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Cafes and Restaurants
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We've collected here some of the ideas from the homepage for miscellaneous interesting things or places to visit in the Leiden area, for children and grown-ups. While we've done our best to pick non-time-dependent things, it might be worth checking out websites before actually heading off for a visit.
The Huis van Sinterklaas is where the good man sets up house in Leiden for the duration. It's open every afternoon from late November up to the 4 th -5 th , even on Sundays and Mondays, with all sorts of Sint-related activities (think knutsel-ing!) for you and your small child, assisted by a legion of Piets and - though there can be a queue - of course by the great man himself. This is (deservedly) popular and can be crowded, but is enormous fun for the children. All laid on by the council for free.
An American reader mailed me about the great experiences her family has had with the classes at the library (www.bplusc.nl). Last season they went to the toddler music class (to be attended with a carer) and she says it was great; the class size is kept under 10 kids, there was a nice mix of songs and it was an excellent way to expose them both to the Dutch language. An added bonus of the BplusC toddler music classes for internationals is that in general the teachers are very relaxed about extra adults (eg., when Grandma is in town) attending.
The Theehuis in the Leidse Hout is one of those low-key pleasures which make living here so nice. It's a small café with outdoor and indoor seating, with good food and very slow service, but this isn't actually much of a disadvantage because there is a playground right next to the café where the children can play / wander around to look at the animals - there is a deer park next door. There are also picnic seats and tables where you can bring your own food should you wish, and the rest of the Leidse Hout is a great place to wander and play. I pick wild garlic there in spring for making pesto.
For those whose idea of fun is something more Spartan (and frankly more insane), I have to mention the New Year's Dip at Scheveningen. It's one of those Dutch cultural experiences ... either gaze in astonishment or participate merrily in a mass dip in the sea (yes, the North Sea ...) on the beach just by the pier. Unox, the soup manufacturer, run these dips all over the country and reward participants with goodies and hot pea soup afterwards.
When something at home falls apart and you need a nut and bolt precisely so big, or a piece-of-metal-shaped-like-this-what's-it-called-in-Dutch?, you can't do better than go Hartwijk on the Nieuwe Beestenmarkt.This is a family business selling an astonishing variety of parts and equipment for almost all imaginable purposes in the house and garden. From central heating through garden tools to white goods; from hand tools to door furniture via washers (individually sized) - they have the LOT. Add the fact that they are helpful, well-informed and reasonably priced, and you have a shop really worth visiting. They also sell (almost) any wood, sheet or profile, made to measure, and have their own engineers to install anything they sell.
The Netherlands was slow with its anti-smoking legislation in cafés and restaurants - 2007, as I recall - which gave the option of the library or not much else for where to stop for a snack break with small children. Fortunately, Vooraf en Toe was foresighted enough to go non-smoking long before it was mandatory. It remains a friendly, warm little café and arts venue – do check the posters and advertisements by the entrance - with excellent coffee (try their latte macchiato) and delicious cakes and simple meals (soups and sandwiches), nearly all home-made. More than that, their staff are charming and child-focused, and it's a pleasure to go there with smalls. Note, though, that it's small and not great for manoeuvring bulky buggies through (although it can be done!).
Have you already discovered Leiden's art cinema, the Kijkhuis, tucked away behind the Haarlemmerstraat next to Museum Boerhaave? Small and refreshingly amateur in appearance (you will pay your entry to a chap sitting at a table with a cigarbox of money in front of him), it shows an excellent selection of international films. And if you're having an evening out at the flicks, I'd recommend the Fratelli on the Korte Mare as well. It was once a dusty red-checked-cloths-bottles-in-straw-holders kind of Italian restaurant, then after prolonged closure for renovation it reopened as a slightly swisher restaurant-cum-bistrot. Friendly, lovely food and not too pricey. Try the tiramisú with Muscat.
Although these days there are plenty of places you can get good coffee and tea, in Leiden Het Klaverblad on Hoge Woerd 15 (tel. 071 513 36 55) really stands out. It's a lovely little shop, with a lady running it who apart from stocking a fabulous selection really knows her stuff and loves to talk about it. All varieties you could imagine, all relevant paraphernalia and seriously good service. Worth making the detour! And just in case you fancy a little something to go with your coffee, why not try van Lith on Lange Mare 44a - a tiny specialist chocolate shop (www.lechocolatier.nl) which it's easy to overlook as you cycle past, but with the best handmade chocolates around and - again - owners who know their wares and love to talk about them. And it's all Fair Trade certified.
Bookshops are always a lovely place to while away an hour or two (or even to buy a book), and the Mayflower bookshop (www.mayflowerbookshop.nl) is one of the best. After years in a smaller location it has moved to palatial premises with much more space on the sweeping Breestraat (number 142, a little East of the Stadhuis) while staying just as helpful and friendly.
Oegstgeest Family Life
Classes and Sports
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Dutch Etiquette, Festivals and Traditions
Greener Leiden Living
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