Cheap bikes and beer

How to survive your first weeks in Leiden

Photo Davy RosbakStudents are enjoying the ‘silent disco’ at the Burcht, during the introduction week.

Door Vincent Bongers

You are now a student in Leiden, so what do you really need to know? Mare, your new weekly, provides pointers on how to furnish your room, where to get a bike and where to go for a very last drink at night.

Once you have found a place, you’ll have to furnish it. The cheapest way is via the site gratisaftehalen.nl, but you’ll have to find someone willing to fetch all the free stuff for you in a car. The thrift stores on the Waardeiland (kringloopwarenhuis.nl), Volmolengracht (kringloopprojectleiden.nl) and on Lammenschansweg (kringloopwinkelleiden.nl) do not give goods away for free, but they will deliver them to your home.
Ikea in Delft also delivers, al-though both the furniture and its delivery are more expensive.
But the real student bargains are found early in the morning, when the outsized household rubbish is collected: you haul it back to your place with your drunken flatmate and carry it off to your room, only to discover, a fortnight later, that a nest of mice had already taken up residence in it.
The most important thing to remember is: make sure you have as little stuff as possible -it’s very likely that you’ll be moving again soon.
If you want to paint the walls, pop into the paint shop at Hooigracht 64 or Gamma on Lammenschansweg. But remember: officially, the person who rents the place after you can demand that you paint the walls white again before you leave, so make sure you find someone who doesn’t want white walls.
In reality, the only means of transport that is suitable for Leiden’s centre is a bike. Unfortunately, it also means that there is a chronic shortage of storage space for bikes, particularly at the Central Station. There’s a certain amount of risk in parking your bike outside the bike shelters, as Leiden council is the worst bike thief in the town. As part of the “Fiets Fout = Fiets Weg” campaign (or: bike wrong = bike gone), any bikes left outside the shelter are carted away and stored in a depot on the industrial estate De Waard on the Willem Barentszstraat.
The owner of the vehicle may collect it there, but will need to pay 26 Euros before he can ride off on it. To add insult to injury, the industrial estate is outside the town centre.
Any bikes not collected within three months are sold at Het Warenhuis, a thrift store next to the depot. The prices range from 35 to 80 euros and there are always some 30 to 50 bikes in stock. Large selections of second-hand bikes can also be found at Van Habraken’s (Derde Binnenvestgracht 3A) and Budget Bike (Hogewoerd 71 en Haven 14). Alternatively, if you are not worried about buying stolen goods, you can always buy a bike from a junkie for next to nothing. Or you can lease one for 12 euros a month from Swapfiets (2e Binnenvestgracht). If your bike breaks down, the Swapauto (Swap car) will come to fix it.
A tough moment: it’s late, the clock has just struck two and you’ve been thrown out of the pub after the last round, but you’re still thirsty. Where can you go now?
On most weekdays, you are supposed to be inside the pub by one, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, it’s two. After that, it is difficult to get in anywhere, so make sure you are inside by then, such as inside De Kroeg (Kort Rapenburg 4), or Next (Langebrug 6A), where you can dance. Bring your student card and ID, and don’t wear sneakers. They will not let you in.
There are rumours that you can sometimes get into Lemmy’s on Morsstraat after hours and it’s also worth trying Café Jantje van Leiden (Hartesteeg 8). Student fraternity Catena is famous for its continual partying. If the people working in a bar know you, your chances of getting inside after two a.m. increase rapidly.
Any pangs of hunger can be alleviated at Downtown (Breestraat 3A). At Sinaï (Breestraat 169), you can get those afterparty classics, shawarma and kebabs.

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Cheap bikes and beer

You are now a student in Leiden, so what do you really need to know? Mare, your new …