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Visiting Leiden, The Netherlands, and its City Hall: 17th century Renaissance-style architecture by Lieven de Key

Updated on December 6, 2011
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
City Hall, Breestraat, Leiden
City Hall, Breestraat, Leiden | Source
View of Leiden City Hall, by Carel Jacobus Behr (1812-1895)
View of Leiden City Hall, by Carel Jacobus Behr (1812-1895) | Source
Map location of Leiden, South Holland, The Netherlands
Map location of Leiden, South Holland, The Netherlands | Source

An ornate frontage from the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age

This remarkable building in Leiden, The Netherlands, is noted for its ornate frontage.

Some history and features

The work of Lieven de Key (1560-1627), the fine frontage of this building, which is the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ) dates from 1600, at a time when The Netherlands was entering its Golden Age. Architect de Key worked for many years for the city of Haarlem, in which city he was particularly noted for the Vleeshal building. He began work on the CIty Hall, Leiden, in the closing years of the 16th century.

I was particularly struck by the elaborate steps at the City Hall's entrance. The tower, showing eclectic influences, is a prominent landmark.

In the 17th century, Leiden was the second largest city of The Netherlands, after Amsterdam. The City Hall was thus the administrative centre for a prosperous municipality, symbolized in a measure by the opulence of the building's style. Today, the city is twinned with Oxford, England.

After a destructive fire in 1929, rebuilding of the City Hall was overseen by Architect Cornelis Blauw (1885-1947).

Close to the City Hall are the banks of the New Rhine River (Dutch: Nieuwe Rijn). As a city, Leiden seemed to me to be among the most sedate of cities: partly because it is much smaller than other 'Randstad' cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam and partly because of the presence of its venerable university.

Leiden is situated in the Dutch province of South Holland (Dutch: Zuid-Holland ). The City Hall is located in Breestraat .

Note on spelling

The standard Dutch spelling for the name of the city is 'Leiden'. In English, particularly in earlier writing, the spelling 'Leyden' was common. However, even in English, there is an increasing tendency to spell the name 'Leiden', according to the Dutch way; I have conformed to this tendency.

Also worth seeing

In Leiden itself, the University's main building is the hub of an ancient and highly respected seat of learning. The Hortus Botanicus is a venerable botanic garden, dating from the 16th century, to which Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was a regular visitor. Leiden's castle (Dutch: Burcht van Leiden ) is Medieval. The City has historical associations with the Mayflower Pilgrims.

The Hague (Dutch: Den Haag ; distance: 18 kilometres) has many noted buildings, including the Peace Palace, the Binnenhof and the Huis ten Bosch.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Leiden . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 5 years ago

      Yes, Leiden is a remarkable and historic city. Thank-you for your comment.

    • lilalollie profile image

      lilalollie 5 years ago from The Netherlands

      Hi, interesting to read your hub about Leiden. I currently live in this city. Wonderful, and there is so much to do and see. Maybe I'll write something about Leiden too.

      Thanks for your nice hub about Leiden!


    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 6 years ago

      Sottway: Yes, Leiden is an interesting city. Thank-you for your comment.

    • Sottway profile image

      Infopedia 6 years ago from Worldwide

      Interesting little hub MJFENN