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Leiden travel guide — Leiden tourism and travel information

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about Leiden

Leiden (also Leyden in English) is a city and municipality in South Holland, The Netherlands. It forms one urban area with Oegstgeest, Leiderdorp and Voorschoten. It is located on the Old Rhine, 24 kilometers or 15 miles S.S.W. of Haarlem.

Leiden history

The population of Leiden which, it is estimated, reached 100,000 in 1640, had sunk to 30,000 between 1796 and 1811, and in 1904 was 56,044.

The two branches of the Rhine which enter Leiden on the east unite in the centre of the town, which is further intersected by numerous small and sombre canals, with tree-bordered quays and old houses. On the south side of the town, gardens extend along the old Singel, or outer canal, and there is a large open space, the Van der Werff Park, named after the burgomaster, Pieter Andriaanszoon van der Werff, who defended the town against the Spaniards in 1574. This open space was formed by the accidental explosion of a powdership in 1807, hundreds of houses being demolished, including that of the Elzevier family of printers.

At the junction of the two arms of the Rhine stands the old castle (De Burcht or Burgt), a circular tower built on an earthen mound. Its origin is unknown, but some connect it with Roman days and others with the Saxon, Hengist.

Of Leiden's old gateways only two, both dating from the end of the 17th century, are standing.

Of the numerous churches the chief are the Hooglandsche Kerk, or the church of St Pancras, built in the 15th century and restored in 1885? 1902, containing the monument of Pieter Andriaanszoon van der Werff, and the Pieterskerk (1315) with monuments to Scaliger, Boerhaave and other famous scholars.

From a historical perspective, also the Marekerk is interesting. Arent van ´s Gravesande, the town's architect, designed the church in 1639. Other fine examples of his work in Leiden are De Lakenhal (Oude Singel 28, in which building the municipal museum is located) and the Bibliotheca Thysiana (Rapenburg 25). The growing town needed another church and the Marekerk was the first church to be built in Leiden after the Reformation. It is an example of Dutch classicism. In the drawings by Van ´s Gravesande one can is the centrepiece of the church. The pulpit is modelled after the one in the Nieuwe Kerk at Haarlem (designed by Jacob van Campen). The building was first used in 1650, and is still used twice every Sunday by the members of the parish.

The most interesting buildings are the town hall (Stadhuis), a fine example of 16th century Dutch building (badly damaged by a fire in 1929); the Gemeeislandshuis van Rynland (1596, restored 1878); the weight-house built by Pieter Post (16~8); the former court-house; and the ancient gymnasium (1599) and the so-called city timberhouse (Stads Timmerhuis) (1612), both built by Lieven de Key (c. 1560?1627).

Leiden remains essentially an academic city. The University of Leiden is a flourishing institution. It was founded by William of Orange in 1575 as a reward for the heroic defence of the previous year, the tradition being that the citizens were offered the choice between a university and a certain exemption from taxes.

Among the institutions connected with the university are the national institution for East Indian languages, ethnology and geography; the fine botanical gardens, founded in 1587; the observatory (1860); the natural history museum, with a very complete anatomical cabinet; the museum of antiquities (Rijksmuseum van Oudheden), with specially valuable Egyptian and Indian departments; a museum of Dutch antiquities from the earliest times; and three ethnographical museums, of which the nucleus was P. F. von Siebold's Japanese collections. The anatomical and pathological laboratories of the university are modern, and the museums of geology and mineralogy have been restored.

The municipal museum, founded in 1869 and located in the old cloth-hall (Laeckenhalle) (1640), contains a varied collection of antiquities connected with Leiden, as well as some paintings including works by the elder van Swanenbergh, Cornelius Engelbrechtszoon, Lucas van Leiden and Jan Steen, who were all natives of Leiden. Jan van Goyen, Gabriel Metsu, Gerard Dou and Rembrandt were also natives of this town. There is also a small collection of paintings in the Meermansburg.

The Thysian library occupies an old Renaissance building of the year 1655, and is especially rich in legal works and native chronicles. Noteworthy also are the collection of the Society of Dutch Literature (1766); the collections of casts and of engravings; the seamen's training school; the Remonstrant seminary, transferred hither from Amsterdam in 1873; the two hospitals (one of which is private); the house of correction; and the court-house.

Leiden is an ancient town, although it is not the Lugdunum Batavorum of the Romans. Its early name was Leithen, and it was governed until 1420 by burgraves, the representatives of the courts of Holland. It received city rights in 1266.

Yearly on October 3 the end of the siege by the Spaniards in 1574 is still celebrated. Besieged from May until October, it was relieved by the cutting of the dikes, thus enabling ships to carry provisions to the inhabitants of the flooded town.

The weaving establishments (mainly broadcloth) of Leiden at the close of the 15th century were very important, and after the expulsion of the Spaniards Leiden cloth, Leiden baize and Leiden camlet were familiar terms. These industries afterwards declined, and in the beginning of the 19th century the baize manufacture was altogether given up. Linen and woollen manufactures are now the most important industries, while there is a considerable transit trade in butter and cheese.

Leiden is also notable as one of the places where some of the 'Pilgrim Fathers' lived for a time in the early 17th century before departure for the new world.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Leiden".

This city is also known as: Leiden.

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