Have you ever laid eyes on View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer (go on and Google it if you haven’t)? Vermeer was born in Delft, The Netherlands and lived there all his life. His work of art was a romanticised version of the Dutch city, but he wasn’t altogether wrong. The medieval streets snuggled up to the canals, the beautiful market square and of course the Delftware: Delfts Blauw. But, being home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, Delft is young at heart. Check out these 10 things to do in Delft to see both the old and new on your day trip there.
Top 10 things to do in Delft, The Netherlands
Nieuwe Kerk: for the royals of Orange
If you would like to understand just a little about the history of The Netherlands, a visit to Nieuwe Kerk is a must. Here, father of The Netherlands ‘William of Orange’ is buried and after that all royals of the house of Orange. But best of all is the view after you’ve climbed the 110-meter high tower with a magnificent view over the city. On bright days you’ll even be able to see Rotterdam and The Hague.
A stroll on the Delft market square is a real treat! On Saturdays, it’s easy enough to stock up on Dutch souvenirs by simply checking out all the stalls during market day: cheeses, cookies (fresh stroopwafels!) and poffertjes: a food fest all by itself. Behind the most beautiful façade on the market, you’ll find Koos Rozenburgs’ shop, where some amazing antiques are to be found. And of course, you can’t miss the grand City Hall, built in the 17th century.
If you’ve visited Utrecht, you know that we Dutch do ‘hofjes’ (small historical courtyards) pretty well. In Delft, you can visit Almshouses, like Hofje van Gratie at Van der Mastenstraat 26-38 or Hofje van Pauw at Paardenmarkt 54-62.
Rent a bike
Cycling through Delft can be a magical experience (check out my hints and tips on cycling in The Netherlands), and even though the historical streets are small, especially along the canals), Delft is perfect for cycling. Don’t forget to venture outside the city centre too, and see Oostpoort for example, the Medieval east gate of Delft, to enjoy some nature as well as city life. Rent your bike at the train station for €3,85.
Every child in The Netherlands visits Museum Prinsenhof when in primary school. Why? Basically, because The Netherlands began right here, in Delft. Prinsenhof is where William of Orange was assassinated in 1584 after leading a successful uprising against the Spanish during the 80-year war. Museum Prinsenhof tells about the war, William of Orange (the bullet hole in the wall where he was shot is preserved) and shows beautiful paintings from the Golden Age.
Famous Delft Blue pottery
You can’t take a day trip to Delft without seeing some Delfts Blauw (Delftware, or Delft Blue). Visit Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, a kilometre south of the city centre, one of the last still working factories. The audio takes you through the museum, the production process and a demonstration. But if you’re in the mood: why not take a class and create your own Delftware.
See Delft from the water
Compared to the grand canals of Amsterdam a tour through the canals in Delft is just so cosy. Canal boats run every hour or so from Koornmarkt, cost €9 and take about 50 minutes. You will be seeing the best of Delft from the water.
Shop and coffee at Pleck
Over the last few years, new hip shops and cafés have been popping up all over the city. And Pleck is actually both. It has proclaimed itself to be a supermarket and healthy hotspot. Now, I don’t know about the healthy part. I just know that it serves great coffee and juices, the store has a lovely industrial as well as a green feel, and you can buy awesome interior design objects like lamps, chairs and pottery there.
Lunch at Kek
A little further down the Voldersgracht from Pleck is Kek, one of the best hotspots in town. On weekends it’s simply heaving with people. Kek is a fabulous place for lunch. Simply order a salad, a big piece of cake and a smoothie, find a place to sit outside and watch the people walk along the canal.
Check out 5 hotspots in Delft along Voldersgracht
Sleep at Hotel Johannes Vermeer
Even though Delft isn’t, by all means, considered a large city, not even in The Netherlands, but it can still be worth it to stay the night in Delft. First of all, Delft is close to Rotterdam and The Hague (both cities are 15-20 minutes by train), so if you feel like exploring one of these cities the next day, simply stay in Delft and enjoy a fun dinner (I recommend Hummus, with its middle-eastern inspired dishes) and sleep at Hotel Johannes Vermeer, along a quiet canal. The hotel has that quiet, cosy living room feel, with lots of dark woodwork and antiques, as well as reproductions of Vermeer’s paintings. And if you always wanted to stay in a Delft Blue room, here’s your chance!
So, why haven’t I included the Vermeer Centrum Delft in my ‘top things to do in Delft’ list?
Well, simply because you won’t see an actual painting by Vermeer there. I think the Vermeer Centrum is brilliant if you want to have a feel of how Vermeer’s Delft looked like in the 17th century and what inspired him to paint his beautiful girls and skies. But, if I were a foreign tourist coming to Delft, I’d be disappointed going into the centre without actually seeing a Vermeer. If you simply can’t leave The Netherlands without seeing a work of the Master, simply hop on a train as 20 minutes away in The Hague you’ll get to meet The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Vermeer in Mauritshuis.
Plan your trip to Delft, The Netherlands
- From Amsterdam (airport) you can take a direct train to Delft, or you switch trains in Leiden or The Hague. It’ll take you less than 1 hour to get from Amsterdam to Delft.
- If you’re in Europe, you may consider flying into Rotterdam, as many low-budget airlines go there and you’ll be able to get to Delft in 30 minutes or less from Rotterdam.
- To travel on public transport, buy an OV Chip Card, which you can charge as you go.
- Plan your trip using my city guide Delft.
- Delft is close enough to Rotterdam and The Hague, so you may want to expand your trip and see these cities too.
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