Naturalis – Europe’s best museum of 2021

Trex fossil in Leiden

Leiden is a beautiful historical city in the Netherlands. So a natural history museum is not out of place in a city like this. Just outside the historic city center stands this impressive and huge modern piece of architecture that hosts Europe’s best museum of 2021: Naturalis.

Last month I had the honor to visit Leiden and the Naturalis museum. Let me first say that arriving at the building was already an impressive moment. It’s a massive modern, almost monolithic structure, greeting you in with its warm, stoney facade.

naturalis in leiden

And the interior is even more impressive—a vast entrance hall reaching the roof. Monumental stairs make you feel like you are about to climb an ancient Egyptian or Mayan pyramid.

Also, these substantial mammoth plush toys are luring you to the gift shop as soon as you walk in. But that’s a temptation you have to resist. First, visit the beautiful exhibitions in the museum!

It could be Covid, but hopefully, it’s a permanent feature: they have a route through the museum that makes it more of a story.

The first room is ‘Live Science.’ A room full of skeletons and animals, but also scientists. No, not the skeletons of scientists, living scientists. You can see them at work in this room. Even better, you can ask them questions about what they are doing.

For example, the archeologists at the back are more than happy to explain what kind of fossil they are working on and how they are going about it. However, they wore lab coats instead of Indiana Jones hats and whips.

fossils in naturalis

The next room is a small conference room where an expert of the Naturalis museum is awaiting you. They give you a small and interactive presentation about the museum: what they do, who they are, and how they do it all.

After this, the collections start, and I will not describe them all in detail. These are the topics they have a display on:

  • Life: With a huge collection of animals and plants from all over the world.
  • Death: Because of the obvious relation with life.
  • Dinosaur era: with some massive fossils!
  • Early humans: where do we come from?
  • Earth: you know, that little rock we live on.
  • Ice Age: Especially how it was in the Netherlands. A visually beautiful gallery.

One more amazing thing I would like to highlight. What I find very interesting is a huge setup to photograph the many insects in their collection.

They have this massive installation that helps them to (more or less) quickly photograph the insects in a high-quality way. As a macro photographer, I know how hard it can be, and watching their setup go about it reasonably fast was mindblowing to me.

insect fotografie in leiden

Some fun facts about Naturalis:

  • It’s been awarded the title ‘European Museum of the Year 2021’
  • Its located at the Darwin road in Leiden
  • They are over 200 years old now
  • Their collection contains over 42 million objects!
  • It’s the only natural history museum in the world discussing the topic of death so extensively
  • The T-rex has the name Trix
  • They have the largest collection of mammoth bones in the world (over 9000)
  • There is a piece of mammoth fur in the exhibition

What are you waiting for? Go and discover Leiden and the Naturalis museum for yourself!

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