Where to eat in Leiden- a local’s food guide

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:


Fresh ‘n Fast

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!


Francobolli – coffee with a card

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.


Olivier – The Belgian beer café

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!


 The Cat café (het koffiehuis)

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!

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  • Reply
    April 10, 2015 at 15:43

    I’ve never been to Leiden, however I love that you’ve covered the food! I always think food tells such a story about a place…

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      April 10, 2015 at 16:55

      I agree! In this case I hope it tells something good.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2015 at 06:01

    I was in Leiden last year and I’m heading there again this weekend from America. I love Leiden. Not touristy like Amsterdam but has all f the wonderful Dutch charm. I found the food to be quite good. From an American perspective it was difficult to get used to the slower pace of service. It takes much longer to get through a meal and back out the door than what we are used to, even at our most relaxed pace. I don’t remember restaurant names but I enjoyed the food t canal view at the Van der Valk Hotel Leiden. There was a high end restaurant down the street in a historic house. The dinner and dessert were divine although higher in price. In town I enjoyed sandwiches at one of the pancake houses. Also some profiteroles in one of the cafes. I’ll try to remember some names next time.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      September 16, 2015 at 11:13

      Thanks for your comment Christina! Glad to hear you love my little city! Indeed it is a little like Amsterdam, minus the tourists.

      The slow pace is a thing I hear often. Personally I think the way we eat out is completely different. In America it often seems like a quick bite. In and out. Here eating out is more of an event, something we don’t do so often (or maybe we still have to get used to it) and so it is considered to be something special that you have to make time for.

      I’m very curious about the restaurants you like! Let me know where you went so I can try too. And above all, have fun this weekend!

  • Reply
    Barbara Palmer
    April 30, 2017 at 20:27

    We ate at a restaurant last night called Aan Der Rijn, I think. The prices were low because the waitress told us the portions were small. She suggested we order several things. The prices ranged from 2.50 to 6.00 for lamb chops. Well, the portions were not that small and we could not even eat everything we ordered and it was all good. it is on the Rijn Canal near the City Center.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      May 9, 2017 at 11:28

      Sounds great, I’ll make sure to try it! Thanks for adding.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Marcom
    October 19, 2018 at 05:43

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I fell in love with Leiden a couple of years ago during a visit in autumn.
    I am excited to be coming back over Christmas with my husband and adult children.
    We will stay in Haarlem but visit Amsterdam and Leiden.
    I will make note of your suggestions!
    We are hoping to figure out something magical to do for Christmas and then for New Years Eve.
    The Christmas market looks sweet in Leiden.
    Would love to hear any suggestions/thoughts you might have.
    Thanks again!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      November 22, 2018 at 12:24

      Hi Kimberly! Glad you loved Leiden so much, it’s a magical place! During Christmas you can visit the Christmas market, like you said or go ice skating on the canal. The city is usually beautifully decorated so make sure you wander around as much as you can. I don’t know about any scheduled Christmas activities to be honest. You can visit surrounding cities as well, The Hague is also great during this time of year.

      New Years Eve is quite a thing here but to be honest, I stay inside as much as I can. In The Netherlands it’s a custom to light fireworks in the streets and because everyone is doing it, it can become quite the war zone! Our government is looking into firework shows and making sure everyone is safe but it will probably take a few years before that is up and running. The National Fireworks in Rotterdam are worth visiting though! However, there are a lot of NYE parties throughout Amsterdam and other cities but it really depends if you’re into partying like that.

  • Reply
    Roseann Frielink
    April 19, 2019 at 22:44

    I know this is an older blog, but I just read it. Thank you! My husband and I are visiting Leiden in September. It will be our home base for visiting other places. And we do plan to spend time in Leiden. Roberto’s is perfect since we have a tradition of ice cream for lunch on vacations. We are so looking forward to visiting the Netherlands! Great to have recommendations from a local!

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      May 2, 2019 at 17:55

      Hi Roseann! I’m glad you found some inspiration. Nothing screams holiday more than eating icecream for lunch, I love that tradition!

  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 02:39

    My husband and I have been to Leiden twice and love the city. Both times we ate at a restaurant called Ursula (if are are remembering correctly). It was a small restaurant on a smaller side street. The food was absolutely wonderful (if we could have figured out a polite way to lick our dishes, we would have). Is the restaurant still open? The last time we were in Leiden was in 2013 or 2014.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      July 3, 2019 at 12:30

      Hi Margaret! Unfortunately, I believe this place doesn’t exist anymorwe but I’ll make sure to keep my eyes open. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Reply
    Kim Reimann
    July 21, 2019 at 12:44

    Thank you for this post! I’m also a teacher and also a scaredy-cat (well, scared of social and unfamiliar situations). Love to travel, don’t really like traveling alone, but that happens to be the case this time. In Leiden for a few days and looking for somewhere to go out for dinner. It’s nice to get a local’s perspective.

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      July 21, 2019 at 14:51

      Always happy to help a fellow teacher! Let me know how Leiden was!

  • Reply
    October 29, 2019 at 09:53

    Heading to Leiden next weekend for a few days, great blog, any update on your fav food spots, or do they all still hold. John&Nora

    • Reply
      The Brave Dame
      November 3, 2019 at 17:32

      Hi John, great choice! There are some new places that I like a lot: Lot en de Walvis (address: Haven 1) and Midi Marche (address: Gangetje 10). Have fun on your trip!

  • Reply
    November 4, 2019 at 18:17

    Had lunch in Lot En de Walvis today, suberb, you know your stuff. A super fresh Poke.
    Thank you

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