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We've collected here all the ideas from the homepage for miscellaneous interesting things or places to visit in the Leiden area, for children and grown-ups. Please note that tips and links in this section will not be updated, so although they mostly refer to more or less permanent fixtures (the Leidse Hout isn't going to close any time soon.), you may want to check that shops, classes or exhibitions mentioned are still when and where we say they are.
(09-12-2011) HomeinLeiden recently found out about craft workshops held by a Cheriel, a lovely lady, in the Branderij café just near the Hooglandse Kerk. Cheriel offers grown-ups the chance to have a cup of something in peace and quiet while their children are upstairs doing craft activities and being read aloud to in Dutch. Read more on www.atelier-c.nl , but it seems win-win to me; children are constructively amused and parent(s) is/are happy. A HiL reviewer says 'It's nice, you can sit and read a book with a hot chocolate while the children are happy, or go there with a friend and actually get to talk to each other. It's not druk , but very friendly -handy for weekend widows or anyone needing some company on a Friday'.
(14-11-11) This one has to be the Huis van Sinterklaas , which is where the good man sets up house in Leiden for the duration. It's open every afternoon from the 20th to the 4th (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.
(30-10-11) We regularly recommend Leiden's many museums on this site, basically because they're all wonderful, but Naturalis deserves a special mention. It's the town's natural history museum, located just behind the station, near the hospital. It is fantastic on many levels, from the very young (menagerie of stuffed animals and plenty of space to run - or crawl - around) through to older children and - also important - the accompanying adult(s). Staff are helpful, the permanent exhibits are well laid-out and there are excellent temporary exhibitions / holiday activities. It can be busy on a rainy Sunday but often surprisingly peaceful at other times. Get yourself and your four-and-overs (under-fours are free) a Museumkaart so you get in free, and enjoy yourself!
(30/9/11) 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.
(13/9/11) 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 to make pesto with.
And something more ephemeral; the Hello Kitty Hello Holland exhibition is on at the Sieboldhuis on the Rapenburg - and it's the first time a Dutch museum has devoted time to Hello Kitty .. It's a good excuse to stroll down the Rapenburg, one of the stateliest streets in Leiden, and visit the wonderful children's bookshop Silvester next door, as well.
(4/9/11) Last week at Vogelwijk I heard about the 'Puppyzwemmen' for children aged 2.5 to 4 that the De Zijl pool runs on a Tuesday afternoon from 2.45 to 3.30.
It is apparently excellent; the children love it and it costs eur4.10 for both parent and child. No need to register; just turn up. De Zijl has loads of other swimming activities, including for pregnant women; look here for a full list - in Dutch, but reasonably easy to follow.
(09-12-2011) At City Hall someone has come up with a similar idea; they now offer babysitters upstairs from three till seven on Sundays. You can thus relax in the restaurant while your children are happily amused upstairs for you. This is free but you do have to eat at the restaurant, which sounds like a fair deal. It's organised by Het Idee (www.hetidee.nl) and is thus somewhat larger-scale and more corporate than Cheriel's initiative above; you can read more about it on City Hall's website at http://restaurantcityhall.nl/news/5.html .
Or 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.
(14-11-11) 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.
(30-10-11) 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 and its sister Café Macchiato (both on the Botermarkt, where the market is on Weds/Sat, near Dille and Kamille and the Kijkshop) were foresighted enough to go non-smoking long before it was mandatory. They are friendly, warm little cafés 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 both locations are small and not great for manoeuvring bulky buggies through (although it can be done!).
(30/9/11) Or should this be in the children's section? There's a new mother and baby shop on the Doezastraat called Kings and Angels www.kingsandangels.nl run by a lady called Angela (coincidentally also pregnant at the mo, but I am assured that this was not a marketing move) and her team of helpful, friendly assistants. They stock a whole range of stuff from maternity wear (including, believe it or not, flattering lingerie) to baby clothes, furniture and gifts. Definitely worth the detour.
(13/9/11) 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.
(4/9/11) Although these days there are plenty of places you can get good coffee and tea, in Leiden Het Klaverblad on Hoge Woerd 15 (tel. 071-5133655) 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.
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