Published: August 3rd 2012July 16th 2012
I spent two weeks in Leiden for a summer school. This gave me plenty of time to explore the streets and canals of Leiden, to visit the museums and the hortus botanicus, to try to local restaurants and pubs.
Leiden is a university town, relatively small in size. However, it does have a lot to offer in terms of museums, botanical gardens, parks, windmills (!), cafés with nice terraces where to sit and watch people amble by, and pubs. There's definitely enough to keep oneself busy for two weeks (and then there are trains that can lead you to just about anywhere you might want in the Netherlands...).
Right from my dorm room, there is a windmill, a canal (they run everywhere throughout the city), historic buildings, and a plethora of restaurants and small businesses. People like to boat on the canals with their families or friends, especially on Sunday. There are also small tourist boats (there's one, today, which has been coming every half hour or so, blaring resort music with beautiful, profound lyrics like 'oh hey, oh hey, I'm on HO-LI-DAY, it's a HO-LI-DAY!' as I am trying to work...).
I found that the Netherlands has
quite a lot of nice shopping to offer! It helped that July is sales season. For the ladies, try Hunkemöller. They have every size, I kid you not.
There is a very nice open-air market twice per week (I went twice, on two Saturdays), where you can find local cheese and produce, stroopwaffles (don't miss those!), and fresh fish. The locals eat their herring filleted but raw, sometimes with onions in a hot dog bun.
Picture this: small streets in which there are the occasional cars (no larger than a prius), lots of pedestrians walking to and fro and not always on the sidewalks, and bikes and motorbikes speeding in between the cars and the people. The sidewalks are cluttered by bikes, bikes everywhere. It's nowhere near as bad as, say, the density of motorbikes of Vietnam, but it's definitely an odd kind of organised chaos that takes some getting used to, but that starts feeling just right after a while.
The weather was often rather cold, and most definitely wet. There were, however, a few sunny, warm days. I didn't mind the cold too much, as I was just back from Greece, and knew that I
would be heading next to Turkey. Two very sunny destinations indeed! If you go, even in July, make sure you pack a warm sweater or two, a jacket and an umbrella. Or you will be stuck, like me, having to go shopping.
There are more photos below