Leiden walking tour, Netherlands


There is a country in northern Europe that’s
largely underwater, at least most of it is below sea level, something that might be happening
to other countries in the near future, but it’s always been that way in the Netherlands
and somehow they have made the most of that precarious situation, pumping water out with
windmills for nearly the last thousand years, creating farmland and canals, then expanding
to a global superpower in the 17th century with a fleet of sailing ships and trading
practices that made them one of the richest countries in the world. It was a relatively brief Golden age. But even today, the Netherlands is one of
the world’s great countries with the quality of life among the very best. They built thriving cities that have retained
their historic character and are a delight to visit now. We’re taking you to one of the best. I’m in Leiden, Holland enjoying the pleasures
of this beautiful town. It’s another one of the great historic cities
of the Netherlands, most famous perhaps for the University. It’s the oldest university in the Netherlands,
founded back in the mid-16th century and so there’s a lot of university students here. And it’s not as touristic, certainly not nearly
as crowded, as a place like Amsterdam, which is only about 1/2 an hour away by train. So it’s really a refreshing change to come
and visit smaller cities like Leiden. This city has got the canals running through
it, as most Dutch cities do. And here it’s really quite special, the canals
come right through the middle of the old town. There’s half a dozen of these very peaceful
waterways, especially nice in the morning, busy in the afternoon with lots of people
out walking around shopping, eating and drinking. So many travelers come to Amsterdam and that’s
all they see, and that’s the impression they get of Holland. It’s the big city, kind of crowded and moving,
very much hustle-bustle. Of course Amsterdam is a wonderful city to
visit. It’s certainly among Europe’s top 10 places
to go, so rewarding, a must for any visitor to the Netherlands. And we will take you there in our series on
this fine country in another segment, but this program we are taking you all around
in Leiden. You can easily get outside of Amsterdam by
train, by bus, by tour, and within 15 minutes or half an hour, you’re transported to several
other small cities such as Leiden. The café that I’m sitting at now is a good
place to have morning breakfast or cappuccino. Later in the day it fills up with people having
a drink, having lunch, having dinner, it’s the perfect spot. It’s right next to the classic bridge across
the canal. That was the old grain bridge, it was a grain
market and they stored the grain under the roofs of the arcade there. During the program, you will get a good look
at most of the interesting parts of Leiden. I’ll take you on a thorough walking tour,
we will go down some of the main lanes, the little back lanes, side lanes. We will see the University and its botanical
gardens. We will walk along canals and we’ll just show
you this town inside and out. Starting in this central part of the city,
probably the most attractive and popular place to spend time, where the Old Rhine canal and
New Rhine canal come together. And while you’re here, have breakfast, oh
wow. That looks great. What’s the name of the restaurant? Vooraf en Toe. We open at 8 o’clock during the week, and
in the weekends we open at 7:30. And you’re pretty busy all day all day? Yes, all day, yeah. What’s the peak times like? ? Twelve to at most two I would say, okay,
for lunch yeah. Yes. We are open till six or till 6:30, okay. Enjoy. So breakfast has arrived. Nice open face sandwich with boiled egg on
it, mm hmm. Also, open face sandwich with cheese, and
a croissant, and a coffee, all for €10, pretty good deal considering the hotel breakfast
was also €10 in a dark breakfast room. If you see nothing else in Leiden be sure
to spend some time at this lovely central area. Of course Leiden is small enough that there
is no problem in seeing most of town in a day with time for shopping and a couple of
museums. We will come back to this lively central area
later in the show. On the map of Leiden you’ll see the canals
in blue and the yellow circle at the café we’ve been sitting at, and the two Rhine Rivers,
old and new, coming together at the confluence in the center of town and lots of other great
sites that we will be taking you to as we walk around the city. Many visitors reach Leiden by train, perhaps
coming in from Amsterdam for a day trip. Scenery outside the window will be flat but
colorful with flower farms and pastures and canals. If you can avoid traveling at rush hour, there’ll
be plenty of room on board the train. Arriving at the station which is right in
the town just a few minutes walk from the center. You’ll find the train system of the Netherlands
