Home in Leiden

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FAQ: Moving to Leiden


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It's wonderful that you're thinking of moving to our lovely city. Leiden is a great mix of a typical Dutch town and internationally-oriented city. It's small enough to feel homey, welcoming, and not 
at all overwhelming, while also being big enough to have a real international community, a wide variety of restaurants, cinemas, and things to do. 

We get lots of questions from people who are planning on moving here. Unfortunately, we can't really help you decide where to live, where to send your children to school, or get you a job! * But we can give you what information we do have, and thought it might be helpful if we posted a FAQ to help prospective  Leidenaars 

* We are a group of people who love Leiden and want to help other internationals feel at home in this great city. We run Home in Leiden on our own time, with our own funds, while also juggling work and family commitments. We will try to answer any questions you have (or put you in touch with someone who might be able to help you), but we do better with *specific* questions. If you want our take on two or three different neighborhoods/schools/ daycares/doctors/etc., we can give you our (subjective) opinion. Vaguer or more open-ended questions ("What's Leiden like?" "Where should I live?") are harder for us to get a grip on, so please keep this in mind before emailing us.

  1. How can I find housing?
  2. Where should I live in Leiden?
  3. Can I find work in Leiden?
  4. Where should I send my child(ren) to school?


  1. How can I find housing?
    Housing is difficult in Leiden and environs. The large student population adds vibrancy to the town, but also takes up much of the available housing. Landlords who might normally fix up a house and rent it out a family find it cheaper to keep it dumpy and sub-divided into tiny rooms for students (as there is really no dormitory system at Dutch universities). Also, the Dutch rental market is partially state-controlled, meaning that there is subsidized housing (for which there are very long waiting lists). However, it also means there is not as much housing on the "free" market for people moving in. Don't despair, though. Our recommendations: 

    Join the  Leiden Expats Group (We also have it linked on our "Useful Links" section). You can post there to get leads on available housing. This is also a great place to find appliances and furniture because there's a pretty steady stream of people moving out of Leiden and offering up their goods for sale before they go. 

    Take a look at  Funda`s rental section. You can type in "Leiden" and the pull down menu allows you to add an area up to a certain number of kilometers around Leiden to your search. Many entries will be in Dutch, but you should be able to navigate around the site at least a bit. 
  2. There is also the the rental housing website , on which people can place adverts for free. What you see is what you get; it's a straightforward 'make contact' site which gives you an excellent picture of what's out there right now, from single rooms to large family houses, with no intermediaries.

    Check out the  Leiden Expat Centre's  section on housing for information on the formalities of renting such as deposits, contracts, and all that pesky stuff. (It's also mentioned in our "Useful Links" section). 

    Don't rule out living in nearby towns such as Oegstgeest, Voorschoten, Leiderdorp, Zoeterwoude, and others. The Leiden area is compact, public transport is good, and if you go native and bike, you can live in any of these nearby towns and still be in the centre of Leiden in 10-15 minutes. It also might be easier finding housing in one of these surrounding villages than in Leiden itself.

  3. Where should I live in Leiden?
    That's really too personal and subjective for us to help you with! So much will depend on your budget, what housing is available, and what you're looking for (quiet green space vs. lively downtown living, lots of parking for your car vs. historic charm, and so on). Most of Leiden is quite safe and the majority of crime consists of bike theft or people being robbed of their mobile phones at 3am after a night out. Some neighbourhoods have better reputations than others, and all have their own "feel". Almost all neighbourhoods will have at least a small play area for children and are relatively child-friendly. It's best to come yourself and look around because picking a place to live is one of those things that you should really do in person if at all possible. 

    Our advice, in general, is:  ADJUST YOUR GARDEN EXPECTATIONS!! 'Large garden' in Leiden will mean about 10-15m deep and as wide as your house...

    Some popular neighborhoods for families are: 
    Stevenshof  and  Merenwijk  : If you want a (small) garden and good street-playing for the children and you're OK with modernish houses, you've got the Stevenshof (built in the 80s) in the Southwest and Merenwijk (built in the 70s) in the North. Stevenshof was built between 1984-1995, has terraces/townhouses  ("rijtjeshuizen" ) and semis/duplexes  ("twee-onder-een-kap" ), no detached or "free-standing" houses, and no real high-rise apartment buildings. 

    Merenwijk  is pretty similar to Stevenshof but with a bit of high-rise and the houses are about 10y older. Both have excellent amenities (doctor, pharmacy etc.) and the Stevenshof has both a library (linked to the main central library) and a nice recently renovated shopping centre. 

    Both areas have plenty of houses with good-sized-for-Leiden gardens. Houses will be 100-150 sq m or so, and there are great play facilities and several primary schools in both neighbourhoods, plus a children's farm in the Merenwijk. You can be in the centre of Leiden within 15 minutes or so with a bike. These are neighbourhoods that reflect the reality of Dutch semi-suburban life and not the image (for better or worse!) internationals might have of cute little houses along canals. 

    The Professorenwijk and Burgemeesterswijk (really one big neighborhood) - just southeast of the main Singel - are considered the "posh" or "high rent" neighborhoods in Leiden (along with  Vogelwijk  and the neighbourhoods around the Leidse Hout to the North). This is a highly sought after neighbourhood for the close proximity to the city center, the profusion of small shops (local butcher, cheese shop, veggie stand, etc.), the large number of families with young children living here, and the charming houses. Most are terraced (townhouses), but there are some semis/duplexes and a very few detached houses. There are some stately 19th century houses, though most houses were built between the 1920s and 1950s. Thus, they tend to have higher ceilings, stained glasses, sliding doors, etc. The gardens can vary. Some have gardens up to 20 m deep (although you'll be hard put to rent those!), but some have only small patio gardens. There are some low-rise apartment buildings near the Burggravenlaan. The Roomburg and Cronesteyn parks are nearby, as are local hockey and tennis clubs, three primary schools and two secondary schools.

  4. Can I find work in Leiden?
    Of course, that depends on the sort of visa you have. The Expat Centre would be a good place to inquire into those sorts of issues. In our (completely anecdotal) experience, it can be hard to find English-speaking jobs if you don't have a particular qualification or work experience. Although the Netherlands is, in general, amazingly multi-lingual, the current political climate has certainly put a premium on speaking Dutch, which is reflected in the attitude employers have to non-Dutch speaking applicants. Various foreigners we know have even been turned down for jobs taking advertising around and putting it in people's mailboxes because they didn't speak Dutch! Many of the jobs for English speakers are in international companies in Amsterdam or The Hague, which require a commute (but see the comments above on how good public transport is here). Don't be discouraged, but do be realistic. If you've got a great degree and good experience, you will probably find something. If you have a degree in Medieval French Literature, no real work experience, and don't speak Dutch, it could take you much longer to find a position that suits you.

  5. Where should I send my child(ren) to school?
    We can't answer that for you! Take a look at our  Schools section to get a feel for how the system works and for some write-ups by international parents with children in some of the local schools. The Arriving in Leiden with (slightly) older children section is fairly self-explanatory. If you're interested in a particular school, you can always email us to see if we know of an international parent who sends his/her children to that school, and we can try to put you in touch.



Baby/Toddler Groups
Vogelwijk Playgroup
Oegstgeest Family Life
Classes and Sports
Photo Gallery
Vrouw Kind Centrum


Find a Babysitter
Dutch Etiquette, Festivals and Traditions
Greener Leiden Living
HIL Top Tips
Expat Centre Leiden
Useful Links