Panorama of Leiden

Anatomy of an Alley

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What makes a good alley? In this gallery, we’ll take a closer look at the elements of an active and attractive alley, then pull them all together. On this end, the alley is anchored by the Leidseplein, a Dutch coffeeshop.
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At the other is the house where John Adams stayed as the first American Ambassador to the Netherlands in 1780. While in Leiden, he sought out loans to keep the American War of Independence afloat. The name of the alley is “Diefsteeg” (Thieves Alley).
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Both entrances to this block are protected by bollards, which ensure no cars attempt the narrow passage.
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This single block of alley is home to several businesses. Including a popular Chinese restaurant
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A hair salon
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An art shop
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An ethnic imported goods store
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An antique shop
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and a clothing store
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These businesses attract foot-traffic and their windows add visual interest and detail.
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The alley is also a residential place with apartments above the shops.
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Apartments can also be found at ground level.
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There’s also a “Minerva House” one of many residences for Leiden University students who belong to Minerva social club.
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All in all, a lot of people live here.
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All this activity means lots of windows looking on to the alley. Eyes on the street make people feel safe.
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Walking down the alley is a rich visual experience. With everything so close, detail turns into visual interest. The varied textures and colors of brick.
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Window displays catch the eye.
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Colorful house numbers.
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Promotional flyers are easy to read.
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Intriguing shop windows.
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Architectural details
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Stickers on down-spouts
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Beer cans on window ledges.
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Even the paving of the alley with bricks and cobbles adds visual interest.
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Pedestrian protected space, businesses, residences, windows, and endless visual detail make this alleyway a great space, even for the youngest of city dwellers.