Step back through history to the medieval times of cut-throat deceptions and power politics when you visit this hilltop castle that overlooks the Rhine.
Wander through the gateway off the bustling shopping street of Burgsteeg to discover the historic castle of Leiden, known as de Burcht. It was first constructed of stone in the 11th century, but after several attacks was rebuilt in brick in the 13th century. The castle’s 20-foot-tall (6.2-meter) walls protected 15-year-old Ada, Countess of Holland, from the forces of her uncle William, intent on removing her from power.
There once were buildings inside the keep walls; however, the castle started to lose its defensive role as Leiden began to grow around it. The buildings were demolished and the materials were used to construct the town. Stroll beneath beautiful shade trees where buildings once stood.
Be prepared to hike up a few stairs to reach the circular walls of the keep, as it was constructed on a man-made hill. This made the castle a very useful refuge for the residents of Leiden in times of floods. Later its height proved useful when the castle was turned into a water tower in the 17th century. Walk along the keep walls to enjoy a fantastic view of the Rhine and Leidse Rijn as well as a panoramic outlook over the city. Informational signs located around the keep point out which of Leiden’s landmarks you can see from the hill.
The area surrounding De Burcht is now a public park. Go to the restaurant in the 17th-century coach house, located near the entrance to the stairs, where you can enjoy views of the castle while having a high tea or lunch. The castle grounds are also a fantastic place for a picnic. If you’re looking for a place for a drink and some live music after your visit to the castle, head to the jazz bar located near the southern gate. Entry to De Burcht is free and it is open year-round.