Universiteit Leiden

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From solar panels to tables made from old jackets: University opens its doors on Heritage Open Days

The theme of the Heritage Open Days Leiden on 10 and 11 September is sustainability. At four University locations guides will talk about the history of the buildings and how they have been renovated. And there is a first: tours in sign language.

The University has both very old and very new buildings. With adaptations such as the use of recycled materials, smart insulation and solar panels on the roofs, the older buildings have been made more sustainable in recent years. During the Heritage Days four locations are open to visitors: the Academy Building, the Hortus botanicus, the Former University Library and the recently renovated Arsenal.

Academy Building

This former abbey on the Rapenburg canal has housed the University since 1581. In the over four centuries since then, the building has undergone various transformations, especially on the inside. Come along this weekend to find out about its unique history and the most important renovations. And on Sunday 11 September there will be the first-ever Dutch sign language tour of the Academy Building and Hortus botanicus. You will need to book in advance.

Open Sat 12-17 hrs., Sun 10-17 hrs. / Parts of the building guided tours only / Please allow for queues / Walk-in concerts by Leiden choirs see Programme -> Music / Sun 13 hrs. Dutch sign language tours.

Hortus botanicus

Behind the Academy Building is the Hortus botanicus Leiden, the oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands. Scholars started a medical garden here in 1590 for teaching and research. Since then the Hortus has built up an impressive collection, ranging from ancient trees to countless ornamental bulbs and tropical flowers. To house this precious collection, various glasshouse complexes have been built over the years. These were sustainably refurbished ten years ago.

Sa 10-18 hrs., Sun 10-18 hrs. Garden open / Heritage Days kids activities and kids guide stamping station Sat and Sun 12-16 hrs. / Sat 11 hrs. and Sun 11 and 15 hrs. guided tours (book in advance, max 20 p.) at hortusleiden.nl / Sun 11-14 hrs. 

Former University Library

Diagonally opposite the Academy Building, at Rapenburg 70, is the Former University Library. This building served for a long time as a library but nowadays is home to the Executive Board and various central departments. The back of this grand building is a former chapel from the 15th century and for a while this was even home to the anatomical theatre, where medics dissected corpses in the name of science.  The main building on the Rapenburg side is more recent and was completed in 1927. One of the latest sustainable changes has been to the front garden: instead of a manicured lawn, a biodiverse garden has been created with plants that attract bees and other insects.   

Open Sat 12-17 hrs., Sun 10-17 hrs. / Hall and garden open / Room on 1st floor only accessible with guided tour / Please allow for queues / Walk-in concerts for Leiden choirs.

The renovated interior of the Arsenal during the reopening of the building.


Originally a barracks, the Arsenal was built in 1818. This massive structure at Arsenaalplein once had an open courtyard. The barracks closed at the end of the 1970s and after a major renovation of the building, the predecessor of the Faculty of Humanities move in, in 1981. The building was recently sustainably refurbished and is now better insulated, has 170 solar panels on the roof and much use has been made of recycled materials. There is also the odd nod to the past: the tables in the common room and meeting room are made of old military jackets.

Open Sat 12 -17 hrs., Sun 10 -17 hrs. /  Guided tours only / Please allow for queues / Ground floor wheelchair accessible, regrettably the attic is not.


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