If you have some days in Netherland, do not miss Leiden, one of the most beautiful old towns in Netherlands.
Leiden is a town of Dutch province, located in South of Netherlands, about 40km from Amsterdam. From Amsterdam, the Intercity train will bring you to Leiden in 25 minutes. Taking about Leiden, I can’t help but mentioning Leiden University, the oldest institute of higher education built in 1575, that still maintains its beauty of ancient. You probably would not forget about the 300-year-old houses hidden in quiet alleys, the pathway abraded by walk, the old walls covered by ivies and the wooden doors worn down by time. Leiden is also the home town of Rembrandt, a well-known painter and printmaker.
Ancient homes actually do not have a significant different appearance from modern homes, at least in my eyes. However you can recognize them by the sign of preservation on the top of the gate. Some homes are marked with the year of building next to that sign. The entrance, made with small wooden door, leads to what so-called a beautiful and surprising world. It was thought that the living room sits right after the door, but it is actually a garden of colorful flowers or green lawn. The gardens are surrounded by small paths to the homes, which are really individual homes! What so-called a house is actually a compound of 3-4 small houses. These families share the common areas and live as a big family.
Behind the door
The common garden of the compound surrounding by homes
Same as Amsterdam, Leiden has a lot of canals with old bridges and the city allows boat-house residency and boat parking on canals. The town is covered by green trees, lawns and water canals, making the town so peaceful.
Another type of attraction that you should not miss is museums. There are large museums with precious antiques like Volkenkunde, National Museum of Antiquities and particularly Molenmuseum de Valk, the symbol of Leiden. Molenmuseum de Valk has the shape of an old-age windmill by lakeside. It exhibits items introducing the history of windmill and the windmill building process in the past. I was able to take several photos about this beautiful museums.
The windmill museum Molenmuseum de Valk
I have been wandering in Leiden for 3 days, just to admire the centuries old architectures and watch the peaceful life by the canals of this ancient town. If you visit Leiden, do not miss the famous Botanic Garden of Leiden University, Pieterskerk Church (this church is no longer used for worship but for cultural activities now), the ancient bridge Molen de Put, De Burcht fortress, old marketplace and walls with poem. At the foot of the De Burcht fortress hill, I met a Vietnamese woman selling hot sausages. Being able to eat the hot grilled sausages in cold weather and speak Vietnamese with a countrywoman, there is nothing better. There was another day that I was able to visit the old marketplace by the river, enjoy the local breakfast with a cup of coffee, watch the boats and people busily doing trading, and listen to the bustling sounds like the countryside marketplace in my childhood.
Old Bridge Molen de Put
Fortress De Burcht
Breakfast counters in the old marketplace
Poem on the wall
Beside quiet alleys, Leiden also has central roads with souvenir shops and small roadside eateries. I spent a lot of time choosing small and cute souvenirs like windmills, wooden clogs, ceramic plates with ancient Dutch textures (look like Chinese or ancient Vietnam porcelain), embroidery winter slippers, lovely chocolate boxes, etc.
If I had to choose, I would chose to stay longer in Leiden instead of Amsterdam. Leiden has ancient features and the peace that a big city like Amsterdam does not have.
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