Pottering in Delft

Situated between Rotterdam and The Hague, this old town is famous for its blue and white pottery and being the birthplace of Johannes Vermeer (painter of The Girl With A Pearl Earring). It’s not all art and crafts though. Delft is also a water city — with 151km of waterways and 286 bridges. This means plenty of canalside cafés at which to sit and sip a Heineken and eat a plate of chips and mayo.

Time a trip to Delft with its Thursday Markt, where stalls sell everything from T-shirts to baked goods beneath the Nieuwe Kerk. This 14th-century church has a 109m tower, and if you’re feeling energetic (or need to work off all the yummy offerings of the market) climb the 376 steps to admire the view.

Surrounding the market square are loads of ceramics shops. One of these is the Blue Tulip (Blauwe Tulp) — a cosy Delft showroom (so small, you’ll be scared to pull out your wallet in case you knock something over) where traditional painting and firing of ceramics take place. Be warned, you’ll pay for proper Delft (identified by the markings on the bottom of items), but it is superior to the bargain buys in the souvenir shops.

The new church in the market square is not to be confused with the Oude Kerk (old church), and admission for one includes entry to the other.

Like the old church’s leaning tower, many of the buildings in Delft seem to tilt precariously on the edge of the canals, but there’s a haphazard charm about the town that makes it a highlight of visiting old Holland.

Other sights in Delft: Visit the Delft factories for cheaper ware and learn about the origins of this world-famous pottery.

Delft is also home to the House of Orange and you can gain some historical insight into the royal family and be on the scene of an assassination at Municipal Museum Het Prinsenhof.

Peace of The Hague

When you pull into The Hague, one of the first things you’ll notice is the amount of cars. As the favourite mode of transport in Holland is the two-wheeled pedal variety (there are an estimated 13 million bikes in the country — almost as many as people), busy four-lane streets can be a bit of a shock, but then The Hague is no ordinary Dutch city.

Home to the Dutch royal family and the seat of government, the city has a regal air — many of the buildings are embassies, houses are palatial and the parks are carefully manicured green spaces.

The UN’s International Court of Justice is housed in the Peace Palace, so it’s no wonder there are so many cars — imagine all those diplomats riding to work on bikes. You can take a guided walk of the palace, but have to book ahead. See www.peacepalace.nl.

If you feel slightly shabby in the usual tourist garb of jeans and trainers, steer clear of the suits and head to one of The Hague’s top attractions, the Mauritshuis. This art gallery houses works from the Dutch Golden Age, including a few Rembrandts.

Away from high art discover another sight on The Hague’s tourist trail — Madurodam. This Netherlands city in miniature is a charity foundation and war monument, where you’ll find 1:25 scale versions of all the famous Dutch landmarks. The detail is impressive, but if after admiring the grand masters’ work at Mauritshuis it seems a bit on the tacky side, head back to the city and mingle with those in high places in one of the many cafés, dress code aside.

Other sights in The Hague: Remember all those 4D patterns of fish and ducks from maths classes? Well the Escher in Het Paleis Museum pays tribute to Dutch artist MC Escher and his weirdly creative ideas with
spatial dynamics.

Near The Hague is the seaside resort of Scheveningen. Extremely popular in summer, this beach not only has deckchairs but also World War II bunkers, a grim reminder of Nazi occupation in the country’s past.

» Janine Jorgensen travelled to the Netherlands with Door2Tour (www.door2tour.com).

Going Dutch

What’s the difference between The Netherlands and Holland?

The official name of the country is the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Holland makes up two provinces in the west of the country: North Holland and South Holland. These two provinces played an important role in the country’s history, and so Holland is often used to refer to the whole country