Royal Delft Experience: A Visit To the Museum & Factory

On Friday, we visited the TU Delft Botanic Gardens and while in Delft, we visited the Royal Delft Experience. The experience takes you through a history of the company – the last surviving ‘pottery’ of the 30+ that existed in the city of Delft in the 17th century. It was founded in 1653 as De Porceleyne Fles [translation: The Porcelain Jar].

Delft Blue started in Netherlands around the 17th century when the VOC (the Dutch East India Company) brought the blue painted porcelain back from China. This resulted in an inspiration for the Dutch ceramists, because this fragile porcelain was not created or seen before.

During your self-guided tour (available in various languages), we started with two short movies, presented in different rooms, with modern sound and other effects about the history and then the firing process. Their website explains the process in-depth and very well. Then you are free to wander through a museum, where we each had an audio guide to explain the 14 different stations. There is also a special audio tour for children and for the younger children (under 10) – for a €1 you can buy a picture hunt which the children learn all about the iconic blue and white earthenware on a picture hunt throughout the museum.

The tour allows visitors to watch one of the artisans, as he paints by hand, pieces of earthenware – very impressive. Notice the black ‘paint’ he’s using, it’s cobalt oxide, a substance that when fired gives Delft Blue its signature color.

The museum has a section dedicated to items made for the Dutch Royal family. You’ll see various commemorative plates, historic pieces, and a unique shaped tulip vases – which is for sale in the gift shop for €17,000!  

If that very large tulip vase looks familiar and you are in the Randstad area, you might have seen the giant version along the A13 going towards Rotterdam.  I never remember to have my phone ready to take photo so this shutterfly version will have to do for now.

Foto Credit: Robin Utrecht/Shutterstock

CREATION OF PROUD MARY

In 2019, Proud Mary was launched as a collector’s item as an attempt to create a contemporary look & feel to a very historical and traditional item.  She was named after Mary Stuart II, the wife of Lord Lieutenant William III.  She was a great admirer and collector of Delft Blue in the Dutch Golden Age and in large collections of Delft Blue were in all her palaces like Hampton Court and Paleis het Loo. 

The large ones are hand painted and that is why the cost €1299. and so much more than the smaller ones – which are €75.  These are decorated with a transfer.  See the entire collection here

BEHIND THE SCENES INSIDE THE FACTORY

Later in the tour, when you get into the factory, you’ll see workers spraying, molding, drying, painting and firing the pieces.

There is a very large replica of “The Night Watch” by Rembrant on the wall made up of 480 impressively painted tiles.

VISIT THE MUSEUM ONLINE

On their site, they have a nice kids tour which is even great for adults. No worries that it is Dutch, there are English subtitles underneath!  Alternatively, you can visit their VR online museum and navigate around the museum yourself. 

WORKSHOPS – PAINT YOUR OWN DELFT BLUE

PAINT A TILE AT HOME

You can paint your own Delft Blue tiles at home.  While true Royal Delft pieces are painted with black and fired (as explained above), but for this you will receive a blue paint.  The DIY home based, self-painting kits are €39.95 and are for two tiles! 

PAINT IN THE MUSEUM UNDER PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE 

They also offer various workshops from plates, other pieces and tiles.  The tiles are done either in the DIY way above or in the traditional workshop – which means they are NOT ready to be taken home immediately as they must first be fired.  The products can be collected or shipped after approximately ten working days.   I would love to do one of these one day – just not sure what I’d paint on the tile or plate. 

BESPOKE ITEMS

You can also give a bespoke gift a tile or plate that is unique and personalized, which would be nice for a special occasion like births, anniversaries or weddings. You can add a name or date, etc

SCHIFFMACHER ROYAL BLUE TATTOO EXHIBITION

Delft Blue pottery and tattoos may not be the most obvious combination, but they have more in common than thought. Henk Schiffmacher is a renowned tattoo artist who has also curated exhibitions, written books and presented TV shows on tattoo art. The exhibition Schiffmacher Royal Blue Tattoo shows the link between tattooing and Delft Blue pottery, the Dutch traditional pottery that is made in Delft since the 17th century. Discover the history of tattooing and see the similarity between tattoos and Delft Blue. Henk Schiffmacher tells you the background stories of his drawings in the audio tour – which is only in Dutch regardless of which language your self-guided audio device is programmed.

