
  • De Burcht Grand cafe, a mix of 30's grandeur and 50's and 60's furniture. Hosts a quiz night every Tuesday for 2 euros per person (maximum 6 to a team, with usually with wine as the prize).
  • Haar gangetje Small but cosy cafe.
  • De Kroeg Fun staff, fun atmosphere, fun times.
  • The Duke of OZ Great place to follow Football, Cricket and other sports.
  • Roebels Tiny but usually packed student bar. Famous for it's 'Zwevertjes' (shots)
  • Cafe Storm Tiny and not so packed student bar.
  • Keizert'jes A nice bar on the kaiserstraat opposite the student plexus building
  • Babbels A cosy place on the corner of the Witte Singel, Boisotkade 1.
  • Olo Rosso A bar for most of the week but in the weekends it turns into a club.
  • In den Oude Maren Poort Larger, and usually packed student bar.
  • Lemmy's Belgian beer bar. Free peanuts and digital fireplace!
  • Olivier [33] Another Belgian beer bar on the Hooigracht. Ladies night on thursdays means free cava for ladies. A nice atmosphere and outside drinking space.
  • De Twee Spieghels Cozy, friendly, fabulous location (near the Burcht and Hooglandsekerk).
  • Dranklokaal de WW Hidden in a small back alley opposing the Breestraat entrance of the Stadhuis, this place is hugely popular in the weekends. The place has been cut into 2 equal sections since the smoking ban came into effect and the smoking section is the biggest in Leiden
  • Praethuis A local haunt with a dark interior coupled with dark brown furnishings and finishings and mainly 60's and 70s music. It has a great terrace around the remains of the 'onze lieve vrouwenkerk' (of pilgrim fame).
  • Odessa Small bar with artistic crowd and great atmosphere. Very popular on Monday (International Students' night - with 2 for 1 pitchers during happy hour) and in the weekend. Attracts a lot of students and other young people.
  • Vi-kings Bar [34] Located at Noordeinde 28 in Leiden. A Great bar for sports fans, with multiple TV screens, board games and a pool table. Upon request, Karaoke evenings, can be organized.
  • The Church This small, vintage pool café built into an old church building. It sports 4 pool tables, a dart-board, really friendly employees and a great (airconditioned) atmosphere.

Music and clubs[edit]

  • LVC [35] (in Dutch). Leiden's take on the music club. It's cramped, it's small and doesn't get too many of the big names but you can have a great time all the same. There are several parties organized there throughout the week, intersperced with live bands.
  • Qbus [36] (Dutch) Different types of live music and ranging from local heroes to international names.
  • Bar en Boos [37] (Dutch) All sorts of music and performances ranging from acoustic jam sessions to full on punk and metal performances. It's part of the 'vrijplaats koppenhinksteeg', which is a social initiative with a as of yet, uncertain future.
  • CityHall [38] (Dutch) (located at the back of the Stadhuis). Billed as a cafe/ restaurant it's really a bit of everyting and gets crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings. There is a DJ on these days.
  • InCasa [39]. Leiden's only real club. It attracts a very young crowd and mainly plays popular music.
  • Mas Y Mas [40]. Bar dancing with enthusiastic crowd, especially on Saturdays.
  • Club Next [41]. Three floors. Upstairs smoking area, middle floor is just a bar, and the ground floor has a decent dancing area. Allegedly the club where world number one DJ Armin Van Buuren learnt to ply his trade. Usually no cover.


Like every other town in the Netherlands Leiden doesn't lack the presence of Coffeeshops. This town definitely has a few nice options if you're interested.

