Renowned worldwide for its pottery ceramic, Delft (pop. 95,000) is also one of Holland's prettiest town, attracting bus loads of tourists in the high season.
It was founded around 1100 and received its charter in 1246. It prospered on trade and weaving in the late Middle Ages, and became a small port (Delftshaven, now part of Rotterdam) in the 15th century. The city was equipped with city walls, which have since all but disappeared, apart from the Oostpoort (Eastern gate).
In the late 16th century, the northern Netherlands revolted against Spanish rule and Delft played a major role in the struggle as the headquarters of William of Orange (William the Silent) from 1572 until his assassination in the town's Prinsenhof (see below) in 1584.
The 17th century saw the Golden Age of the Untied Provinces of the Netherlands. Home port of the Dutch East India Company, Delft was the first city to come in contact with imports of Chinese porcelain, which inspired local artisans to develop their own, now famously known as "delftware".
It was also during this period that one of the country's most celebrated painter, Jan Vermeer (1632-1675), was born and died, spending his entire life in Delft. The 2003 biographical movie Girl with a Pearl Earring further increased the popularity of Delft as a tourist destination.
Several other famous painters lived and worked in Delft at that time, such as Carel Fabritius (1622-1654), Pieter de Hoogh (1629-1684) and Nicolaes Maes (1632-1693). They all were members of the Delft School. The Delft School is known for its images of domestic life, views of households, church interiors, courtyards, squares and the streets of Delft.
The small size of the historic centre means that one can easily wander around the streets and canals for an hour or two, without having any particular sightseeing spot in mind. The town is still pretty much like in Vermeer's days.
You can't miss the magnificient Renaissance Stadhuis (town hall) on the town square, and the adjacent Waag (weigh house). Just opposite is the 14th-century Nieuwe Kerke ("New Church", erected between 1381 and 1496), where William the Silent and members of the Dutch Royal family are buried.
Jan Vermeer, along with naval hero Piet Pieterszoon Hein (1577-1629) and scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) are interred in the Oude Kerk ("Old Church", built in 1246).
West of the Oude Kerke is the Prinsenhof (Princes' Court), a former convent now housing a museum of local history and contemporary art (closed on Mondays, entry 2.20 €).
How to get there
Delft is located just between The Hague and Rotterdam. Trains take only 10-15 min from either city. Alternatively, there are also slower buses from Rotterdam and tramways (line 1) from The Hague .
Ask your travel questions on the Benelux Travel Forum