Delft – Netherlands
Home of the Royal House of Orange
Step into this 17th-century Dutch town whose quaint tree-lined canals and graceful humpbacked bridges were captured so perfectly in the canvases of Jan Vermeer and Pieter de Hoogh. Perhaps more so than in any other city in the country, the 16th and 17th centuries are preserved in this town whose name is known worldwide for its characteristic blue-and-white china.
Still made and hand-painted here and widely available, delftware’s timeless patterns and color scheme have survived the passage of centuries and collectors’ trends. When the sea of day-trippers heads back to Amsterdam or The Hague, the town returns to the townspeople and the serenity that so inspired Vermeer settles back in.
Located on the attractive market square is the 14th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), where William I, the Silent (1533-1584), founder of the royal House of Orange and a kind of Dutch George Washington, lies in a magnificent marble and alabaster mausoleum surrounded by twenty-two columns; most monarchs since him have been brought here for burial as well.
A marvelous panoramic view from the church tower provides a glimpse of The Hague on a clear day. The nearby “Old Church,” founded around 1200, is the resting place of Vermeer. A stroll along the tree-lined Oude Delft, possibly the first city canal (and certainly the prettiest) anywhere in the Netherlands, brings you to the town’s most famous site: the Prinsenhof, a former 15th-century convent-turned-royal residence where William lived and was assassinated in 1584 (the bullet hole is still visible).
Today it houses a museum dedicated to the history of the Dutch Republic. In the former storerooms of the Prinsenhof, with an entrance from a small alleyway off theOude Delft canal, is a quiet and sedate little restaurant, De Prinsenkelder, promising the end to a perfect day in the town that so understandably inspired some of Holland’s greatest artists.