  • Leidseplein Pieterskerkgracht 28. Probably the most popular coffee shop in all of Leiden. Great atmosphere and classy decor. Next door to the bar Sam Sam.
  • Bebop A stones throw from Leidseplein, Diefsteeg 3.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Stochemhoeve Camping [42] This is a family managed small camping located near a park and recreational area just outside of Leiden. Location: Cronesteyn 3, 2322 LH Leiden. Telephone +31 (0) 71 5721141.
  • Nieuw Minerva [43], Boommarkt 23. Located in six prestigious 16th-century canal houses. Located in the centre, it is close to museums and faculties of Leiden University.
  • De Doelen [44], Rapenburg 2. The hotel is situated in an ancient Patrician mansion, built in 1638.
  • Golden Tulip, Schipholweg 3. Located in a bland modern building just north of the railway station.
  • Flying Pig Beach Hostel [45] Parallel Boulevard 208, 2202 HT, Noordwijk. The telephone number is + 31 (0) 713622533 and the email address is: beachhostel@flyingpig.nl. Belongs to the same chain of hostels as the ones in Amsterdam. It's about 15 kilometres from Leiden and you have to take a bus to get there (Take bus no 232 or 44 from Leiden central station to Noordwijk Picketplein, from there it's a five minute walk).


Some cafes and fast food places have free wifi. Ask the cafe staff for advice. Leiden is a student town, free wifi is highly appreciated there. There are also 'hot spots' e.g. at the station, however, these are run by the previous state monopoly 'KPN'. It is complicated and expensive to get access at these KPN wifi hot spots.

In addition to cafes, a reliable and free wifi can be found at the La Place restaurant inside the Vroom and Dressmann (V&D) store next to the town hall.

Get out[edit]

Leiden is a city in the Green Heart (Groene Hart) between the largest cities in Holland. It is surrounded by green meadows, little villages, and, in spring time, the world famous flower fields. From Leiden Central Station a bus (number 54) goes directly to theKeukenhof, an enormous park open from the end of March until the end of May, in which more than 7 million flower bulbs bloom. But you can also take your car or rent a bike and find the fields yourself. The route will lead you through lovely villages.

Leiden is also very close to the beach. Katwijk aan Zee and Noordwijk aan Zee are the closest seaside villages, at just 20 minutes by car. Be aware that on beautiful summer days, the car will probably be stuck in traffic. You can also take a bicycle, which will take you approximately 45 minutes.









Basic facts about Amsterdam

Although the seat of Netherlands government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the nominal capital. It is also the country's largest city, with a population of more than 820,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.

The Netherlands is a country situated in Western Europe, bordering Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. To its north and west is the North Sea. Although the Netherlands is the country's official name, people often call it Holland. The provinces of North Holland and South Holland form only part of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam in Figures

Some interesting figures on how many bicycles, bridges, canals, cinemas or markets one can find in Amsterdam, as well as some statistics about the tourists and day visitors to Amsterdam.

Population: 820,654 (May 6, 2012)
Country: The Netherlands 
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1
Telephone area code: 020

Amsterdam Municipality

City of Amsterdam is run by the city council and a college of aldermen. The council is the highest authority in the city of Amsterdam and is responsible for all important decisions.

Money and currency

The currency in the Netherlands is the Euro ( € , EUR), which is used in almost all countries within the European Union. For details on changing money and methods of payment see ourtips for visitors.

Climate in the Netherlands

The warmest weather is from June to August, with temperatures between 21 - 26 degrees Celsius. There are rarely extreme temperatures. The air is relatively humid and fog is common in autumn and spring. There are stronger winds from October to March. Click for weather forecast.

History of Amsterdam

Amsterdam, probably the most planned city of northern Europe, has long been a well-known city. In the 17th century Amsterdam was the centre of world economy, and nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.

Dutch holiday

A Dutch holiday can add a festive note to your trip, particularly if it involves a parade or special observance somewhere in the country. But expect banks, shops, and most museums to be closed, and public transportation to operate on Sunday schedules for the listed holidays.

Architecture of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is where modern architecture developed organically between facades of historical buildings. Since it is not a big city, all sites of interest are within an acceptable distance. This is why Amsterdam is so popular with lovers of architecture.

Amsterdam Coat of Arms

The symbol of Amsterdam are three x shaped Saint Andrew crosses.

Dutch courses in Amsterdam

An overview of institutions providing Dutch lessons in Amsterdam. Prices, duration of the courses and quality of the courses vary, however, they are nevertheless all helpful for acquiring the native language of the Dutch.

Studying in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has two research universities and several schools of higher professional education offering programmes from Dentistry to Arts and Design. Follow our guide to student life in Amsterdam dealing with the fields of study and admissions requirements to Universities, student organizations, grants and scholarships, student hotspots and, most importantly, finding a place to live and employment in this cosmopolitan city.

