The Town Hall’s Renaissance façade, saved from fire, is the crowning glory of the old quarter of Leiden.
Although the old city hall was ravaged by fire in 1929, its beautiful 16th-century Renaissance façade, known as Stadhuis, survived. It was designed by Lieven de Key, a Dutch architect known for his works in Haarlem. View the building’s sculptural niches and fanciful flourishes, such as the lion guarding the steps and the large arched door.
Walk along one of the oldest streets of Leiden, the Breestraat, to see the old façade. The building was saved from total destruction with great difficulty; the weather was so cold at the time that the water was freezing in the firefighting hoses. The effect of the water frozen as it ran off the building made it look like an ice palace. Sadly much of the town’s history was lost as its registers of births and deaths and other historic papers were burned.
On the Vismarkt (fish market) side of the Stadhuis, look for the new building that was erected in the 1930s after the devastating fire. At this time M.C. Escher designed five wooden panels inlaid with his usual complex graphic designs of fish and birds. These can only be seen on Open Monument Day in September as the town hall is still used as council offices. One shows a large map of the city streets in 1940 surrounded by the iconic Escher flying birds.
Shop, market style, at the Vismarkt. It’s not just herring here, but flowers, street food and organic fruit and vegetables. Practice your Dutch language skills bartering for prices and counting out local currency.
Enjoy the architecture of Stadhuis as you dine in style at the City Hall Bistro located in the Stadhuisplein. If it’s sunny, find a seat near the canal for a coffee and a stroopwafel, the pastry sandwich made from thin crispy waffle cookies with a sweet filling.