About Leiden


Leiden is an old city with a rich history. Leiden University is the oldest university of the country; it was established by William of Orange in 1574. There are so many accounts of the history of Leiden to be found online that we don’t really feel like adding another one. We do have some recommendations for reading though:


If you want to read a about Dutch culture in general, you might want to give this a try:

The Undutchables, Colin White
Stuff Dutch People Like (hilarious website and book)


Listed below are some of our favourite places around Leiden. Be sure to check them out during your stay!


Please note that the Dutch call their pubs/bars ‘café’ and their cafes ‘koffiehuis’ (although sometimes there isn’t a clear line between the two). Please note: you can’t buy coffee at coffee shops – they sell soft drugs instead. You will be able to smell it from a distance. Oh, and of course the English pubs are still called pubs.

Café de Bonte Koe, Hooglandsekerk Choorsteeg 13. Very old and small Dutch pub with a good selection of beers.
Café Olivier, Hooigracht 23. You will be surprised by their huge selection of Belgian beers!
Bad Habits, Pelikaanstraat 64. One of the two English pubs in Leiden; the other one is North End.


So, these are the coffee places. You might be confused by now…

Het Suppiershuysinghe, Gerecht 2. The smallest and cosiest of all cafes in Leiden. Its origins date back to the 17th century. They serve very good apple pie (with whipped cream!) and they also have a lunch bar. Mind the cat and the dog!
Cafe Van Engelen, Nieuwe Rijn 1. Great place to have a coffee while you are working behind your laptop. There is free wifi available in pretty much every cafe in the city centre. You may have to ask for the password at the bar. Do visit all the other nice cafes around the Leiden market area!
Francobolli, Apothekersdijk 38. This is a fantastic place. Beautifully furnished, good coffee, and the best thing is that you can buy postcards + stamps & post them right there!


To complicate matters further: restaurants are usually called ‘restaurant’ but may also bear the name ‘eetcafe’. If the latter, it means it is a bar where they also serve food.

Donatello’s, Haarlemmerstraat 20. Definitely a favourite among the Dutch students. Italian food: pizzas for €7, wide range of pastas, fish and meat dishes.
La Bota, Herensteeg 9. Another favourite among Dutch students. Cheap, pretty good food (but don’t expect haute cuisine), nice atmosphere.


Dille & Kamille, Botermarkt 10. If you like cooking, D&K is definitely worth a visit. You will find everything you can imagine you need in the kitchen. Another good thing about the shop is that they always play classical background music.
HEMA, Haarlemmerstraat 130-136. Good place to buy your essentials. Ask a Dutch person what their favourite shop is and they might well mention the HEMA. It is the Dutchest department store ever. Just go there, and see if you understand why.
Plato, Vrouwensteeg 4-6. Music store. The shop may look small at first sight, but you won’t be disappointed, whether you’re looking for classical music, jazz, popular music, blues… Anything, really.
Wereldwinkel, Burgsteeg 12. Fairtrade shop with locally produced goods from all over the world. Try their Divine Chocolate selection!
Ichthus Boekhandel Leiden, Nieuwstraat 27. Christian bookshop with an English collection.

If you want to be surprised, make sure you get off the beaten track; the alleys hide many a nice shop! There are loads of second hand shops, antiquaries and smaller food stores (Moroccan, Indian, Russian… you name it). Much to discover! This website may be helpful if you are looking for something specific: http://www.homeinleiden.nl/html/shops.htm.

Other places

The Leiden Market, Botermarkt and Nieuwe Rijn. Every Wednesday and Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm.
Boat rental Galgewater, Galgewater 44a. Rowing boats, kayaks, Canadian canoes.
The Burcht, Burgsteeg. The Keep of Leiden, constructed in the 11th century.
Hortus Botanicus, Rapenburg 73. Free entry for LU students (bring your LU card!). Great place to chill out / study / have a picnic.