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Amster-done? Try Delft
Amsterdam has long been a favorite for travelers, whether they are dope smoking hedonists or art loving dilettantes (or both) but what many visitors don't realize is that the city offers a wealth of fun day trips. Here's one of my favorites.
Delft is less than an hour by train from Amsterdam and is filled with history, beauty, and good food. What more could you ask for? Oh, and there are coffee shops, so even the potheads don't have an excuse to skip it.
The city became prominent in the Middle Ages and developed into one of Holland's leading centers for trade and commerce. Rich citizens built elegant houses like the one pictured here, and two giant churches, the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk (Old Church and New Church) tower over the skyline.
Like a lot of Dutch towns, Delft is crisscrossed by canals lined with tidy houses, shops, and cafes. A lazy stroll along the water is a good way to spend the day, but if you're more into sightseeing, here are four spots well worth a visit.
Oude Kerk. Built in 1246 and added to over the years, this church's impressive 75 meter high tower rises over the main canal and makes for a great photo. Inside there's a soaring arched roof, the grave of the famous painter Vermeer, an intricately carved 16th century pulpit, and a giant 19th century organ. Neither this nor the New Church have any original stained glass, because in 1654 the city's supply of gunpowder exploded, blowing out every window in the city and killing more than a hundred people. The city fathers would have liked to have interrogated Cornelis Soetens, who was in charge of keeping the powder safe and accidentally set it off during an inspection, but they couldn't find any part of him big enough to question.
Nieuwe Kerk. The so-called "New Church" was started in 1396, showing once again that in Europe the term "new" is highly relative. One day an eccentric beggar named Brother Simon fell on his knees in the Market Square and claimed he had a vision of the heavens opening up. This might have been shrugged off as the ravings of a lunatic, but a respectable merchant saw it too and raised the funds to start construction. This work went on for more than a century but the end product is worth it. The church and its tower grace one end of the market and is the tallest building in the city. The most impressive sight within the church is the ornate marble and bronze mausoleum for the House of Orange, the Dutch royal family.
The Markt. A farmer's market has been held in the market square between the town hall and the Nieuwe Kerk every Thursday for more than four hundred years. This is a great place to buy Dutch cheese, as well as lots of other delicacies. If you're traveling on a budget, lots of stands sell cheap food like chicken and felafel that you can eat on the go. There's also handicrafts such as the famous Delft blue pottery. Adjoining streets behind the town hall have an antiques market the same day.
Prinsenhof. This medieval monastery served as a palace for King William the Silent until he was assassinated in 1584. The bullet holes are still visible. Needless to say, the royal family didn't really want to live here after that. Now it's a municipal museum housing the usual historic bric a brac, along with a pleasant garden. You didn't think you could read a feature by Gadling's resident museum junkie and get away without a museum did you?
The Dutch being an efficient people, they've set up an informative English website covering Delft's sights, hotels, and restaurants.