Breda Tourist Attractions
Breda lies near the Belgian frontier in western Noord-Brabant, at the junction of the rivers Mark and Aa. A cultural center, with numerous research and educational institutions, and the see of a Roman Catholic bishop, it is mainly famed as one of the country's leading industrial towns, with engineering firms, factories producing synthetic fibers, matches and foodstuffs.
It is also an important tourist center with an historic city centre featuring attractive old buildings and moats.HistoryBreda grew up in the 12th century under the protection of a castle, received its municipal charter in the mid 13th century and from the late Middle Ages onwards played an important role in the history of the Netherlands. Fortified in 1534 by Count Henry of Nassau, the town withstood numerous sieges. The Compromise of Breda in February 1566 marked the beginning of the revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule. In March 1590 Prince Maurice of Nassau took the Spaniards by surprise, bringing 70 men secretly into the town in Adriaan van Bergen's peat boat. The Peace of Breda in 1667 ended the second naval war with Britain and recognized Dutch ownership of the East Indies. The town's fortifications again played an important part during the wars with the French in 1793-95 and 1813. When the navigable river Mark gradually silted up during the 18th century Breda's importance as a trading town declined, but with the coming of the railroad its rise into a major industrial center began.
In the center of the old town of Breda, which is surrounded by a ring of canals (singels), is the Grote Markt. On the north side of the square are the Grote Kerk or Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk and the 18th century Town Hall (Stadhuis). On the south side stands the old Vleeshal (Meat Hall).
The Breda Grote Kerk (Reformed) was begun in 1290 in Gothic style; but the choir, in addition to rich Late Gothic features, also shows Renaissance influences. The magnificent tower, 97m/318ft high, was built between 1468 and 1509; the top section was added after a fire in 1694. The tower was completely restored between 1944 and 1969.Other notable features are the Late Gothic choir-stalls (carved with scenes satirizing the clergy) and the pulpit (ca. 1600); in the baptistery a copper font made in Mechelen in 1540 by Joos de Backer of Antwerp; on the left, by the organ, a large painting (ca. 1500) of St Christopher; and, in the north transept, a wall painting of the Annunciation (ca. 1450).
In the Prince's Chapel to the left of the choir in Breda's Grote Kerk, behind a richly carved grille, is the imposing Renaissance tomb (16th C.) of Count Engelbrecht II of Nassau (Stadholder-General of the Netherlands in the reign of the Emperor Maximilian I; d. 1504) and his wife Cimburga of Baden (d. 1510) - an alabaster masterpiece which was the work of either Tommaso Vincitore of Bologna (architect of Breda Castle) or Pietro Torrigiani, a Florentine. There are a number of tombs in the ambulatory, including (on the same side as Engelbrecht II), the monument, behind a fine iron grille, of Count Engelbrecht I (d. 1443) and his son John of Nassau (d. 1475), together with their wives.
The oldest part of the Breda Town Hall (Stadhuis) is the Great Hall, with the adjoining "Cleyn Raedthuys" (Little Town Hall). In 1767 the court architect, P. W. Schonck, combined three adjoining houses, giving them a unified facade. In 1898 an extension was built on to the right-hand side of the Town Hall, and in 1925 there were further additions, including the council chamber (with stained glass by J. Nicolas). In the Great Hall is a copy of Velázquez's famous painting of the "Surrender of Breda" (original in the Prado, Madrid). A small doorway leads into the garden, with an old coach-shed, now used as a conference room.
On the south side of the Grote Markt of Breda (No. 19) is the old Meat Hall (Vleeshal), with a handsome 17th century sandstone doorway and a gable of 1733.Together with the building once occupied by the Marksmen's Guild of St George it now houses the Municipal Museum (Stedelijk Museum voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde) and the Diocesan Museum (Bisschoppelijk Museum).
