Breda, The Pearl of the South, is one of the best place to visit in the North Brabant province in the south of The Netherlands.
The city has held the title of best city center in the Netherlands from 2017 to 2020. And that is quite rightly too. Breda has a lively center with cozy terraces, characteristic canals and a beautiful green park. In short, Breda has it all!
In this travel blog you will find out everything you need to know about the Breda tourist attractions and what to do in Breda. Let me show you the best places to visit in this underrated city in the South of The Netherlands.
A bit of history about Breda
The people of Breda proudly named their city ‘the Pearl of the South’, and I have to admit, the Burgundian Brabant city is a surprisingly fun weekend destination when traveling to The Netherlands.
Breda has a historical connection with the house of Nassau (the Dutch Royal family). Until 1795, the citizens of Breda were subjects of the lord of Breda, who was also count of Nassau from 1403 and from 1538 also the prince of Orange-Nassau. Since 1815, Baron van Breda has been one of the historical titles of the king or queen. As a result, Breda is not only an Orange City, but it is also regarded as the Nassau city par excellence. As a Dutchie I had no idea about the importance of Breda in the Dutch history.
For centuries the city was an important garrison and fortress city and still plays a visible role within the Dutch armed forces due to the presence of the Royal Military Academy (KMA) and the headquarters of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
Nowadays Breda is the third largest municipality in the province of North Brabant and the ninth largest municipality in the Netherlands.
Best things to do in Breda
We recently visited the city of Breda for the first time ever. Welkom in Breda helped us out and created an amazing, fun and varied itinerary. We have seen and done so much, that we would like to share all our Breda travel tips and experiences with you and create a list of the best things to do in Breda.
Breda surprised us with all its unique but at the same time awesome tourist activities. At first we thought what to actually do in Breda, but now we think when you travel to Breda for 2 days only it is actually too short to experience everything they have to offer. You have to make choices on what to see and do. To make it easy for you we listed our favorite activities and some unique things to do in Breda below.
1. Visit the Breda Castle
Our visit to Breda and its history were full of surprises for us. I never knew that Breda Castle was once the ancestral home of the Nassaus, the ancestors of the Dutch Royal family. Until the Eighty Years’ War, the castle was home to the royal family of Orange-Nassau, whose most famous resident was William of Orange.
Because of the important international role of the Nassaus, the Castle was an important place in Europe during the 15th to 17th centuries.
In 1828 the Royal Military Academy opened its doors at the castle, since 2005 part of the Dutch Defense Academy. They annually train about 700 cadets and students to become officers.
Because Breda Castle is a military barracks it has limited access. There are only a few guided tours per year, so if you want to join one, make sure to visit Breda when they organize one.
You can freely walk up to the castle and see parts of it from the surrounding Valkenberg City Park.
2. Beguinage Breda (Begijnhof)
The Beguinage in Breda was founded in 1268 and was originally located closer to Breda Castle. However, Count Henry III of Nassau wanted to expand his garden. So, with some reluctance the Beguines moved to the current location in 1535. In return they were promised by Henry III that they would always remain under the protection of the Nassaus. As a result, the Beguinage still has a special bond with the Dutch Royal Family.
Beguines are no longer there today. The houses on the Begijnhof are still inhabited by single women. You will find an extensive herb garden at the Begijnhof. The beguines had a lot of knowledge of medicinal herbs and used the herbs a lot in the care of the sick.
The Beguinage Breda is one of the two remaining Beguinages in the Netherlands, so definitely an extra reason to visit this special place.
3. Valkenberg City Park
I simply love it when cities have parks where you can enjoy nature and the outdoors and just relax and chill. Park Valkenberg is the green oasis in the center of Breda. A park with royal allure, where only the castle residents and their guests were welcome until the early nineteenth century. Nowadays it’s the place to be in Breda.
4. Blind Walls Gallery
I’m a big fan of street art, and some cities in the Netherlands are truly famous because of their street art. Breda is one of these cities.
It’s called the Blind Walls Gallery, it’s the outdoor museum in Breda. A growing collection of over 100 murals created by international artists.
Each painting is based on a Breda story that fits the location. The murals tell the story of the city. Keep your eyes open at all times when you walk through the city, because you can find these murals everywhere in Breda.
5. Shopping in Breda
Shopaholics can indulge themselves in Breda, it’s a real shopping destination. Give the Ginneken district a go if you’re into beautiful design shops, you won’t be disappointed.
