With strong roots in the Dutch Golden Age, Delft offers a glimpse into the heart of the Netherlands’ character and history. On this guided tour, you'll spend the day getting to know the city with a local guide, as well as try your hand at making a piece of its signature white-and-blue pottery.
As you stroll through the cobblestone streets, you’ll get to see highlights like the red-shuttered city hall and hear why the tower of the Oude Kerk leans at such an alarming angle. Your guide can illuminate your route with stories about the devastating 1563 fire and the ‘Delft Thunderclap’ a century later, which killed Rembrandt’s most promising student.
Having steeped yourself in the city’s history, you’ll be able to get hands-on with its best-known export at the Royal Delft factory. The tour culminates with an opportunity to paint your own signature-blue tile, which you can take home with you.
You’ll begin your day with a walking tour of the old town with a local guide. Home to the Dutch Master painter Johannes Vermeer, the city’s heart has changed little since he lived and painted here in the 17th century. The characteristically Dutch canals were dug in the 15th century, after which Delft became a trading hub, making it a major player in the Dutch Golden Age.
In the old town, you’ll see the grand city hall. The tall belfry is from the 1300s, but the Renaissance front of the building, with its red shutters and gilded ornamentation, is from the early 1600s. It looms over the central Markt, but not as much as the Nieuwe Kerk, the church on the opposite end of the square, whose monumental belfry stretches 108 m (356 ft) into the sky. The church is the burial site for the royal House of Orange-Nassau, most recently Queen Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard, entombed in 2004. Nearby is Oude Kerk, the old church, familiar to locals and tourists alike for its tall brick tower, which leans significantly to one side.
You can find lunch in one of the city’s lively streets or various market squares. Then you’ll head to Royal Delft, the factory that has created the trademark Delftware pottery since the 17th century. The familiar white porcelain with intricate blue designs is made by painting with a cobalt oxide ink, which turns blue when the piece is fired before glazing.
Royal Delft’s factory now includes a museum, where you’ll start your tour. You’ll see films describing the history of Delftware, then visit a small workshop where some of the painters will be at work. The factory floor itself is part of the experience, after which you’ll see the current exhibition of pottery.
When you’re done exploring, your guide will leave you to your tile-painting workshop. For an hour, the master craftspeople at Royal Delft will show you the technique for painting, giving you a chance to either copy a traditional design or create your own. Since it takes 24 hours of firing to develop the Delft Blue hue, you’ll instead use blue paint to start with, so you can take the tile home with you afterwards.