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Looking for a perfectly relaxed day-trip from Amsterdam? Then you might want to consider Breda, a lovely city in the southern province of North-Brabant. Breda is also known as the Nassau Stad, because it was the official residence of the Orange-Nassau family for several centuries (the current Dutch king Willem-Alexander is a descendant of this family). But even if you’re not a history aficionado and you don’t care about royal families, you will still like Breda for the pastel colours of the houses, the southern Dutch architecture, the laid-back vibe and the shopping areas.

Breda was always a place of strategic military and political importance, because of its location. It started in the 11th century when Breda built fortifications for the first time under Roman occupation, and it went on through the centuries, with the city playing a role in the wars that took place in the area.

Nowadays, you can learn about Breda’s history by visiting the standing monuments and museums, although it’s hard to imagine the city’s agitated past when you wander the cosy, quiet streets. I loved my trip to Breda very much and I enjoyed it despite the typical Dutch weather that day, which compelled me to hide from time to time in the cosy shops and restaurants (such a hard fate, don’t you think?).

Ultimate guide to Breda, the Netherlands

What to do in Breda

If you’re preparing a day-trip to Breda, you are a lucky person: take your sit in the train and get ready for a relaxed escape to the south of the Netherlands! You could organise a weekend there, especially if you are a Van Gogh admirer. Brabant is the province where Van Gogh was born and raised, and there are trips in the area that you can do to follow Vincent’s history.

  • Visit the city on foot. Wander around the city centre, discovering the city by yourself or with a free guided tour if you’d like. Take in the beauty of the streets, stop by to visit monuments or for a well deserved rest at one of the cafés. Pay attention to details and discover the art around the city, like the ants on the sidewalk on Willemstraat or the Troubadour on the Havermarkt.
Ants on the sidewalk, Breda
  • Visit Breda by boat. If you want to see the city from the water, book a boat tour around the canals with the electrical boats. The canal tour will take you around Breda while your guide will give you information over the most important landmarks and history of the city.
  • Visit Kasteel van Breda (Breda’s Castle). The castle is one of the main attractions of the city, and you can book a guided tour to see it and learn more about the history. There are not many castles that you can see in the Netherlands, so it’s nice for a change.
  • See the Spanjaardsgat (Spaniards Hole), which was originally used as a gate that would allow supplies to be carried to Breda by water, and got its current name because it is considered to have been played a most important role in the liberation of the city from the Spanish occupation in 1590 (something to do with Dutch people sneaking into the city, hidden under the turf of a peat-boat).
  • Visit Castle Bouvigne. Looking as if it’s floating on the water surface, this castle has a fairy-tale look and feel to it and it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards. You will need to take public transport to get there (bus 6 from Vlaszak), because the castle is not in the city centre, but it’s well worth it.
  • Grote Markt, Stadhuis and Grote Kerk. You won’t have any chance of missing these two during your walk around the city centre. You can stop in the charming Grote Markt (Main Square) for a drink, a bite, and people watching at one of the outdoor restaurants. The Stadhuis (old Town Hall), an elegant building, and the Grote Kerk, or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, built in Gothic style and featuring a 97-metres tower, are right there waiting for a visit. Inside the church you can admire the gothic style and a few Renaissance elements as well, an impressive organ (bearing the colours of the house Nassau, blue and gold), the 16th-century Renaissance alabaster tomb of Count Engelbrecht II of Nassau, and the monument dedicated to Count Engelbrecht I and his son.
Grote Kerk Breda
  • Visit the Begijnhof. The Begijnhof was built by a community of Catholic women called the Beguines, and it’s a peaceful oasis in the city. I loved walking in the garden and admiring the Beguines statues all around it — they look almost alive.
  • The Blind Walls Gallery. Don’t forget to admire the street art in Breda. The Blind Walls Gallery consists of over 80 murals inspired by the past, present and future of Breda – like the Ring around the Rosie painting, a rat surrounded by dancing kids, telling the story of a cemetery for people who died of the plague, which used to be, around 1514, in the place where the Mol parking stands now. You can find the paintings while you walk around the city centre, but if you want to know the story behind each of them, is better to book a tour.

Museums to see in Breda

  • Stedelijk Museum Breda. Hosted in the building of the oldest hotel in Breda, Stedelijk Museum Breda is the museum for the city’s heritage and history, as well as for contemporary visual culture. Stedelijk Museum is hosting exhibitions highlighting history, painting, photography. A nice project of the museum is NEXT, which offers a place for local artists to exhibit their work, and is free to visit.
  • Begijnhof Museum. This museum provides insight into the lives of the Breda Beguines. Also here you can find a small Dollhouse Museum – Miniaturen and Poppenhuismuseum.

Begijnhof Breda

Breda parks

  • Valkenberg Park. Until 1812, Valkenberg served as a castle garden for the lords of Breda. It owes its name to a falcon house that stood on the edge, from which the castle residents and their guests practiced falconry. Nowadays is a beautiful green area accesible to everyone.
  • Wilhelminapark. A park with two large ponds and historical monuments.

What to see around Breda

  • Mastbos. One of the oldest forests in the Netherlands (around 500 years), can be found South of Breda, close to the Bouvigne Castle. The name of the forest comes from the historical use of the trees for building ship masts for the Dutch and Spanish fleets. Mastbos is a big forest, with narrow paths that open to beech avenues, heathland, deciduous trees and dark coniferous forest. It’s a home to many animals (deer, foxes, martens, squirrels etc.) which you might spot if you’re lucky. I, for one, have yet to meet the animals hiding in the Dutch forests, no matter how often I visited!
  • Etten-Leur. Visit the place where the famous artist Van Gogh started his career, walk in his footsteps and discover the Van Gogh related monuments in the village.
  • Efteling theme-park. Efteling is a fairy-tale inspired theme park, one that deserves a full day-trip. It’s a magical place for adults and kids alike: thrilling roller coasters, enchanting attractions or spectacular park shows. If you don’t like the rollercoasters you can spend your time in the Enchanted forest, meeting Snow-White or the mean which, visit the spooky places that mess with your head or ride on the gondoletta.

  • Baarle-Nassau. This village is famous for the fact that the Dutch-Belgian border passes right through its centre, splitting streets and sometimes even houses. It’s the place where you can literally sit with your feet in two countries at the same time, and some people have their living room in the Netherlands, while the bedroom is in Belgium. The residents seem to get along just fine and probably don’t think about their weird border situation too much.

I hope this article gave you inspiration for your next trip, and if you visited Breda before, let me know what you liked about it!

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