is truly spectacular – clean, modern, efficient, frequent service, affordable, so easy to use,
in a relatively small country so you can get from one city to the next, usually in a 1/2
hour. It figures that as soon as you walk out of
the station and take a few steps you’re going to see a windmill. It’s an authentic original survivor that’s
been turned into a museum so you can actually go inside. We’ll discover that, like many other windmills,
it was a house inside and they’ve got the furnishings of the dining room, the living
room, the kitchen, looks like somebody’s still living here ready to sit down and have a meal. We see some of the working machinery including
the big millstones for grinding the grain. You’re able to walk around and explore it
from top to bottom. It’s a multilevel structure with a steep step-ladder
that you can take to go to the upper floor, a little more challenging than your typical
staircase but even kids can do it. Upon reaching the top, you’re welcome to step
outside onto the terrace will you’ll have a close up view of the sails spinning by and
a view looking out over Leiden. You’ll learn about life in the mill from their
exhibits and videos and from a friendly guide. And was it for grain? Yes, it was used for milling grain. This was built within the city, that’s also
why it’s so high, to get the wind above the houses. Uh-huh. Video displays show you how these mills functioned
grinding the grain with energy supplied by the wind, a technology that we’re trying to
reinvent in the modern age to produce electricity. The Dutch were way ahead of the times. And in the videos we also learned there were
three different kinds of windmill – grinding grain, there was the polder mill which was
for draining the marshy areas to create dryland, and there were sawmills for cutting lumber. “de Valk Molen de Valk (The Falcon Mill)”
Falcon, okay. It’s considered the most easily-visible windmill
in the Netherlands because of its location up on a hill and within the old town. This makes an ideal place to pause for a moment
to enjoy one of the prettiest sights in Leiden, located on the busy main Singel canal around
town, then walk south for a couple blocks to reach the inner harbor called the Beestenmarkt
. In the old days, it was the animal market where sheep and cattle in particular were
brought for sale. Now it’s the largest plaza in the old town
with a beautiful harbor in the middle that has some tour boat traffic and a popular docking
spot for little pleasure boats. And there’s fountains around it. There are various hotels and restaurants and
shops on all sides of this inner harbor. It’s a picturesque spot just 300 meters from
the train station. And while you do have that water traffic in
the middle, the streets around this plaza are really quite urban. It gives the feeling of a downtown city location
here, in contrast to the more narrow lanes that we’ll be showing you in the old town
with the canals and pedestrian atmosphere. Around this harbor there’s a lively feeling
of urban vitality and some very good restaurants, such as Bistro Entrecote and Old Leiden. Cars going by, and mostly bicycles – that’s
how people get around here. There are way more bicycles than cars, as
usual in the Netherlands. Morning rush-hour at this location is a fine
place to watch the parade of local bicyclists, students, workers, retirees, all sorts out
on their bicycles. When you are walking around be sure to stay
out of the bicycle lanes, as a courtesy to riders and for your own safety. The map shows the route that we just walked
from the train station down to the harbor, and we will continue our walking tour right
through the heart of the old town covering the highlights that can easily be seen in
a one day visit that we will take you through in some detail for the rest of the program. Stepping over two blocks to the west side
of town to have a look at a beautiful gateway to the old city called Morspoort, part of
the medieval fortification protecting town, something like this interplay between the
cat and the dog. With a face-off confrontation, a threatened
skirmish and then scurrying across the bridge invading the city. In the old days a guard was stationed at the
gate to prevent such things from happening and you could have been locked up inside that
cupola, which served as a prison. Now it’s all very peaceful, with a beautiful
terrace restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The wall was not just decorative and beautiful,
it really was necessary for defense of the city. Especially famously back in 1573 with the
siege of Leiden that went on for one year with the Spanish surrounding and attacking
the city until finally driven away by Prince William of Orange. Another historic site nearby is the Rembrandt
Bridge which is at the location where that famous painter was born in 1606 right here
