Leiden Castle, locally known as the Burcht van Leiden, lies in the center of the city of Leiden, in the province of South Holland in the Netherlands.
Leiden Castle is a good example of a shell keep and, in its present form, dates back to the 12th century.
The motte (an artificial hill) was constructed in the 11th century and a wooden fortification was built on top of it. Around 1150 this wooden fortification was replaced by the present stone castle. Originally a keep would have stood against the inside of the castle walls.
Archeological excavations showed that Leiden Castle was probably never used for permanent habitation and only served as a refuge for the people of Leiden and their belongings in times of peril. In 1203 and again in 1204 the castle was sieged and suffered considerable damage. As the town of Leiden grew around the castle it lost its military function in the beginning of the 14th century.
In 1651 the castle was bought by the town council of Leiden.
The castle was built on a strategic spot; in a bend of the Old Rhine river. Nowadays that river is reduced to a canal through the city of Leiden and can't be seen from the castle anymore due to all the 18th century buildings that surround the motte.
It consists of a tuff and brick circular wall with ramparts resting on arches. The carvings surrounding the gate are a decorative addition from the 18th century.
Legend has it that the, now dry, well inside the castle was very deep and that it received its water from the North Sea; some 8 kilometers away, due to the fact that a herring was once caught in the well.
Leiden Castle is freely accessible during daytime.
This is a beautiful castle, unique for the Netherlands, in a nice historic city.