Den Bosch: follow the footsteps of Hieronymus Bosch

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: follow the footsteps of Hieronymus Bosch | Your Dutch Guide

There are many reasons to visit Den Bosch, The Netherlands, but one of the best reasons is to follow the footsteps of Hieronymus Bosch. The medieval painter, famous for his diabolic scenes, premonitions and dark fantasy creatures, is Den Bosch’ most famous son and by getting to know the world of Hieronymus Bosch, you’ll naturally explore the best Den Bosch has to offer.

Not much is known about the upbringing and training of Hieronymus Bosch, beside him being born circa 1450 and being buried in 1516. He went down in history as ‘the devil’s creator’ and a painter of satirical works, but most of all Bosch was an innovator and came up with ground breaking new compositions and gave new substance to existing designs. Yet, because his constant innovations a lot of his work is unknown to us until this day. What remains are the close to 60 works we do know.

I remember visiting the Prado in Madrid, Spain, for the first time in 2001 and immediately finding my way to the wing of Dutch and Flemish masters, looking for The Garden of Earthly Delights and just standing there. Mouth open, completely mesmerised. The tranquil Garden of Eden on the left panel, the chaos and mayhem on Earth with its bleak humans in the middle and the fires of hell on the right, with Den Bosch burning in the background. It stayed with me for a long time. So, more than a decade later it was time to learn more about whatever there was to learn about the mysterious son of Den Bosch.

Den Bosch: guided boat tour on Binnendieze | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch: Hieronymus Bosch themed guided boat tour | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch: Hieronymus Bosch themed guided boat tour | Your Dutch Guide

‘Heaven and hell tour’ on Binnendieze

A good place to start an encounter with Hieronymus Bosch is on the Binnendieze river, a small stream that runs through and underneath the city of Den Bosch. There are a couple of guided boat tours every day and during the ‘Heaven and hell’ themed tour on Binnendieze you will learn about everyday life in the city of Den Bosch in de middle ages, navigate through the ‘Hellegat’ (literally translated as hell hole), a narrow tunnel underneath the city, and see some of Bosch’ creatures from up close.

What we do now know about Bosch’ life is that he did witness the big fire of 1463 as a child, which pretty much ruined the entire city and which could explain the presence of fire and contours of Den Bosch in many of his paintings.

Den Bosch, The Netherlands. Hieronymus Bosch themed guided boat tour: Hellegat | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: Hieronymus Bosch themed guided boat tour: 'Heaven and hell tour' | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch, The Netherlands. Hieronymus Bosch themed guided boat tour: Heaven and hell | Your Dutch Guide

Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center

The boat tour ends at the pier near the Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center (your admission is included in the boat tour ticket). The art centre is a must-see when you visit Den Bosch. Last year, when the city celebrated 500 years of Jeroen Bosch (how we Dutchies call the artist), the art centre displayed most of the original Bosch paintings.

But now the centre is also worth a visit, as you can see real size reproductions up close, even better: you are allowed to get really close and even touch them. Plus, some of the interesting features and creatures of Bosch are singled out and enlarged so you can understand them a little better. The museum is housed in an old church which seems like the perfect setting for Bosch’ religious themed work. Don’t forget to take the elevator to the top of the tower to catch an amazing view over Den Bosch.

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center | Your Dutch Guide

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center, view over Den Bosch | Your Dutch Guide

Meet Hieronymus Bosch

You can meet the illustrious Bosch on the market square, next to city hall. The statue was made by sculptor August Falise in 1929, who used a drawing of Hieronymus Bosch from Recueil d’Arras as an inspiration for his work. A study for this sculpture can be seen in Noordbrabants Museum, where you will learn more about the history of Noord-Brabant and Den Bosch and see highlights of Dutch art since from the 15th century onwards.

Den Bosch, The Netherlands: statue Jhernonimus Bosch | Your Dutch Guide

Planning a trip to Den Bosch, The Netherlands

  • You can easily get to Den Bosch by train. From Amsterdam, you will get there within an hour and trains run 4 times an hour. Check out NS website for rates and timetables.
  • If you decide to stay in Den Bosch (and please do, there is so much more to explore), I can recommend hotel Little Duke, a stone’s throw from the train station, offering fairly priced and brightly coloured rooms.
  • You can read all my recommendations on what to see and do, and where to eat in my city guide Den Bosch.

How do you feel about the works by Hieronymus Bosch?

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  • Reply
    July 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Happened to stumble upon your blog and its beautiful. Love the way you write, and gorgeous pictures <3

  • Reply
    Christine | The Journey of Christine
    July 20, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I have yet to visit The Netherlands and want to so bad. This is such a fascinating tour especially passing through the “hell hole” lol.

    • Reply
      July 20, 2017 at 7:34 pm

      I really loved the guided boat tour, as you really sail behind and underneath all kinds of big buildings in the city. The critters by Bosch along the way are an excellent bonus.

  • Reply
    Paul and Carole
    July 23, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Looks a great place to visit. Would love to experience more of the netherlands, have only got to Amsterdam so far. Interesting post thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Call me M
    July 23, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Looks like a great place to visit!
    Thank you for stopping by my blog! 🙂

  • Reply
    July 24, 2017 at 12:13 am

    I remember the The Garden of Earthly Delights at the Prado Museum in Madrid. I was as taken by it as you. It must be interesting to visit the Jhernonimus Bosch Art Center. Hope to make it to Holland someday.

  • Reply
    July 24, 2017 at 9:50 am

    very interesting

  • Reply
    July 24, 2017 at 10:25 am

    I’ve never heard of this artist before, but thanks for enlightening me! Now the next time I go to the Netherlands, I’ll keep an eye out for some of his work!

    • Reply
      July 24, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Thank you, Lolo! Actually, you have a better chance seeing Bosch’s work abroad at most of his work is exhibited in museums outside The Netherlands. You can see one of Bosch’s paintings in Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. But the art centre in Den Bosch is an excellent place to start and learn more about Bosch (especially because you are allowed to touch all the reproductions!)

  • Reply
    July 26, 2017 at 6:36 am

    It’s always interesting to see the places and environments that influenced our great artists, and their works. Aside from some paintings, we really don’t know much about Bosch, but loved this introduction.

  • Reply
    July 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    I would love to visit here!

  • Reply
    July 27, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    Den Bosch looks fantastic and full of so many interesting spots and things to do. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it before. You’ve really intrigued me here.

  • Reply
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    July 27, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    I’ve seen The Garden of Earthly Delights in the Prado too – it’s quite something. This looks like an ideal tour for anyone wanting to find out more about Hieronymous Bosch. I especially like the idea of a boat tour into heaven and hell.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Some of the art works are so whimsical. Others are quite memorising and you could stare at them for hours and get lost in their intricate patterns.

  • Reply
    July 28, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Wow! I think a lot of us are fascinated with the works of Bosch in one way or another. Now, I didn’t know about his home town and all the cool things you can do there. I am happy I learned all this through this post.

  • Reply
    July 29, 2017 at 2:21 am

    I remember seeing the Garden of Eden in Madrid! I love the Prado! I’m not a huge museum person, but seeing art outside of a museum in real life and following an artists footsteps sounds right up my alley! Looks awesome!

  • Reply
    August 3, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Lovely. I love art and your art articles are truly great. Love the photos.

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