Both craftsmanships, in fact, are rich with culture, tradition and symbolism. Henk Schiffmacher has made a number of unique objects with the master painters of Royal Delft, where the two worlds literally touch each other. The exhibition is visible until October 31st.

If you are visiting Delft and have an hour or two to spare it is a unique experience and I think worth it. The gift shop in the end is filled with some very amazing items from magnets to extremely expensive items.

I did, however, but a small little Christmas ornament to put on my tree. I already have a small blue and white porcelain windmill which I bought in the Netherlands many years ago on my tree – but I’m sure that is not “real”. You can always tell if your piece is genuine as it can be recognized by the hand painted signature on the bottom of the vase; the initials JT – Joost Thoof, the apothecary bottle and the word “Delft“with the code to indicate the year and the master painter’s initials.

ENTRANCE PRICES

Adults are €14 and kids (13-18) are €8.75 and kids under 12 with family are FREE!  Museumkaart holders receive a small discount. Check out their site for hours and more details about parking and other discounts offered.

Address:
Rotterdamseweg 196
2628 AR Delft
Netherlands

If you are interested in visiting Delft, check out my blog post Afternoon in Delft for ideas of what to do in the lovely city of Delft including a visit to the TU Delft Botanic Gardens.

TU Delft Botanic Gardens

TU Delft Flag

Today we decided to visit the Botanical Garden of the TU Delft. It is a public-oriented garden, as well as, a research garden and was created in 1917. Together with the university gardens of Leiden and Utrecht, the Delft Garden participates in the scientific botanical network of the Netherlands.

It has a very different feel than the Dublin Botanic Gardens which the kids and I loved to visit when we lived in Ireland.

After a brief stop in the gifts shop (which is also the exit), we were given a brochure with a map, then we were free to explore the gardens and the greenhouses at our leisure.

I particularly was fond of the cacti and the subtropical plants.

With COVID they implemented a one-way system in many areas but as it was a Friday afternoon and very quiet it was easy to follow. You can wander around looking at the various plants & trees – nearly all were marked.

If you were not sure of a plant, Funs has PlantSnap, a plant identification app on his phone which attempts to identify it. Essentially you can take a photo of the plant and instantly it comes back with what it suggests the plant is. Keep in mind it is not always accurate, as in this case. We are trying to identify these purple flowers – it keeps saying a type of lily. If you know, please share!

There is one particular section which I assume was dedicated to kids (currently closed with COVID restrictions) it is the Blotenvoetenpad – aka Barefoot path”, where kids are encouraged to take their shoes off and feel the different surfaces.

This website lists 24 of them in Netherlands and Belgium. It says on a barefoot path you walk a short walking route, a trail, over different types of surfaces: from soft grass and fine sand to shells, gravel and large boulders, from wood chips to wood stumps and thick branches. For children, the paths with the mud puddles are great fun, and the other adventurous elements such as the rope ladder, balance beam, dangling box and lookout tower. There are also barefoot paths that are mainly intended for a beneficial relaxation walk with natural foot massage. Other paths want to convey a message to the public. For example, the Hof van Twello https://www.hofvantwello.nl/ has turned it into an experience route, full of historical and culinary information. Many barefoot trails are free, sometimes you pay an entrance fee. An ideal activity for the summer, now that it is nice and warm. Do not forget to bring your children. Lots of fun! Humm, personally think I’d hate it as I have sensitive feet and would dislike stepping on the various textures, but I’d be open to try it once with the kids!

EVENTS & WORKSHOPS 

Listed online on their agenda of events are painting workshops, plant exchanges and guided tours for adults.  Then there are events for the kids (check out their site for prices and details). 

Expedition Corona

Saturday, September 12th –  Expedition Corona.  Especially for kids from 5 – 12.  At the entrance, each child receives instructions and then goes on expedition throughout the garden.  It is a fun day with lots of activities around health for humans. Due to the corona measures there are two time slots and full = full.  

Speurtochten

For children up to 12 years old who can read and write, they  have fun free ‘speurtochten’. They have to search the garden for letters to make up a plant or nature related word. They get to know a bit more about nature and receive a small appropriate gift when the solution is found. There is a new ‘speurtocht’ every quarter.  For smaller children who cannot yet read and write, they can do a special ‘speurtocht’ and search the garden for certain objects, animals and persons.

