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The Top "Views of Delft"
By: Meghan BlosserOn a rainy day of the Dutch variety, I led a group of American college students on a three-hour tour of Delft. “Can you take us to the spot,” their professor asked me, “where Vermeer painted View of Delft?”
I looked at the students. They had already explained how their luggage was waylaid in Brussels, and how they’d stopped at an H&M to buy a change of clothes. Several of them were still dressed wrong for the weather, but they nodded, too, insisting even after I warned them that the view is a bit less dramatic than it was in 1660.
Of course I know where to find the View of Delft: if you took a snapshot today from the Hooikade, across the little harbor that was once called the Kolk, where small boats still dock—you would see my street, and if you craned your neck just right, the apartment building where we live. You’d also see the perpetual construction project surrounding the renovation of Delft’s train station and the extension of a tram line toward the university; and you’d be lacking the majestic gates—the poorts—that framed the city Johannes Vermeer called home.
As another novel-around-a-painting—Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, or Het Puttertje, as it’s called here—shines a spotlight on the city of Girl With a Pearl Earring, visitors to Delft will hold up their Smartphones and press their cameras to their eyes. They will lay on the bricks of the Markt trying to cram all of the Nieuwe Kerk into one photo. They will gasp at the first glimpse of the Oude Kerk tower, leaning two meters off plumb. After three years as an expat here (and one as a tour guide!), I’d like to offer, from the city founded in 1246, some of the best views of Delft more than 700 years later.
1. From the top of the Nieuwe Kerk tower (Markt). Welkom in Delft! Not only is this bird’s-eye view a great orientation, but it also allows you access to the nooks and crannies of a medieval-built town. There is so much of Delft that’s not visible from the street: private courtyards, gated alleys between buildings, and creative uses of rooftops and terraces stretching the square-footage of homes. Terracotta tiles form a pattern any way you look; the canals trace their pathways through tree-lined streets; and the Stadhuis (city hall) keeps an eye on the church.
The tower climb costs €3.50, and it’s closed on bad-weather days. A tolerance for cramped, winding staircases is required—because in this case, the “new” church was begun in the late 1300s.
2. Your pannenkoeken with the Oude Kerk (Stads-Koffyhuis, Oude Delft 133). The Dutch love to sit outside, in any weather, and as spring drifts toward summer many establishments will put out terras-boots—boats. On a warm day, arrive early to Stads-Koffyhuis on Oude Delft street to get a table on the boat and sit facing the Oude Kerk, while you work your way through creative coffee drinks and traditional Dutch pannenkoeken—a hearty meal somewhere between pancakes and an omelette. There’s something special about seeing Delft from the water, since the canals—of which the Oude Delft is one of the original two—were dug both to drain the swampy land, and for transportation.
Another unique terras-boot view is from ‘t Boterhuis (Markt). In the warm weather, you can also rent pedal-boats for two from the same spot where the city tour boats depart, and explore the canals on your own.
3. A window seat at ’t Klooster (Vlamingstraat 2). This tiny, beloved Delft pub offers a vast selection of beers (Belgian, Trappist, and otherwise) and whiskey, with bartenders who are happy to help novices choose (while often enjoying a beer themselves). In the summertime guests will sprawl along the sidewalk, but there’s something magical about the view from the interior after dark. Through the old, streaky windows looms the Nieuwe Kerk. At 108 ¾ meters tall, it’s the second tallest church in all the Netherlands, and the burial site of William of Orange and the Dutch royal family to this day. With a canal before you and a lack of modern buildings interrupting the scene, these are seats where you can really believe you’ve slipped back in time. Vermeer himself was born on the Voldersgracht, just beyond the door, and undoubtedly strolled this way.
4. The Towers of Delft (Best viewed from Oostsingel.) Find the Oostpoort (on any map, or ask a local), and cross the Oostpoort Brug (bridge) to the far side of the canal; turn left and walk a minute or two. The only remaining gate of the original eight that sentried Delft’s medieval walls is the Oostpoort: the East Gate, dating to the 1400s, with its lantern-bearer and his dog still watching over. The Oostport is about a ten-minute walk from the Markt, now set amid newer buildings. You and your camera are well rewarded for continuing across the bridge, because as you move along the wide Rijn-Schie Canal—a singel, once a moat surrounding the city, still trawled by cargo barges to Rotterdam—you will reach a point where all of Delft’s key towers become visible in one frame. In the foreground are the twin points of the Oostpoort. To the farthest right is the tall, thin Nieuwe Kerk, with the crown-like Oude Kerk nestled as if into its shoulder. The final pair (if you don’t see them, keep walking) belong to the Maria van Jessekerk, the nineteenth-century Roman Catholic church on the Burgwal.