in Leiden, and stayed here for most of his first 20 years in this neighborhood called
Weddesteeg, with that windmill nearby which is a reconstruction of what may have been
similar to his father’s windmill. It’s called Molen de Put and this one was
built in 1987 as a reminder of times past. It’s open to the public, it’s but only on
Saturdays. Well you can walk out on the bridge at any
time and from there you’ll have a lovely view looking back at the Old Rhine canal at a wide
point forming a small harbor. And now are shifting over to a walk along
the Oude Vest canal which is lined by more of those elegant old buildings, and we will
be getting to one of the important art museums for a brief look at the Museum De Lakenhal
with highlights including some paintings by world-famous Leiden masters including Rembrandt
and Jan Steen. It has visual arts that illustrate the history
of Leiden and the various arts industries here. It’s recently undergone an expansion with
new exhibit halls and a cafeteria. It’s building was erected in 1640 as a Guildhall
for cloth merchants, one of the most important industries of the city back then. It’s been an art museum since 1874. We’ll cross over the canal on a bridge called
Marebrug and there you can see that building with the red awnings that used to be the bridge
keeper’s house. Now it’s a restaurant. This brings us into a residential neighborhood
with new housing that’s built in the old style, very tastefully done. While it does have limited access for automobiles,
you see there’s no parking areas on the street. It’s mostly for pedestrians and bicycles. Then arriving at a quiet shopping street,
Lange Mare, where you’ll find a hotel, some vacation rentals, restaurants and cafés,
on our way to the main pedestrian lane of the city, Haarlemmerstraat. This is Leiden’s big shopping street with
a broad range of clothing, toys, shoes, jewelry, electronic sportswear shops – mostly for
locals, along with some souvenir stores and in addition to big brands, you’ll find little
specialty shops, and leather, and children’s fashions, and many cafés along the way. With so many eateries, ranging from fast food
to Italian and Turkish, this is a great place to have a casual lunch. It’s the only major pedestrian lane in town,
but you still want to be careful and watch out for the bicycle, bike carts and roller
skaters going by. One of the traditional Dutch elements that
you find here is the hofjes. This is the traditional housing for senior
citizens. You find these garden apartments throughout
the country, with a history that goes back hundreds of years. This home was founded in 1487 and is named
after the saint of the beer industry, St. Stephen. The map route shows where we’ve just been
walking and where we’re heading. We’re going across the canal to the Burcht,
then we’ll continue on to the University neighborhood, and back to the center where we opened the
program. No matter where you walk, you’re always near
another beautiful canal. The ornamental gate at the end of this lane
is quite special. You’ll see a lion on top with a sword in his
hand. This leads into the fortress. It’s the Burcht, the Citadel of Leiden, up
on a man-made hill overlooking the city. It’s certainly worth walking up this staircase
to get to the castle. It’s an amazing space from which you have
a view of Hooglandse Kerk, one of the most important of town. The Citadel is open all day long and into
the evening with no admission charge, so you’re welcome to enter and walk around and climb
up on the ramparts. It’s up on an artificial hill called a motte
that was created during the late ninth century, the brick walls were added later. It’s a typical motte-and-bailey type construction
with the circular fortress on top. It’s one of the oldest examples of such castle
still in existence in the Netherlands. Originally it was defensive fortress situated
in a strategic spot where the two arms of the Rhine merged together, also, making it
a good place from which to inspect the shipping going by. It’s a prominent location on the highest point
in the old town, and yet, it’s surprisingly difficult to find it nowadays with so many
18th-century buildings clustered all around it, but keep looking. It’s worth discovery because of the fantastic
hill, the castle and the viewpoint. You can see in this dramatic 3D graphic from
Google Earth how the Burcht seems highly visible up on the hill, but as you’re at street level,
it kind of disappears, hiding in plain sight. It’s located next to the New Rhine canal that
we started the program out at, and now we are just crossing over to the other side,
passing through the City Hall with their open terrace courtyard cafe, and coming around
to the front side of the City Hall to admire its façade that was designed in the late
16th century, and rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1929, located along the very busy
