Everybody is a local somewhere! After almost a year of travel blogging, I haven’t been talking a lot about my own backyard, the Netherlands. Where better to start than in my own home town, Leiden – a lesser known university city, resembling Amsterdam? (If you haven’t heard of it, I suggest you Google it right now!) I will be talking about where to eat (and drink!) in Leiden. I will also talk about my love/ hate relationship with Dutch food culture.
When I explain food culture in my city (and even country) to foreigners, I find it hard to describe the variety of food we deal with. Leiden is a student town which normally means affordable living, however if you are used to travel through other (cheaper) parts of Europe, going out to dinner isn’t always that cheap (or amazing) here. There are a few things you should know:
First of all, you can almost find every type of food from all over the world, which means practically all foods are available. That doesn’t always mean the quality is outstanding. For example, Holland has been going through a real sushi hype lately and sushi restaurants (especially the all you can eat ones) are everywhere! I don’t have to explain that the sushi you’ll eat here is not authentic, in fact I haven’t seen that much mayonnaise on fish in a long time…
Second of all, you’ll eat for Dutch prices. Sure, a lot of restaurants serve lovely food and you’ll leave happy and well fed. Your wallet, on the other hand, will not be that happy, making you want to stay in for the rest of your trip. If you happen to find a cheaper place, beware of the quality of the food (like anywhere else, this must not come as a surprise to you). I find many places in Leiden (hidden gems excluded) to be bland and boring (and way too expensive).
And third, organic and sustainable food is incredibly trendy here. More and more restaurants, bars and supermarkets are starting to sell organic (or green labeled) food, served in typical hipster places. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being picky about your food, it’s just that when something becomes a hype, it will be taken advantage of. For instance, we Dutch are going crazy over superfoods, eating raw or organic and supermarkets love us for that. Not so organic food is often labeled as super sustainable and serious money is spent on it as well. So, instead of just being picky about the kind of food, also check where it is actually made.
However, when you decide to spend a few days in Leiden (good for you!), you’ll need to eat. There’s no reason to entirely ban this city (or country) from your travels as it is truly beautiful and interesting. So, without further ado, here are my favorite restaurants and cafés in Leiden:
A brilliant burger place located in the high end part of town. With the St Peter’s Church (Pieterskerk) on one side and the famous “Rapenburg” on the other, ambiance and atmosphere are definitely there. The restaurant serves organic or locally produced food in large portions. Also, they have a big range of vegetarian options. Frankly, I like everything about this place: service, food quality and prices!
The best coffee in town, period. Located next to the canal you can enjoy some people watching while drinking delicious (and strong!) coffee with apple pie. Also, they sell some awesome postcards. My favorite for short breaks.
Italian food, student style! Donatello’s is located right in the shopping center and serves delicious Italian food. The atmosphere isn’t my favorite, but the steak with herbs is. The place is quite big so making a reservation is usually not necessary. However, when it’s very busy, you will be asked to wait at the bar.
I must admit that drinking Belgian beer in Olivier is on the expensive side. However, the beer options are amazing and the café itself is gorgeous! In summer, do try to sit outside as they have a huge (and very pretty) garden. Lunch options, although not the cheapest, are amazing!
A very cute, vintage looking café, which has a self service policy. Drinks and even food can be found here, on one of the prettiest squares Leiden has to offer: ‘het gerecht’. It’s officially called ‘t Suppiershuysinghe but we like to call it the Cat cafe because yes, there is a cat.
A restaurant I have never eaten at because I prefer their take out. This restaurant serves the best pizza
in Leiden (it was even in the newspaper recently) and when you’re staying close, you should definitely take a look. A few times a year, the restaurant gives a huge discount on take out pizza’s, which makes it wallet friendly as well.
And last but certainly not least, my favorite place for a quick refreshment: Roberto’s. This shop is owned by a creative Brazilian guy with a dream: to create the best ice cream shop in town. He did! In summer his shop is so busy the lines sometimes cross the entire square in front of the shop. In winter, Roberto makes savory and traditional Dutch food and delicious coffee.
Have you been to Leiden (or the Netherlands)? What did you think of the food? Let me know by leaving a comment! Also, if you like to get to know more about the Netherlands, let me know!