Halloween

In October our garden becomes a haunted Halloween venue. On Friday October 23rd kids from 5 – 12 years old can come and visit the spooky greenhouses, roast marshmallows and make some typical Halloween decorations. Dressing up is not a must, but much more fun.

Science Day

The last Sunday in October is Science Day in their garden and Science Centre Delft (which is next door).  Fun games and activities for kids and families, like examining water samples, seeing how glass is made and what plants look like from the inside. Kids can also discover crawly insects, unravel plant DNA and do the fruit quiz and maybe even see robots in the ponds.

Kerstival

On Saturday 19 December 2020 families with kids can do fun things in a decorated Christmas garden during the Kerstival. As you walk along the Christmas trees you can guess and sing Christmas songs. And once you are inside, you can make nice Christmas decorations and cards. Let’s hope the garden is covered with snow that day!

ENTRANCE PRICES

Adults are €4 and kids are €2.  Museumkaart holders are FREE.  You can also become a “Friends of the Botanic Gardens,  and receive an annual pass for the garden for a minimum of €12 which allows entry yourself plus one guest and a few other perks.   You can buy the card in the gift shop (which is manned by volunteers). 

Main Address:
Botanic Garden, Delft University of Technology
Poortlandplein 6
2628 BM Delft Netherlands

If you plan on visiting the TU Delft Botanic Gardens, check out my blog post Afternoon in Delft for ideas of what to do in the lovely city of Delft including a trip to the Royal Delft Experience

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Afternoon in Delft, Netherlands

There are so many cities in the Netherlands which I have been wanting to visit…. picture-perfect Delft was one of them, so I’m very happy I was finally able to visit. on Sunday. After just an hour, it’s the type of place which give you the, “I could live here” feeling. Like s’-Hertogenbosch, I think it’s quite a small old city and easy to walk and/or bike around. I say it’s picture-perfect as because literally around every corner, in every alley, in every small street, there are a ton of different picture opportunities. With its many facades, buildings, cobbled streets, and charming cafes and restaurants you can spend hours just taking photos – thankfully I didn’t but I probably could. I imagine this city would be beautifully decorated around Christmas and when it is coated with snow – not that snow happens often here.

LOCATION

Delft is conveniently located only an hour away from Amsterdam, close to Rotterdam and a tram ride from The Hague. So if you live in the Netherlands or you are here as a tourist visiting Amsterdam, Delft should be on your next trip itinerary as well. I highly recommend coming by train and not car – reason being parking is very expensive! A flat rate of €29,50 obviously discourages parking along Delft canals as it is charged irrespective of length of stay. A garage may be cheaper …. and I heard there is a garage with a very nice mural along the wall – cannot find it yet but when I do I’ll update. It might be the Zuidpoort Garage.

This visit, I was in Rotterdam for the weekend, so we made the journey to Delft by way of a rented bike. The trip was about 1 hour each way so was good for my legs. If you’re in NL or been here, you know the yellow & blue bikes which are a well-known sight in every city. If not, OV-Fiets is the shared bike system of the Netherlands and it is very popular for the last journey from the train station to people’s end destination like work or visiting a city.  I think they are Coca Cola bikes in Ireland and Blue Bikes in Boston.  While not as comfortable as my bike at home, it was a perfect way to get here and around Rotterdam for the weekend. It did, however, take me a few minutes to get used to the bike – I’ve not had a bike with back pedal breaks since I was probably five 🙂 so stopping and start off at red lights were a bit of a challenge and probably quite humorous for those in their cars.

Me and my OV-Fiets

FAMOUS CHURCHES IN DELFT

I believe I saw [and read?} that there are 10 churches in Oude Delft, but the two most popular and most photographed are the OUDE & NIEWE.

OUDE KERK

The Oude Kerk (Old Church), nicknamed Oude Jan (“Old John”), is a Gothic Protestant church in the old city center of Delft. Its most recognizable feature is a 75-meter-high brick tower that leans about two meters from the vertical. The Oude Kerk was founded as St. Bartholomew’s Church in the year 1246, on the site of previous churches dating back up to two centuries earlier. The layout followed that of a traditional basilica, with a nave flanked by two smaller aisles.

The church possesses three pipe organs, from the years 1857 (main organ), 1873 (north aisle) and 1770 (choir). The most massive bell in the tower, cast in 1570 and called Trinitasklok or Bourdon, weighs nearly nine tonnes, and because of its strong and potentially damaging vibrations, is rung only on such special occasions as the burial of a Dutch royal family member in the nearby New Church. The massive bell is also sounded during disasters, when local air-raid sirens are sounded. This, however, does not happen during the siren’s monthly, country-wide test, which happens every first Monday of the month.

