The Dutch Era
Present and past
This trade-off between good and bad is why we now prefer to use the term “the Dutch Era” instead of “the Golden Age.” Why is this important? As Ad Geerdink, director of the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, explains: “‘The Dutch Era’ implies no subjective judgment of value. It leaves room for both sides of the story. ‘The Golden Age’ does not.”
In the 17th century, the Netherlands was probably the richest country in the world.
The first multinational corporation
Several of the most internationally important artists of their time, such as Aelbert Cuyp, Ferdinand Bol, and Nicolaes Maes, worked in Dordrecht. In the Dordrechts Museum, you will find works such as the famous Self-portrait at the age of thirty and Nicolaes Maes’s The Eavesdropper on display. Definitely worth a visit.
Where can I go to learn even more about the Dutch Era and science?
Our tip for 'Leiden'
Learn about Christiaan Huygens’s discoveries in the amazing Rijksmuseum Boerhaave. Be sure to check out the world’s oldest planetarium with the sun at the center, the stories about Blaeu’s maps, and the botanic sketches of Maria Sibylla Merian: each and every one a showpiece of their age.Read more
Our tip for 'Delft'
Delft simply exudes history. Take a walk past the house where Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was born, and the bakery café Van Maanen, where he died at the age of 91. Then head to Museum Prinsenhof Delft, where the oldest telescope of the 17th century was accidentally discovered in 2013: the four-inch-long tube had initially been mistaken for a bullet cartridge. Museum Prinsenhof Delft also has much to discover about William of Orange, the most exquisite 17th-century art and, of course, the origin of Delft Blue pottery.Read more
Our tip for 'Dordrecht'
In 1572, one century before the Dutch Era, Dordrecht hosted the first assembly of the free states of Holland, which was attended by representatives from twelve cities. It was the first step towards the establishment of the Constitution of the Netherlands. In 1648, the Augustinian monastery of Dordrecht was the setting for the peace talks with Spain. Now part of the refurbished Hof van Nederland, this monastery is definitely worth a visit.Read more
Dutch Era hotspots
Visit the Dutch Era
Hoorn and Enkhuizen
The harbor in Hoorn is proof of the Dutch desire to sail the seven seas. It’s a beautiful, traditional-looking harbor. Don’t forget to check out the De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (the Shipboys of Bontekoe) statue. Bontekoe was a captain in the service of the VOC. Enkhuizen’s harbor is a little bit further on and also very much worth a visit.
It’s hard to think of a place where the Dutch Era is more clearly visible than in this charming city. From the Oost-Indisch Huis (East India House) at Oude Delft 39 and the location that was the subject of Vermeer’s Little Street painting to Oude Kerk church and the special Antoni van Leeuwenhoek commemorative fence: in Delft, you can really immerse yourself in the Dutch Era.
Amble across Grote Markt square and admire the Vleeshal building, which now houses the Frans Hals Museum. Haarlem is truly suffused with the Dutch Era. Visit the oldest museum in the Netherlands, Teylers Museum, or enjoy a drink at one of the lively cafés and pubs.
With beautiful historic buildings such as the old Stockholm warehouse and Dordts Patriciërshuis, the Wolwevershaven (wool weavers harbor) is the place in Dordrecht to visit if you really want the complete Dutch Era experience. The Dordrechts Museum is also highly recommended – and once you’re there, it’s definitely worth taking a moment to relax in the Kloostertuin, an old monastery garden.