Harm Jagerman

Visiting the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden

On Sunday (01-06-2019), I visited the botanical garden of the Leiden University: de Hortus Botanicus.

The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden.
The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden.

Not an unknown territory

The Leiden Hortus Botanicus is not an unknown territory for me. I don’t know how many times I’ve been there. This time I decided to write a review following my visit. You can read this review on this page.

The Hortus Botanicus is part of the Leiden University. It’s the oldest existing botanical garden in The Netherlands. Its history dates back to the sixteenth century. The Hortus Botanicus, abbreviated as Hortus, was created because they wanted to teach students in the field of botany, study the medicinal properties of plants and the dangers of certain plants and how they could be treated by medical science.

Leiden University was a gift that the city of Leiden received after the city was liberated in 1574. The city was besieged by the Spaniards during the Eighty Years’ War. For their bravery and support for the Dutch revolt, they were given the choice: not paying taxes for a certain period or founding a university. They opted for their university. It was opened in 1575. A few years later the botanical garden was opened.

I’ve been there so many times. As said, I have been here so many times. I lost count of how many times I’ve been there! Not only me but also my children. They refer to this botanical garden as the “Tuin van Leiden.” In English: The garden of Leiden. When you walk around this beautiful garden, you won’t even notice that this is located in a crowded city. Well, Leiden isn’t as crowded as other major cities in the world. For our small country near Northsea, it is rather crowded.

View of the Witte Singel from the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden.
View of the Witte Singel from the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden.

For children

My children did not feel up to a bike ride to the Hortus Botanicus this morning. I went alone. In total silence, I walked around and shot photos. Just because my kids didn’t feel like it doesn’t mean it’s not a fun place for kids. On the contrary. There is always something to do for children. A scavenger hunt or another do-assignment. This is usually available for free at the checkout.

But hey, it’s not an amusement park. So don’t expect attractions like you find in an amusement park.

Always a good reason

Personally, I think there is always a good reason to visit the Hortus. There is something beautiful to be found in every season. Although that is a bit more difficult outside in the autumn and winter months. Then you have to look for it in the greenhouses. A word of advice: it is warm in the greenhouses. Tropical hot. If you want to take pictures, you have to take this into account. Not every camera is suitable for this. You will also have to take into account the light.

Victoria Greenhouse

The Victoria Greenhouse
The Victoria Greenhouse

In one of the greenhouses, the Victoria Greenhouse, you can see the beautiful floating leaves of the Victoria Amazonica. These leaves can carry a weight of up to forty kilograms. That’s pretty impressive! Now and then the opportunity is offered to parents to photograph their offspring, small babies, on the leaves. Note: this is not always possible. So you cannot do this on your initiative. This is only possible on special days. Because of the possible risks this entails. Do not sit on the leaves yourself!

What makes it so special?

Because on this day the temperatures were already tropical (outside), I decided not to go into the greenhouses. I stayed outside and walked around. I asked myself: What makes this location so special?

That is a good question. I think it’s different for everyone. One comes for the beautiful flowers and plants or to learn something about them. For others, it is a piece of tranquillity in the busy city. Students can visit the Hortus and lie in the grass on the banks of the Singel, sometimes studying. Children can marvel at the wonders of Mother Nature. Photographers can enjoy experimenting with their equipment and thus capture the smallest details.


On a day in the summer, it is usually not busy in the Hortus. People then choose other destinations. That gives you the chance to take enough time to view the flowers and plants. Meanwhile, it was busy in the restaurant. The Hortus has its restaurant, which is freely accessible. You can just enter there without buying a ticket for the Hortus itself. The employees had an interesting discussion about what the Dutch translation of “Green Ice Tea” should be. That turned out to be just “Green Ice Tea”. There was no Dutch translation for it.

Combi ticket

When you buy a combi ticket for the Hortus, this also ensures that you can walk into the nearby National Museum for Antiquities. That museum is located on the other side of the canal (Het Rapenburg). This museum is officially called The National Museum of Antiquities. This museum houses an interesting collection of Roman, Egyptian and Etruscan treasures, including some mummies. The museum also has an extensive exhibition about the history of the Netherlands.

More information

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