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Captivating Leiden: A Three-Day Immersion in Dutch History and Delights

In the heart of the Netherlands lies the picturesque city of Leiden, where history intertwines with artistic allure and gastronomic pleasures. Join me on a three-day journey through cobblestone streets and serene canals as we delve into the cultural tapestry of this enchanting Dutch city.

Introduction: Embracing the Charms of Leiden

Nestled within the heart of the Netherlands lies the picturesque city of Leiden, a hidden gem brimming with historical significance, artistic allure, and culinary delights. Prepare to embark on a three-day odyssey as we traverse cobblestone streets, take a boat tour along the canals, and visit a botanical garden in this enchanting Dutch city.

Embracing the Charms of Leiden

Day 1: Artistry Unveiled and Epicurean Adventures

Our journey commences in Belgium, where I meet up with a group of friends with equal anticipation. We hop aboard an electric car and start our journey towards Leiden. Around noon, after a smooth 3-hour drive, we arrive at Fletcher Hotel, a welness hotel on the edge of town, providing a comfortable haven for our adventure. From there, it’s only a fifteen minute walk to the quaint city center. Did you know that Leiden is the city where the famous medieval painter Rembrandt grew up and lived until he moved to Amsterdam? Our first stop immerses us in the artistry of the esteemed Young Rembrandt Studio. Here, the ‘video mapping’ presentation unveils the early life and influences that shaped the genius of Rembrandt, leaving us captivated by his legacy. The interactive projections on the walls were very well done!

Young Rembrandt Studio in Leiden

Young Rembrandt Studio in Leiden


As it quietly starts snowing, we find ourselves at PIPA Streetfood Bar, a culinary oasis where the world’s flavors converge. Shared dining experiences elevate our senses as we indulge in an array of global cuisines, tantalizing our palates with every bite. I recommend you try a bit of everything on the menu, it’s absolutely yummy! Transitioning seamlessly into the night, we traverse the streets to Het Stadsbrouwhuis, where the ambient buzz and locally brewed libations offer a perfect finale to our day. I tried Leidsch Singelbier: this unique brew, inspired by the city’s picturesque canals, embodies Leiden’s spirit in every sip.

PIPA Streetfood Bar in Leiden


Day 2: Botanical Marvels, Waterway Wonders, and Gourmet Sojourns

Greeted by the aroma of fresh breakfast and hot coffee at Fletcher Hotel, our second day unfolds with a promise of exploration. Some of my friends did an early morning dip into the indoor swimming pool, but beware, the wellness area is 100% naked! The historic Hortus Botanicus awaits, a botanical garden sanctuary that dates back centuries and nurtures a tapestry of botanical wonders. Amidst vibrant blooms and ancient trees, we embrace the serenity of this living museum, tracing the footsteps of explorers and botanists from eras past. The botanical garden is split up into different sections and is well worth a visit for people all ages! Make sure to visit the souvenir shop and the café for a small bite!

Hortus Botanicus Leiden

Grand Café Hortus in Leiden


Along one of the canals, we met up with a friendly man from De Leidse Rederij. He took us on a canal cruise, a leisurely voyage navigating Leiden’s labyrinth of waterways. As the boat glides along, historic bridges and ornate facades reveal themselves, painting a vivid portrait of the city’s architectural heritage. Our guide provided us with stories, blankets and hot coco! If you’re not into boats, head over to the old town, which invites us to peruse its charming boutiques and unique finds, offering an opportunity to pause and rejuvenate at quaint cafes like Downies & Brownies, Einstein, or Proeflokaal 1574.

Leidse Rederijs boat tours in Leiden

Leidse Rederij boat tours along the canals in Leiden


As dusk descends, our culinary journey continues at Lot en de Walvis, housed within the historic Havengebouw. From Fletcher Hotel it’s around 30 minutes on foot, but well worth it. The fusion of contemporary cuisine with a backdrop of maritime heritage elevates our dining experience, creating a harmony of flavors and ambiance that lingers long after our meal concludes.

Lot en de Walvis, dinner in Leiden

Lot & De Walvis, dinner in Leiden


Day 3: Coastal Charms and Seaside Bliss in Katwijk

Our final day in Leiden beckons us to explore beyond its boundaries, leading us to Katwijk, a coastal town steeped in maritime history. Our electric car got fully charged in the underground parking garage Lammermarkt. The Vuurbaak stands sentinel, its weathered facade bearing witness to centuries of maritime endeavors. It’s not the most beautiful lighthouse, but the interior has lots of pictures and ornaments. Two local sailors provided us with lots of stories about Katwijk and its lighthouse. Ascending its storied steps, we are rewarded with panoramic vistas of the North Sea, the salty breeze whispering tales of seafaring adventures.

View from the lighthouse at Katwijk aan Zee

Captivating Leiden: A Three-Day Immersion in Dutch History and Delights 1


The allure of Zee en Zon, an acclaimed beach pavilion, offers a perfect conclusion to our coastal escapade. Seated against the backdrop of crashing waves, we savor delectable coastal cuisines, soaking in the seaside ambiance that evokes a sense of tranquility and contentment.

Zee en Zon beach bar in Katwijk

Reflections on Leiden’s Charms

As the snow starts melting in Leiden’s picturesque streets, it was time to head back home after our quick getaway. The combination of art, culture, and sumptuous cuisine has left an indelible mark. Leiden, with its historical allure, meandering canals, and Katwijk with its coastal vistas, has unveiled a spectrum of experiences. I was happy I decided to come along and enjoy a quick break from work.

For travelers seeking an immersive journey into Dutch heritage and culinary marvels, Leiden stands as a testament, promising an enriching exploration through time, taste, and treasured moments.

#accidentallywesanderson in Leiden

Dutch windmill in Leiden

Leiden, The Netherlands