This post is another one from our posts serie "the Netherlands has way more to offer than only Amsterdam". We are living in The Hague since 2018, Delft was one of the first cities we visited since it is super close by (you can even take a tram there) and we try to take our visitors there whenever we have a chance because it is also cute and displays very traditionally Dutch cityscapes.
Home to the world famous wannabe-porcelain blue and white pottery, Delft is a relatively small canal-ringed town with picturesque and traditional Dutch architecture in every street. Having been very loyal to the Orange Royal Family since the Eighty Years' War, Delft became also the burial city of the Dutch Royal Family since William of Orange has been shot dead in 1584 and buried in Delft, starting a tradition which lasts to the present days.
Inheriting the name due to the Delf canal, Delft started off when a Count established his manor there around 1075 which contributed to grow the importance of the town's market. However, it is only in 1246 that Delft was granted city rights and from there on the importance of trade and industry grew largely. With the Spanish occupation during the Eighty Years' War, William I of Orange, leader of the national Dutch resistance, took up residence in Delft, bringing the city to the heart of the Holland's opposition to the spaniards.
Afterwards, Delft hosted temporarily the seat of the Prince of Orange following the declaration of independence from Spain. During the Dutch Golden Ages, the city thrived with the traditionally-Dutch blue ceramic industry and as a trade center that allowed the blooming of a rich artistic movement from which one particular citizen from Delft got famous: Johannes Vermeer, "the Master of Light". His most known piece, "Girl with a Pearl Earring", influences not only painters, but also writers and movie makers.
HOW TO GET TO DELFT?
The city of Delft is about an hour away from Amsterdam. Trains to reach Delft from Amsterdam cost around 14-15 EUR and run every 10 to 15 minutes (you can purchase your tickets here).
Delft can also be reached from major cities in the Netherlands:
- From The Hague: the trip is only 12 minutes for a fare of around 2-3 EUR. Trains run every 5-10 minutes.
- From Rotterdam: the trip is around 12 minutes for a fare of around 3-4 EUR. Trains run every 5-10 minutes.
EXPLORING THE CITY OF DELFT
1. OLD CHURCH
The oldest church in Delft has a long story: rumor has it that there was already a tuff stone church here since around 1050 along the "Delf" canal but it was not until 1246 that the Old Church was officially considered to be founded, after Count William II gave Delft its own charter. In the following centuries, the church developed slowly until its current form of an impressive gothic basilica. The most famous addition is its crooked tower: as it was partially built on top of a former canal, the heavy stones of the tower started to subside on this not-so-found foundation. Luckily the builders managed to stabilise it over time and now Delft's Oude Kerk has this charming little detail that is clearly visible from a distance.
Opening hours - daily from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. | Admission - 5.50 EUR
2. DE KAERSKORF
This iconic building has been around for a while becoming a landmark in Delft over the years. It has already served different purposes (the most know been a tobacco shop) but now it houses a cute antique shop which makes it look even more like ancient times. The facade with its 16th-century Renaissance style has been redone in the 60's to give its old charm back and, boy, it worked wonderfully!
3. DELFT TOWN HALL
In the heart of the city (also know as the Markt), this Renaissance style building gives us the dimension of how Delft has been an important city in the past. It was originally built around the XIII century with its impressive belfry as a sign of the prosperity of the town but only the "Het Steen" (The Stone) tower survived after a fire in 1618. Afterwards, a new building around the tower was designed by the famous architect Hendrik de Keyser and this is the stunning facade we can see nowadays. Under the tower, there is a medieval prison where the assassin of Willem of Orange was kept before sentencing. It can still be visited as part of a guided tour.
This is the heart of Delft! The Markt is the large main square of the town which hosts a market every Thursday for centuries. Once part of the property of the Count, De Markt evolved over time as Delft grew in importance for its trade and administrative role. In the late 1400's, it was first paved and afterwards the Nieuwe Kerk was erected on the east corner of the square. Buzzing during the weekends and on Thursdays, the square is also framed by many shops and restaurants with very traditionally-Dutch-architecture façades selling souvenirs, cheese and the famous Delft blue ceramic. The wind rose at the center of the square is also worth-checking.
