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.
Everything you need to know about the Dutch Masters
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
Richest country in the world
The developments that brought about the Dutch Era happened in three stages. The adventurous mercantile spirit of the Dutch led them to explore the world, which caused the economy to flourish. That, in turn, was responsible for the construction of beautiful city centers. Land was reclaimed from the water, and peatlands were dug up. The land literally expanded to make way for larger cities.
The Dutch Era was typified by the classic cityscapes combining homes and warehouses. The quays are lined with narrow, deep, and tall buildings with hatches where goods from Asia were once stored. They are all listed heritage sites now, but this era was also the time of tulip mania and you could buy a canal house for three tulip bulbs!
Characteristic cityscapes help write world history.
Leiden, then and now
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.
Anyone who visits Leiden can’t miss the city’s love for Rembrandt, as evidenced by Museum de Lakenhal and the Young Rembrandt School. The Pieterskerk church, the Latin School, and De Put Windmill are great examples of 17th-century architecture. Truly marvelous must-sees!
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.