Breestraat, one of the main shopping and transportation streets of the city. It’s limited to bicycles and buses for most
of the day, with local and intercity bus routes, such as to the Haag, you can reach in about
45 minutes, with a generous sidewalk for pedestrians and many shops, restaurants and cafés, making
this probably the busiest street in the city, especially with its proximity to the University,
where we’re going next. In the Middle Ages this street was already
one of the most important residential centers. It remains so today with shops at the ground
level and apartments upstairs. The Concert Hall is an impressive example
of Neo-Renaissance architecture that is rarely found in the Netherlands. Leiden has had a concert hall for more than
two centuries. Construction on this one was completed in
1891. Although it does not run alongside any canals,
it is still a very attractive street to experience, especially because of the lack of cars. So this is a place for people with many practical
shops and places to eat and drink. Yet perhaps the best attraction are the little
lanes that lead away from it heading over towards the University of Leiden, which bring
you into a small-town village atmosphere with a somewhat bohemian character. The neighborhood is called Peter’s Quarter
because it’s all around the church of St. Peter with many little lanes for pedestrians
and lined with shops and cafés. The map route shows our path from the Burcht
over to City Hall and into the Peter’s Quarter, for a little wander over towards the University. It’s only a few small blocks but if you are
lured to meander up and down many of the lanes because of the attractive shops, you’d be
walking over a kilometer. You might enjoy browsing around here for a
couple of hours. We’re talking about the neighborhood between
the new Rhine and the Rapenburg canal. It’s a little bit off the beaten track for
most tourists who come to Leiden, but there are some historic structures in this area
that will bring the visitor in to have a look around. So when you come over be sure to check out
those little alleys. And also the historic sites like Peter’s Church,
Gravensteen Prison, the Latin School and a few other sites, but mostly it’s the historic
overall character of this neighborhood, which is one of the oldest parts of town. Peterskerk is the namesake of this Peter’s
Quarter neighborhood which is also sometimes referred to as the Latin Quarter because of
the Latin language used for early schooling in the area. It’s believed the city’s name, Leiden was
derived from the Latin word Lugdunum. And there is evidence of ancient Roman settlements. Peterskerk is late Gothic that dates back
to 1390, but in the 1970s it was deconsecrated and converted into a museum and event space,
sometimes open to the public. Leiden’s history goes back a long, long way. People have lived on the banks of the Rhine
for millennia. Around the year 1200 the settlement had developed
such that the Count of Holland offered city rights to the inhabitants, and the city of
Leiden was born. At the end of the 15th century, Leiden was
the largest city of the County of Holland, largely thanks to the international clothmaking
industry, which was their main trade, and that prosperity is reflected in buildings
such as Peterskerk. You can tell we are getting closer to the
University campus with more students out and about on the roads. It’s one of those special times of the year
when some students are graduating, which means it’s time to have a little party. In the Netherlands they don’t all graduate
at once as a unified class. It’s more like, especially for graduate students,
individual graduation ceremonies and we will soon see one inside the academic hall. There is a perfectly beautiful outdoor restaurant
conveniently located just across the canal from the University, makes a good place to
sit down and enjoy life with your friends and celebrate your new diploma. Crossing the Rapenburg canal, we are entering
the campus of the University of Leiden. It’s the oldest college in the country, it
was founded in 1575 by Prince William of Orange, who famously gave the people of Leiden a choice
after the victory over the Spanish: they could either have a reduction in their taxes or
they could have free University. They chose the University. Right away we see its most impressive building
the Academy Building, which dates back to the 1580s. Each faculty department has its own room here
and it’s the location of all important ceremonies, especially graduations. The university began in this building, which
started out as a chapel of a former Dominican convent. Then the nuns left the convent after the Reformation,
and the building was empty, so the University took it over and expanded it. Now there are 30,000 students. The Hortus Botanicus is part of the University
