The Dutch Golden Age
The Dutch Golden Age (17th century) was a period of great wealth for the Dutch Republic. The Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) caused trade to expand quickly, which attracted immigrants and stimulated the growth of the main cities and ports.
In this period, the arts and sciences flourished as is clearly demonstrated by the famous paintings by the Dutch Masters: Rembrandt, Hals, Vermeer, and Steen. See masterpieces in beautiful museums, visit the manors and monuments, stroll along picturesque canals and admire beautiful harbors, along which the stepped gables and impressive warehouses from the 17th century still stand.
The 17th century, also known as the Dutch Golden Age, laid the foundation for the Netherlands as we know it today. But this period also had a dark side, which is discussed more openly these days. The museums that devote attention to the Netherlands’ glorious history often also explore this dark side. There are exhibitions and city walks throughout the Netherlands that revolve around the history of slavery and colonialism.
The history of the Dutch Golden Age can be found all over cities along the route, from Middelburg in the south to Hoorn and Enkhuizen in the north of the Netherlands.
Experience the Dutch Golden Age in these cities
Travel back to the Dutch Golden Age in Middelburg and explore its rich trading history.
Take a stroll through Golden Age Dordrecht and discover a city which shaped Dutch history.
Discover Delft, home of Vermeer and William of Orange, of Delft Blue pottery, and Golden Age art.
Meet the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and see the palaces on a tour of Golden Age The Hague.
Discover Golden Age Leiden, an era of trade, science, tolerance and world-changing art.
Step back into the Golden Age and discover the art and people that shaped Haarlem 400 years ago.
Explore the Golden Age in Amsterdam, when world trade, incredible wealth and famous art converged.
Return to 17th-century Hoorn and Enkhuizen. Relive this prosperous era in Holland’s history.
The Golden Age Trail
Discover the Dutch Golden Age with a trip to the cities that determined the face of the Netherlands and the world in the 17th century. The new prosperity and intellectual and religious freedom turned the Netherlands into a safe haven for European immigrants, refugees from Flanders, and people who were persecuted in Spain and Portugal. This population boom strengthened Holland’s position as a global leader and contributed to some of the greatest achievements in art and academia. As merchants sailed to other – for them – unknown continents, the Dutch East India Company – the world’s first multinational company – was established, and the six Dutch ports that were home to its chambers thrived throughout this era.
Explore Golden Age history throughout Holland
Discover Dordrecht, a city that was already booming before the Dutch Golden Age, and which played an essential role in the formation of the Dutch Republic. Meet Frans Hals in Haarlem, along with the other immigrant artists who changed the course of art history. Take a trip back to Golden Age Leiden, where the city’s appetite for innovation influenced Rembrandt van Rijn’s early career. Rembrandt and other Dutch Masters from the Golden Age have continued to hold a prominent place in art history through the centuries.
Discover Holland’s prosperous history
Find out why Rembrandt and his contemporaries in Amsterdam owe much of their success to the wealthy merchants who had the means to fill their homes with art and commission prominent works, and relive the Golden Age today via Amsterdam’s top museums. The wealth from trade spread through to Middelburg, which was an important base for the Dutch East India Company and became known for the ornate Golden Age architecture that remains today. Learn why Hoorn and Enkhuizen also flourished during the era, transforming from fishing villages to thriving centers of trade, where earning a living was easier and outsiders were welcomed. The goods that returned from Asia and Africa captivated the European market, such as the iconic blue and white pottery that was then famously reproduced in Golden Age Delft. These developments were spurred on by forward-thinking authorities that implemented policies in The Hague, the new center of power in Golden Age Holland. Stroll along its wide boulevards and experience masterpieces like Vermeer’s ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ in its museums.
Many museums will enrich any interested visitor with a rare understanding of Holland and its illustrious history, which however also had its darker sides. The history of the Dutch Golden Age is still very much alive and can be experienced in the cities along the route from Middelburg in the south to Hoorn & Enkhuizen in the north of Holland.
The museums that devote attention to the Netherlands’ glorious history often also explore this dark side. There are exhibitions and city walks throughout the Netherlands that revolve around the history of slavery.