10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Delft
Delft lies on the River Schie between Rotterdam and The Hague, its picturesque Old Town ringed by canals and home to many churches and old houses. In addition to being a university city, it has long been associated with trades and industry, in particular the manufacturing of Delftware, a world-famous form of pottery that has been around since the 17th century and is now experiencing a comeback (much of the town's most significant architecture dates from the 1700s when the pottery's popularity was at its peak). Delft is also well known as the birthplace of 16th-century scholar and statesman Hugo Grotius; painter Jan Vermeer, whose famous View of Delft is in the Mauritshuis in The Hague; and 17th-century scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Today, the city is a vibrant cultural and tourist hub, home to many fine museums and numerous entertainment opportunities.
1 New Church
In Delft's spacious Market Square (Markt), the majestic New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) is, in fact, anything but new. Built between 1396 and 1496, this splendid church's Gothic tower rises 108 meters above the large square, offering great views and pleasant chimes from its 17th-century carillon. Of note is a monument to King William I, who died in Berlin in 1843, as well as a memorial relief of Prince Frederick William of Orange, who died in 1799. A marble monument of Hugo Grotius, along with his burial place, can also be visited. The church's most important feature, however, is the magnificent tomb of William I of Orange (William the Silent), one of the great masterpieces of Dutch Baroque sculpture made by Hendrick de Keyser between 1614-21. Richly decorated under a white canopy borne on black marble columns is a white figure of William surrounded by bronze allegorical figures including Justice (with scales), Freedom (with scepter and hat), Valor (clad in a lion's skin), and Faith (with a book and a model of a church). In a vault below the tomb 41 princes and princesses of the house of Orange are buried (including Queen Wilhelmina, who died in 1948).
2 Editor's Pick Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles
De Porceleyne Fles - manufacturer of Royal Dutch Delftware - was established in 1653 and is the last remaining maker of this world-famous pottery (all told, there were 32 such manufacturers in the area in the 17th century). This superb attraction provides a fascinating look at the history and production process of Blue Delftware, which is hand painted to strict, centuries-old standards. A highlight of a visit is watching the painters in action, followed by a visit to the factory, along with a chance to view their historical collections. A number of fun packages are available that combine a visit with a cruise along the nearby canals, painting workshops, afternoon teas, and tours (English language guides are available).
Address: Rotterdamseweg 196, 2628 AR Delft
3 The Old Church
Delft's Old Church (Oude Kerk) was built around 1250 and is notable for its slightly leaning tower, along with its fine timber vaulting from 1574. The tower was rebuilt in 1450 in a style characteristic of the Coastal Gothic movement so popular in northern Europe, and is notable for its distinctive four corner turrets around the pyramidal roof. The church contains a number of important works of art, including a carved pulpit from 1548; the marble tomb of Admiral Piet Hein, famous for having captured the Spanish silver fleet in 1628; and the tomb of Admiral Maarten Tromp, who commanded the Dutch navy in 32 naval battles during the 17th-century. Famed Dutch painter Jan Vermeer is also buried in the church.
Address: Heilige Geestkerkhof 25, 2611 HP Delft
4 The Prince's Court and Prinsenhof Museum
One of the most attractive corners of Delft, Prinsenhof consists of a picturesque group of buildings built around 1400 as the nunnery of St. Agatha. Secularized after the Reformation, it was the residence of the Princes of Orange until the seat of government moved to The Hague in the 16th century. As beautiful as the buildings are, they stand as a reminder of one of the bleaker moments in Dutch history, for it was here that William the Silent was assassinated in 1584 (the mark of the bullet that killed him can still be seen, and a statue to the slain leader stands in the center of the courtyard). Of special interest is Prinsenhof Museum (Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof) devoted to the country's 80 years of war with Spain from 1568-1648. Numerous items of local interest are also here, including portraits of members of the House of Orange and displays illustrating the history of Delftware. In the oldest part of the convent is a unique two-story cloister dating from 1430.
Address: Sint Agathaplein 1, 2611 HR Delft
5 Delft City Hall
On the west side of the Markt is the Renaissance Delft City Hall (Stadhuis). Rebuilt in the 17th century on the site of the original 13th-century Town Hall, this impressive structure retains one surviving component of its predecessors: the 15th-century stone tower known as Het Steen, richly decorated with pilasters and sculptures and a small gable with a figure of Justice. Interior highlights are its many handsomely decorated rooms, including the Orange Gallery and the Council Chamber, along with fine paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries. Behind City Hall is the old municipal Weigh House (Waag), now the Municipal Theater, and the adjoining Meat Hall (Vleeshal), easily identified by its two ox heads.
Address: Markt 87
6 The Lambert van Meerten Museum
The Lambert van Meerten Museum is home to an important collection of applied art, as well as period furniture, paintings, and an extensive display of Delftware. Housed in the former home of the city's best known collector of antiquities and art, Lambert van Meerten, the museum opened in 1909 and also contains impressive collections of Chinese porcelain and Dutch tiles. Afterwards, stroll over to the Dyke Office (Gemeenlandshuis), built in the early 15th century and notable for its lovely stone gable decorated with numerous coats of arms.
Address: Oude Delft 199, 2611 HD Delft
7 The Old Canal (Oude Delft)
Just a short walk from the attractions around the Old City of Delft is the Old Canal (Oude Delft). Traversing the city from north to south, this lovely stretch of water is lined with many picturesque houses and is fun to explore on foot or by bike. Other interesting old houses can be seen in the neighboring Voorstraat, Hippolytusbuurt, Wijnhaven, and Koornmarkt, many of them overlooking stretches of the Old Canal. Also of note is the Begijnhof with its Late Gothic tower and a Baroque "hidden church" built by Daniël Marot in 1743 in which Catholics worshipped in secret during times of persecution.
8 The Eastern Gate (Oostpoort)
Along the East End Canal (Oosteinde Canal) is the picturesque old Eastern Gate, or Oostpoort. Located at the junction of a number of canals at the southeast corner of the old town, the building's twin towers were constructed around 1400 and enlarged in the 16th-century with the addition of octagonal upper stories and pointed roofs. Although privately owned, it's possible to wander around the building's exterior with its wonderful canal views.
9 Museum Paul Tétar van Elven
In the historic Koornmarkt area, the Paul Tétar van Elven Museum contains an impressive collection assembled by the 19th-century Dutch painter and teacher. With its old furniture and exquisite Delft tiles, the artist's studio is one of the country's best-preserved historic interiors. Highlights include a number of exquisite artworks, many framed in groups and collages, some of them originally presented to Dutch royalty.
Address: Koornmarkt 67, 2611 EC Delft
10 Science Centre Delft
On the grounds of the University of Technology (founded in 1863), Science Centre Delft is great for those traveling with kids. Housed in one of the university's historical older buildings - this one dating from 1911 - the Science Centre offers numerous hands-on activities, from testing experimental model racing cars and airplanes to the fun Dyke Patrol simulator (yup, plugging holes in dykes is fun!) and a fascinating virtual reality surgery simulator. Equally interesting are the open workshops where you can interact with students working on a variety of projects.
Address: Mijnbouwstraat 120, 2628 RX Delft