Saturday, December 25, 2021

A City of Keys- Leiden


The beautiful country The Netherlands has some unique and delightful places. A country known for the tulips, cheese and beautiful canals has a few gems that are not too well known. Leiden a small university town is also known as the ‘city of keys. A pair of keys can be seen all over the city and has an interesting legend behind this. According to the Gospel of Mathew, Saint Peter was given the ‘Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is why Peter is shown holding a pair of keys. The city’s ‘Coat of Arms and flag shows pair of keys and the same can be seen all over the city on different monuments.


The small town is steeped in history, It was held in a siege by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.  On 3rd Oct 1574, the Spaniards fled leaving behind virtually no food except white bread, herring and a pot of turnip mashed potatoes, parsnip and carrots. Every year there are celebrations of food, fireworks, music and funfairs in the city on this day. The city is also known for the wave of immigrants who left the shores of the city to arrive in the USA to lay the foundations of the present-day nation. Today they have 25 million descendants including nine presidents, including Barack Obama. The story of pilgrims unfolds in St Peter’s church and the houses around which these pilgrims once stayed. There are almost 35 courtyards with gardens that were once inhabited by the pilgrims. The visitors can visit these, respecting the privacy of the residents

The famous Dutch painter Rembrandt was a contemporary of the Pilgrims. A statue and the house where he once lived are in the vicinity. Jean Pesijnhofje or the almhouse was the place where John Robinson lived till 1625 and his next-generation sailed to the shores of America and are known as Pilgrims fathers. 

The city has remained as one of the greatest centres of learning and boasts of one of the finest universities. It has been the home to the likes of Rene Descartes, Rembrandt, Huygens and Hugo Grotius each attained prominence in different arenas. The university has produced sixteen Nobel laureates to date.

Leiden has a network of 28 km of canals that adds to the beauty and grandeur of the city. It has over 88 bridges to cross these canals within the city. The city is adorned with over 2800 sights which makes it difficult for a visitor to choose where to look for when you arrive! There are a maze of gardens, churches, quaint buildings, windmills, restaurants, speciality treats to name a few.

 There are almost infinite eating options ranging from traditional Dutch restaurants to, Chinese, Vietnamese and almost every food one desires to eat. There are bakeries that are almost 200 years old that churn out the best broodjes , breads and cakes.

The city has given the world so much including the first tulip sapling that was first grown here. The famous botanist Charles Clusius arrived in Leiden with the bulbs of tulips that were mistaken for onions due to their resemblance, for planting in the botanical garden of the university. The prices of tulips soared over the years and today Holland is associated with tulips everywhere in the world.

Christmas time in the city is full of festivities like anywhere else .The floating Christmas markets located in the midst of the city run for 10 days with non stop parties, hot chocolates , mulled wine  and music. It is an unforgettable experience to visit this lovely city

PS: All pics are mine


  1. An interesting place you have introduced to your readers who are not aware like me :) I am sure your photos did not do enough justice to the place :)

    1. Thanks a lot Latha! So good to connect again and yes, the pictures cannot capture the be sauth that eyes see:)

    2. Thanks a lot Latha! So good to connect again and yes, the pictures cannot capture the be sauth that eyes see:)

  2. leiden - never knew of this place till I read this post.
    so much history to this small city! wonderful to read about it.

    had to google to see what is broodjes :)