Delft, Netherlands

Delft was very prosperous during the Dutch Golden Era. The city spawned master painters and was Europe’s center for hand-painted porcelain. Today, the compact core reflects centuries of history enveloped by canals dating back to 1100.

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History of Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

1 History of Delft, Netherlands

Delft is well worth the hour drive southwest of Amsterdam. This home to about 100,000 people dates back to 1075 when a count settled along the Delft canal. William II of Holland (reign 1234 until 1256) granted Delft city status in 1246. By 1581, when the surrounding provinces declared their independence from Spain, Delft was one of the largest and most successful cities in the newly formed Netherlands. It thrived during the Dutch Golden Era (1581 – 1672) until a massive gunpowder explosion destroyed most of the city in 1654. Come explore this popular tourist destination.

Markt 80, 2611 GW Delft, Netherlands
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Old and New Churches in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

2 Old and New Churches in Delft, Netherlands

A prominent church in a city tends to have the finest architecture and reflects the local culture and history. Delft has two churches fitting this description. Oude Kerk was named St. Bartholomew’s when established in 1246. The 246 foot, leaning brick bell tower was added a century later. Even more impressive is this 357 foot bell tower of Nieuwe Kerk (originally called St. Ursula’s). Construction of this Gothic beauty spanned 100 years starting in 1396. In 1584, William of Orange – the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau and father of the Netherlands – was assassinated and entombed in the New Church. The tradition has continued with every Dutch monarch.

Markt 80, 2611 GW Delft, Netherlands
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Close Up of City Hall in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

3 Close Up of City Hall in Delft, Netherlands

Delft City Hall façade deserves a close inspection. Near the pinnacle is a red lion, symbolic of the Country of Holland that existed from 1432 until 1795. Below it is a sculpture of Justitia. The Roman goddess is holding a sword in her right hand and the scales of justice in her left. Beneath the statue and a gilded crown is the coat of arms for the House of Orange-Nassau.

Markt 87, 2611 GS Delft, Netherlands
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History of Royal Delftware in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

4 History of Royal Delftware in Delft, Netherlands

In the first half of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company began importing Chinese porcelain. Dutch residents became enamored with the porcelain and wanted to emulate the craft. In 1653, De Porceleyne Fleswas was the first factory to be founded in Delft. The clay pottery was so popular that 32 competitors sprung up in the city. The earthenware industry prospered until the late 19th century when most companies faded away. Yet the classic, hand-painted blue and white products of De Porceleyne Fleswas prevailed. In 1919, they were granted the Royal title. You can purchase Royal Delft products in stores across the city. Also watch master craftsmen at work during a factory tour called the Royal Delft Experience.

Markt 62, 2611 GW Delft, Netherlands
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Enjoy the Simple Things in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

5 Enjoy the Simple Things in Delft, Netherlands

One of the best things you can do in Delft is wander aimlessly. You can walk across the city core in less than a half hour, so why hurry? Admire the rows of brick gabled buildings. Notice water lilies growing below a footbridge. Explore small shops. Sip coffee in a café or a beer in a bar. Have a casual outdoor lunch or dinner facing a square. Admire the masterpieces of Johannes Vermeer, the best painter of several Delft artists during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century). Appreciate the leisurely pace and warm greetings of Delftonians.

Vrouwenregt & Kerkstraat, 2611 KK Delft, Netherlands
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Beestenmarkt Square in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

6 Beestenmarkt Square in Delft, Netherlands

This cyclist is peddling by where the Friar Minor Monastery (Minderbroederkloosterstood) stood beginning in 1449. In 1595, during the Protestant Reformation, the Franciscans were expelled and their monastery was destroyed. The vacant property then became a cattle market, hence the name Beestenmarkt (Beast Market). The square’s history also explains the earthenware cow statue among the 100 foot plane trees. Taurus was created in 1987 by sculptor Rob Brandt.

Beestenmarkt 7, 2611 GA Delft, Netherlands
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Mary of Jesse Church in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

7 Mary of Jesse Church in Delft, Netherlands

Not far from the Markt is another church. This one reflects the history of Catholicism in the city. In 1572, during the Protestant Reformation, the Old and New Churches were forced to convert to Protestantism. Catholic worship went underground. In 1733, the Jesuits built a small, hidden chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph. When religious freedom was granted in 1875, architect Evert Margry drew plans for a Neo-Gothic church. One tower emulated the Old Church. Another looked similar to the New Church. The Catholic church was consecrated in 1882. After the merger of Hippolytuskerk and Jozefkerk in 1971, this became Maria van Jesse (Mary of Jesse).

Burgwal 18, 2611 GJ Delft, Netherlands
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Canals in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

8 Canals in Delft, Netherlands

Similar to many Dutch cities, Delft is encircled by canals. Delft means river or stream. The Old Deflt canal was created in 1100. The Nieuwe Delft was dug at the end of the 12th century. As the city grew, subsequent canals were built in the 13th century. Their initial purpose was drainage and then transportation. Circa 1400, a network of city walls and eight gates were built for defense. Today, the canals add considerable charm to Delft. But only the Eastern Gate (Oostpoort) remains standing.

Oostsingel 130, 2612 HJ Delft, Netherlands
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Transportation on Canals in Delft, Netherlands - Encircle Photos

9 Transportation on Canals in Delft, Netherlands

A fun excursion is to flag down a canal taxi for a private boat tour of Delft. Canal sightseeing cruises are also available. But the canals are more than a quaint aspect of the city. They still play a critical role in commercial transportation as seen by the Linquenda barge pushing through the water. This continues a 900 year tradition. For centuries after the canals were dug, small cargo ships and barges were pulled by horses. A boom to shipping occurred in 1389 when the Delfshaven port was created (near Rotterdam). This gave the city access to the Nieuwe Maas river leading to the North Sea. From the mid-15th through early 17th centuries, the primary export was an unhopped beer created by nearly 100 breweries. As they declined, porcelain factories took over their warehouse along the quays through the 18th century.

Oostsingel 126, 2612 HJ Delft, Netherlands
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