Delft is a small Dutch town best known to tourists for its Delftware (Delft blue pottery) – beautiful blue and white glazed earthenware, which you will see in any souvenir shop in the Netherlands. The city is also rich in history – the city of Dutch Royal family, practically the first capital of the Netherlands and the place of the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Delft is a ‘must see’ destination when travelling in the Netherlands.
You may also be interested in my other posts about the Netherlands.
If you have ever been in a souvenir shop in the Netherlands, no doubt you have noticed blue and white pottery made in Holland. The famous Dutch pottery is called Delftware not for nothing – majority of it was produced in Delft since the 17th century. So, when we visited Delft it was the first thing we wanted to see – how the Delftware is being produced. In Delft you can visit one of the factories and learn about the history and process of the delftware production.
Visiting a delftware factory is not the only thing you can do in Delft. As I mentioned, Delft is rich in history and you will find here the old city center, museum dedicated to artwork of Johannes Vermeer, 15th-century church with the tomb of William of Orange and many other things. So, hop on the train or into a car and go to Delft to explore sights and activities this small Dutch town has to offer.
Below are some of the ideas on what to see and do in Delft.
VVE Oostpoort te Delft
VVE Oostpoort is the 15th century Eastern Gate to Delft. The only remaining city gate in Delft is built in brick and it’s only a 10 minute walk from the city center.
There are channels going in all directions from the Eastern Gate and it’s a pleasant walk along one of them. When we visited Delft in summer the canals were full of lily pads and flowers – really beautiful.
Known under different names – Delftware, Delft earthenware, Delft blue – is an iconic Dutch blue and white glazed earthenware (china, pottery, tiles, vases, etc.). It was inspired by Chinese porcelain and produced in the Netherlands since the 17th century.
I personally fell in love with delftware at first sight. Every time we are in a gallery or a souvenir shop I spend some time just looking and admiring various pieces of blue and white delftware.
I even remember when we visited Nymphenburg Palace in Munich there was a kitchen with all the walls covered in blue and white Dutch tiles. Delft earthenware was popular since a long time ago and back in the 17-18th century only wealthy people could afford it.
Thankfully, it’s changed over time and now you can buy and bring home a little piece of Holland in the form of delftware from your holidays in the Netherlands.
We visited Royal Delft – one of the oldest and most famous factory and museum. I’m sure visiting any other delftware factory or gallery won’t be a less interesting experience. At the Royal Delft museum we saw lots of beautiful old and modern pieces of delftware, learned about the process of making Delft china, saw the master at work – painting a vase, and wondered inside the actual factory.
Nieuwe Kerk and the tomb of William of Orange
Delft was not always a small Dutch town. It was actually one of the largest and major cities in the country back in the 15th and 16th centuries. William of Orange, who was the leader of Dutch resistance against Spain occupation and then became Prince of Orange in the newly independent Netherlands, resided in Delft. Delft was practically the capital of the Netherlands when the country received its independence in the 16th century.
William of Orange was killed in Delft, and his tomb is placed in the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). Since then the Nieuwe Kerk became a traditional burial place for the princes of Orange and their family.
Nieuwe Kerk is located on the Delft Market Square and it’s the second tallest church tower in the Netherlands (the tallest being Domtoren in Utrecht).
Where there is a New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) there should be an Old Church (Oude Kerk). 🙂
Oude Kerk is the oldest church in Delft originating back to the 13th century. You can visit the Oude Kerk (for a fee) to see beautiful stained glass windows, old organs, the burial site with memorial stone of the famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and the original 16th century pulpit with wooden carvings.
Market square and Stadhuis Delft
In the center of Delft is the Market square surrounded with old buildings, souvenir shops and cafes and restaurants.
Right across the Nieuwe Kerk on the Market square is Delft’s City Hall – Stadhuis Delft – a beautiful building in Renaissance style.
Behind the Stadhuis you will find another historical building – De Waag (Weight House) – dating back to the 16th century. Back in the days it was a public building used to weigh different goods, but now there is a cafe inside the building.
Museum Prinsenhof Delft
Het Prinsenhof (‘The court of the prince’ in English) was the residence of Prince of Orange (Willian of Orange) and the place where he was killed. Apparently, the bullets’ holes are still visible on the stairs where the prince was shot.
The Prinsenhof now houses a museum, which you can visit to see paintings by famous Dutch artists (such as Johannes Vermeer), learn about the history and development of the Netherlands, discover collections of Dutch delftware, silver and other masterpieces.
Vermeer Center Delft
Famous Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was born in Delft and lived and worked here all his life. You’d know him by such famous paintings as The Milkmaid (currently in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (currently in Mauritius Museum in the Hague).
Visit Vermeer Center in Delft, right next to the Market square, to learn about the life and work of Johannes Vermeer.
Is Delft worth visiting?
It definitely is. Even if you only have few hours – go for it! The center of Delft is very compact and you can visit main sights and points of interest within half a day or less. But I would advise to allow yourself more time and go to such interesting and unique places as Vermeer Center or Royal Delft factory or Prinsenhof museum.
Delft has a lot to offer and you won’t regret spending few hours or a day in this small Dutch town.
Read next in the ‘Small Dutch towns you must see’ series – Leiden.