Leiden has 12 fantastic museums all in walking distance of one another.
Dinosaur skeletons, masterpieces by Rembrandt and Lievens, Wajang puppets from Indonesia, the medical history of bloodletting and breast prosthetics, an Egyptian temple, treasures from Japan and everything about the relief of Leyden: you will find all of this and more in Leiden's museums.
Museum De Lakenhal
Experience the city culture of Leiden from the 16th century to the present day. The Lakenhal, once the centre of the Leiden cloth industry, houses masterpieces by Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and many other celebrated masters. In the museum’s stylish exhibition rooms you can enjoy collections of tin, tiles, glass and silver. The temporary exhibitions reflect traditional and present-day art, and display contemporary and historic artefacts.
Discover five centuries of natural science and medicine in the Boerhaave Museum. Key exhibits include the microscopes used by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and the oldest pendulum clock, that belonged to Christiaan Huygens, not to mention the ultra-low temperature equipment used by Kamerlingh Onnes. You can carry out physics experiments yourself or try out your skills with models of historic instruments. The most spectacular part of the museum has to be the Anatomical Theatre with its sensational exhibition of human and animal skeletons. The museum is located in the old Cecilia hospital, on hallowed ground where Professor Herman Boerhaave gave his famous lessons at the patient’s bedside.
More than four centuries of collecting, cultivating and studying have produced Leiden University’s wonderful teaching garden with its plants from all corners of the world. The prize exhibit of the Hortus is the famous Victoria amazonica, the giant water lily. Strolling through the garden you’ll come across giant trees like the Ginkgo biloba planted here in 1785. Make sure you don’t miss the Clusius garden, a reconstruction of the first garden created in 1594, and the tranquil Japanese garden.
The world-class natural history collection of the Naturalis museum is packed with exhibits of animals, plants, minerals and fossils. Wonder at the dinosaurs, the prehistoric horse and the mammoth. Learn about the enormous diversity and beauty of nature. Be inspired by the wealth of colours and shapes, now and in the billions of years of the earth’s history. Naturalis never stands still: there are always new exhibitions, workshops, tours and special activities for children.
In Leiden’s SieboldHouse you can see the most beautiful exhibits from ancient and modern Japan in a historic Dutch house. Seven rooms, each with its own distinct ambience, show you thousands of natural, artistic and cultural treasures. There are prints, fossils, ceramics, mounted animals, ancient maps and thousands of other treasures, all collected in the nineteenth century by German doctor Philipp Franz von Siebold. The temporary exhibitions display modern Japanese and Dutch design and major items from collections on loan.
National Museum of Antiquities
Learn about numerous treasures from rich ancient cultures and meet the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Discover the world-class collection of mummies and sarcophagi, and actually walk in one of the museum’s showpieces, a real Egyptian temple. The museum tells the complete history of the Netherlands, from ancient times to the present day. Film clips and interactive multimedia make this a lively visit that can be enjoyed and understood by young and old.
National Museum of Ethnology
Make a world trip in your own country, travelling from Indonesia to Africa and from North America to China. Discover art treasures thousands of years old, Inca and Aztec statues, Chinese paintings and African bronzes. Ever since 1837, the National Museum of Ethnology has housed worldfamous collections on diverse non-Western cultures. Everyday tools used by ordinary people whose only aim was survival make this a very special collection.
The Pilgrim Archives present a surprising view of a unique part of Leiden’s history: the story of the Pilgrims. These English Protestants fled from England to escape the harsh regime of the established church. They lived and worked in Leiden from 1609 until 1620, when they departed for America. Learn about their history and about the Leiden of the seventeenth century that was their home.
Leiden American Pilgrim Museum
The Leiden American Pilgrim museum tells the stories of the founders of New England, the Pilgrims. Furnishings from Pilgrim times show aspects of daily life, while events involving the Pilgrims themselves are illustrated with a collection of sixteenth and seventeenth-century maps and engravings by such artists as Gerard Mercator, Adrian van de Venne, and Jacques de Gheyn.
The Leiden Weaver’s House
The Leiden Weaver’s House is an ordinary house in an ordinary street. The house itself is the only museum exhibit. There’s no permanent collection, only temporary exhibitions. Step a hundred years back in time and learn about the cloth-making industry, the graphics industry and the conserves industry. You can even examine the antique weaving loom that is still in working order today.
Academic Historical Museum
This museum’s vast collection is housed in the Academy Building and comprises objects, photographs and documents on the history of the university and student life.