Rijksmuseum van Oudheden – The Tip of Leiden’s Iceberg
Just 25 minutes from Delft by car, Leiden is a university town full of amazing museums. We spent a day at the natural history museum Naturalis last year. Since then, we have had Leiden on our short list for a lazy weekend day. Today was the day! With Elizabeth in Paris for a girls weekend, it was dad’s turn to take the kids to Leiden.
Public transportation was an option, but we chose to take the car because parking in Leiden in most zones is free before 1pm on Sundays. Our plan was to arrive at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (Royal Museum of Antiquities) at opening (10am) and be gone by 1pm.
We worried a bit about the kids in the museum since it was full of, well, antiquities. However, the museum does a good job of keeping anything breakable within cases.
In fact, there is an entire floor that is quite kid-friendly. The top floor of the three-floor museum is a great place for the kids. We would have started our visit there had we known. There are about one hundred drawers of antiquities (pottery, tiles, jewelry) for children to open and discover. There are several interactive slide shows, a handful of themed beds and kid-height displays. Yes, that’s right. There are themed beds. Each one is representative of a time in history – from a Dutch farm house all the way back to a stone age cave. We went in reverse by accident. Tip: On the top floor of the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, turn right when you enter the exhibit space.
The remaining two floors of this museum hold an amazing quantity of high quality antiquities. A Google Review of the museum complained that it was a small museum, but I found it quite large. If you spend time reading about each exhibit, you could spend a full day or more here. Sure, it’s no Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, but it was just the right size to enjoy alone or with children. The floors are separated into regions (think: Greek, Roman, Phoenician). Our kids really enjoyed the jewelry (amulets), the Egyptian mummies and the Roman sculptures.
Adult admission to this museum is 12.50 Euros, but free with the Museumkaart. There is a cafe and a gift shop at the entrance. There is on-street parking in front of the museum and a paid parking deck within a few blocks. We have found that antiquities are a great way to get kids interested in museums. Antiquities are cool – they can be huge, colorful, valuable and curious, just the things kids find intriguing. Giving your kids an appreciation for world history is an incredible gift, so why not give them that gift while you enjoy the collection too.
The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden is just two blocks from the Horticus Botanicus Leiden. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10-4, this is a perfect spot to visit in combination with the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. And if you have a Museumkaart, you can pop in to see the greenery without feeling compelled to spend the whole day. This fantastic botanic garden is larger than the one in Delft and more geared toward children. There are a handful of kid areas – not traditional playground areas – but spots where you can feel free to let your kids explore. There is a climbing tree, a pathway maze and some large outdoor artworks to admire. Our kids really enjoyed exploring the greenhouses but I liked the English descriptions, talking about the herbs, spice trees and fruit trees. It’s always a treat to see a banana tree or peppercorn plant in person!
There are ample restaurants and cafes around the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden and Horticus Botanicus Leiden. We opted for a picnic lunch and let the kids feed the sandwich crusts to the birds. We’ll be back for sure!