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Lovely Leiden - with a brief stop in Den Haag

We recently finished the first 21 Day Best of Europe tour this year. The tour ended on a Saturday, in Paris, and on Sunday we headed back to the Netherlands, for "us time" before our return home. We took the Thalys from Paris to Rotterdam (cheap if you buy your tickets in advance) then a local train from there to Leiden. We had TripKey chip cards for travel within the Netherlands; we recommend them highly! No standing in line to buy tickets, just tap in and out.

Once in Leiden, it was about a 15 minute walk to our hotel, the Nieuw Minerva. Our room was large - for a European hotel - and spotless. The bed was comfy, and there was enough storage for our things. The bathroom was a bit disconcerting: you had to step up to get into the bathroom, then step down again to get from the toilet area to the sink and shower. The black and white tile floor added to the confusion; I don't have depth perception, and it was like walking on a life-sized optical illusion. But I just remembered to be careful, and all was well.

The hotel staff was very friendly, there was plenty of public space on the ground floor, and the included breakfast was good. There was also a guest computer available, as well as a small library for guests.

We didn't do much our first day; finding dinner was at the top of our list. We had foolishly skipped lunch, so were getting pretty hungry. After eating, DH went back to the hotel (he wasn't feeling well,) while I headed for a grocery store for wine and fizzy water.

The next day, after cautiously eating breakfast, Stan was much better, so we headed out to explore the town. We followed Rick's Leiden walk for most of the morning, and enjoyed it very much. After a good lunch (more on that later), we continued exploring on our own, especially in the part of town north of the Rhine canals. We walked all the way to the port at the eastern end of town, and admired the old city gate.

The next day we took a side trip to Den Haag - again the TripKeys made the journey easier. In Den Haag, we took a surprisingly easy walk to the Mauritshuis Museum, with a brief detour to pick up a city map at the TI. As it happens, we didn't need the map, because there are lots of signs directing folks to the major sights.

The Mauritshuis is wonderful. Anyone who admires Dutch art should try to get there. And as a bonus, there was a special exhibit of some of Jan Steen's more serious works. After the Mauritshuis, we headed to the nearby MC Escher museum, also worth a trip. Not only is Escher's work explained and placed in artistic, social, and personal context, the palace itself is wonderful, with descriptions in every room of what the room had been used for in the past. And even better, every room has a delightful, whimsical chandelier. So it's three sights in one!

The next day, our last full day in Leiden, we museum hopped in the city itself. We went first to the Boerhaave museum of science, which we enjoyed. One word of caution, however: Rick says in the Amsterdam and Netherlands book that all the exhibits in the Boerhaave are explained in English. That's not true. Most of the exhibits are only described in Dutch, although some also have English explication. There is an audioguide available in English, but you must leave an ID to check one out.

After the Boerhaave, we went to the Valk, the windmill museum. That was the highlight of our stay. We were apprehensive about it, because Rick makes it sound much more strenuous than it was. There is lots of stair climbing, and the stairs are narrow and steep, but you stop at every floor to study the exhibits, so it's not tiring.

Then to top off the day we made a brief visit to the Volkenkunde ethnographic museum. We didn't have much time there, but it was obvious the collection is very impressive. We spent all our time in the Indonesian room.

Posted by
2491 posts

Thanks for a lovely report. I visited the Mauritshuis museum at the end of April and loved it. I thought the Jan Steen exhibit was exceptional and also loved the permanent collection, what’s to like? Rembrandt, Vermeer, wow! The trains in Holland are so efficient and easy to use! We also went to Keukenhof, did you see the tulips?

Posted by
6363 posts

Lo, I had forgotten you had been to Leiden. Judy B, the BOE tour went to Keukenhof, so yes indeed, we did get to see the amazing displays.

Posted by
6363 posts

I was tired last night when I posted this, and forgot to include a big THANK YOU to all the folks on this forum who gave us such great advice, especially tonfromleiden. The tips about train travel, TripKeys, and the museumkaart just made our whole trip so much more enjoyable. Thank you all very much.