Leiden is a quintessential Dutch town, with gorgeous canals, charming buildings and cobbled paths, often called the most beautiful town in Netherlands. Rembrandt’s birthplace, it is also home to Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands, founded in 1575, with impressive libraries and historic buildings. This is also where the first tulips were cultivated.

The city’s biggest and most popular annual festival is celebrated on 3 October  (simply called 3 Oktober), to commemorate the end of The Siege of Leiden, which occurred during the Eighty Years’ War in 1573-‘74, when the Spanish attempted to capture this defiant town. During the siege, a third of the people died and the rest would have also starved to death, had it not been for the Geuzen (Dutch nobility) led by the Prince of Orange who brought white bread, cheese and herring. Legend has it that some leftover Hutspot was found in a deserted Spanish camp, giving birth to a tradition. Since that year, Leiden celebrates the day with Hutspot and herring with white bread. The festivities typically take place over 2-3 days, involving parades, a funfair and other events. More on http://3october.nl/

Leiden has three national museums and several noteworthy and interesting sites. The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities), Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) and Naturalis- Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum  (National museum of natural history) with the million-year old Java Man are definitely worth a visit. The Lakenhal, once the centre of the Leiden cloth industry, houses masterpieces by Lucas van Leyden, Rembrandt, Jan Steen and many other celebrated masters, with exhibits dating back to the 16th century. The Boerhaave Museum is the Dutch National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine, the highlight of which is the Anatomical Theatre with human and animal skeletons.

The crumbling De Burcht or ‘citadel’, one of the oldest surviving examples of a ‘motte’ castle in the Netherlands offers a marvelous view of Leiden from the top. The Stadhuis or town hall on the banks of the New Rhine is a remarkable, historic building with a Renaissance façade on the Breestraat.

A pedestrian shopping area, Breestraat has several specialty shops as well as numerous restaurants and cafes. In fact, the entire Pieterswijk area (of which Breestraat is a part) is well-known for its shops and boutiques. Of course, Leiden wouldn’t be Dutch without a windmill museum, so there is the customary Molen de Valk. A walking tour is a good way to experience the Wall Poems – Muurgedichten which can be seen on the exteriors of buildings.

Counting several other monuments and parks among its attractions, Leiden is a short half an hour ride from Amsterdam and definitely worth visiting during a Netherlands trip. Find a place to stay on http://www.holidayen.com/hotels.