Leiden is steeped in history. It is home to Rembrandt Van Rijn, one of Europe’s oldest universities and the site of the first tulips in Europe. The tulip reached the Netherlands having come from Persia and Turkey through Vienna – all part of the Ottoman Empire – in 1594. Remember in 9th grade science class learning about the scientific discoveries that helped lead to our understanding of electricity? If you answered yes, then you are probably the type of person who remembers what Leiden jars are. If not, Leiden jars are devices that store electric charge and were first created by Pieter van Musschenbroek in the mid-18th century in the city of Leiden. They consist of a glass jars coated in foil with a rod down the center. The foil on the inside and outside hold equal but opposite charges, acting as a capacitor. That’s enough history.
Leiden is the Netherlands’ third city with a population of about 120,000. It located about 25 miles southwest of Amsterdam, and it is easily reached by a 35-minute train ride from Centraal station. It is a university town, so it doesn’t feel that large. The city center, is small, walkable and incredibly charming. Stop by any of the cafes for a bite to eat and a beer and wander through the streets taking as many pictures as you can. If you see the Olive Garden Restaurant, don’t be alarmed. It is unrelated to the American casual dining chain, so you can eat here and get a great meal. There is a large windmill that you can go up into (thus fulfilling a childhood fantasy of mine). The admission of 3 euro gives you a bird’s eye view of the city and a lesson on just how these things work.
There are two trains per hour to Leiden from Amsterdam Centraal station and the charge is 16.20 euro for a round trip journey.
Leiden can be part of a daytrip from Amsterdam. It is not from Den Haag and Haarlem, so you can stop here and wander about before getting back on the train to continue on.