Delft is a gorgeous town located between The Hague and Rotterdam. Despite its small size, Delft (map) is an important historic and cultural centre in the Netherlands. There are many things to do in Delft and the best way to explore the town is on foot – the town centre is very compact and most of the important sights are located here. Here are my suggestions for things to do and see in Delft:
Things to do in Delft
1. Experience the charming town centre
The best way to experience Delft is to go on a leisurely stroll around the town centre. This will take you past beautiful lily-filled canals, quaint squares, and magnificent churches, manors and other historic monuments.
2. Visit the Markt
Delft’s main square, Markt (‘Market’), houses two of the town’s most important buildings, the Nieuwe Kerk (‘New Church’) and the Stadhuis (‘Town Hall’). The Nieuwe Kerk was completed in 1496 and its bell-tower is an impressive 109 meters tall! You can climb the bell-tower for beautiful views of Delft and even the skyline of Rotterdam.
The Nieuwe Kerk has an important place in the history of the Dutch monarchy as this is where the royal family’s burial vault is located. The entrance to the vault is covered by a 5,000 kg rock slab! Another important person who was laid to rest in this church was Hugo Grotius (or Hugo de Groot), a lawyer and theologist who played an influential role in shaping current international and maritime law.
3. Visit the Prinsenhof
Another historic attraction in Delft that is closely tied to the history of the Netherlands is the Prinsenhof. Originally built in the Middle Ages as a monastery, Prinsenhof later served as the palace of William I, the Prince of Orange (or William the Silent), who is considered the founder and ‘father’ of the Netherlands. William I was assassinated here in 1584 and the holes made in a wall by the bullets can still be seen. The Prinsenhof is now a museum with, amongst others, a collection of Vermeer paintings.
4. Learn about Vermeer
Delft is also famous as the birthplace of Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch painter who lived during the country’s Golden Age in the 17th century. Perhaps most famous for his painting, ‘Girl with the Pearl Ear Ring’, Vermeer used the town and surrounding countryside as the backdrop in many of his paintings. A visit to Delft wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Vermeer Centre!
5. Visit the Oude Kerk (Old Church)
A short walk from the Vermeer Museum is the Oude Kerk (Old Church). Approximately 100 years older than the Nieuwe Kerk, many prominent citizens of Delft were buried here, including Johannes Vermeer.
6. Discover Delft Blue
Delft is famous the world over for its blue ceramics aptly called Delft Blue. This particular style was inspired by the arrival of Chinese porcelain, which was imported to Europe by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century. Delft Blue ceramics in the form of plates, jugs, salt and pepper shakers, fridge magnets, clogs, miniature windmills and vases are some of the most popular souvenirs for visitors to the Netherlands.
In addition to the many shops selling Delft Blue items, visitors can also visit the Porceleyne Fles, a 17th century Delft Blue factory which houses the Royal Delft Museum. Whilst there, visitors can also try their hand at creating their own Delft Blue tile. There are also various museums which house private collections of antique Delft Blue and Chinese porcelain, such as the Paul Tetar van Elven Museum.
7. Browse around the antique markets
There are numerous antique markets in Delft, especially in the summer months. The biggest Antique Market is held every Saturday between mid-April and late-September. On these Saturdays, hundreds of stalls line the canals and offer a colorful and varied collection, ranging from ancient porcelain pieces to slightly more contemporary record collections!
Another market that is worth a visit is the Book and Art Market that is held every Thursday in the Hippolytusbuurt (in the town centre) between early-April and late-October.
Getting to Delft
Delft is easily accessible by train from the major cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. It is also an option for visitors on a long layover at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as it is about 30 minutes by train from the airport. If you’re driving, Delft is just off the main A13 highway between The Hague and Rotterdam. Its accessibility makes it a perfect day-trip from any of these cities.
Search for hotels in Delft (Booking.com).