A Day in Delft, The Netherlands

A Canal in Delft, The Netherlands

Delft is the home to nearly 100,000 residents, but in many ways, it feels like a small town.  Canals meander through the city and several parks provide a respite from the busy-ness of life. The historic city center is a draw for tourists and the home of the City hall, the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and several cafes. Delft is mostly known, though, for its namesake blue and white pottery.

The highlights of Delft can be easily covered in a day, although the city is a pleasant place to stay overnight or use as a home base when visiting the Netherlands. The Hague and Rotterdam are less than ten miles away. Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens, and Schiphol Airport can be reached in around an hour. If you stay near Amsterdam, a day trip to Delft is easily accomplished.

A Day in Delft
My Daughter and I on a Delft Plate
(We Decided Not to Purchase It)

If you come to Delft for the Day, I’d recommend taking the train. From the station it’s an easy walk to the historic center. The pottery factory is also within walking distance.  The pottery factory and the historic center are not really in the same direction, so I would visit one then the other.  Here is a sample itinerary for the day:

  • 9 am – Arrive in Delft, walk to Royal Delft Porcelain (15 minutes)
  • 10 – 11 am – Tour the Royal Delft Factory
  • 11 am – 12 pm – Visit the Gift Shop, then walk to City Center (20 minutes)
  • 12  – 1:30 pm – Eat lunch, relax, and enjoy the central market place
  • 1:30  – 2:30 pm – Climb the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk
  • 2:30  – 3:30 pm – Visit the Oude Kerk
  • 3:30 pm – end of day – Shop, eat, take pictures, wander through the town
  • Return to the train station, a 10 minute walk from the historic center

Read on to get the details.

Delft Train Station

In 2015, the city’s new train station opened. It is a modern building in huge contrast to the old one that previously served visitors to the city. For a quick look, check out this video. For information about tickets and facilities visit NS – Delft (Nederlandse Spoorwegen).

The new building has lockers available for luggage which are helpful if you visit on your way between two different points of lodging. The station also has stores and restaurants typical of modern train stations.

Plans are for the old train station to be re-purposed into a cultural or visitor’s center, rather than demolishing it. The old station is full of character, so I’m glad it will remain.

Royal Delft Factory Tour
Rembrandt’s, The Nightwatch, in Porcelain

Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, or Royal Delft, a business started over 300 years ago, is the only remaining company producing Delft porcelain in the city.  In the 17th century, over thirty factories began producing the prized pottery. Royal Delft offers factory tours and has a retail gift shop that is open to the public.

Shaping and Trimming a Plate

The tour includes a video presentation about the history of the factory, a walk through a museum-like collection of porcelain, including a large copy of Rembrandt’s Night Watch, and a visit to the factory.  Visitors watch the workers shape and trim porcelain, and then load it into kilns for a first firing.

Painting the Porcelain

After it is fired, artists hand paint each piece, usually following an example so similar multiples of the same product can be produced.  A final firing reveals the brilliant blues.

Ticket prices for adults are €13.50, with discounts given for children 18 and under. The factory is open from 9 am to 5 pm daily except December 25 and 26 and January 1.

The Oude Kerk (Old Church)
The Oude Kerk in Delft

Begun in 1240, the Oude Kerk has gone through many expansions and restorations. The tower was added in the 14th century.  Around the same time, the interior was also enlarged.

In 1536, a fire started in the Nieuwe Kerk and spread through the city, destroying many homes and damaging the Oude Kerk. The church was restored soon after.  Then, in 1624, a gun powder factory exploded, killing over 1000 people and destroying much of the city of Delft. All of the beautiful stained glass windows in the church were destroyed.  At that time, the windows were bricked over or replaced with plain glass.  They were finally replaced in the 20th century – one window at a time.

Simple Gravestone of Johannes Vermeer

Several iconic people are buried in this church – the most well-known to me is the painter, Johannes Vermeer. The artist was not famous at the time of his death and was buried beneath a plain stone, but in 2007, a larger memorial honoring him was installed in the church.

The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
The Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, The Netherlands

The Nieuwe Kerk is located at the edge of the central market plaza. The first stone was laid in 1393, but the church was not finished until 1655, after suffering the effects of the fire and explosion. The church tower was built three times – the current tower was completed in 1872.

Red Tiled Roofs in Delft

The tower is 85 meters high and is accessible by climbing 376 steps. As you climb, you can see the bells of the carillon.  From the top, visitors look out over the red tile roofs covering the buildings in Delft.  On clear days, The Hague and Rotterdam are visible.

The Tomb of William of Orange

Buried in this church are several members of royalty, including William of Orange, father of the country. Other royal tombs include those of Queen Wilhelmina, Prince Claus, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard.

Adult admission prices for both churches including the tower climb, is €8, with discounts given for children. Hours vary with the season and day of the week – check the website for details.

Other Sites in Delft
Delft Town Hall at the Edge of the Markt

The Town Hall stands on the opposite side of the market from the Nieuwe Kerk. The facade features the coats of arms of the Holland and Delft. Note – North Holland and South Holland were dominant in the early history of the Netherlands (and still are).  Delft is located in South Holland.

The Waag or Weighing House is just beyond the Town Hall.  Produce and Cheese was brought here to be weighed and then traded or sold. The meat and fish markets are in this area, too.

If you are interested in the life of Johannes Vermeer, the Vermeer Center is worth a visit.  It is not a gallery and does not contain any of his paintings, but it traces his life and career.  His Popular, Girl with a Pearl Earring, is in the Mauritshuis in the Hague.

Lunch on the Market Square

The Markt, or market square in the middle of the historical center, is filled with vendors on Thursdays. If you like markets, come on Thursday; if not, come on a different day.  On days other than Thursday, the Markt is a large open plaza surrounded by buildings rebuilt after the 1536 fire.  There is a large selection of cafes here to choose from for lunch or dinner.

Years ago, when my husband and I visited Delft, we decided to take a break from Dutch food and eat at the Chinese restaurant. We struggled with ordering from a menu that was only offered in Dutch, with the help of a server who spoke only Dutch and Chinese.  We used pictures to guess what food we would like, and in the end, we did enjoy our meal. I’m not sure if the restaurant is still there, but now I usually choose a Dutch restaurant when I am in the Netherlands.

Visiting Delft

Delft is a great place to visit, offering a nice break from busy cities. As I write here today, I am trying to decide how or when I can return for another visit. I’m moving it further up on my list.

Have you ever been to Delft?  What did you think about it?  Share your experiences in the comment box.

 

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