13 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Delft
The picturesque city of Delft lies on the River Schie between Rotterdam and The Hague. Its historic Old Town is bordered by canals and home to a delightful market square, many churches, and a number of well-preserved medieval-era houses.
In addition to being an important university city, Delft 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 (you'll recognize it from its distinctive blue and white coloring). In fact, 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. It's also the former seat of the royal House of Orange, best-known for having produced England's King William III, also known as William of Orange.
Today, the city is a vibrant cultural and tourist hub, home to some of the country's best museums, numerous entertainment opportunities, and endless other fun things to do, such as taking a stroll around the many booths at the popular Saturday Flea Market. Plan your trip with our list of the top things to do in Delft.
See also: Where to Stay in Delft
1. New Church (Nieuwe Kerk)
Standing tall 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 a tad over 108 meters above the large square, offering great views and pleasant chimes from its 17th-century carillon (Editor's Note: With 376 steps to tackle, it's a bit of a climb).
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).
Address: Markt 80, 2611 GW Delft
2. Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (Editor's Pick)
De Porceleyne Fles — the manufacturer of Royal Dutch Delftware also sometimes referred to simply as Royal Delft — 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 experiences are available that combine a visit with a cruise along the nearby canals, painting workshops, afternoon teas, and tours. While English language guides are available on-site, you'd do well to consider booking (in advance) a private Delft pottery factory tour and painting workshop, which also includes shopping discounts. Though smaller, the De Delftse Pauw factory is also worth a visit if you're in the market for authentic Delft pottery.
Address: Rotterdamseweg 196, 2628 AR Delft
3. Old Church (Oude Kerk)
Delft's Old Church (Oude Kerk) — affectionately known among locals as "Old John" — was built around 1250 and is notable for its slightly leaning tower, along with its fine timber vaulting from 1574. The 75-meter-tall tower was rebuilt in 1450 in a style characteristic of the Coastal Gothic movement then so popular in Northern Europe, and is notable for its distinctive four corner turrets around the pyramidal roof, and its slight lean (it's estimated to be two feet off kilter).
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.
Almost as old as Oude Kerk, Saint Hippolytus Chapel (Sint-Hippolytuskapel) was built in the early 15th century in the Old Town and is worth a visit.
Address: Heilige Geestkerkhof 25, 2611 HP Delft
Official site: https://oudeennieuwekerkdelft.nl
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 marks of the bullets that killed him can still be seen, and a statue to the slain leader stands in the center of the courtyard). Be sure to spend a little time enjoying the property's lovely garden.
Of special interest is Prinsenhof Museum (Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof) devoted to the country's 80 years of war with Spain from 1568-1648. Founded in 1911, numerous items of local interest are also to be found 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.
If time allows, be sure to also visit the Medical and Pharmaceutical Museum (Medisch Farmaceutisch Museum), with its fascinating displays of original surgical and medicine-related instruments (guided tours are available).
Address: Sint Agathaplein 1, 2611 HR Delft
5. Delft City Hall
On the west side of the Markt stands 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 numerous fine paintings from the 16th to 18th centuries. The building's old prison, used to hold the assassin of William the Silent, can be visited as part of a guided tour and contains an interesting collection of old torture devices.
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. While in the vicinity, be sure to pop into the city's impressive modern central train station, an architecturally pleasing structure designed with a nod to its rich history, including using Delft Blue tile fragments.
Address: Markt 87, 2611 GS Delft
6. The Lambert van Meerten Museum
The Lambert van Meerten Museum (Museumhuis Lambert van Meerten) — reopened in 2019 after a major renovation — 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 — believed to have been built in the early 1100s — is lined with many picturesque houses. Fun things to do day or night include exploring this romantic area 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.
Another tourist attraction worth seeing is De Watertoren, the city's old water tower. Built in 1895, this fine old structure now houses a fascinating Camera Obscura and offers superb views over the old part of the city.
9. Museum Paul Tetar van Elven
Located in the historic Corn Market (Koornmarkt) area, the Paul Tetar 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 original studio is in fact located in a 17th-century canal house and is regarded as one of the country's best-preserved historic interiors. Highlights of this historic museum (it opened in 1927) include a number of exquisite artworks, many framed in groups and collages, some of them originally presented to Dutch royalty. Guided tours are available.
Address: Koornmarkt 67, 2611 EC Delft
10. Science Centre Delft
Located 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!). There's also 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
11. The Vermeer Center
For those wanting to learn a little more regarding the life and times of Delft's best-known painter, Johannes Vermeer, a visit to the informative Vermeer Centre (Vermeer Centrum Delft) is just the ticket. Chock full of informative displays relating to the artist and his leading contemporaries, the museum contains exact copies of the artist's work with detailed explanations providing fascinating facts regarding its creation, meaning, and influences.
