4 Lovely Days in Leiden, Netherlands
Day 1 - Friday
Our second stop in the Netherlands would be Leiden, which is a 15 minute train journey from Rotterdam Centraal.
We arrived into Leiden Centraal shortly before midday and made our way through the town to meet our AirBnB host, Joop. We were early for check in but Joop graciously allowed us to check in early and drop off our bags. He also greeted us with a bottle of wine and some beer, which is yet another example of the lovely hospitality of the dutch and also a great way to edge yourself towards a five star review early.
On the walk from the station to our AirBnB, I started to realize how poor my Dutch actually is. I’ve been saying “Leiden” like “Lee-den” and am now hearing the locals call it “Lay-den”. I also pronounced “Joop” with a hard “j” and after he introduces himself, I realise I should be using a soft “j” instead like “yoop” (What a cool name!). Though I’m now convinced I’m embarrasing myself every time I open my mouth, we head out into town anyway.
When we arrive in new places the first thing we like to do is take a bit of an aimless walk around to learn the streets and what they have to offer. While walking through the winding canals and into the many waterside businesses we start falling in love with Leiden pretty quickly. The colourful streets, the big city flavours with small town vibes have us in a very comfortable place and we’re excited for the next few days. We take lots of photos before going to Better Bagels for a mid afternoon snack.
We headed to Better Bagels which is right in the heart of the city. They have a variety of different flavoured bagels to choose from, as well as a full menu of different style toppings. I had a “Fabulous Vegan” which has sun-dried tomatoes, horseradish, pickles and greens on a Jalapeno Bagel - and it was fantastic. I could have easily had a second one, but we left before I could - which is probably a good thing. On the way out, I saw the had an “everything bagel” and a “double everything bagel”, so I think we may have to come back.
Day 2 - Saturday
Today was going to be a BIG day. Ash had centered our itinerary for Europe almost exclusively around being in Leiden on this day, because it is the day of the great “Bloemencorso” (or “Flower Parade”). And she’s been excited about it for months.
We woke at around 7:30am and Ash was already a ball of energy and smiles. The parade was due to start shortly after midday, so we had a relaxed breakfast and then headed to Leiden Centraal Station for the ten minute trip to Sassenheim where the Parade would pass through. We arrived with a bit over an hour before the parade was due to start and this allowed us to camp out our spots to ensure we got a good view. As the time drew near, the police started coming through to clear the streets and and shortly after we soon started seeing the floats start rolling on by.
In total there were more than 20 massive parade floats, decorated with everything from Dinosaurs to Bullet Trains. I was able to appreciate the floats from a creative perspective, but Ash was looking at all the minute details of how they constructed the floats and the arrangements, as well as the flower selection and different varieties used here on the other side of the world.
The parade stopped after all the floats had passed and everyone was able to walk around and admire the floats individually. When the floats were stationary it was also much easier to see exactly how much detail had gone into their construction. My favourites had to be the Phoenix, the T-Rex and the Duck. Honorable mentions also go to the Specsavers and Thailand floats.
After several hours marveling at the floats, we headed back into Leiden where the Saturday Farmers Markets we’re still going along Botermarkt. We’d been eating our fairly regularly, and our AirBnB had an oven this time so we wanted to take advantage of that while we could. We picked up some fresh pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes and headed back to the flat for a baked dinner. The local produce was fantastic!
Day 3 - Sunday
We’d planned to go to the Haag today, but Ash wasn’t feeling great. After having a “take it easy day” in Paris and finding that to be a good way to break up the travel and recover from the travel fatigue, we decided to do it again and stay in.
This ended up being a good for a couple of reasons. Ash was able to do some more planning for our trip to Germany and Prague. I was also able to catch up on some of my writing (including this post), and we’ll as some of the photos and videos from the trip so far.
While the temptation is to go go go while travelling abroad, it’s important to take a break and recoup as well. We think we might try to do this one day per week and see how that goes.
Day 4 - Monday
As an encore to the flower parade on Saturday, we’d set aside our last day in Leiden to visit the famous gardens of Keukenhof.
Keukenhof is only open to the public for 8 weeks of the year during the middle of spring, so if you’re planning to go it’s super important to plan your trip for around late March to early May. The gardens are approximately 30 minutes from Leiden by bus, and the €25 combined ticket that you can buy on their website includes admission and return bus fare from Leiden Centraal station.
We bought our tickets the day before and had read it was best to go as early as possible to beat the crowds. Our bus arrived at Keukenhof around 8am and we were greeted by some of the most elaborate gardens I’ve ever seen.
Even though we arrived around opening time, there was already a decent amount of people there but it was enough that we could still walk around and lose sight of the others. Once it hit 10:30am and the tour busses started arriving, there were crowds everywhere and the place quickly started to feel like an amusement park.
Despite the huge amounts of people, we were still able to get around the gardens with relative ease and see all the different arrangements, gardens and the many varieties of tulips that were on display.
Keukenhof even has a special greenhouse where they grow lots of the different varieties side by side so you can see all the different tulip colours and textures for yourself. Here are some of my favourites:
The gardens are so large and fun that we were traipsing around them until mid afternoon, admiring many of the display more than once. There was a heavy amount of stopping for photos during all that, and I think this is perhaps one of the most Instagrammable locations in Europe.
We caught the bus back home and spent the night in, content with all the floral fun we’d had in Leiden the past few days.