It’s almost springtime! (kind of). If you’re heading to The Netherlands this April to check out the tulip fields, I’m sure Amsterdam is on your agenda. It might even be where you decide to stay for your trip. While Amsterdam is amazing (see my guide here), I want to introduce you to it’s smaller, academic little brother: Leiden. I stayed 3 nights in Leiden when I visited The Netherlands I’m going to tell you 5 reasons why you should visit Leiden.
1: The Location
Leiden is located only 30 minutes from Amsterdam by train and only 20 minutes by bus to the famous Keukenhof Garden in Lisse. This makes it the perfect spot for you to set up camp if you want to check out the tulips. It’s also only 15 minutes from The Hague by train which is also worth checking out.
It’s proximity to Keukenhof makes for an easy day trip. During tulip season there are busses that leave regularly from the Leiden Central Train Station. You can buy a bus ticket + garden entrance combo online here for €27.50. If it’s peak tulip season, there will be a line but they run things pretty efficiently. Also be prepared for traffic approaching Lisse.
2: The Size
Leiden’s population is 120,000, making it about 1/8th of the size of Amsterdam. This means that you get the beautiful canals, boats, architecture and charm of a Dutch city, but in a much more manageable size. Once you’re in the center, the city is very walkable. It’s easy to get happily lost amongst it’s cobblestone streets.
Trust me: if you visit The Netherlands in April it will be crowded! After a day at busy Keukenhof, it was nice to come back to a smaller and less crowded city like Leiden vs. Amsterdam.
3: The Market
Leiden has a large market every Saturday and Wednesday that brings a large number of vendors selling traditional Dutch food and other goodies. Cheese, stroopwafels, herring? It’s all there! Even if you’re skeptical, trying Dutch herring is a right of passage you should not miss. Order it with onions and hold the whole fish (don’t worry, it’s small) by the tail as you strip the meat from the bone with your mouth. This is the Dutch way, I was told. Or, you can play it safe and just eat it with a little fork like I did!
4: The Vibe
20,000 of Leiden’s residents are students, thanks to the large university in the city. This gives the city a vibrant and youthful energy that you feel when you’re walking around. I happened to visit on a bank holiday and I loved watching all the boats come through the canals with students and young professionals celebrating their day off.
Perhaps because of it’s student population, Leiden has no shortage of bars, pubs, cafes & restaurants to choose from. Also, Indonesia was once a Dutch colony, so make sure to try Indonesian cuisine while you are there.
5: The Wall Poems
Another unique feature of Leiden is it’s collection of wall poetry! Thanks to a project initiated by the Tegen-Beeld Foundation, over 100 poems in several different languages decorate Leiden’s walls & buildings. There is a map on the foundation website where you can find specific routes to view the poems, or you can explore and stumble upon them on your own if you prefer.
Ready to Go?
Well, there you have it: 5 Reasons to Visit Leiden in The Netherlands! I hope this makes you consider making Leiden part of your Netherlands trip this spring!
So, you are planning a solo female travel trip to Amsterdam? Are you wondering what to do or even worried about safety and security?
Don’t worry! I’m providing my experience of solo female travel in Amsterdam with all the practical information you’ll need to plan your most perfect girly trip.
For a lot of Americans at least, people associate the city with legalized marijuana (actually this isn’t even true) and the red-light district. In fact, according to Lonely Planet, recent polls have shown that only 7% of the Dutch people actually use pot and only 5% of customers frequenting the red-light district are Dutch. So, when I decided to take my first solo trip to this city, I wasn’t really sure what my experience with solo female travel in Amsterdam would be.
The short of it: 1. I was pleasantly surprised, and 2. I wanted more time.
Solo Female Travel in Amsterdam : Where to Stay
My first task as a solo female traveler was finding a safe, clean, well-located yet affordable place to stay. And let me tell you, that last part wasn’t easy. Hotels in Amsterdam are generally expensive and during this time of year even more so. Even so, I was able to book a room at Hotel Adolesce for 100 euros/night. There was a bit of a mishap with my dates and ended up booking the wrong night (LOL), but the owner was so kind in letting me switch and giving me an even larger room with a canal view.
The hotel is a bit out of the crazy tourist zone and it’s nice to return to a quiet and calm location after sightseeing, But, it was still within a 20 minute walk to all the major sights. I would 100% stay here again and would recommend it as an affordable option in Amsterdam for solo, couple or friends traveling.
When visiting a new city, I like to spend some time just walking around and getting a feel for the energy and culture. Actually, I walked an average of 10 miles per day on the two days I was there! Here are some of the highlights:
Van Gogh Museum
This was my #1 priority for my Amsterdam visit and it did not disappoint. Make sure to pre-book your tickets here as soon as you know you are going to Amsterdam because it will sell out. I booked my tickets about a month in advance. This is also true for the Anne Frank House (see below), which unfortunately I didn’t realize and the tickets for the dates for my visit were sold out. If you love Van Gogh’s art and are interested in his life, I would definitely recommend making this a priority. I also recommend getting the audio guide for 5 Euros more as it gives you so much more background into Van Gogh’s works and life.
