Sitting between Rotterdam and Den Haag in The Netherlands, Delft is a gorgeous old market town, full of gabled houses, a medieval town hall, tree-lined canals, cobbled piazzas, and barnlike churches. An hour east of Amsterdam, Delft is today a university town with a thriving porcelain industry, making the town’s world-famous blue china.
Take a guided city walk to get the lay of the land, or get your bearing with boat trips along the canals, past the mansions of 17th-century aristocracy and under arched bridges.
On Thursdays browse in the main market for Delftware bargains, and in Brabantse Turfmarkt for flowers; antiques markets take place in Hippolytusbuurt on Thursday and Saturday from April until September.
The museum at austere Het Prinsenhof, home of Prince William of Orange – and also scene of his murder in 1584 – runs a series of exhibitions explaining his role in the pan-European Eighty Years War and providing an insight into the social structure of 16th-century Holland, when politics where dominated by a series of wealthy guilds.
Dutch Golden Age artist Jan Vermeer was born in Delft in 1632 and lived much of his life here; his studio at the Vermeer Center, found in a 17th-century townhouse once belonging to Delft’s all-powerful guild of St Lucas, offers an introduction to his life and times and serves as the perfect introduction to the peerless collection of his work in the Mauritshuis in Den Haag.
But Delft is essentially synonymous with the world-famous blue china produced here. Visit De Delftse Pauw for a free, guided tour around the factory to see the creation process, from making moulds to creating the intricate designs used to decorate the porcelain and the subsequent hand painting. Tiles, plates, figurines, bowls, and entire china services, all covered in the iconic blue-and-white designs, are sold at factory prices in the store.
Contributed by Sasha Heseltine
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