Dordrecht Tourist Attractions
The ancient town of Dordrecht (Dordt for short) lies just southeast of Rotterdam, picturesquely situated between the Oude Maas (here navigable for large ocean-going ships) and the Noord and Dordtse Kil, two branches of the Rhine.
It has shipyards and shipping offices and is also an important water sports center. Dordrecht has several place of interest including two churches, Groothoofds Gate, and merchant houses. In the past, thanks to its favorable situation, it was the wealthiest trading town and port in the Netherlands, but was overtaken in the 18th century by Antwerp and Rotterdam. Dordrecht is now both a seaport and a river port, handling some four million tons of goods annually, mostly goods in transit. In addition to its metalworking, shipbuilding and chemical industries it has extensive service industries.According to the Ghent Chronicles, Dordrecht was destroyed by the Norsemen in 937. It first appears in the records, however, only in 1138, under the name of Thuredri(c)ht. When it received its municipal charter in 1220 it was already an important commercial town, trading with England, the Rhineland and Flanders. The St Elizabeth's Day flood in 1421 left the area south of Dordrecht under water and hampered the economic development of the town, since its communications by land were now largely severed. In 1457 much of the town was destroyed in a great fire. In the 16th century Dordrecht took on a fresh lease of life, and in the latter part of the century it became an important center of the fight for liberation. After the capture of Brielle in 1572 the town came out in support of Prince William, and it was in Dordrecht that the 12 towns which had declared their independence met and appointed William I Stadholder of Holland. Their meeting marked the establishment of the United Provinces. In 1618-19 the Dordrecht Synod met here to settle the conflict between Calvinists and Lutherans. A number of important painters were born in Dordrecht during the 17th century, including Ferdinand Bol, Aelbert Cuyp and Nicolaas Maes; some of them were pupils of Rembrandt. Also born in Dordrecht were the two great statesmen Johan (1625-72) and Cornelis (1623-72) de Witt. Johan became Grand Pensionary of Holland (in effect prime minister and foreign minister) in 1653 and Cornelis became burgomaster of Dordrecht in 1666. As opponents of the Prince of Orange, the brothers were murdered in 1672 in The Hague (in the Gevangenpoort of the Binnenhof). In the early 18th century Dordrecht was overtaken as a port first by Amsterdam and then by Rotterdam. It began to recover some importance only towards the end of the 19th century.
The present Church of Our Lady is a late 15th C and early 16th C Brabantine Gothic style building, and one of the oldest churches in Holland.
Old Town Hall
The former Town Hall (Stadhuis) was built in 1544, but the classical-style pedimented doorway with the town's coat of arms in the pediment and four Ionic columns dates only from 1835-42. Over the entrance is a square bell- tower. The new Town Hall (Stadkantoor) is on the Spuihaven.
From Scheffersplein it is a short distance by way of Steegoversloot to Museumstraat, in which (No. 40) is Dordrecht Museum, housed in the former municipal lunatic asylum. The museum has sections devoted to the Hague and Amsterdam Schools, the Dutch Romantics, Ary Scheffer, 20th century art and the Dordrecht Impressionists. On the wall of the staircase leading to the upper floor is a panoramic picture of Dordrecht, 7m/23ft wide. In addition to paintings by Dordrecht artists of the 17th-19th centuries (Ferdinand Bol, Aelbert Cuyp, Ary Scheffer, Nicolaas Maes) the museum also possesses works by leading modern painters such as Jan and Charley Toorop, Jan Sluyters and Wim Schumacher.
East of the Groenmarkt we come to the Groothoofdspoort (rebuilt in Gothic style in 1618), once the principal town gate and now the only relic of the old town walls. Its handsome domed tower is a prominent landmark. On the river front can be seen a fine stone relief of the Virgin of Dordrecht, surrounded by the coats of arms of Dutch towns. From the north side there is a charming view of the junction of three rivers, the Oude Maas, the Noord and the Beneden Merwede. On the opposite side is Papendrecht.
Nieuwe Haven Quarter
From the Groothoofdspoort, Kuipershaven leads into Nieuwe Haven, a quarter dating from the 17th century. Originally occupied mainly by warehouses, it began to develop into a select residential district in the early 18th century.
Van Gijn Museum
The handsome burgher's house at No. 29 was built in 1729 by Johan van Neurenberg, later burgomaster of Dordrecht; then in 1864 it was sold to the banker and art collector Simon van Gijn, who bequeathed it in 1922 to the Old Dordrecht Society, which opened it in 1925 as a museum. It was acquired by the town of Dordrecht in 1949.This imposing mansion, still with decoration and furnishings in the original style, gives a good impression of a patrician house of the 18th and 19th centuries. The ground floor corridor has rich stucco decoration. The Tapestry Room is hung with tapestries from a Brussels workshop founded in the 16th century, with scenes in Louis XIV style from the Italian pastoral "The Faithful Shepherd". Particularly fine is the Renaissance Room, which has an oak mantlepiece (ca. 1550) with figures of "wild men", originally made by the gifted wood-carver Jan Terwen (who also carved the choir-stalls in the Grote Kerk) for the Marksmen's Guild of Dordrecht. Other rooms of great interest are the kitchen, fully equipped, with a blue-tiled chimney; the dining room with its glassed-in verandah and its beautiful ceiling painting by Willy Martens (1856- 1927); and the study, with oak paneling and leather wallcovering (a rarity in the 19th century). There are displays of silver, china and glass, and, in the summerhouse in the garden, a large collection of toys.
At the end of Nieuwe Haven is the Blauwpoort or Catharijnepoort (1652), where a number of old warehouses have been preserved. From here there is a fine view of the broad river and the busy movement of shipping, with the dikes on the other bank around Zwijndrecht. Farther west is a four-lane tunnel carrying traffic under the Oude Maas.
Map of Dordrecht Attractions