5. NEW CHURCH
Facing the Town Hall, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) is the other church that dominates the skyline of Delft. Built formerly as a Catholic church in the XIV century, it took almost 300 years for it to achieve the form that it has nowadays. Its tower is the second highest in the Netherlands with a total of almost 110 meters and it is possible to climb its 376 steps to behold Delft (and even Rotterdam or The Hague) from above. With the Reformation, the Nieuwe Kerk became a Protestant church with a rather simple interior. However, its impressive organ (with more than 3000 pipes) and the magnificent mausoleum of William of Orange (and almost every deceased member of the royal family also) pays off the simplicity.
Opening hours - daily from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. | Admission - 5.50 EUR
6. MARIA VAN JESSE CHURCH
At this point you might be thinking there is only churches in Delft. This has to do with the Reformation process in the Netherlands. After the city council opted for Protestantism in 1572, other religions were banned from the town but their followers kept practicing their faith. The Catholics created a neighbourhood called Papenhoek (Papists' Corner) and , with the Old and New Churches now protestant, they start to hold celebrations in secret churches in residential houses. In 1733, the Jesuits managed to build a small church which couldn't be seen from the street. With the religion freedom of the XIX century, the Christians put in practice their plan of building the first Catholic church in the center of Delft after Reformation and built the neo gothic Maria van Jessekerk where once stood the Papenhoek. Its two towers represent the two former Catholic churches in Delft: Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk.
7. GREEN FINGERS
This is not a historical site but while strolling around Delft we stumbled on this jewel of a shop. De Groene vingers or Green fingers is a paradise for plant lovers. It is a pleasant experience to walk around this green oasis with its beautiful decortation. It is undeniable that you will fall in love with this unique garden centre. And believe us, it is hard to leave without a new purchase!
Opening hours - daily from 10 a.m. - 5.30 p.m. | Admission - free of charge
This square was once a Franciscan Monastery which was destroyed after the Iconoclasm during the Protestant Reformation. In its place, a square was founded in 1595 and became the site for Delft's cattle market until the 1970's. Nowadays, it is an inviting and charming square with many different option of restaurants and cafés with terraces to enjoy the view.
9. LUNCH AT HUMMUS RESTAURANT
After strolling around the many cute streets and canals Delft has to offer, this is the place to go! The food in Hummus is delicious, especially for hummus lovers like us! As its name indicates it, the place offers various types of hummus: from the classic to a tomato and feta hummus. Try one of their delicious home-made combos: falafel or shawarma sandwich with hummus and two side salads.
Opening hours - Mon., Tue., Wed., from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m. - Thu., Fri., Sat., Sun., from 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.
10. EASTERN GATE
A bit further away from the city center but definitely worth visiting, the Eastern Gate is the only remaining of the eight city gates and walls originally built around the year 1400. The high city walls and gates were precisely the reason why Willem of Orange chose Delft as the headquarters of the resistance against the Spanish occupation. The Eastern Gate is a very well preserved example of Brick Gothic Northern European architecture and consists of a two-tower gate with high spires and a drawbridge over the canal surrounding the city center. There is a nice little park around for you to take a break and let the charm of this scenery sink in or to simply take a photo.
Delft ranks in our top 3 cities in the Netherlands for those who seek a truly Dutch experience. We also recommend you to stroll around the streets of the city center for nice perspectives on the traditional architecture, especially the cute Voldersgracht, Oude Delft and Oosteinde. If you are looking to Dutch up your experience with a visit to a windmill, the still-operating Molen de Roos (Rose Windmill) is located within a 10-minute walk from the Markt Square and is the only remaining mill in town.
And now it's your turn to let us know your impressions, thoughts and also tips to visit this cute little Dutch town. Have you already visited Delft? We look forward reading your comments in the section below.