Getting work in Amsterdam

To find a job in Amsterdam might be a difficult task, especially for a non-Dutch speaker. Now there are several agencies intermediating jobs for the international companies, where knowledge of Dutch language is not required. Learn here what you need before you apply for a job and see some job vacancies.

Creative writing workshop

This spring join one of wordsinhere’s two 10-week creative writing courses. Not keen to commit to 10 weeks? Try our 1-day workshops in performance, poetry, short story, screenwriting, and writing for young adults. Free Open Days will be held at The English Bookshop on 2 and 16 February (3-5pm) where you can meet the teachers, get more information and register. Or check out the course descriptions at www.wordsinhere.com and register electronically via email: workshops@wordsinhere.com! Registration closes 24 February.

Dutch language

Dutch is the national language of Holland, in addition is the mother tongue of well over 21 million Dutch people and Flemish people (Dutch- speaking nationals of Belgium). There are many online courses and schools for learning Dutch, some held by University of Amsterdam / Dutch for Fereigners.

Enjoying art and culture in the Jordaan

The Jordaan is compared to the rest of the town an oasis of peace with a labyrinth of narrow streets and little canals, nice for strolling around courtyards, art studios, and monumental buildings with stone tablets, old-fashioned ‘brown’ pubs, boutiques, markets or galleries. It used to be a ghetto with many artisans and small shopkeepers. Most of these people left for other districts and cities like Almere and Purmerend where they could rent bigger and modern houses. After a large renovation the Jordaan was discovered by a new generation occupants: artists, students, and young entrepreneurs.

Public Library Amsterdam

Openbare bibliothek Amsterdam (OBA) ie Public library is a good place to spend 30 minutes online (Free Internet for everybody) also for reading news papers or take some serious studies. The central library is located on Oosterdokskade 143, which is east of Central Station.


History of Leiden University

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has a long history. It evolved from the Athenaeum Illustre (founded in 1632) and is now one of the largest comprehensive universities in Europe. The "Agnieten Chapel" (Agnietenklooster) was built in 1470. The chapel is all that remains of the "Agnieten Chapel" (Agnietenklooster), that was illustrated by Cornelis Anthonisz in 1544. It was remodelled in 1631 to become the "Atheneaeum Illustre", which was the same year the old gate from 1571 was moved. Though it is considered the predecessor to the University of Amsterdam, it was not possible to earn a degree there and it wasn't lawfully recognized for diplomas until 1815. It wasn't until 1877 that it was recognized for doctorates, and that was the same year the name was changed to "Gemeentelijke Universiteit van Amsterdam". Professors were appointed by the city council and the mayor of Amsterdam was chairman of the board. This situation remained in place until 1961, when the financial responsibility for the school reverted to the national ministry of education.

At the foundation of the Athenaeum Illustre, the City Library was moved to the attics of the Agnietenkapel and thus formed the origin of the present University Library. Athenaeum Illustre, (or Amsterdamse Atheneum) was a city-sponsored 'illustrous school' founded after the Beeldenstorm" in the old "Agnieten Chapel" on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 in Amsterdam.

In Dutch "Beeldenstorm", roughly translatable to "Statue Storm", or "Bildersturm"  in German ("image/ statue storm"), also the "Iconoclastic Fury", is a term used for outbreaks of destruction of religious images that occurred in Europe in the 16th century. During these spates of iconoclasm, Catholic art and many forms of church fittings and decoration were destroyed in unofficial or mob actions by Calvinist Protestant crowds as part of the Protestant Reformation. Most of the destruction was of art in churches and public places.

Famous scientists such as Caspar Barlaeus, Gerardus Vossius, and Petrus Camper taught here. Established in 1632 by municipal authorities and later renamed for the city of Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam is the third-eldest university in the Netherlands. It is one of the largest research universities in Europe with 29,783 students, 4,629 staff, and an endowment of € 613.5 million.It is the largest university in the Netherlands by enrollment and has the second-largest university endowment in the country. The main campus is located in central Amsterdam, with a few faculties located in adjacent boroughs. The university is organised into seven faculties: Humanities, Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Science, Law, Medicine, and Dentistry.

