I've always dreamed about going to the Netherlands and was very excited to book a trip to Amsterdam. But I knew that I would have one morning free and I also really wanted to get out of the capital and see a town that was much smaller and more 'authentic' which is when I settled on Leiden. Leiden is a smaller city 25 miles south of Amsterdam. I bought a return train ticket(€19) and after accidentally getting on a train to Berlin before finding the right one(now that could have been a disaster) I found myself leaving the crowded streets of Amsterdam behind me. The train only took about 30 minutes and I saw so much of the countryside from the train whilst speaking to the people across from me. During my trip I discovered that old Dutch people are super nice and everyone seems to speak really good English!
Leiden is a university city. In fact, it's home to the oldest university in the Netherlands. When I was telling my flatmate about the trip I described it as the St Andrews of the Netherlands and I think that's a pretty good comparison! I didn't have any tourist attractions planned out I just wanted to walk along the canals and check out the university buildings. The town is very easy to navigate and as it was a really clear, sunny day when I went it was just such a lovely place for a walk. Literally everyone was on bikes and I could kind of work out my way towards the university by following where the 'studenty types' were going. It's a really beautiful campus! They also have a botanical gardens as part of their campus. I would have loved to have gone in but I only had about three hours in the city and I feel like botanical gardens are places where I'd prefer to spend whole days!
As the day wore on I got quite hungry and went on the hunt for some lunch. I popped into a bakery and had a gevulde koeken which is an almond paste cookie. It was absolutely delicious. I thought it was some sort of pastry, I only realised that I just ate a cookie for lunch as I was googling it for this post. Oh well, when in Leiden right? I'd bought some crisps and strawberries from a supermarket so I took the cookie to one of the many benches and ate my lunch infront of the canals with the sun on my face. Lovely! I then had a look around some adorable little shops before heading back to the train station.
I had a wonderful time in Leiden and it was the highlight of my trip to the Netherlands. I would definitely recommend taking a day trip there if you are visiting Amsterdam. I enjoyed Amsterdam but I'm not in any rush to back. I would, however, love to return to Leiden and wish I'd had more time to spend there!