When visiting Leiden, it’s hard to overlook visiting the Pieterskerk, one of the many iconic churches of Leiden. This church dates back to the medieval ages and can be visiting for a few euros (or viewed for free outside). If you’re a history lover, it’s worth visiting the Pieterskerk and I include a few tips to make your trip worthwhile.
The history of the Pieterskerk
The Pieterskerk is a late Gothic church in Leiden that dates back to
The church used to have a tower, which was built prior to the rest of the church. The tower was 110 meters tall. Tt wasn’t meant to be and collapsed in the 1500s. Since then, the church has not rebuilt the tower.
Historically, this church was a Catholic church, but during the Beeldenstorm, Calvinists attacked the church to destroy Catholic choir books, statues, and an altarpiece. (This was, unfortunately, the case across much of the Netherlands.) Shortly after, the church was closed prior to being converted into a Protestant church. The original windows were destroyed in a gunpowder explosion later on. In the 1970s, the church was converted into a museum and event space. Today, it’s open to the public to enjoy.
Visiting the Pieterskerk tips
If you wish to visit the church, the Pieterskerk admission fee is 4 euros, not including the cost of the pamphlet. (You can pay a few extra euros for a pamphlet to keep discussing the history of the church to help make your walk around the church more notable.) It’s a beautiful ~20 minute walk from Leiden Centraal.
If you do not have a Maestro card, I recommend carrying cash as not all shops in Leiden accept non-Dutch credit cards and my friend was unable to pay with her card. The church is generally open between
On certain days, especially closer to weekends, the church might be being set up for events and/or closed for these events. I recommend checking the schedule ahead as weekends are a popular time for events. (You can check the website if you want to view the church without the extra modern furniture, however, I didn’t find that this didn’t bother me so much. It did make it harder to view certain plaques, but it’s a minor inconvenience.)
It was really a self-guided walk that took about 30-45 minutes. Be sure to stop to admire the windows, which are engraved with the names of the Royal family
The organ, one of the oldest organ pipes in the world, is generally not open to the public for viewings. You’ll be especially lucky if the Van Hagerbeer organ dating back to 1446 is viewable on the day of your visit, so ask when you enter! I also recommend asking if the Church’s trustee room is open on the day of your visit as it’s a stunning wooden room that many people don’t know about!
A pro tip: you can actually stay with a view of the church in this gorgeous part of Leiden! In the former sexton’s house of the church, you can have a stunning view over the church in a cozy 3 story villa in the
Afterward, you can have a bit of coffee or cake at the old cafe where you’ll enter on the side of the church at Kloksteeg 16. You can also enter the hofje behind the church. Click for some nearby activities, including browsing the charming Pieterskwartier!
Notable graves at the Pieterskerk
I especially loved seeing the grave of Willebrord Snellius, which is hidden towards the back of the church. Willebrord Snellius was a Dutch mathematician born in Leiden who is the author of Snell’s law, which refers to how light is reflected. It’s easy to miss his grave, but for math geeks (like my husband), you will want to look for the plaque above!
Another notable person buried here is John Robinson, a Pilgrim Father. Like many of the Pilgrims who once lived in Leiden, he attended services here.
Thanksgiving in Leiden
As this church is desanctified, church services are generally not held in the church anymore. However, on Thanksgiving, you can visit the Pieterskerk for a Thanksgiving service in honor of the Pilgrims who once lived in Leiden. Check the schedule in November for exact times. It’s free to visitors.