of Leiden and it’s the oldest botanical garden in Western Europe, aside from a couple of
gardens in Italy. It was founded in 1590, and it’s been accessible
to the public from the beginning. You’ll find that it’s a delightful place to
stroll. We had a little chat with a professor who
does some research here and also serves as a guide to tell the public about the gardens. Hi my name is Jan Hengstmengel. I’m a biologist and am working here for, ah,
well more than 20 years now as a guide. So you are retired? I’m guiding the people through this botanical
garden. Our main research subject is the family of
orchids. It’s a huge one of 35,000 different species. Our collection of living ones is about 6000. Also, the garden played a role in the tulip
phenomenon. Yeah, right. Yeah. Flowers became important to the economy, so
this garden played a big role in the economy in that way. Since some centuries we’ve called the Netherlands
the “tulip land of the world”, and now it is still an important economic factor,
I mean there are hundreds of millions of euros running in this business. And the first Dutch tulips were planted in
this garden, eventually creating a big economic boom that’s continued to this day, but not
many tulips in the garden now. To see them you want to go out to the fields
nearby Keukenhof, the famous tulip fields, especially in late April, early May. Here they’ve got some greenhouses that you
can walk into during your visit, and there are several different ethnic gardens, like
the Chinese herb garden and a Japanese pebble garden for a little Zen meditation. It’s a little reminder of how the Dutch were
able to set up a very successful trade deal with the Japanese back in 1609, the only westerners
allowed into that closed society. An especially delightful part of the garden
is the stretch along the Singel canal where you have the lawn and flower beds, and almost
a picnic ground. It’s one of the nicest canal-side environments
in the entire city. And you can only see it if you’ve paid the
small entry fee or from a canal boat tour, but nicer inside the garden. This view alone makes the entry price worthwhile. While we enjoy some final moments of peace
and beauty and tranquility in the garden, let’s listen to some thoughts from the mayor
of Leiden, who tells us: The international reputation Leiden enjoys
is a city of knowledge is one of monumental renown and a long history. New discoveries are still made in our city
every day at the University at the lives University Medical Center and at the bioscience Park
which is developed into one of the world’s strongest biomedical science clusters. Leiden boasts many attractive features as
a city rich in cultural heritage of vast wealth of history and art and science and a beautiful
vibrant city center where almost everything is within walking distance. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, in a message forwarded
to us by the Leiden Tourist Information Office, a very helpful source of information about
visiting Leiden. And now we’re walking back to our final
destination to the New Rhine canal just 800 meters away, so it’s only about a five-minute
walk. We come back to the center of town where the
Old Rhine and New Rhine canals come together at the Water Square where you have several
cafés with nice views of the canals, and the Waag, which is the old weighing house
and now it’s a popular bar. From the mid-17th century it was a place where
merchants came to weigh and trade a variety of goods. We are back in the epicenter of town where
the canals come together, the terrace cafés look out at each other, and people are here
for a good time. If you only came to Leiden for two hours,
this is the place you want to come, but you’ve seen in the program, there is so much more
of this city to enjoy. It’s worth spending one or maybe two nights. If you’re there on a Sunday the town is pretty
quiet but there is a market going on alongside the main canals. It’s a fabric market. Although it’s kind of ironic and a little
bit sad that Leiden, which had been a major manufacturer of fabrics back in the 17th,
18th, 19th centuries doesn’t make any fabric any longer. It all is imported from other countries. And that’s the way goes in the modern world,
but the fabric market is a popular place to be. If you’re there on a Saturday there is a much
bigger market – typical street market with mostly vegetables, produce, there’s clothing,
antiques, all sorts of things going on Saturday, and a smaller street market happening on Wednesday. But there’s an advantage to being in Leiden
when there’s no market going on. The town is a little bit less crowded and
so you can enjoy the streets, the lanes, the museums of the town itself without so many
people around. No matter when you come you are going to love
this city. We upload new travel movie every week so if
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