5. Walking Trompetstraat from Oosterstraat. If you follow the Rijn-Schie northward to the Koepoortbrug (either side, but cross at the Koepoortbrug back to the center), you’ll find little Trompetstraat: one street north of Nieuwe Langendijk. The church tower rises like a signpost at the end of this winding, family street that offers a taste of the Delft that residents call home. You’ll find yourself stopping to take photos as you’re led toward the Markt, passing a neighborhood playground and the Hotel de Emauspoort, where you can stay in authentic Gypsy caravans, hidden from the street. At the dinner hour children cycle quickly home, while aromas of stamppot waft through open windows.
6. The end of the Virulypad (Bicycle required). From the Delftse Hout park follow Kortlaan away from the city until it ends in a T. Turn right, and then look on your left for the car-free path Virulypad. Ride to the end, enveloped by farms and countryside. You will encounter cyclists both casual and sporty, runners, dog-walkers, and—perhaps—a horse or two. You’re only three kilometers from the center of Delft, gazing at the skyline the way it might have appeared to travelers approaching hundreds of years ago. The local cows will wander home as the sun sets, and the air is fresh and clean. The Netherlands’ excellent network of bike paths is literally at your feet. From here, you can continue to the windmill of Nootdorp (another 3km), or stop for fresh food and drinks at Café du Midi (Noordeindseweg 70) on your way back to Delft.
Bicycles can be rented at Delft’s train station, in the blue building on the opposite side of the tracks from the old station hall. If cycling in Amsterdam seems daunting, give Delft a try.
7. Looking west from the train windows as you depart. Don’t be shy: the Dutch want you to look in their windows. Leaving your curtains closed is not only unneighborly; it deprives everyone of the right to see your design taste and other attributes of your home. When you board a train from Delft for the one-hour ride to Amsterdam, take a seat on the left side of the car (with Amsterdam before you and Delft behind). As the train gains speed and leaves this beautiful town, you are just at the right height to gaze in the windows of the Spoorsingel: student apartments and family homes; fireplaces and morning coffees; lights in the evening and Christmas trees in December.
Delft may slip away, but its impression—like that of a seventeenth-century harbor, with calm water and the radiant cloud-covering that still graces these skies—will linger in your memory.
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Contest Comments » There are 11 comments
Jim wrote 9 years ago:
an excellent plan to touch the history of Delft with a casual pace.
Lianne wrote 9 years ago:
As someone who has visited Delft, this post impressed me with the genuine passion Meghan has for the city. Her knowledge of the streets and history of Delft show a true immersion into the Dutch culture. Engaging and informative!
Linda Aiken wrote 9 years ago:
Meghan makes me want to visit every place she has.
[email protected] EuropeanMama wrote 9 years ago:
Oh I love Delft! I used to live there for a while but then we bought a house elswhere- thanks for the reminder how beautiful Delft is!
Jo Ann wrote 9 years ago:
When people think of the Netherlands, many immediately think of Amsterdam...but in fact you would be missing a real gem if you neglected to visit Delft! This post reminds me of all the reasons why a visit to the Netherlands must include Delft, which is old, charming, lovely, and interesting. Thank you for sharing!
Fabai wrote 9 years ago:
Meghan has her unique way of capturing the authentic and the poetic, follow her guides of the Top 7 must be the best shortcut to experiencing the most romantic part of the everyday life in this old town.
Pat wrote 9 years ago:
Excellent information on Delft! Thank you Meghan. A compelling overview.....Makes me want to visit there soon!
Lori wrote 9 years ago:
Meghan did it again! Somehow her words compel me to visit places I had never dreamed. And "yes" I would LOVE to see where Vemeer painted View of Delft!
Anna wrote 9 years ago:
It's great to find such helpful, current, unique and whimsical travel advice. This post makes me want to hop on a plane tomorrow. I especially love the idea of riding the train and looking in on domestic vistas with the memory of Delft lingering. Lovely.
Elio wrote 9 years ago:
This post really captures some of Delft's hidden charms that don't get mentioned in Lonely Planet or Fodor's.
Kathleen wrote 9 years ago:
Wish we could visit Delft again and take a closer look at all that Meghan has described!