Delft is very often called the most beautiful town in the Dutch province of South Holland. It´s full of historical buildings, pretty narrow canals, bikes, and also the bike routes. It´s also home to the famous blue and white ceramics, Delfts Blauw. All around the town are shops called Royal Delft where you will find thousands of little things from the porcelain. Delft makes a great destination for a day trip or can serve as a base to explore the region. And if the bustling crowds of Amsterdam are not really your thing, Delft is a lovely alternative, offering an equally interesting insight into the cultural wealth of old “Holland”, on a far more intimate scale.
Delft is more than 750 years old. Its name is derived from ‘delven’ which means delve or digging. Delft’s oldest canal is called The Old Delft (de Oude Delft) and the town just simply expanded around it; later on many other city canals were dug as life lines through the city. These grachten are still the pride of Delft.
Most famous sights in Delft you can´t miss:
Vermeer Centrum Delft
As the place where Vermeer was born, lived, and worked, Delft is ‘Vermeer Central’ to many art-history and old-masters enthusiasts. Along with viewing life-sized images of Vermeer’s oeuvre, you can tour a replica of Vermeer’s studio, which reveals the way the artist approached the use of light and colour in his craft. A ‘Vermeer’s World’ exhibit offers insight into his environment and upbringing, while temporary exhibits show how his work continues to inspire other artists.
The Gothic Oude Kerk, founded in 1246, is a surreal sight: its 75m-high tower leans nearly 2m from the vertical due to subsidence caused by its canal location, hence its nickname Scheve Jan (‘Leaning Jan’). One of the tombs inside the church is Vermeer’s.
Construction on Delft’s Nieuwe Kerk began in 1381; it was finally completed in 1655. Amazing views extend from the 108.75m-high tower: after climbing its 376 narrow, spiralling steps you can see as far as Rotterdam and Den Haag on a clear day. It’s the resting place of William of Orange (William the Silent), in a mausoleum designed by Hendrick de Keyser.
Municipal Museum het Prinsenhof
Opposite the Oude Kerk, the former convent where William of Orange (William the Silent) was assassinated in 1584 (the bullet hole in the wall is preserved) is now a museum displaying various objects telling the story of the Eighty Years’ War with Spain, as well as 17th-century paintings.
The pedestrianised city square is worth a stroll for its pleasant collection of galleries, antiques stores, clothing boutiques and quirky speciality shops.
Museum Paul Tetar van Elven
This off-the-radar museum is the former studio and home of 19th-century Dutch artist Paul Tetar van Elven, who lived and worked here from 1864 until 1894, and bequeathed it to the town. The museum features his works including reproductions of notable paintings, along with his collection of antique furniture, oriental porcelain and Delftware. The evocative interior retains its original furnishings and lived-in feel.
The most central and modest Delftware outfit is de Candelaer, just off the Markt. It has five artists, a few of whom work most days. When it’s quiet they’ll give you a detailed tour of the manufacturing process.
Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles
Pottery fans will love Royal Delft, 1km southeast of the centre. Tour tickets include an audiotour which leads you through a painting demonstration, the company museum, and the factory production process. You can also take a workshop (€26.50 to €32) where you get to paint your own piece of Delft blue (tiles, plates and vases). For many, of course, the real thrill begins in the gift shop.
De Delftse Pauw
De Delftse Pauw employs 35 painters who work mainly from home. It has daily tours, but you won’t see the painters on weekends. Take tram 1 to Vrijenbanselaan.
Subjects for a city walk:
- Almshouses (hofjes)
- Hofje van Gratie, this was a hofje for single women, founded in 1575 by Pieter Sasbout. It was originally situated on Korte Geer, but, with the expansion of the Armamentarium, it was relocated to its current location.
- Hofje van Pauw, this hofje was built in 1707 as stated in the will of Elizabeth Pauw.
- Klaeuwshofje, this hofje was meant for unmarried or widowed Catholic women. It was founded in 1605 by Dirck and Elizabeth Uyttenhage.
- Stadhuis (Town Hall), after a fire in 1618 after which only the tower remained, Hendrick de Keyser rebuilt the town hall. He reused the tower and some remaining walls. In 1620 construction was finished. The building was renovated in the 19th century.
- Hugo de Groot (Hugo Grotius), on the market you will find the statue of Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645). Grotius is the latin version of the Dutch name Hugo de Groot. Grotius was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. He laid the foundations for international law and law of the sea. In 1618 Grotius was sentenced to life imprisonment to the Loevestein Castle, about 75 km south east of Delft. Grotius managed to escape in a book chest. Both the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the museum Het Prinsenhof in Delft claim to have the original book chest in their collection.
- Apotheek De Salamander, on the market you will find this old fashioned pharmacy. The gable is adorned by a traditional Gaper. The pharmacist -in white lab coat- provides proper care and attention far beyond current standards.
- Vleeshal (Meat Hall), built in 1650. It is one of the only Hollands Classical buildings in Delft. Originally a meat market, later it was converted for wheat. Nowadays it is a youth society. It is possible to eat here for a modest price (around €4).
- Visbank (Fish Trade), fish market, one of the oldest shops in the world. Try a traditional Dutch herring. The taste holds between raw tuna and “gravad lax” (cured salmon). The antique shop opposite the Visbank is the most photographed building in Delft. Note the fence. It is a depiction of the solar system.
- Vrouwenregt, in this short street along a from Vrouw Jutteland, is at the back of the New Chuch. Note the little warped house on the corner closest to the church. It featured in the “Girl with the pearl earring”, a film about the painter Vermeer and every tourist takes it picture.
- VOC-Huis (Dutch East India Company House), the VOC consisted of 6 chambers. One of them was located in Delft. Delft had a harbour (Delfshaven) at that time, next to Rotterdam. The harbour was later engulfed by the growing city of Rotterdam.
- Oostpoort (East Gate), the eastern gate to the city, built around 1400 and of the four original gates the only surviving one. Small building. It looks kind of cute. It is not on the famous painting by Vermeer (because that’s the South Gate), as many tourists wrongly think.
- Agnetapark, just northwest, 10 min walk outside the inner city, this small park was built around 1880 by a local factory owner for his workers. It´s the first garden city in the Netherlands. It contains the house of the owner and small working-class cottages and has been a state monument since 1989.
- Beestenmarkt, just 2 min from the main square you find the Beestenmarkt. This is a tree covered square with restaurants, cafés and bars all with outside seating. Very busy all year round. Many pubs have patio heaters to provide comfort after sunset. One of the pubs even provides a sand pit for the children. The name of the square refers to cattle (beest is animal) market which used to be held here. During December / January an ice rink is build on the square.
I think the best way to explore Delft is by a bike. You can either bring your bike with you, or just rent a bike in one of those many rentals that can be found all around the town. Have a nice trip 🙂
Windmill near the city centre (you can even get to the top of it! It´s free)
View from the windmill
Het Prinsenhof (and the park around)
Shopping Centre In de Hoven
Giant park with a lake where you can swim
Bus station – aren´t those clouds pretty?
In Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles