If Spring this year proves to be wet and cool and you are looking for something to do (with or without kids), then Leiden is an excellent place to start with the following three museums:
Museum of Antiquity
Visiting the museum takes you on a tour of Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Etruria, the Roman Empire, prehistoric Netherlands, Roman Netherlands, and the Netherlands in the Middle Ages. The Egypt collection is one of the largest and most complete collections of Ancient Egypt – and will be on display starting April 1 in their new exhibition Egypt, Land of Immortality, when you will be told how the Egyptians dealt with life after death, through 150 objects, including mummies, mummy cases, bronze figures of gods, and sculptures – a great deal of which have never been on display before.
However, its Greek/Roman/Etruscan exhibition – Classical World, a permanent exhibition which opened December 15, 2015 – is at least as impressive, with its mythical heroes and gods, and its selection of amphorae, vases and dishes depicting mythical tales – running from the earliest period of Greek culture, through to the rise of Athens, and on to the civilizations of Crete and Mycenae.
Museum of Ethnology
The Museum of Ethnology is a place to go and become lost in time, surrounded by beautifully preserved, well-lit and lovingly displayed objects – many of them donations made from private collections by people who had a story to tell.
Besides an extensive Japanese section, it also has objects from Korea, as well as the Ainu and Ryukyu people; Africa; China; the Polar areas; Indonesia; Central and South America; North America; Oceania; and the Middle East / Western and Central Asia.
Until August 14, the Museum has organized an exposition on Buddha: the exposition takes you on a trip through a.o. Tibet, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, but also through the Netherlands, to tell his colorful story and share his religious impact.
Naturalis Biodiversity Center
At Naturalis you are welcomed by a herd of assorted animals: an elephant, a bison, a giraffe, and aardvark, a floating manatee, and more. The ceiling is dark and lit with hundreds of small spotlights – giving you the feel as if you are in a dream, walking through a surreal world. The atmosphere is hushed as as you come up close and personal with hundreds of animals.
Contributing to this dreamy quality are the lit glass display cases, with leaves, mushrooms, animals, butterflies, shells, crabs, and more. A full circle of two parallel display cases – approximately 60 meters in length, each, and three meters high – allow you to stroll between them, whereby it is almost as much fun to watch the wide-eyed wonder of the kids as it is to appreciate the incredible diversity of flora and fauna the Earth harbors.
In the second main display hall, called the Primeval Parade, you will find their stunning collection of fossils, skeletons, dinosaurs, and the femur of Java Man – a recently discovered member of our evolutionary tree.
Be sure to mark April 16-24 in your agenda: this is National Museum Week when many museums open their doors free of charge, or at a reduced price. The participating museums are listed on www.nationalemuseumweek.nl.