Leiden, The Netherlands

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The Molen de Valk

The Molen de Valk

  Gorgeous Leiden and its Top Attractions   By Maxime Landemaine   Located in the Netherlands, Leiden is called Little Amsterdam because of the 17 miles of canals that run through it. Located 12 miles from the Hague and seven miles from the North Sea, tourists are drawn to the city’s cultural landmarks and the beauty of its historic center.   Little Amsterdam   When visiting the old town, there’s nothing better than cruising along the canals. From the water, monuments such as the Corn Bridge appear in all their glory. The bridge, which previously stocked and sold corn, dates back to 1642, but the roof was added in 1825. It bears the coat of arms of Leiden, which depicts two crossed keys.  
The Corn Bridge was where grain was stocked and sold

The Corn Bridge

  Several gates have been erected at the threshold of the historic center, such as the Doelenpoort, which dates back to 1645. A sculpture of Saint George slaying the dragon sits on top. Other noticeable landmarks include two mills, churches and gabled houses.   Leiden is full of surprises for those exploring on foot, as well — most notably in the charming courtyards of its former hospices. The tower of a demolished fort still caps the hill at the beginning of the Nieuwstraat. From here, strollers enjoy a commanding and panoramic view of the surroundings. A stop at City Hall is recommended too — its magnificent and gabled façade is four centuries old.   A Place of Pilgrimage   The oldest church in town is the Pieterskerk, which was erected in 1121, then rebuilt in 1390 and expanded over the ages. On one of its walls is a memorial plaque for pastor John Robinson. He encouraged the Pilgrim Fathers to board the Mayflower in 1620 to found New England; he died five years later. The Pilgrims lived in Leiden for 12 years before sailing the Atlantic Ocean. Their story is traced in a 14th-century mansion that houses the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum.   A Cultural City Among art lovers, Leiden is renowned for being the birthplace of Rembrandt, who lived there for 25 years before moving to Amsterdam. In Rembrandtplein, a statue depicting the artist as a teen stands erect near the place where he spent his childhood.  
The museum houses works by master painters, such as Rembrandt

Museum De Lakenhal

  Cultural life is bustling here, thanks to the city’s 13 museums, including four national ones. The Museum De Lakenhal focuses primarily on decorative arts, but it also showcases several paintings from van Leyden, a Flemish master inspired by the Italian Renaissance, and some private artwork from the young Rembrandt. The city is also home to Hortus Botanicus Leiden, the historic botanical gardens where tulips were planted in Dutch soil for the first time in 1593. It features many rare plants and trees from all over the world.   The Global Imaginations Exhibit Global Imaginations, a temporary exhibit, celebrates the cultural buzz of the city. It’s presented by the Museum De Lakenhal through October 4 at the Meelfabriek, a huge flour mill that was shut down in the 1980s. Thirty works from an international lineup of artists are showcased and reveal their views on the modern world and globalization.   Among the most notable works is “Plastic Bags” from Pascale Marthine Tayou, which is comprised of 15,000 multi-colored plastic bags coating a huge phallus-shaped framework — an arresting commentary on the defiling of nature. Meschac Gaba is the author of “Citoyens du Monde,” a computer-made flag. Stretched out between two buildings, it incorporates the flags of all the existing nations.   As a sign that Leiden is ceaselessly moving forward, the Meelfabriek, a remnant of its industrial past, is slated to become a hotel with restaurants, bars and shops.   For more information on Leiden, visit the official website.   Related Content:   The Netherlands Travel Guide   Global Imaginations Exhibit