The city center of Breda has tons of shopping opportunities. Every major store can be found in Breda. In between all the shops in the city center is indoor shopping mall the Barones.
Our personal favorite is ‘t Sas, a beautiful shopping court in the heart of Breda, right at the foot of the Grote Kerk. Atmospheric, trendy and pleasant shopping and culinary enjoyment. An absolute hidden gem that you should not miss when visiting Breda.
6. People watching at Grote Markt
No better place for people watching than on the big market square, Grote Markt called in Dutch. The name says it all, it once was the main market of Breda. The big square is also the heart of the city and there is still a lively market every Wednesday from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Find uncountable restaurants and bars around the market square and when the weather is good the terraces are filled with people. Sit back, relax order a drink and watch The Dutch. A fun thing to do when visiting Breda.
As mentioned before Breda was rated as the best city center in the Netherlands from 2017 to 2020, so trust me this thing to do in Breda is going to be one of your favorites.
7. Climb the Grote Kerk Tower
You really can’t miss it or look past when you’re in Breda, the big church (Grote Kerk) right in the center of the city. One of the must things you should do when visiting Breda is climbing the tower of the Grote Kerk. The tower of the Grote Kerk is more than 97 meters high and was built between 1468 and 1509 in the Brabant Gothic style.
You climb the tower via a spiral staircase. Your first stop is at roughly 40 meters, still inside the medieval tower and right underneath the 3500 kg Nassau clock. The guide will explain everything about the inside of the tower, the clock and the former tower guard’s room.
After this first stop you continue to climb to 60 meters, here you’ll have amazing and beautiful views over the historic city center and the surroundings of Breda.
8. Algorithmic Perfumery Breda
I had seen the Algorithmic Perfumery on social media before and was intrigued. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be part of our special and fun travel itinerary in Breda.
There are only three Algorithmic Perfumeries worldwide, one in Dubai in the Museum of the Future, one in New York and one in Breda, The Netherlands of all places. Frederik Duerinck, who is from Breda, designed an intelligent device that creates your unique scent based on an extensive questionnaire. That explains the presence in Breda next to the metropolises Dubai and New York. And soon Stockholm and London will be added to this list as well.
When you walk through the doors of Living Lab in Breda you are greeted by an impressive perfume machine. How does it work, how do you end up with your own perfume?
When you enter Algorithmic Perfumery’s Living Lab, you will first receive a questionnaire that you must complete. You’re answering questions like, are you a follower or a leader? A morning or an evening person? A spectator or a participant? After you completed the questionnaire you receive a personal code that you enter into the machine. The device then starts working with your unique scent in life.
With 46 different fragrance chords and more than 500 billion combinations, each fragrance is a one of a kind. In the end, you get three different scents that suit your personality. You can adjust the names of the scents yourself and they will appear on the bottle.
I was super excited about creating my own perfume and especially creating it with AI based on the answers I filled out in the questionnaire. We both created our own perfumes and it’s amazing to see that the three different scents are completely different but are all so good and fit to who we are.
During the experience you create an account with Living Lab where they save your unique and personal scents. So at any time you want to re-order your personal scent, just go to your account and order a new bottle.
This is absolutely one of the most special Breda activities. Honestly one of my favorite experiences while traveling. And that in our own, small country The Netherlands, in Breda!
Are you looking for that something special, something unique to do in Breda, something only few others have done. I highly recommend going to the Algorithmic Perfumery in Breda!
9. Boat trip on the canals of Breda
The city center of Breda is literally surrounded by water, which is rather special and pretty awesome. Like many other cities in The Netherlands you can also explore Breda by boat. Everything looks different from the water. So when visiting and exploring Breda, and after you climbed the tower of the Grote Kerk, you should also really experience the city from the water. The canals of Breda are great fun to explore by boat, canoe, water bike or sup. There is so much to see from the water.
We had an amazing experience with Bootje Varen Breda. We thought we were just having lunch at Baai, but instead we had a lunch cruise through the canals of Breda.
Bootje Varen Breda sails with fully electric sloops. Only by appointment you’ll sail the canals around the city center of Beda. The two-hour tour takes you all around Breda, along the way your skipper will tell you all about the city and what you will encounter on the route.
When you visit Breda in Spring or Summer months, we highly recommend exploring the city from the water as well!
10. Rent a bike
When in The Netherlands you have to rent a bike. And exploring Breda on a bike is fun. We love to explore cities by bike. We think it’s the best way of getting to the tourist attractions and around the city and this way you get to see way more of a city. We know Breda has a lot to offer when it comes to culinary hospitality and history. But in no time you will also find yourself in the most beautiful, green nature reserves nearby the city. Breda is surrounded by green and nature. So get on that bike and start exploring! Get lost on your bike, there is no better place to cycle around than in The Netherlands.
