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World > Netherlands > Leiden
City Guide Leiden
General Information
While all of the facilities that define a true city are present, it is also a beautiful and historic city with many 17th-century houses. Its city centre is criss-crossed with boat-lined canals, which are bordered by red brick roads. Walking and cycling are the best modes of transportation within the town, and there are busses available to go to outlying areas. The almost 15.000 students and 5.000 staff of the University make Leiden a very lively and entertaining place and a true student town. For its quite small size, Leiden has twelve museums; five of them are national museums, all worth a visit. Leiden is one of the best places in the Netherlands where you can get the true feeling of living in a picturesque town, walking along the canals, having coffee in cosy cafe’s and absorbing the Dutch tranquillity.
The climate in Leiden is temperate – marine with cool summers and mild winters. Due to the fact that the Netherlands is a very flat country the winds blow strongly and the weather changes abruptly. The most sunniest months are May – August and the most warm months are June – September. During September and the beginning of October the weather is very humid and hot, also known as “Indian Summer”. The coldest time of year is between December and February when temperature falls below freezing. Whenever you decide to visit Leiden, make sure you take an umbrella with you.
The official language in Leiden is Dutch but English is widely understood among Dutch people especially at the touristy sights.
Religion is not very popular in the Netherlands. Most of the people stopped going to church long time ago but nevertheless, some old churches were not destroyed because of their value. They are today used as houses or museums. People are living respectfully of each other and are open minded. Their spiritual orientation seems to be more cosmic than religious.
The official currency in the Netherlands is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05.
In Leiden as in the rest of the Netherlands Value Added Tax and service charges are included in the check in hotels, restaurants, taxis and shops. Tips for extra service are not obligatory but a tip of 10 percent becomes more of a custom and is appreciated. In many public toilets and restrooms you will be charged about €0.50.
The VAT of 19% can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU as long as the purchase exceeds €50 and was purchased at one store on the same day. In order to do that, you have to ask in the store for a Global Refund Cheque by the time of purchase. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance where the customs official will provide a tax stamp. The completely filled in and stamped cheque can then be cashed at one of the branches of ABN AMRO Bank and GWK (Global Refund) or at the Communication Centre in Lounge Central (Easy Tax Free and Cashback). Customs Information Line: +31 (0)20 - 316 4700.
Most Internet café''s can be found in the centre of Leiden, near the station, in the Breestraat and Hooigracht Street and in many international calling card shops.
To call Leiden from abroad, first dial +31 for the Netherlands and then 71 for Leiden. Calling from hotels is pretty expensive. To use public phones you can use either a credit card or a telephone cards. In order to get phone numbers through the Dutch operator dial: 0900-8008 (this is a toll free call from public phones). In order to make a collect call (collect gesprek) dial: 0800-0101.
Emergency numbers
The general emergency phone number in the Netherlands is 112 (for police, fire department and ambulance). Police station (not for emergencies): 525888 Physicians on Standby: 0900-7763337 (the tourist information branch of VVV has a list of local physicians).
Opening times
Most shops are open from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays, but many shops will open on Mondays only at noon and will stay open on Thursday till 8 pm. Business hours differ between banks. Most banks are open Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. On Mondays business hours start mainly at 1 pm and some are open for a while longer on Thursday evenings. On Saturdays and Sundays banks are closed. GWK offices are open 7 days a week. GWK branch can be found at the train station on Stationsplein 3F. Post offices (Postbank) are generally open Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. In all cases you will find the opening hours posted by the door.
Public Holidays
The main public holidays are as follows: • January 1 New Years Day (Nieuwjaarsdag) • April Easter (Eerste en Tweede Paasdag) • April 30 Queens Day (Koninginnendag) • May 4 Rememberence Day (Dodenherdenking) • May 5 Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) • October 3 The relief of Leiden (Leidens Ontzet) • December 25 Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag) • December 26 Boxing Day (Tweede Kerstdag)
Leiden is much safer than the bigger cities Amsterdam or Rotterdam but nevertheless, it is wise to watch out. Pickpockets are also over here. Don’t keep your passport or valuable things in an open bag; don’t leave your bike unlocked and always lock your doors before you leave!
