Life in Leiden, the Netherlands

Where to live in Leiden

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Set in the heart of the Randstad, Leiden is a picturesque college town that in many ways is the cultural and intellectual epicentre of the region.

Leiden is home to the oldest university in the country, as well as many museums and a multitude of bars, cafes and restaurants. On top of that the city can boast great public transportation services.

From Leiden Central station, which is a mere 10 minutes walk from the city centre, trains will take you to Amsterdam in just over half an hour, Schiphol airport in 15 minutes and The Hague in just 10 minutes.

Leiden: University town

Leiden is a small city with around 118,000 inhabitants. Some 20,000 of them are students or staff associated with the University of Leiden, the oldest university in the Netherlands.

Founded on 8 February 1575, the University was a gift by Prince William of Orange to the city of Leiden and its inhabitants for the courage they displayed during the one year siege by the Spanish occupiers. The occupation ended on 3 October 1574, an important date in Leiden's history and why the third of October, or Leiden's Deliverance, is still celebrated every year.

Leiden University offers a multitude of programmes and courses in English, as well as Dutch courses for foreigners which have a reputation for their efficacity. Rather than having a single campus: university buildings and sorority and fraternity houses are scattered all over the city centre.

Besides the University of Leiden, The city also houses a campus of Webster University, which attracts mainly foreign students and gives Leiden an international flair. 

Leiden's culture

Culture aficionados will have a field day in Leiden. The city has no less than 12 museums. Of particular interest are the National Museum for Natural History (Naturalis)  and the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden (the main archaeological museum in the Netherlands).

The Lakenhal Municipal Museum exhibits paintings from famed Leiden painters including Rembrandt van Rijn, who was born and raised in the city. 

One of the city's smallest museums is the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. It basically consists of one room with some artifacts but the lack of visual stimuli is compensated by the wonderful stories museum owner Dr Jeremy Bangs tells about the Pilgrims who lived in Leiden before setting sail to America on the Mayflower in 1609.

Leiden is also great for shopping. The city's main shopping streets are the Breestraat and Haarlemmerstraat, but the really interesting shops can be found off the main roads, in the narrow pedestrian areas. The city is home to a large number of antiques stores and on Wednesdays and Saturdays the city's shopping area is transformed into a massive outdoor market that offers a variety of fresh goods.

Housing in Leiden

Leiden has a charming historic centre with narrow, gabled streets and beautiful canals. By far the most attractive (and expensive) area to live in Leiden is the historic city centre.  Highly desired are large old homes in the Rapenburg, and further south, Professorenwijk and Burgemeesterswijk.

A little further afield and only 15 minutes by bike from the Centre, are the newer neighbourhoods of De Merenwijk and Stevenshof. These areas are fully equipped with schools, playgrounds, shops and all necessary amenities.

Also popular with families and with a better space-to-price ratio, are the outlying suburbs of Leiderdorp, Voorschoten, Oegstgeest and the areas close to Leidse Hout to the north of Leiden.

Leiden facts and links



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2 Comments To This Article

  • Justen Karlsson posted:

    on 29th September 2013, 13:20:08 - Reply

    [Edited by moderator] Leiden is a wonderful place plenty of character and lovely people but like most Cities has its bad areas. I was there 10 months ago on business and enjoyed every minute of it. A wonderful place.
  • michaelasmith

    on 31st October 2012, 16:03:47 - Reply

    There may not be any international schools within the boundaries of Leiden, the town nevertheless is well-served in this respect. There's the Rijnlands Lyceum Oegstgeest International School (5 minutes bike ride from Leiden CS) offering a fully accredited IB programme, there's the British School of the Netherlands in Voorschoten offering both A-level and IB programmes and there's the American School of the Hague in Wassenaar, just up the road. English language primary education is offered by Elckerlyc in Leiderdorp.