7 things to do in charming Delft (and a Dutch snack you just HAVE TO try)

Ah, how I love my road trip adventures.

They give you the freedom to make detours and visit amazing places you’d otherwise miss out on. Underrated, beautiful cities, small towns and villages. Places that are not overwhelmed by mass tourism. Places with an authentic feel to them. Based on personal experience, those are the places we end up falling in love with – and can’t wait to return to.

This is a guide to one of those places.

Back in May, while road tripping cross-country Netherlands, my boyfriend and I ended up in Delft, a beautiful city in the province of South Holland. And let me tell you why I regret not spending a night there – and why you should add the city  to your itinerary right now!

It’s no secret that the Netherlands is a country spoiled with idyllic scenery and quirky towns.

Delft is one of those places.

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In fact, the city looks like a mini Amsterdam. A little less bicycle traffic, none of that weed-smell, no red light district, no huge crowds of tourists. It’s like an Amsterdam for those who want the same atmosphere, the same aesthetic, but it’s just so much more quiet. Peaceful. Calm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Amsterdam. But there’s just something about Delft…

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We were on our way from Kinderdijk (and the many windmills) to Hague (the seat of the Dutch parliament), and decided to make a detour and spend a couple of hours exploring Delft – a city I had heard of, but didn’t know much about. Well, besides its pottery production, that is!

Arriving in Delft, my boyfriend and I were blown away by how much the city resembled Amsterdam, and we immediately regretted not booking a night at one of the quaint hotels by the canals. I would have loved to have the opportunity to stay longer and enjoy the calmness, the beauty and everything Delft had to offer.

It ain’t a lot, but at least we got to spend half a day exploring the city!

The time was well spent strolling along the narrow streets and along the canals and photographing everything from every angle.  At one point, we were forced to seek refuge from the sudden rain showers (in a bar). A couple of ice-cold beers, accompanied by some (most likely) very unhealthy but oh-so-delicious snacks, made us forget all about the rain. By the time we left the bar, the sky had cleared up and everything was back to being nothing but perfect.

We finished our little Delft-adventure by checking out the local flea market and admiring all the arts and crafts displayed.

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This was enough to convince me that Delft should totally be on everybody’s bucket list.

I didn’t get enough time to see everything, but perhaps you will.

In that case, may this list be enough to convince you?

Here are 7 things to do in Delft (and the snack you just have to try)

  1. Eat and drink Dutch. Visit one of the many bars on the Delft Market Square by Neuwe Kerk, or one of the bars along the canals. Order a refreshing pint of white or fruity Wieckse or, if you’re more of an IPA or Stout kinda person, a pint of Jopen . And don’t forget to order a tasty snack to go with your beer. Bitterballen is the snack you never realized you needed in your life, but you totally do. These deep fried little things have a hard, crispy crust and are soft and yummy on the inside. They’re filled with a delicious mixture of minced or chopped meat, beef broth, butter, parsley and seasoning. Dip them in mustard and enjoy! bitterballen
  2. Check out the Thursday farmer’s market. Every Thursday there’s a farmer’s market (between Neuwe Kerk and the City Hall). With around 150 stalls displayed, you will most certainly be able to find some delicious Dutch cheese, freshly baked bread, fish and meat, nuts, ecological fruits and vegetables – and much more. Do they sell Stroopwafel (thin waffles with caramel-like syrup filling)? Or Gouda cheese? Visit the market to find out (and buy some)!
  3. And the flower market (Thursdays and Saturdays). The flower market is located on the Brabantse Turfmarkt, which is a five minute walk from the Market Square (and the Farmer’s market). Thousands of beautiful, colorful flowers are displayed, obviously including the flower the country is known for; the tulip. A smaller version of the market is held every Saturday. Surprise someone you love with a gorgeous bouquet – and don’t forget to take pictures!
  4. And the flea market (also Thursdays and Saturdays)! Are you interested in antiques, art, pottery or used books? Every Thursday and Saturday, from April through October, an amazing flea market takes place in Delft. On Thursdays it’s located along the canal in the street called Hippolytusbuurt, and on Saturdays you’ll find a much bigger flea market (including a book market) along the Voldersgracht, Hippolytusbuurt and Wijnhaven canals. DSC_0942
  5. Visit the Porcelain Museum. Delft is mostly famous for its blue and white pottery, also known as Delftware, Delft Blue or Delft Pottery. To learn more about Delft’s tin-glazed pottery and its long history (dating back to the 16th century), visit the Royal Delft museum (and shop).
  6. See the works of Vermeer. One of the most well known names from the Baroque era, this is the painter who gave us the beautiful “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Learn more about the artist and see more of his works at the Vermeer Centrum.
  7. Relax and just let life happen. In a city like Delft, it’s perfectly fine to just sit down at a cafe with a good book, or take a stroll along the canals and photograph the scenery. No need to rush from one place to another. No need to make any plans. Just enjoy yourself and let Delft seduce you!delft restaurants

How to get to Delft – by public transportation

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From Amsterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Vlissingen, from Amsterdam Centraal.