Northeast of the Breda Grote Kerk is the Kasteelplein, with a number of old buildings and an equestrian statue of William III of Orange (1921). On the west side of the square is the Museum of Ethnology. The building known as De Prins Cardinaal takes its name from Don Ferdinand, who from 1634 to 1637 was Stadholder of the southern Low Countries, representing his brother Philip IV of Spain. The building later became a restaurant and hotel.
At the north end of the Kasteelplein is Breda Castle (Kasteel van Breda), which first appears in the records in the 12th century. In the 14th century Jan I of Polanen built a new castle, with four corner towers, and a chapel, both of which were several times pulled down and rebuilt. The present castle, the ancestral home of the Counts of Orange-Nassau, was built in 1530 by Count Henry III, tutor and counselor to the Emperor Charles V, and later extended by King (and Stadholder) William III. Henry commissioned Tommaso Vincitore of Bologna to convert the old fortified castle into a handsome modern palace, and while the palace was under construction he lived in an old water-mill which then stood on the site. One of Prince William I's sons was the first member of the family to live in the palace. Later, when the palace became the Royal Military Academy, an additional story was added (1826-28).Also dating from the time of Count Henry III are the two towers of the Spanjaardsgat and the Blockhuis, the official residence of the commandant of the Military Academy, which was occupied for a time by Prince William I.The grounds of the palace are entered by the Stadhouderspoort. The coat of arms of Stadholder William V is a later addition.
Museum of Ethnology
At Kasteelplein 25 in Breda is the Museum of Ethnology (Volkenkundig Museum Justinus van Nassau). The original building was altered by Justinus, the illegitimate son of Prince William I; then in 1680 it passed into state ownership and became the official residence of the governor of Breda. Here in 1810 Napoleon expressed his displeasure at his unwelcoming reception in the town. From 1828 to 1923 the house was the official residence of the commandant of the Military Academy.The Museum displays the ethnographic collection of the Military Academy, with material from all over the world but particularly from the Netherlands Indies. There is a library of over 6,000 volumes.
In Breda's Cingelstraat is the Spanjaardsgat, a water-gate flanked by two towers (to the left the Granaattoren, to the right the Duiventoren) and a length of wall. Here, according to the legend, Adriaan van Bergen and 70 men slipped into the town in a peat boat and took it by surprise. Since the Spanjaardsgat was not built until 1610, however, the actual point of entry must have been on the north side of the castle.
There are a number of handsome old buildings in the port quarter of Breda, and many reminiscences of the time when ships could still sail up the river and discharge their cargoes here. In the 1960s, however, the construction of an underground parking garage led to the partial silting up of the old harbor.
In the Stadkantoor restaurant in the Vlaszak, to the east of the center opf Breda, can be seen remains of the old Gasthuispoort, one of the three main medieval town gates, which was discovered during building work in 1976.
In Breda's Catharinastraat is the Begijnhof, which is still occupied by Beguines. In the 13th century the Beguines lived near the castle, but were later driven out by the extensions to the castle. When their former church, the St Wendelinskapel, was handed over to Protestant Walloons in 1648 they remained without a church until the new church at the end of the Begijnhof was built in 1836.The two churches and the 29 little houses survived the Second World War unscathed. Attached to the Begijnhof is a herb garden with hundreds of different species of plants.
To the rear of the Begijnhof in Breda lies the Valkenbergpark, at the north gate of which is the Nassau Barony Monument (1905), set up to mark the 500th anniversary of the union of the lordship of Breda with the house of Nassau (1404). The monument, designed by the well known architect P. J. H. Cuypers, shows the coats of arms of 20 communes in the surrounding area and the lion of Nassau with a royal crown, sword and heraldic shield.
National Tattoo in Breda is an event that has often been referred to as a "feast of sight and sound." The event takes place between late August and early September and includes military groups from throughout Europe. The festivities begin with the ringing of the 45 bells of the Grote Kerk.
International Old-Style Jazz Festival
International Old-Style Jazz Festival with open-air concerts, street parades, etc.This annual festival takes place in May.
Map of Breda Attractions