Delft has more than one claim to fame. It is the home of Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, two of the best-known Dutch Masters. It is home to Delft Blue pottery, admired around the world. And perhaps most importantly, William of Orange, known in Holland as ‘Father of the Fatherland’, came to live in the city in 1572. He was leader of the revolt against Spain, which ultimately led to Dutch independence. Independence, in turn, made the Dutch Golden Age possible. In Delft today, visitors can still feel the city’s fascinating past. Strolling along the centuries-old canals in the historic city center, Delft’s Golden Age is ever-present.
- Discover how William of Orange laid the foundations of modern Holland.
- Meet Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, and other famous figures from Delft in the Golden Age.
- See glorious examples of the world-famous Delft Blue pottery.
Explore the Golden Age of Delft
Experience the Golden Age in Delft’s museums and the historical city center, where you can walk in the footsteps of Dutch Masters such as Johannes Vermeer and his contemporaries, such as painters Pieter de Hooch, Carel Fabritius, Jan Steen and Michiel van Mierevelt, scientist Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek, and jurist Hugo de Groot. Many of the Golden Age’s seafaring heroes came from Delft, too. Another connection to the era is the famous Delft Blue pottery, which has its beginnings in the Golden Age and is still ever-present in the city today.
Art in Delft’s Golden Age
Delft is the city of Johannes Vermeer. The painter was born in Delft in 1632 and spent his entire life in the city. Several of his paintings depict Delft as it was, such as ‘The Little Street’ and ‘View of Delft’. And of course, Vermeer painted Delft’s most famous (if unknown) residents: ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and ‘The Milkmaid’. His paintings are renowned for an unusual clarity and extraordinary way of recreating sunlight.
Today, Vermeer’s works are exhibited in museums all around the world, but the Vermeer Centrum Delft brings together life-size reproductions of all 37 paintings. Visitors can discover the stories behind the works and learn more about the painter’s life. A day trip to The Hague – a mere ten-minute train journey away – is also recommended: the remarkable collection of the Mauritshuis museum features three Vermeers, including the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ and the ‘View on Delft’.
Vermeer was buried in Delft’s Old Church and his tombstone can be visited there, among those of other artists, naval heroes and scientists of the Golden Age.
But Vermeer is not the only Dutch Master connected to Delft: his contemporaries Pieter de Hooch, Carel Fabritius, Jan Steen and Michiel van Mierevelt were all active in Delft’s painters' guild (or Guild of St Luke’s) and created some of their most important works in the city.
Delft Blue: how Delft’s pottery achieved worldwide fame
The history of the Delft Blue style of pottery is a fantastic example for Holland’s fortunes in the Golden Age. It was originally created as a more affordable alternative to the blue-and-white porcelain from China. But Delft Blue would not stay second choice for long: soon its popularity soared and in its heyday, between 1650 and 1750, hundreds of potteries were active in the city. The one that has remained in operation all the way since 1653 is De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles, now known as Royal Delft. It continues to produce Delft Blue pottery according to the traditional methods.
Discover Delft’s history
The best way to discover Delft’s – and Holland’s – history is a visit to Museum Prinsenhof Delft, ‘the Prince’s Court’. The former convent was the base whence William of Orange I, ancestor of the current Dutch royal family and Holland’s ‘Father of the Fatherland’, successfully fought the Spanish occupation in the 16th century. With plenty of art and historical objects, visitors can learn how William’s deeds led to the foundation of the Dutch Republic and its ideals of tolerance and freedom of religion. The Prinsenhof Delft is also where William was assassinated in 1584, and the bullet holes in the wall are still visible. William’s grave, and that of numerous other members of the royal family, is in Delft’s New Church. And the historical center offers plenty more sights of Golden Age Delft, such as the City Hall and beautiful old market squares.
Book your ticket
Book your ticket for the Royal Delft Experience to learn exactly how Delft Blue is made and why it’s remained so popular for more than 350 years. Entry includes an audio tour in multiple languages, while guided tours are possible too.
We recommend: Make the most of Holland’s excellent public transport infrastructure. The Hague is only 10 minutes away from Delft by train, where a host of Golden Age treats await.