Along the way, you'll find numerous useful multi-media displays adding additional perspective and understanding, as well as a fascinating look at his techniques in an authentic studio setting. Other highlights include numerous artifacts, a short film, a Camera Obscura, an on-site shop, and a café. English language guided tours are available at no cost.
Address: Voldersgracht 21, 2611 EV Delft
Official site: www.vermeerdelft.nl/en/
12. The Rose Windmill
One of the top free things to do in Delft is visit the perfectly preserved Rose Windmill (Molen de Roos). Erected in 1679 as a means to produce ground corn, this 350-year-old structure was in fact built on the site of an older mill known to have been in existence in the mid 1300s. The last survivor of 15 windmills that once graced Delft, this attractive stone building extends some seven stories tall and offers wonderful views over the city and its top tourist attractions and historic landmarks (it's a steep climb using ladders, so not suitable for young children or those with mobility issues).
Inside are interesting displays on the history of this and other area windmills. If visiting on a Saturday, you can even see the old milling tools in use to grind a variety of grain. Guided tours are available, and a blue flag is flown from this fine old windmill when it's open to the public.
Address: Phoenixstraat 111, 2611 AK Delft
13. TU Delft Botanical Garden
Just a short walk from Delft's old city center, tucked away on the grounds of the Delft University of Technology, is the TU Delft Botanical Gardens (Botanische tuin Delft). Founded in the early 1900s and based on specimens from the Dutch colonies in the East Indies, this attractive space is home to more than 7,000 different plant species, including numerous varieties of plants, herbs, trees, and flowers.
Set amid four separate garden areas spread over six acres, highlights include the arboretum, with its vast collection of shrubs and trees; the herb garden, with specimens used for both medicinal purposes and cooking; the central garden, with its wonderful floral displays; and the large greenhouse complex, housing rare and tropical species. A shop selling garden related books and other items is located on-site. Guided tours are available.
Address: Poortlandplein 6, 2628 BM Delft
Official site: www.tudelft.nl/en/botanicalgarden/
Where to Stay in Delft for Sightseeing
- Mid-Range Hotels: A great choice for those seeking a good central location with a canal view, Hotel de Emauspoort offers mid-range rates in a family-run establishment boasting an intimate, quaint feel, a lovely courtyard area, and a fantastic breakfast. Other good options include the larger Hampshire Hotel - Delft Centre, a four-star hotel built in a modern style with an interesting music theme, just a short walk to the old town (their buffet breakfast is also very good), and the Best Western Museumhotels Delft, with its affordable rates and great location opposite the city's famous Old Church and an easy walk to the train station.
- Budget Hotels: The pleasant Hotel Leeuwenbrug offers budget-friendly pricing and traditional Dutch décor on a picturesque canal in the old town and near the train station (and check out the buffet breakfast with pancakes). Also worth considering are the Hotel Grand Canal, popular for its location overlooking the Oude Canal and its pleasant nature-themed décor, and Hostel Delft, a no-frills hostel-style property with rooftop terraces.
Visiting Delft from Amsterdam: Take a Guided Tour
- Delft and The Hague Tour: A great way to enjoy the very best attractions in this historic city is to combine a trip to Delft and The Hague from Amsterdam. Along the way, you'll tour the Royal Delft factory, where the famous Delft pottery is made. You'll also see the highlights of The Hague, including Noordeinde Palace and the Dutch Parliament, and visit Madurodam miniature park.
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Easy Day Trips: Just a 15-minute train ride northwest of Delft is The Hague, the country's capital and home to great tourist attractions such as the Mauritshuis museum and Binnenhof palace. The same distance to the south is the port city of Rotterdam, with must-sees including the Old Harbor and its marine museums and historic vessels. Although a little farther afield (it's an additional 30 minutes south of Rotterdam), the city of Breda is great to visit for its fine old architecture and castle.
History's Footsteps: Popular Dutch destinations for those with an interest in history include Arnhem, famous as the location of fierce fighting between the Allies and Germany in 1944, and picturesque Eindhoven, famous for its museums... and it's world-beating football team. The old university town of Leiden is also a must-visit for history buffs and boasts some of the oldest-surviving buildings in the country.
Netherlands Vacation Ideas: No vacation to the Netherlands should fail to include the highlights of Amsterdam, as famous for its art galleries such as the incredible Rijksmuseum as it is for its endless entertainment opportunities. Other great vacation destinations include Utrecht, popular for its magnificent cathedral and castle, and Maastricht, a great place to visit (and stay) for its fine pedestrian-friendly old streets and riverside district.