The Famous Delft Blue Pottery - As Street Art!

One negative thing about the efficient Dutch public transport network - it made me complacent. I thought I should go to Delft on my final weekend in the Netherlands, since it's supposed to be a really charming Dutch city.

Besides, having flown KLM a lot in a past life, there's the name recognition as well. I associate Delft with Delft Blue pottery. 

Bottom of the Delft blue pottery Dutch model house given out to KLM business class passengers showing the model number and year of issue

You get to choose a little Dutch house with booze inside, if you fly KLM business class. The bottom has a model code so you can keep track of which ones you already have.

The fact that it was coming up to late November didn't help. The autumn sky was dismal and the cold tends to make tropical ol' me want to hibernate. Except that I can't lay on the fat even if I tried, and so I'm not actually very well suited to hibernation as a winter coping strategy.

By the time I summoned enough motivation to actually go, it was already past noon. 

How feasible is it to do a day trip to Delft from The Hague? 

It is very feasible. In fact, this lazy ass day of mine is the go-to example I use to illustrate to people how easy it is to move across the Netherlands using public transport alone. 

View of the Nieuwe Church tower from the main plaza of Delft

Nieuwe Church in the Delft main plaza

I couldn't be bothered to get moving until after noon. Back home, and in most other places I know, this means that your day trip plan is not gonna happen - let alone by public transport. 

But I had no doubt that I could get a route sorted on my mobile by the time I walked out the door of my hotel, and that there will be a suitable route back, and with time in between to wander around Delft a bit. I was so sure of this, that I got ready to go out, assuming this will happen. And it did. 

No, getting there and getting back is not the difficult part of making a day trip in the Netherlands. 

Bear in mind European working hours

Lamp posts encased in Delft blue ceramic along Sint Agathaplein, Delft

The thing you actually have to pay attention to, and the reason why you shouldn't be like me and lazily start the day, are attraction opening times. It's still Europe, not Asia. Things close earlier, or open later, than may be intuitive for some of us, especially if you're thinking of going on a Sunday. And some places may not open at all.

Since I set out late, I knew that it was not realistic to fully explore Delft. I lowered my expectations to merely having a wander around. Maybe I could have fitted in a museum - but given that the ones I came across were near to closing time, I decided against it. I spent my time in Delft walking through the streets and back lanes, and around the Town Hall plaza. Hoping that a random prowl might uncover something interesting. 

And it did! 

Delft Blue in the streets!

Around Sint Agathaplein I stumbled across my first and unexpected encounter with Delft Blue pottery in Delft.

Ceramic Delft blue tile inscribed with 'earth' in different languages laid among the street paving bricks on Sint Agathaplein

They're hard to miss once you're there; entire lamp posts were encased in blue and white porcelain. Each cylindrical segment had a different design, but quite recognisably 'Dutch delftware'. 

Charmed, I paid more attention, and was rewarded in the next step. Quite literally. 

One of the brick faces on the street pavement, was not brick at all! At random spots, a Delft Blue ceramic tile had been swapped in.

Amusingly, written on it were variations of words meaning 'earth' in different languages. 

Delftware-inspired public art

Back door in a Delft alley painted to resemble a Delft Blue ceramic tile, with a bicycle parked in front of it

As iconic an image as a Dutch canal?

In the back lanes in the area near the town hall, I found that the establishments had back doors which were painted with art.

One of the doors was particularly well done. It was not Delft Blue, obviously. However, it was painted in the style of Delft Blue. Since there was even a bicycle tethered in front of it, of course I had to take a photo. 

A supersized bedside lamp made of Delftware inspired ceramic serving as public street lighting in a Delft residential square | Delft street art

A street lamp that says 'good night'!

Further away, across a canal and wandering towards Vaandelstraat, I came across a little square all strung up with Christmas lights. The sun had set, and so I saw the square with the full charm of the fairy lights. 

But even better than that, was that the square had a night light! I'm not kidding. There were bedside lamps, made of glazed ceramic, complete with lamp shade. Except that they were supersized, and served as public street lighting! 

In a similar fashion, you can discover bits of interesting public art in Delft. They tend to be discreet, rather than attention seeking, and so reward the slow city walker. 

A mosaic of ceramic chips caught my attention, depicting archery within a forest scene. 

Wall mosaic street art in Delft depicting a forest scene with a focal point of an archer's target

Delft Blue pottery and the culture of Dutch ceramics

You can actually visit workshops to learn more about the tradition and craft of making Delft Blue pottery.

Dutch ceramic pottery craft really only took off in the Netherlands later in the 17th century, after the Dutch acquired the taste for Chinese porcelain, and after the Chinese supply was subsequently interrupted by politics. That was when they began developing the techniques and style that became known as Delft Blue. If I had arrived earlier, I probably would be inspired to go to Royal Delft for a proper tour, after stumbling onto the first whimsical displays of Delft Blue. 

Even just walking around the shopping streets in The Hague, you can see just straight up ceramic tiles in window displays, among other bric-à-brac. 

While probably not counted as 'Delft blue', it often has something of the aesthetic. Plus, a few are painted with a bizarre choice of imagery that's kinda TMI... so if that sort of thing cracks you up, I recommend looking closely at the tile images. From browsing through Dutch curio shops over time, I've come to associate this with a part of Dutchness that I just do not understand! 

Diverse set of ceramic tile motifs on display in a shop window in The Hague, Holland

Birds and flowers, pretty. Grater - ok, kitchen tile maybe. Er... is that guy...? And what are the... really??! LOLOL and ewww

Carbon offset information to the Netherlands

A return flight between Kuala Lumpur and Amsterdam produces carbon emissions of approximately 8,224 lbs CO2e. It costs about $41 to offset this. 


Inspired to wander around Delft and spot whimsical art? Pin and explore!

'Delft Blue Pottery as Street Art' article on travel blog Teja on the Horizon | delftware in unusual display | public art in Delft, Holland | day trip city ramble to Delft


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11 Responses

  1. David Clark says:

    I think is an excellent great piece of artwork.
    Its color combination and crafting all are looking so beautiful

  2. Jennie says:

    Pottery from the Netherlands is very good and very famous. I have only one from that country, the pottery belongs to my grandmother and this is very antique. I really like to see some pottery in the room, and that makes the design of a room look better. Thank you for the article.

  3. I really love contemporary ceramics artist cause them have a artistic structure and good shape. I would make a ceramics porcelen but it too hard and I stop to try that again. Collect ceramics is one of my new activities beside do my job in daily activities. Thanks for wrote for us.

  4. I think it’s SO cool that they incorporate their signature pottery all over the city as well! I didn’t have the actual town of Delft on my radar but now I’d love to go and check it out.

    • Teja says:

      It isn’t?? Delft should be on any Netherlands itinerary, I think! I’d probably put it at #3 behind Amsterdam and The Hague.

  5. Sue Davies says:

    Interesting post. The Delft Blue pottery as street art is a great way to describe it. Liked learning about the Chinese influence.

    • Teja says:

      I always did wonder how the Dutch got famous for a craft form more closely associated with China, especially in those times.

  6. What a fun-looking city! Would love to come and explore here next time in the Netherlands :-)

    • Teja says:

      It looks quite charming. I should have given it more time. In my defense it was really hard to leave my warm room in November though.

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