From Schipol Airport: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Dordrecht, from Schipol Airport train station.

From Rotterdam: Take the direct NS Intercity train, direction Duivendrecht, from Rotterdam Centraal.

To purchase train tickets, visit the NS website.

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Beer bars and balcony breakfast in Haarlem (the Netherlands)

Just so you know, this post is about Haarlem in the Netherlands, not Harlem in New York (formerly known as New Amsterdam). Harlem (NY) is however, named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. But apart from it all being Dutch at some point in history, those two Ha(a)rlem’s have very little in common.

So, where’s Haarlem?

The city has almost 156 000 inhabitants and is the capital of Noord-Holland (Holland is not the name of the country, but two provinces) – and you’ll easily get there from Amsterdam, as it’s only  a 15 minute train ride away.

What does beer have to do with Haarlem?

Haarlem has a long history of beer brewing – a very important industry in the city. Until the 16th century, the water used for beer, was taken from the canals in the city. But, as the canals got more an more polluted, the water could no longer be used. From the 17th century, water was transported to the breweries from Brouwerskolkje (I bet you a pint you’re not gonna remember that name). The canal that leads to there, still exists and is now called the Brewers’ Canal (Brouwersvaart).

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What did I get up to in Haarlem (besides drinking beer)?

While my significant other and I were road tripping through the Netherlands, Haarlem just happened to be our destination of choice. Conveniently located near Amsterdam, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday, the day before visiting Haarlem – and close to Alkmaar and the famous cheese market (went there, did that). And it’s also close to Zaanse Schans, a charming little windmill village.

We went to all of these places – and many more. We followed a busy “to-do” list most of the time while visiting the Netherlands, and frankly, scheduling in two days of downtime in Haarlem was probably the best idea we had, while creating our itinerary. We needed that. And we needed those two nights of self-pampering at Haarlem Hotel Suites.

The suite had the comfiest beds ever, and our balcony was spacious enough for the two of us to hang out in the sun, drink beer, eat chips and dip and just take a breather – and get fat and drunk while doing so.

Waking up to the staff serving us a large, varied and tasty breakfast in the room, just made the experience even better. I felt like a queen. Privileged, spoiled and pretty effin’ fabulous, I dined on the balcony, wearing nothing but an oversized bathrobe and slippers. The sun was shining, the church bells were ringing and my boyfriend was just as happy as I was. If I could do this every day, I would. Hands down.

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When we weren’t busy stacking up on calories while relaxing on the balcony or while cocooning on the couch in front of the TV, we visited downtown Haarlem and its many beer bars. Our absolute favorite was the Jopenkerk – a former church converted into a bar, restaurant and brewery. The beer menu was so overwhelming I had to ask the waiter for suggestions. The first beer I tried was slightly too bitter for my liking, but the second one was a very pleasant surprise. When the waiter introduced it to me as a sour (open fermentation) beer brewed with algae, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It sounded strange, but I trusted his opinion and gave it a try. And to my surprise, it was oh so delicious, and I just couldn’t resist ordering a second one. Ever since that day, I’ve been obsessed with old sour dark beers!

We also discovered a nice – and very instagrammable – little cafe called Native, while strolling along the streets and doing a bit of shopping. As a self proclaimed coffee addict, I am sure I would have ordered a latte or a cappuccino, if it hadn’t been so warm outside. Besides, most of the other guests at the cafe were sipping on lemonade, so I ended up ordering the same thing. An ice cold glass of elderberry lemonade. Tasty and refreshing!

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Haarlem is more than just beer and lemonade (or coffee), but checking out the bar scene is definitely a must-do while in town. If you’ve already been to Jopenkerk or you’re looking for yet another beer bar suggestion, I’ll advice you to check out Uiltje Bar, Brewery and Taproom . They offer free tours in the brewery every weekend, host events and serve great craft beer and finger food.

And the city, what does the city of Haarlem look like?

It looks like a typical Dutch city. Charming Flemish architecture, nice little canals, quaint town square (Grote Markt) , beautiful churches, busy restaurants and lots and lots of bicycles everywhere.

It was the perfect place to be for two people in need to calm down and throw that itinerary out the window, tune out and just take some time to really appreciate high quality beer and blend in with locals.

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