The University of Amsterdam has produced six Nobel Laureates and five prime ministers of the Netherlands. In 2014, it was ranked 50th in the world, 15th in Europe, and 1st in the Netherlands by the QS World University Rankings. The university placed in the top 50 worldwide in seven fields in the 2011 QS World University Rankings in the fields of Linguistics, Sociology, Philosophy, Geography, Science, Economics & Econometrics, and Accountancy & Finance.

Close ties are harbored with other institutions internationally through its membership in the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Institutional Network of the Universities from the Capitals of Europe (UNICA), European University Association (EUA), the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), and Universitas.

Leiden University

Those in the know are quick to agree: Amsterdam is an unbeatable choice for student life. Nowhere else will you find this heady mix of international population, thrilling nightlife, historic and hypermodern arts and culture, soothing nature and architectural beauty. And the Amsterdam Business School is located in the middle of it all. The ABS's strong international network and the University's excellent ties with the city's leading businesses each contribute to your job prospects inside and outside the Netherlands. You'll never forget - let alone regret - your time here.

The University of Amsterdam and the city of Amsterdam are closely intertwined. UvA’s Economics and Business  is situated on the Amsterdam Roeterseiland Campus, in the eastern part of the city centre. The UvA is making considerable investments in the redevelopment of the campus, making it a knowledge hub for Economics and Business, Law and Social and Behavioural Sciences. Clustering these disciplines promotes efficient exchange of knowledge and better collaboration, while also offering access to the many unique meeting places the city has to offer. Numerous buildings are being renovated and the outdoor area is also being redesigned.

This lively campus is easily reached by public transport. It is surrounded by numerous trendy bars and restaurants, along with well-known attractions like Artis (the Amsterdam zoo), the Hortus botanical gardens, the fascinating Tropen museum and the famous Hermitage museum. Study-related matters are supported by a large library, several bookstores and a copy shop.


Student Life

The people are the essential ingredient for having an incredible experience – in such a multicultural city as Amsterdam, networking should be a priority, especially for students. As it is crucial for learning about other people and cultures and just having as much fun as possible. Having drive, passion and fun in whatever you do is paramount to being happy and making others happier. The atmosphere of being a student in Amsterdam and living on campus is very desirable.

One word of advice from everybody is to find accommodation well in advance before you arrive in Amsterdam. There is a shortage of decent houses. Find out if you eligible for the 40% rent discount from the following website of Belastingdienst (in Dutch).

There are various scholarships you can apply for when studying in Holland. The VU Fellowship Scholarship is the main one from VU University Amsterdam. The amount awarded varies for European and Non European nationals. Make sure the application is completed in time.

For an extensive list of all available scholarships in the Netherlands, visit the Grantfinder at the website of NUFFIC.

You can join Sports Centers at different locations. Most locations have gym facilities and offer a wide variety of classes. It is definitely worth the investment to maintain an active lifestyle. You can even join one of the sports clubs!

International Student Societies
International Student Network (ISN) and Erasmus Student Network (ESN) are the largest student associations which deal with enhancing the experience of international students in Amsterdam. Within these associations exists a board of five members (Dutch) and various committees (mixed nationalities).

Academic Student Associations
These are usually affiliated with a university school. If you are a member, you can attend all activities and events organised by them and have discounts on books with the member’s card. The business school offers the choice of joining the following societies, depending on your interest:

–          Financial Student Association (FSA) – The FSA hosts events for business students especially if you are interested in Finance Consulting, Accounting and Banking. Each year the FSA hosts an international research project which is open to all members. To become an active member you must speak Dutch.

–          Marketing Association Amsterdam (MAA) – For marketing orientated students. As well as professional events such as Amsterdam Marketing Event, Students’ Den etc, MAA also hosts social activities. They offer training and development opportunities. Their research project of 2012 will be held in Vietnam.

–          Aureus – The student association for the Business and Economics school (FEWEB), it offers social and professional events for both Dutch and International students. Proficiency in Dutch is not required to become an active member. It is also possible to become a writer for their magazine Avenir. Aureus also hosts some events throughout the year including the Amsterdam Academic Conference.