“(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)”

NIEUWE KERK

During the Eighty Year’s War, in which the Dutch fought against their Spanish occupiers, the leader of the Dutch revolt, William of Orange (or William the Silent) made Delft the base for the operations. After the war, Deflt became, for a time, the capital of the newly liberated Netherlands.

Nieuwe Kerk is a landmark Protestant church in Delft. It is located on Delft Market Square (Markt), opposite to the City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis). In 1584, William the Silent was entombed here in a mausoleum designed by Hendrick and Pieter de Keyser. Since then members of the House of Orange-Nassau have been entombed in the royal crypt. The latest are Queen Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard in 2004. The private royal family crypt is not open to the public. The church tower is the second highest in the Netherlands, after the Domtoren in Utrecht. If you are fit enough, you can buy a token then climb 376 steps (85 meters) to the top of the tower.

The New Church is the burial place of the princes of Orange. It is remarkable for its fine tower and chime of bells, and contains the splendid allegorical monument of William the Silent and the tomb of Hugo Grotius. The tower was built 1396-1496 by Jacob van der Borch. The monument for Hugo de Groot was made in 1781. The mechanical clock has 18 bells by Francois Hemony from 1659 and 30 modern bells. In the church tower there is a bell from 1662 by Francois Hemony with a diameter of 104 centimeters. In the tower there are also bells no longer in use, including 13 from 1659 by Francois Hemony, 3 from 1678 by Pieter Hemony, 3 from 1750 from Joris de Mery, and 1 from Gillett and Johnston from 1929.

“(The above description is based on Wikipedia under Creative Common License)”

Located next to the Nieuwe Kerk, you’ll find “Het blauwe hart” (Blue Heart of Delft).  It represents the heart of the city. The technical construction was by the TU Delft. And, of course, the blue represents the iconic Delft Blue.  Installed in 1998, the heart is made of glass and stainless and lighted after dark, which I’m sure would be very pretty to see.

 

Apart from the Technical University Delft, which the campus was pretty impressive, Delft is probably best known for the blue and white pottery that bears its name. It’s super famous – you know the white stuff with the beautiful shade of blue painted in different patterns all over it. I love it and I love how something so beautiful represents not only Delft but the Dutch as well… BUT I don’t want to fill my house up with it 🙂 My mom told me, after seeing my photos, her Grandmother in San Francisco had a huge collection of Delft pottery, but her mother, didn’t find it interesting so she donated it all to a local charity shop. DOH!

Delft is also the home of Vermeer {Girl with the Pearl Earring} and the place where William of Orange was shot and as I recently learned the burial place for the Royal family.

GROTE MARKT & STADHUIS

As with most Dutch cities, the Grote Markt, is a grand square at the core of the city’s Old Town Located in the middle of the old city centre of Delft, the large market square is a great starting point for wandering around in this picturesque town. The Delft architectural Stadhuis (City Hall) and the Neiwe Kerk, two major landmarks, placed at opposing ends are eye-catchers. There are also a lot of cafes and restaurant located on the Markt square where you can enjoy a beverage or full meal and tons of tourist shops.

TAKE A WALK AROUND THE CITY

Delft is one of those places that is just nice to visit. You don’t need feel rushed or like you HAVE to do anything specific. You can download a FREE city map here. Of course, you can always buy the walking tour map at the tourist office or even book a walking tour with a guide (for a fee). I often pop into the VVV when visiting a new city – they have loads of information (often free) about the city to get you started on your way). Or you can follow one of five expert-designed self-guided walking tours to explore Delft on foot at your own pace at GPSmyCity.com. You can also create your own self-guided walk to visit the city attractions which interest you the most.

Due to it being Sunday during Covid-19 Crisis – 80% of the city was closed so we didn’t visit the top tourist posts like Royal Delft Factory, Oude en Nieuwe Kerk of Delft, Vermeer Centrum Delft, Rondvaart Delft – a boat tour around the city or even sit on a terrace in the sun and drink a beer, but we still had a great time and in the future can come back and do some of the things we both enjoy.

We found a spot next to a canal to eat ours salads – there we saw SUPers, families on their rented boats, canoes and a mama duck with 9 babies!!