Moco Museum – Banksy Exhibit
I hadn’t planned on visiting this museum, because I didn’t know about it before my trip, but I’m so glad I decided to stop by. You really only need an hour or less and if you’re interested in Banksy’s art and street art in general, it’s a nice way to spend a little time. Also it stays open late: 7pm during the week and 8pm on Friday and Saturday. The Banksy Exhibit runs through September 2019 and you can pre-order your tickets online for a discount here.
This is kind of a no-brainer. If you want to see a good portion of the city while learning about the history and architecture, a Canal Tour is really the best way to do it. There are several companies that offer them, and I chose to use Lovers Canal Cruise for no reason other than I found them first. Most tours originate near Centraal Station, and you can buy tickets there or at one of several tourist offices. Pre-booking didn’t seem to be necessary, I bought a ticket the day of for a boat leaving 1/2 hour from my time of purchase.
I loved this neighborhood! Beautiful Canals, cute shops and quaint streets – this area was my favorite part of Amsterdam. I’ve linked shop and food/bar info below.
Floating Flower Market
Touristy? Yes. But it’s fun to walk through and a nice spot to buy souvenirs, from tulip bulbs, to off brand Delftware and everything in between. Make it the last stop of your daily exploring and stock up on goodies for yourself and your people back home – just make sure you get there before it closes at 5:30pm. Find more info here.
Red Light District
Yes – I was curious. So I decided to walk around the RLD and check it out. I was a little worried to go at night, but honestly I had no need to be worried. Going at 9pm it was super crowded – men, women, families, groups of tourist. I felt perfectly safe. And it was indeed something to see, but I only needed 15 minutes or so. If I were to go again I would have visited the Museum of Prostitution for background and context.
As a solo female traveler, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay too late because I imagine it only gets rowdier.
If I would have had more time I would have visited more museums, particularly the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House. Additionally, it would be nice to take a chill day and hang out in the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest green space. Next time!
Eat & Drink
It’s funny, as a solo traveler, eating in a restaurant wasn’t a priority for me. My days consisted of walking around till I got hungry and then grabbing something on the go, because for some reason a high-end or atmospheric dining situation is much more enjoyable with another person. My “Amsterdam Diet” was walking 10 miles, stroopwafels for breakfast and vlaamse frites for dinner. That said, I did eat well, including a nice sit down lunch on a canal that I treated myself to (solo travel tip: when dining alone it’s fun to set yourself up at a place where you can people watch).
Great place to grab a healthy lunch adjecent to the Jordaan. If you can and the weather permits, grab one of their canal side tables and enjoy the people watching. The burger is famous here but they also have other choices, including vegetarian options. Also very affordable!
Polaberry| Prinsengracht 232 H, 1016 HE Amsterdam, Netherlands
After following this place on Instagram, it was at the top of my lists of spots to see. Adorable little shop owned by blogger Polina Burashnikova. You’ll find handmade chocolate covered berries as well as cake pops and other goodies. There are also an assortment of girly Amsterdam themed souvenirs and stationary. Perfect idea for unique gifts for yourself or others.
Bar Parry | Eerste Looiersdwarsstraat 15, 1107 SN Amsterdam, Netherlands
This cute little wine bar in Jordaan was recommended to me by a friend. After getting caught in a downpour, it was the great spot to hide out and enjoy a glass or 2 of wine. Very quaint and solo traveler friendly!
Another instagram find! If you’re going to try fresh stroopwafels, why not make sure it’s the prettiest stroopwafel in the city? And it was also tasty – the perfect way to start a day of sightseeing.
Vlaamse Fries | Literally Anywhere, Amsterdam
Hot Fries, served in a cone and slathered in sauce were my dinner of choice after walking 10 miles a day in Amsterdam. You can find these fry shops all over the city, but here’s a guide put out by iAmsterdam if you need some recommendations. It’s a must try food if you’re visiting the city.
Another fun assortment of gifts for all ages, many with a Dutch theme. I bought the cutest little notebook here by the company Orange Panda.
Solo female travel to Amsterdam is a great idea. Amsterdam is architecture & art, canals and bicycles. It’s historic yet modern. The city is clean, safe, friendly and green. It’s compact and easy to explore on foot. Being there during tulip season and the week leading up King’s Day, it was crowded but tolerable and I was still able to wander down some quiet streets.
Amsterdam quickly became one of my favorite European cities. I would come back as a solo traveler, with my husband, with friends or with kids (some day!). Hopefully I’ll be back soon!