Located in the province of South Holland within the western region of the Netherlands, the historic city of Delft is best known as the burial site for the royal House of Orange and the home of Delftware pottery. The city serves as a popular tourist destination, featuring attractions such as an old market square, historic Medieval sites, monuments, canals, and bridges.
During the early part of the Middle Ages, Delft was a small, rural village. By the 13th century, Delft had developed into a city center, and in 1246, it received its city charter. In 1572, William I of Orange took up residence in Delft, beginning the city’s long association with the House of Orange. William I of Orange was the leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish during the early part of the Eighty Years’ War, which lasted from 1568 to 1648. In 1581, the Netherlands gained independence from Spain, and Delft, as the home of William I, became the acting capital of the new county. In 1584, William I was assassinated. Members of the house of Orange were traditionally buried in Breda, but since Breda was still under Spanish control at the time, William was buried at the New Church of Delft. Members of the House of Orange continue to be buried in the New Church of Delft to this day.
On the 12th of October, 1654, a local gunpowder store exploded, destroying large sections of the city and killing hundreds of people. This event is known as the Delft thunderclap or Delft explosion. Among those killed in the explosion was artist Carel Fabritius, a promising pupil of famed Dutch visual artist, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Nearly all of Fabritius’ works were also lost in the explosion. In 1842, the Royal Academy was founded in Delft. Today, the school is known as the Delft University of Technology and is the largest public technical university in the Netherlands.
Today, Delft is home to 99,737 people and is located within the Netherlands’ South Holland province. The city is perhaps best known in the modern era as the home of artist Johannes Vermeer, a contemporary of Rembrandt best known for his paintings dedicated to the depiction of middle-class life. His most famous work, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, inspired a novel and contemporary film of the same name. The film was partially shot in the city, and an art center dedicated to Vermeer was opened in the city in 2008. The city is also noted for the Delft University of Technology, which is considered one of the best universities in the Netherlands.
Several notable sites are located in the city’s Market Square area, known as Markt. The historic New Church, built between 1396 and 1496, showcases Gothic-style architecture and features a large 17th-century carillon. Monuments to notable historical figures such as King William I and Prince Frederick William of Orange can also be seen, and the tomb of William I of Orange is on the grounds and features the work of master sculptor Hendrick De Keyser. Located on the west side of the Markt, the City Hall is a 17th-century building featuring original architecture and an art gallery, while the adjacent Municipal Theater occupies the building of the former municipal Weigh House. Other historic sites in the city include the Old Church, which was built in 1250 and houses several works of art along with the burial site of artist Joseph Vermeer, and the Prince's Court and Prinsenhof Museum, a group of 15th-century buildings dedicated in remembrance of the Eighty Years’ War.
Local museums include the Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, which is dedicated to the manufacturing of Delftware. The museum is also a functional manufacturing centering and is the last remaining maker of Delftware in the world. The Lambert van Meerten Museum is an art museum housing a large collection art, furnishings, and Delftware, while the Museum Paul Tétar van Elven houses the expansive art collection of 19th-century painter Paul Tetar Van Elven. The Science Center Delft is located on the grounds of the University of Technology and features family-friendly exhibits and activities.
Overnight accommodations are offered at hotels such as the four-star Hampshire Hotel, the mid-priced canalside Hotel de Emauspoort, and the budget Hotel Leeuwenbrug. Many restaurants in Delft highlight seafood and traditional European dishes, including the Vieux Jean, Les Copains, Van Der Dussen, and Spijshuis de Dis Restaurant. Several companies offer boat tours and rentals for exploring the city’s canals. Notable sites along the water highlighted as part of tours include the Old Canal, which is home to historic houses, a Gothic tour, and a “hidden church” once used by members of the Catholic faith during times of persecution.
Ongoing Programs and Events
A variety of festivals and events are held in Delft throughout the year, including a number of cultural festivals. Large annual festivals include the Delft Fringe Festival, a theater and arts festival held the first week in June, and the International Festival Of Technology, a discovery festival which is held in mid-June. The annual lighting of the Delft Christmas tree takes place in December and features a holiday market and music.