Oh yeah, nearly forgot… as we were walking we came across a fish stand and shared a portion of Kibbling along the canal. As you can see from the photo, it’s a Dutch snack consisting of battered chunks of fish, commonly served with a mayonnaise-based garlic sauce or tartar sauce. The building where they sell the fish is called Visbanken – the location has historically significant in that it used to be the place that fish was traded starting in 1342.

MUSEUMS TO VISITS

If visiting museums is your thing – here are some of the larger ones you can visit. As a resident of the Netherlands, I have a Museumkaart so visiting these museums below are free, aspart from the last two – you get a discount. But without the card, the admission is not as high as some of the top museums in Amsterdam.

Museum Prinshof Delft

Museum Prinsenhof Delft is one of the Top 100 UNESCO monuments in the Netherlands. The museum illustrates the story of William of Orange and his role in the formation of the Dutch Republic. It is situated at the place where he was killed. The museum exhibits paintings, historical artefacts, prints and pamphlets. But the building itself is also important. In addition, the museum covers the history of Delftware.

Museum Paul Tétar Van Elven

The Paul Tétar van Elven museum Is housed in a 16th century canal house. The house was inhabited by the Dutch painter, collector and teacher Paul Tetar van Elven in the period from 1864 to 1894. The property still has the well-preserved 19th century authentic interior, including Delft pottery, oriental porcelain and antique furniture. The museum exhibits part of the Paul Tétar van Elven collection, including many portraits, history paintings and copies of old masters.

Science Centre Delft

Science Centre Delft shows what students and researchers from the Technical University of Delft do on a daily basis, and on which subjects their research focuses. The museum displays research equipment and graduation projects. The visitor can take part in the research in the open workshops. The displayed projects are regularly changed to show what current research focuses on.

TU Delft Botanical Garden

The TU Delft Botanical Garden is home to approximately seven thousand plant species and includes an arboretum, a central garden, a herb garden and greenhouses. The greenhouses house some two thousand species of plants. In the botanical garden are typical technical crops from Delft. Among others, there are plants for oil or dye, or from which the wood, fibres or bark can be used.

Vermeer Centrum Delft

Vermeer Centrum Delft is dedicated to the life of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). His famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring is now visible in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The museum covers his work and his relationship to Delft. The permanent exhibition illustrates how Johannes Vermeer worked in his studio. In addition, the stories are told of the 37 paintings that the Vermeer Centrum Delft owns. NOTE: Museumkaart holders receive a €2 discount off admission and kids under 12 are free

Royal Delft Museum

Did you know that the iconic Delftware is actually painted with black? While baking in the oven, the black changes to the familiar, intense blue color. Delft Blue is still made by hand in a traditional way at Royal Delft. Here you can see painters and craftsmen at work in the factory. In the museum you can see various special collections such as the Royal Orange Ceramics and our inner garden is a hidden gem of Delft with a brasserie. Keep in mind that on Sunday there are NO employees are working. So if you want to see the employees work on the Delft porcelain, then visit this factory on other days. NOTE: Museumkaart holders receive a €3 discount off admission.

UDPATE: We visited the Royal Delft Experience today read about it here: Royal Deft Experience: Visit to the museum & factory. 

Something extras special about this museum is that they have workshops – which must be pre-booked. For my next trip back to Delft, I’m absolutely visiting, taking a 90 minute behind the scenes tour and doing a self-painting tile workshop. While we didn’t but many tourists who don’t care about the real stuff, take home replica items found it the many stores in the old town. 

After several hours, we got back on our bikes and headed back to Rotterdam which was just a bit over an hour by way of the TU Delft campus -, Delfgauw and lovely rural areas including a windmill (I love them – and they never get old) and then past the Rotterdam Airport and into the city.

My only one thing was that I totally forgot to get a fridge magnet from Delft! I normally buy a nice, magnet keepsake from my ventures to take home and display on my fridge. Well, thankfully I live in the Netherlands so I can go back sooner than later.

A friend told me about the many hidden hofje’s – which if you click on this map, put out by TU Delft, you can see them plotted and the history – sorry it’s in Dutch but you can see the photos. During my next trip, I’ll stop in them all and will update this post with the various hofje’s.

Tell me, have you been to Delft? What am I missing? Are there any hidden gems or off-the-beaten track things worth seeing?