There are a few things the Netherlands is really known and famous for. Cheese, windmills, tulips and perhaps the most famous of them all Delft Blue. Everyone in the Netherlands knows Delft Blue and most grandparents might have some Delft Blue in their home.
Because Delft Blue is often found at our grandparents home it has a bit of a dusty and old fashioned image to it. But, it feels as Dutch as can be, so when we got invited to come to the Delft Blue Museum for a guided tour and workshop, I couldn’t be more curious and enthusiastic.
Without giving too much away already, it was such a fun day at Royal Delft!
History of Delft Blue
The history of Delft Blue dates back to the 17th century, when there were about 32 pottery factories located in Delft. We know that in other places in the Netherlands such as Amsterdam, Haarlem and Middelburg, pottery was already made in the second half of the 16th century, also with multi colored decors on a white background.
It was presumably not until the end of the 16th century that the first potteries were founded in Delft.
But how did it become Delft Blue?
Well, firstly, Dutch sailors came across several cargos containing Chinese porcelain and introduced them to the Dutch. Secondly, and most importantly, tradesmen with the Dutch East India Company brought back large quantities of Chinese porcelain from the Far East. This type of porcelain, which was decorated in blue on a white background, was very popular among the Dutch, and soon afterward Dutch potters started to imitate it. We copied what the Chinese did and made it even bigger, who would have thought?!
In the 19th century there was the downturn of the pottery industry. What once was a massive industry with 32 potteries just in Delft, there was only 1 factory left, De Porceleyne Fles.
Reasons for this downfall were great competition from the English Wedgewood porcelain and lack of innovation among the Delft pottery bakers. Towards the end of the 19th century the Porceleyne Fles came into the hands of Delft engineer Joost Thooft. His aim was to revive the production of Delft Blue.
Well, he succeeded. He introduced then, as what we still now know as the current trademark. In 1919 the company was awarded the predicate ‘royal’.
About Royal Delft
Royal Delft has been creating high quality Delft Blue since 1653. This age-old craft is passed on from generation to generation and iconic masterpieces are still made entirely by hand in Delft. In addition to the classic pieces, the collection also consists of contemporary decorations.
The Royal Delft Experience opened in 2012. Want to see how authentic Delft Blue is made? Visit the Royal Delft Museum!
A good thing for the Dutch, Royal Delft is an official museum since 2020 and also accepts the Museum Card, which means free entrance! What are you waiting for? Start planning a visit to Delft.
Royal Delft is very easily accessible with public transport right in front of their museum and they have private parking spots for visitors where you can park your car for free.
The museum is part of the Royal Delft Experience and introduces visitors to the cultural heritage that is Delft Blue. They do that through stories, temporary exhibitions but also permanent collections.
2022 Was a big year as they had massive construction and renovation works going on in the museum. They are now fully open and running again and you can clearly tell the museum is the newest part of Royal Delft. The museum takes you from the 16th century to the current time through a logical and easy to understand timeline. It makes your visit to this museum interactive, educational and fun. You can also visit the museum with an audio tour, which makes it even more interactive and informative.
My personal favorites of the museum are the Delft Blue version of the Night Watch and the full collection of Delft Blue that was made for our Dutch Royal family. The Delft Blue version of the Night Watch consists of 480 tiles, so cool!
The thing I really like about touring Royal Delft is that you actually walk through their factory. Especially during the week you will witness a lot of employees and painters actually working here.
They work 7 days a week, so even during the weekends you can see them working on new Delft Blue products. I thought it was really impressive to see one of their painters working on a vase.
After walking through the museum and getting to know the history of Delft Blue, we were pretty excited for the workshop we had planned. It’s fun to learn about Delft Blue and see how it’s made, but what’s more fun than doing it yourself?
There are three different kinds of workshops you can choose from. The tile painting workshop, the plate painting workshop and the DIY painting workshop.
Choose a tile or plate and discover the craft of Delft Blue painting yourself. Workshops take place every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
We did the tile painting workshop to create our own and unique Delft Blue tile. We are not super creative, but luckily Royal Delft had us covered with a wide range of designs. Of course for all super creatives you can also create your own design. Exactly one week after our workshop we received our tiles, delivered at home. We are super happy and proud of the result, our tiles will get a nice place in our home.
Did you know that Delft Blue is painted with black paint? I certainly didn’t know this and was super surprised when I heard about this. But yes, it is painted with black paint which turns blue when fired.
Your own tile or plate is ready to be collected after about 5-12 workdays. It can be collected at Royal Delft or they can ship it to your home address. Shipping costs are not included in the workshop price.
With the tile and plate painting workshops the traditional black paint is used. You can also do the DIY painting workshop. This workshop differs from the regular workshop because blue paint is being used in this workshop. This makes it possible to take your tile home directly at the end of the workshop.
Prices for these workshops range from €29,50 to €47,50.
A visit to Royal Delft can be as long or brief as you wish. You can just visit the museum and factory with the audio tour or make it a full day with extra activities such as the painting workshop and a high tea.
After touring the museum and the factory and after we gave it our all at the tile painting workshop we were a bit hungry. Luckily we had a real Delft Blue high tea waiting for us. An etagere full of delicious food was ready to be enjoyed. Fresh scones with clotted cream and jam, various cakes, petit fours, sandwiches, hot snacks, soup and of course unlimited tea are included in this high tea. And then all of this, how could it be any other way, on Delft Blue tableware, perfect!
Brasserie 1653 can be visited even without admission to the museum. It’s your place to go for lunch or a very nice high tea. The lunchroom has stunning views overlooking the monumental courtyard garden which is accessible all year round and also has a terrace during the summer months.
To create their delicious salads and sandwiches they use local products as much as possible. Of course everything is served from their own Delft Blue tableware.
Souvenir & Delft Blue shop
After you have experienced the museum and the factory you walk through the souvenir and Delft Blue shop to the exit. So before you leave, make sure to check out the shop and take home a lovely memory. Delft Blue is design and quality and all of it is handmade and hand painted and therefore it is not cheap.
Review Royal Delft
We didn’t really know what to expect when we drove all the way to Delft for our visit to Royal Delft. However, we ended up spending a full afternoon at Royal Delft having an amazing time. All the lights were already off and the shutters already down when we finally walked outside.
I can see why so many people from abroad visit Delft purely for Delft Blue and Royal Delft. The renovation and renewal in 2022 has given their museum an absolute upgrade. They have more plans of making the full Royal Delft experience more modern and future proof. We got a little insight into their ideas about this and to be honest, I wish I could already experience it.
Whoever said Delft Blue is old fashioned and for grandparents only, has clearly never visited Royal Delft. Hearing their story, learning about the history, actually seeing them at work in the factory and giving painting a go ourselves, Delft Blue is art, it’s a craft and it’s way more than just that nice souvenir from the Netherlands.
We would like to thank Royal Delft and Didi van Dalen for the invitation to their museum and for hosting us. We had such a fun day visiting the museum, creating our own Delft Blue tile and enjoying a very delicious high tea, a perfectly organized visit!
This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She was invited to visit the Royal Delft Museum and experience their museum, workshop and high tea and wrote this blogpost about her experiences.
Enjoy your trip to Delft!