11. Breda Festivals
Breda Light Sloop Parade
The Breda Light Sloop Parade is a spectacle on the water in which about 75 illuminated and decorated boats participate every year. They sail from Café Markhoek on the Marksingel through the canals of Breda to the Nieuwe Haven.
Large and small boats with atmospheric lighting and fun themes entertain the public along the waterfront. Our skipper told us very enthusiastically about this unique and fun event. It’s such an event for which you especially visit Breda.
Another major event our skipper told us about during our boat trip is the Breda Jazz Festival. We had never heard of it before, but it is something big. In 2023 the 51st edition of the Breda Jazz Festival took place. Local and international artists and a quarter of a million visitors from all over the globe visit Breda every year for the Jazz Festival. So if you are a real jazz lover, then a visit to Breda during this festival is actually a must.
12. Soak up the Burgundian lifestyle
Breda is a real Burgundian and hospitable city. Whether it’s a traditional Dutch pub for fries with satay or an extensive dinner with several courses, whatever it is you’re looking for, you will find it in Breda.
Breda is full of restaurants, bars and outdoor terraces (in Summer) everywhere! It will come as no surprise that we really enjoyed the culinary side of Breda. In fact, it was of such a high standard that some of the restaurants are now among our all-time favorites in The Netherlands.
So please pay attention if you’re visiting Breda anytime soon. These Breda restaurants shouldn’t be missed!!
Best restaurants in Breda
Especially in Summer, BAAI is the place to be in Breda. BAAI is the spot in Breda where you can enjoy a delicious drink or snack at their waterfront terrace. It is such a cool place. Here you will experience the ultimate holiday feeling. If you want to do a boat tour though Breda, BAAI is the place to be as Bootje Varen Breda departs from here.
Emily’s Healthy Bar
Emily’s Healthy Bar is your place for that healthy breakfast or lunch. Healthy food and drinks are the only thing that is being served here. A real healthy hotspot where they serve the tastiest juices, smoothies, healthy snacks and delicious coffee.
The Foodhall in Breda reminded me of many trips abroad and all the delicious street food you can get all over the world. The Foodhall offers food from all over the world, all under one roof. The setting and atmosphere is fantastic, the Foodhall is a great place to visit when in Breda.
Without a doubt, Holy Moly is our number one favorite place to visit when you’re in Breda. It is a real hotspot right at the foot of the Grote Kerk. From the moment you step inside, all your senses are stimulated. An amazing experience and a real must do.
How to describe Holy Moly? Well, it is food and comedy in the most colorful and wonderful setting. From the moment you walk in to Holy Moly, you will be overwhelmed by all the colors and impressions. There is no standard menu, but special food.
You order a 3, 4 or 5 course dinner and will be surprised every course. Dinner at Holy Moly was next level in every aspect.
No matter how enthusiastic I am and whatever I write here, I won’t do Holy Moly justice. You simply have to experience Holy Moly with your own eyes.
This is one of our all-time favorite places now. Definitely a place we will re-visit whenever we’re in the area.
Where to stay in Breda
Our favorite place to stay in Breda is Hotel Nassau. Hotel Nassau Breda is a unique hotel experience in a historic Catholic place where people used to live soberly. This forms a wonderful contrast to the current luxurious services and facilities.
It's a super inspiring place where modern meets history. You can clearly see the history of the building from the outside and the inside, but it has a real modern twist now. It makes it a unique place to stay. And the best part, it is located right in the heart of Breda, with all the shops and historic highlights at walking distance.
See more of this amazing place to stay in our blog with a review of our stay in Hotel Nassau Breda.
Breda is a fantastic city trip destination in the Netherlands. It bustles between the ancient monuments and history, the water and canals and the green parks. There is so much to do in Breda that staying overnight is a must. I get why they call it the Pearl of the South. We loved our stay in Breda and are surprised what the city has to offer.
A massive thank you is in order here for Welkom in Breda for hosting us in the Pearl of the South and organizing an amazing weekend trip to Breda. Visiting Breda anytime soon? Make sure to contact Welkom in Breda for insider tips and must do’s.
This blog was written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She was invited to visit and experience Breda and wrote this travel blog about her adventures. Check out her Instagram @travelashie for more travel inspiration.
Enjoy your trip to Breda!