It was in Dordrecht in 1572, in Het Hof van Nederland, where representatives from the seven provinces of the Low Countries met and united under the leadership of William of Orange, reigniting a revolt against the king of Spain. This First Assembly of the Free States laid the foundations for the birth of the Netherlands as we know it today, inspiring Dutch independence, and, alongside it, driving prosperity through trade, innovation and immigration. Today, the center of Dordrecht is still home to more than 1,000 historic monuments, and there’s a wealth of fascinating museums, galleries, restaurants and shops to discover.
- Visit Het Hof van Nederland, the 13th-century Augustine monastery where leaders met in 1572 to plot independence and the birth of the Dutch Republic.
- Step back in time to the Golden Age as you explore Dordrecht’s 1,000 historic monuments and beautiful innercity harbors.
- Get up close to the artwork of Dutch Masters and paintings by Rembrandt’s famous pupils at the Dordrechts Museum.
Dordrecht’s role in kickstarting the Dutch Golden Age
It’s fitting that the First Assembly of the Free States (‘Eerste Vrije Statenvergadering’) was held in Dordrecht, a city which played a pivotal role in the country’s history and, as an eminent center of commerce and industry, paved the way for growth during the Golden Age. Even before that prestigious period in the 16th and 17th centuries, Dordrecht was already thriving in the 14th and 15th centuries. Culture, science and commerce flourished in Dordrecht’s streets and port. Today, a stroll around its still intact medieval houses, courtyards, gates, quays and canals transports visitors back in time to that period of wealth and evolution, while its inspiring museums explore history and the art of the many Dutch artists that made the city their home during the Golden Age.
Step back in time to Golden Age Dordrecht at the city’s historic harbor
As the oldest city in the province of Zuid-Holland, Dordrecht offers an abundance of historic sights and charm at every turn. And nowhere is the feeling of retracing the city’s startling stories more apparent than while exploring its historic harbor. This vibrant area extends along the river front, forming the backbone of Dordrecht’s old center. Here you can walk among the former warehouses, merchant buildings and quay areas which were once instrumental in powering the international trade that shaped the Dutch Golden Age. Many of these extraordinary buildings have now been transformed into quaint cafes and gourmet restaurants, or shops selling artisanal goods. For a true Golden Age snapshot, experience a harbor and river cruise in Dordrecht to take in the picturesque panoramas from its historic trade channels.
Relive history at Het Hof van Nederland
As well as the many pleasures of Dordrecht’s picturesque streets and waterways, there’s also a host of beguiling sights and cultural activities to discover. Relive the First Assembly of the Free States at Het Hof van Nederland (The Court of the Netherlands). At this former 13th-century Augustine monastery you can tread the floorboards where the foundations were laid for Dutch independence. The museum’s interactive and audio-visual displays transport visitors back in time to 1572, to witness the negotiations and agreements of the meeting first hand. You’ll also learn more about the Synod of Dordrecht, a religious meeting which had a huge influence on politics and society, as well as initiating an official Dutch Bible translation, impacting on the Dutch language itself.
Dutch Masters at the Dordrechts Museum
A walk around Dordrecht to admire its beauty will make it clear why so many Dutch artists made the city their home. During the Golden Age, some of the most important artists of the time lived and worked here, among them Aelbert Cuyp, Ferdinand Bol and Nicolaes Maes. The city was especially popular with Rembrandt’s students – Bol, Maes and Aert de Gelder, who all learned from the great artist in Amsterdam. To paint your own picture of the incredible talent here, visit the renowned collection of Golden Age masterpieces on show at the Dordrechts Museum. As well as a famous self-portrait of Ferdinand Bol and ‘The Eavesdropper’ (‘De Luistervink’) by Nicolaes Maes, don’t miss the atmospheric paintings of Dordrecht and the surrounding region, documenting the city’s rich history in the Golden Age.
We recommend: When following the Golden Age trail through Holland, don’t skip the beautiful city of Middelburg, easily accessible from Dordrecht. Middelburg became one of the most important cities in the nation thanks to the trade of the Dutch East India Company.