Discovering Leiden
The best way to explore Leiden is by renting a bicycle or just walking around the city. Bicycles can be rent at the train station. The historic city centre is not very big and most attractions and places you want to see are just a few minutes walk from one another. If you would like to get some tourist information before you start wandering across the city, it is best to go to the tourist information office (VVV), which is just a few minutes walk from the train station. At the VVV you can get some written city guides, maps, information about current events in town and recorded city guides named ‘talking walls’ that include information about Leiden’s historic events. VVV (Tourist Information) Opening times: Mon 11 am – 5:30 pm, Tue – Fri 9:30 am – 5.30 pm, Sat 10 am – 4.30 pm
Kinderboerderij Merenwijk (Chi
This is a wonderful way to expose the young ones to the life on a Dutch farm. On the pasture, on the property and in the stables they can run around between the different kinds of cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and other cattle. Sometimes, during opening times, the children can observe the daily activities of the farm. Opening times: Mo - Sun 8.30 am - 4.30 pm
Sauna Thermen 5 mei
If you feel like relaxing and treating yourself with a sauna or a massage, you are welcome to step in to the Sauna Therman 5 mei. Here you can also found a large variety of beauty treatments such as clay pack, herbal bath and mudpack. Please note that the entrance for children is from 12 years old and the sauna is mixed for men and women. Opening times: Mo - Fr 10 am - 3 pm, Sat - Sun 11 am - 3 pm
The present church was built between 1390 and 1565; different parts were designed by several of the most famous architects in the Low Countries. It contains an important organ from 1637, parts of which date from the 15th and 16th centuries. Many renowned university professors are buried here, as well as the painter Jan Steen and the Pilgrims'' minister John Robinson. Opening times: Daily 1 pm – 4 pm
St. Pancras or Hooglandse kerk
This was Leiden''s second church, first a small one, consecrated to St. Pancratius in 1315. In 1377 the building of the present church started in Late Gothic style, and consecrated in phases in 1381 and 1436. The original design was never completed. Opening times: Tue – Sat 11 am – 4 pm
Leidse Burcht (Leiden’s castle
Leiden’s castle is built on an artificial hill, which was constructed in the 11th century and a wooden fortification was built on top of it. Around the year 1150 the present stone castle replaced the wooden fortification. It is definitely worth climbing all of the stairs in order to reach the castle; the view of the whole city is breathtaking. Entry is through the sandstone gate at Burgsteeg 11 or from the Oude Rijn through the Van der Sterrepad in Leiden. Opening times: Daily 7 am – 11 pm
Another wonderful way to explore Leiden and getting a different perspective of the town is by taking a boat trip in the beautiful ancient canals. There are quite a few boat trips companies in Leiden and the weather should not be taken into consideration, as most boats have transparent roofs to avoid the rain. Rederij Rembrandt From April to October the Rembrandt Shipping Company runs daily boat trips round the city of Leiden. However, on request it is also possible to sail in the months of March and November. The boats leave from Blauwpoortshaven (at the Beestenmarkt), which is on the route from Leiden Central Station to the city centre. Sailing through Leiden in an hour-long boat trip, you experience the very rich culture of the city Opening times: Daily. Departure times: 11 am, 12, 1.30 pm, 2.45 pm and 4 pm Beestenmarkt 2312 AV Leiden Tel.: +31 (0)71 5134938 Fax: +31 (0)71 5767991
Boatrental ’T Galgewater If you would like to explore the canals on your own, you can rent here a boat, canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and motor-sloops. Opening times: Mo – Thu 12 am – 7 pm, Fr – Sun 11 am – 7 pm. Galgewater 44a 2311VX Leiden Tel.: +31 (0)71 5149790