Each society allows you to become an active member but an application with a CV and Cover Letter is required.

International Opportunities
The University of Amsterdam has numerous exchange programmes including Erasmus, Globe (non-European exchanges). The summer schools programs range from 2-4 weeks and can be found in a variety of countries including China, Denmark, Norway, France.

For Master students from the Business School (FEWEB), there is the possibility to undertake an MBA Summer Exchange in the USA at the University of Notre Dame.

For international internship opportunities see AIESEC.

From my personal experiences, I have always played an active role in contributing to the local community by volunteering in schools or fundraising. For volunteering opportunities in Amsterdam visit: Volunteering in Amsterdam.

SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise)
If you would like to contribute some of your time to developing social projects, to help members of society then visit ENACTUS

Professional Opportunities
For information of companies hiring in Amsterdam and their profiles visit AUREUS and FSA

Internships (Stages in Dutch) can be found on AUREUS STAGES  and FSA STAGES.

If you are looking for student jobs you can tutor privately, see STUDENTIFY

Dutch Courses
Dutch courses are offered by VU University and cost around 250 per intensive course of 8 weeks for university students. In my opinion, taking this course is a worthy investment for all international students as having knowledge of the local language will open doors to many multinational firms based in Amsterdam. See link Dutch as a Second Language 

You may also like this comprehensive guide of learning Dutch: STUDENTIFY .

Social Activities
Having a social life is very important and whether you attend the numerous activities organised by ESN throughout the year, or organise your own trips to other Dutch cities or international trips – this aspects should not be missing.

Partying comes at a high rate, especially if you live at Uilenstede. With the majority of international students living on campus at Uilenstede, it is impossible not to attend a party or dinner every week.

There is so much to do in Amsterdam. For more information visit: IAMSTERDAM

For very cheap train tickets to travel throughout the Netherlands check the Kruidvat Promotions for €12.49.

Cheap airlines throughout Europe




Useful Links:

Student Handbook Amsterdam

DMZO The Netherlands

Mental Help

Gay Amsterdam Community

Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Amsterdam Smart Shops

English Language Jobs


Expat Center

Student Rooms In Amsterdam Kamernet

Student Rooms in Amsterdam Marktplaats

Student Rooms in Amsterdam Easykamer


Map of Amsterdam / Map of Amsterdam.pdf









Find out more about accommodation options in Amsterdam

Average rent in University-managed accommodation:  €300–€550 per month
Internet access on the University of Amsterdam campus: FREE
Transport by bike: FREE
Student meal at the student restaurant Agora: €4.00
Drinks at the Student Café Krater: €1.60
Unlimited access to fitness facilities for one year at the University Sports Centre:  €154 per year
Cinema ticket: €10.00

Your guide to Amsterdam

Download the full map as a PDF


Clubs and Societies

University Student Union Sports & Societies

The University of Amsterdam has many student associations catering to a variety of student needs including social clubs, career and study societies and cultural and sporting societies. Some of the most prominent of these include:

The ASVA is the student union for all UvA students and supports a range of study and student guilds, both social and academic. For more information see www.asva.nl.

ISN is an organisation run by Dutch students for international students studying in Amsterdam. Their goal is to optimize the social-cultural integration of international students into Dutch society. They organize weekly activities for students, provide information on housing and work, run a coaching and mentoring system and publish a magazine all about (student) life in Amsterdam. For more information see www.isn-amsterdam.nl.

The ISC is run by current bachelor students and they organize social events for all students as well as a mentoring programme for first-year students. For more information see the University of Amsterdam website.

There are a number of student clubs and organisations at FEB under the umbrella of SEFA. These organise international study trips, company visits, career weeks, conferences, seminars, skills training and internships. For more information see www.sefa.nl.

CREA organises courses and workshops in music, theatre, dance, visual arts, photography, literature and new media. CREA also organises a weekly Studium Generale programme on subjects related to art, science and society. For more information see www.crea.uva.nl.

Trips and Activities

Find out about International Students' Trips more by visiting the ONCAMPUS Amsterdam Blog