Leiden, The Netherlands
Just a quiet 20 minute train ride from the boisterous city of Amsterdam, lies Leiden -- a cute, quaint and well cultured city. Known for it's University and historic ventures which draws in students from around the world each year, there's much more than to Leiden than its academic landmarks. The parks, restaurants, coffee shops and canals are enduringly popular attractions here, making way for all the reasons to visit this magical city.
Leiden’s botanical gardens are one of the more beautiful places to visit and is open to the public. The gardens regularly hold exhibitions and events so don't be surprised if you happen to walk by one day and see something in the works. Otherwise, consider it one of the loveliest strolls you'll take in the city.
As like many other places in Holland, Leiden’s historic center revolves around the canals with alley ways and neighborhoods surrounded by a series of picturesque waterways which were once used as a defensive barrier around its outer town walls. Now, it makes the perfect setting for meandering around town.
The market in Leiden draws in the crowds every Wednesday and Saturday--and it'll be to no surprise why. Rain or shine, you'll find more than a two hundred stalls perched up along several streets in the city center, selling just about everything you can think of. You'll find anything from fresh balls of gouda cheese, to Dutch tulips for sale, to all sorts of Dutch goodies to try--our suggestion? Go hungry.
If you haven't filled up too much on Dutch cheese samples, be sure to stop by Lot & de Walvis for lunch or an early dinner. It's one of Leiden's up and coming trendiest restaurants boasting dishes you'd find in a bustling New York City brunch scene. We indulged in a guilty pleasure of their waffles that comes served with a hefty portion of Nutella and crumbles of hazelnuts. The place also boasts international flares such as a their Peruvian perched chicken that's marinated in a chimichurri sauce. You can even get Asian here with a peking duck that comes with hoisin, spring onions, cucumber julienne and a side of Chinese pancakes.
Enough with the food scene (although it's what we spent much time doing here) you cannot skip the fact that like other famous university towns in Europe such as Oxford or Bologna, a considerable number of Leiden’s most iconic buildings are associated with its academic history. Many of these landmarks, such as the Bibliotheca Thysiana, are Leiden's national monuments and have played an important role within Dutch and European history. It would be a shame to skip the fact that even Einstein studied here.
So next time you find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and take the 20 minute train ride outside--after all, there is so much more to The Netherlands than Amsterdam.