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Leiden, The Netherlands

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Living in or visiting Leiden? Information and useful links for students, locals and tourists.

Information about Leiden

Leiden, birthplace of Rembrandt and known as the Sleutelstad ("the key city") in reference to the keys in its coat of arms, is home to 120.000 people. Located at the confluence of the Old and New Rhine rivers in the province of South Holland, Leiden is a picturesque university town with many canals, almshouses and museums.

Formed on an artificial hill around 860 AD, Leiden grew steadily and by the late 15th century was home to an important textile industry. In the 16th century the reformation led to mass persecution of Protestants by the Spanish, driving Leiden to join the Dutch resistance against Spain's oppression in 1572.

The Spanish nearly conquered the city, but were successfully expelled on October 3, 1574. This day, known as Leidens Ontzet or the Relief of Leyden, continues to be commemorated each year, with a huge celebration whose fair, parade, fireworks, musical performances, and many parties attract hundreds of thousands of people to this small city.

William I of Orange was so impressed with Leiden's heroic resistance, he rewarded them with the foundation of the University of Leiden in 1575. Leiden remains a university city to this day.

During the Dutch Golden Era of the 16th and 17th centuries, Leiden became the second largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam, as weaving, printing, and publishing grew into major local industries.

The city then experienced an extended economic decline from the late 17th to early 20th centuries. As a result, much of the city centre's historic architecture has been preserved, and Leiden reportedly has the second largest 17th century centre in the Netherlands.

Nowadays, Leiden has one of the most highly educated populations in the Netherlands, and the university's new home for its Science faculty in the Bio Science Park has helped attract high tech companies to the city and turn Leiden into a research hub.

Besides its lovingly restored centre, Leiden is also home to the Hortus Botanicus and other museums, including the Museum De Lakenhal (whose collection includes works by Rembrandt and other Dutch masters) and the Boerhaave Museum of science.

Between its rich history and its great academic legacy, Leiden has a stimulating mix of old and new on offer for visitors and residents alike!

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