Secretary of State Zijlstra opens renovated Leiden Observatory

On Wednesday 26 October at 16.00 hrs Secretary of State Halbe Zijlstra of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is reopening the 150-year-old Leiden Observatory. The renovated Observatory will be open for guided visits on Saturday 29 October. On Science Day (Sunday 30 October) the oldest still functioning academic observatory in the world will also be open to the public.

Leiden Architecture Prize

The restored Observatory won this year’s Leiden Architecture Prize. Many experts have worked on restoring the building to its original layout, using traditional handwork techniques, and with close attention to detail, as can be seen for instance in the veranda on the Singel, the domes, the stucco ceiling, the marbled walls and the floors. Both the domes and the telescopes are working again. This expert renovation has taken care of all architectural shortcomings. The Observatory will be used as a lecture hall.

New Visitor Centre

Cellar of the Observatory excavated for the new Visitor Centre

Cellar of the Observatory excavated for the new Visitor Centre

The Observatory is open for visits on special occasions such as Open Monument Days and Science Day. Starting on 27 October, visitors of the Botanical Gardens can walk around the building and see the new Observatory Visitor’s Centre. A permanent exhibition about the history of the building and the developments in Leiden Astronomy is set up in the excavated cellar of the building.

Digital sample of 800 fotos from 1908
The University Library will soon release digital archives onto the web. As a digital foretaste of international astronomy, 800 photographs from around 1908 are already available right now. This photo album was given to Hendrik van de Sande Bakhuyzen as a gift for his farewell party as a Professor Director of the Observatory. To see the album, go to: Liber Amicorum of H.G. van de Sande Bakhuyzen

Subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science

Specialist working on one of the domes

Specialist working on one of the domes

Having used the building for years, the Leiden astronomers left in 1974, to occupy the more spacious Huygens Laboratory on the Wassenaarseweg. The building fell into disuse.The restoration of the Observatory began in 2009 with the help of a subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. Alterations and overdue maintenance had in the course of time completely eroded the character of the building. The roofs and gutters leaked, the window and door frames were rotten, and the domes of the observatories were in a deplorable state. The total restoration and renovation of the area lasted two and a half years and cost 15 million euro

Inspired by St. Petersburg

Observation domes

Observation domes

Leiden University owes the Leiden Observatory to the ambitious Professor of Astronomy Frederik Kaiser. Architect Henri F.G.N. Camp designed a building in neo-classical style, inspired by the famous Observatory of Saint Petersburg. Construction began in 1858. The extraordinary building, with a central part flanked by wings on both sides, was extended a number of times over the years. The western part housed the living quarters of Prof. Kaiser. Two observation domes were built on the roof; more were added later on. The complex also includes the octagonal heliometer tower (1877, P.J.H. Cuypers) and the dome halfway up the Sterrewachtlaan, from where heavenly bodies could be photographed.

Video of the restoration


The current Astronomy Research Institute will remain housed in the J.H. Oort building in the Leeuwenhoek.


'Stella Maris, a constellation and space',
untill 7 November 2011, Rapenburg 70, Leiden, Oude UB (Old Library)

Studying in Leiden

(21 October 2011)

Last Modified: 26-10-2011