Breaking out of Amsterdam can be a difficult task, as there's so much to see in the vibrant city. In fact, it took me numerous visits to finally venture outside the capital.
If you're looking for a little escape and want to experience another city that boasts everything that's great about the Netherlands, Delft is the perfect option. About an hour outside of Amsterdam, the city is an ideal destination for those seeking a day with no time schedule, map or plans.
Old-World Dutch charm
Known for its iconic blue-and-white porcelain figurines, Delft is a charming old city filled with quaint canals, an ancient gateway and the awe-inspiring Nieuwe Kerk and Oude Kerk churches.
It's definitely a change of pace – slower and less crowded than that of Amsterdam – but it's still Dutch culture at its finest: Swans and lily pads dot the canals that meander though the city center, and bicycles outnumber cars by probably ten to one. Small cafes sit on the edges of town squares, giving you a perfect spot to drink a coffee and people-watch as locals carry out their daily lives in this historic city.
The entire city center can be seen in half a day, but if you want to relax, spend some time at one of the many cafes and really soak up this amazing place, I'd suggest spending the day there.
Arriving in Delft after a short trip from Amsterdam's Central Station, I stepped out onto the platform and realized I had no idea where I was going. I love this feeling. First of all, most Dutch speak English, so there's really no concern there. And the idea of finding your way through a new city without the accompaniment of a guide or guidebook makes traveling exhilarating.
I followed the flow of people and the bicycles at first, but it was the sound of church bells ringing in the near distance that drew me in that direction. I made my way down narrow streets, turning right, turning left, following canals and taking a somewhat aimless stroll (although I was still walking in the direction of the church bells). The bells continued to get louder and louder with each turn I made.
As I made the turn down yet another narrow street, it opened up into an picturesque old square with the Nieuwe Kerk church at the far end (left), towering more than 350 feet above Markt Square.
After awhile of straining my neck staring up at the beautiful church tower, I decided to continue my aimless stroll around the city. I found myself enjoying the quiet streets and watching people go about their work. I noticed that many of the bicycles parked against people's homes were not locked up, which gave me great relief – it's nice to know that there are still places out there where doors aren't locked, valuables don't have to be bolted, and people have the sense of respect not to steal something just because it's not fastened down.
I spent the next couple of hours roaming around and stumbled upon the Oude Kerk church that towers high above the treetops, leaning out over the canal. I made my way around the outer edge of the city center, stopping in a couple of cafes along the way to have a fresh-squeezed orange juice, a beer and some food.
As night fell, I made my way back to the train station and started the quick trip back to Amsterdam.
I found Delft to be the ideal Dutch day trip: you can broaden your experience of the Netherlands while still being close enough to the city to return in the evening and enjoy more of Amsterdam's nightlife.