Three times a week, the visitor centre on the west side of the Observatory is open. This space contains an exhibition about the rich history of the Old Observatory, but also about the splendour of astronomy itself.
The exhibition in the visitor centre consists of rooms dedicated to four subjects: the history of the Old Observatory, Radio Telescopes, Optical Telescopes and Space Telescopes. These four rooms can be visited in any order.
If questions about astronomy arise during a visit to the visitor centre, the staff of the visitor centre can answer them. The custodian is an astronomy student!
The Galaxy Maker, a interactive device that gives you the ability to create your own galaxy, is located in the rear hall of the visitor centre.
A galaxy can be selected on a touchscreen. The machine then gives a recipe for this galaxy with five ingredients: young stars, old stars, gas and dust, black holes and dark matter. These must then be placed in the machine in the correct proportion, after which it will build the galaxy. The result: a 3D projection of the galaxy!
Virtual Tour of the Cosmos
Astronauts have the privilege of looking at the universe from a unique perspective. Above the atmosphere and the light pollution of cities, the universe seems even more beautiful than what we can see on Earth at night. For everyone who is not an astronaut, Leiden offers a great solution: a virtual tour of the cosmos! With virtual reality glasses it is possible to fly through the universe and explore the grand structure.
This virtual tour follows a modern simulation of the structure of the universe based on the EAGLE project, in which Leiden professor Joop Schaye is involved. The EAGLE project's main aim is to investigate the formation of galaxies and their co-evolution with their gaseous environments.
Open hours, route and tickets
The visitor centre is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 16:00.
Access to the building is granted by the Hortus Botanicus Leiden. The entrance to the Hortus Botanicus can be found at Rapenburg 73. There you can buy an admission ticket for the garden. Once in the garden, you can walk to the visitor centre of the Old Observatory. It is located at the end of the garden. The walking route takes about ten minutes.
Entrance to the visitor centre is free of charge, provided you have a valid admission ticket for the Hortus Botanicus Leiden.
You can take pictures in the visitor centre. It is not allowed to use flash or a tripod. If you want to photograph for commercial or journalistic purposes, please contact us.
We ask you to take other visitors into account and limit your phone use as much as possible.
Bringing food or drinks into the exhibition space is not allowed.
Smoking is not permitted in the Old Observatory.
Pets are not allowed in the visitor centre. An assistance dog is allowed to go inside.