Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden

The museums here in the Netherlands continue to surprise and delight us. We ventured up to Leiden for one of our Tuesday Field Trip Days with Grandpa to check out the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, a natural science and history museum.  The museum is part of the museumkaart program, making it free to visit with a card.

Start the Trip with Starbucks

Any good train trip starts off with a coffee for the ride. At the Delft station they even gave H his own little cup of milk. The trains leaving Delft are always crowded for a stop or two, but then we easily grabbed a four top for the remaining ride.

Walking to the Museum

The walk from the Leiden train station is quite easy and will take about 10 min with your preschoolers in tow. I got a bit turned around coming out of the station and had us walk a bit out of the way, but the weather was nice so it wasn’t too bad.

Leiden Science Museum

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center is everything my kids love. We were greeted by large taxidermy animals filling “Nature’s Theater.” Unlike the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which H was obsessed with when we lived in Colorado, these animals are not placed in habitat scenes but grouped and displayed together.  The kids would have been happy to stay just on this floor.

Museum Welcome

Luckily we coaxed them to explore some other areas of the museum. Rocks! Having just returned from Morocco, where H found fossils and geodes the boys were all about the rocks. With Grandpa around, an amateur geologist, the kids found answers to most of their questions.

Learning about Rocks

The museum is incredibly kid friendly. Little O liked “finding” rocks hidden in the floor.

Rocks in the Floor

Downstairs in the “Primeval Parade” the boys looked at bones of all types. Our visit to this room was cut short by a bathroom break that turned into lunch. We never made it back down to the exhibit so it’s on our “start here” list for the next visit.

Mastadon at Leiden Museum

The bulk of our time was taken up in the kids’ senses exhibit. This traveling exhibit walks you through using each of your senses and highlighting animals that use those senses. There were things the kids and adults could do together.  H loved trying on a bee helmet and gathering pollen using his sight to find the right flower. O crawled on the floor like a snake looking for hot spots to find his possible food.

Hearing Test at Museum

The boys both loved the hearing test. They listened to the tones and pushed the buttons for quite a while.

The sense of Touch

This black cat was part of the touch section. I’m not entirely sure the boys realized it wasn’t alive. They kept returning to give it some more love.

Animals of Sea and Sky

We ended our visit with the exhibit on “Life.” The sea and sky area displaying animals, bones and plants was a big hit with the kids.

I thought we had seen the entire museum but upon reviewing the webpage to write this post I realized there were several sections we never made it to. “Earth Inside” is billed as another hands-on children’s exhibit. We will be back. The Naturalis Biodiversity Center was such a hit and perfect for these rainy, cold days.

The only let down of this museum was the cafe. I’ve become accustomed to delicious museum cafe food in the Netherlands. The cafe in the actual museum building is a bit more of a snack stop. We were able to piece together a meal with the snacks I brought from home. There is a full restaurant, that is perhaps more what I was looking for, if we had walked back to the entrance building. Next time I’ll probably pack a lunch.

You won’t need a stroller here, unless walking from the station with your littles is a problem. There are coat racks and lockers at the entrance as well.


Elizabeth is a Type A, Attorney turned Stay-at-Home Mom, who moved her family across the Atlantic for an adventure. She can often be found out and about finding fun things for her littles to do. Elizabeth loves to read, craft and chat with friends. She will try just about anything and loves to share her experiences.

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