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While my mom visited me this summer, we finally visited Dordrecht as a day trip. This stunning city without the crowds of Amsterdam is an easy day trip from Rotterdam, the Hague, or Amsterdam, however the quiet charm of Dordrecht won me over with its beautiful canals, picturesque warehouses, and stunning views.
Included in this post:
- Why visit Dordrecht
- Dordrecht History
- One perfect day in Dordrecht with things to do in Dordrecht
- Where to stay in Dordrecht
- How to get to Dordrecht from Holland
Why you should visit Dordrecht
Dordrecht is often overlooked. This stunning Dutch city, just fifteen minutes from Rotterdam, will make you feel like you’re stepping back in time The island’s key location along five rivers enabled it to grow as a commercially successful port city.
Dordrecht was not always an island. In 1421, much of Zeeland as well as Holland was flooded and numerous villages around Dordrecht were left underwater. This flooded area is now part of the De Biesbosch National Park.
Historically, Dordrecht was disconnected from other cities and could be only accessed by boat. Even today, you can see numerous former docks where boats used to pick up passengers. (It’s still possible to travel by boat from Rotterdam if you want the authentic experience!) In this manner, Dordrecht is similar to Venice and this history is why it’s called the Venice of Holland.
Although part of Dordrecht was destroyed during World War II, however the city remains one of the most picturesque cities of the Netherlands. You’ll find numerous medieval monuments, cozy cafes, a beautiful medieval church, stunning buildings from the Dutch Golden Age, and picturesque rivers/canals. If you have the opportunity, be sure to visit Dordrecht’s famous Christmas market!
Your one day in Dordrecht itinerary
Explore a hofje
As soon as you walk from the station, you’ll end up just passing this hofje. Hofjes are Dutch almshouses where people with limited income or extenuating circumstances could live in affordable housing endowed by wealthy people. Hof van Slingelandt is the oldest courtyard in Dordrecht, dating back to 1519. Visitors can quietly walk through the hofje during the day.
Start with a great brunch in Dordrecht
Coffeelicious is a charming cafe that sits along one of Dordrecht’s prettiest canals. This vegan-friendly cafe has a stunning view of the canals from the back window as well as delicious food. I ended up getting the pancakes and the vegan Straight Edge latte, which is like a red velvet latte. (I was tempted by the Instagrammable pancakes, which were described by our waitress as “extra.”) Arrive early as it gets quite busy!
Admire the views from the Wijnbrug and Visbrug
Just around the corner from Coffeelicious, you’ll find some of the most famous viewpoints in Dordrecht. Both the Wijnbrug and the Visbrug will give you a stunning view of Dordrecht’s stunning warehouses.
Peek down the alleyways of Dordrecht
For many years, Dordrecht was the center of trade in this part of the Netherlands with a particularly large fishing market. In the 18th century, Rotterdam overtook Dordrecht. However, you still have remnants of Dordrecht’s past all around the city, including beautiful quiet alleyways. I loved walking down Haringstraat, a beautiful street full of charming warehouses and 17th-18th century brick buildings.
Admire the canals of Dordrecht
All around Dordrecht, you’ll find small docks where you can imagine the countless boats coming and going with people from all around the island, similar to Venice. Roads to Dordrecht are a relatively recent phenomenon, however many Dordrecht residents still think of themselves as islanders. You’ll find countless nooks that lead down to the water, perfect for a slow moment to take in the sights (or a photo). Once you’re done, cross Pelserbrug.
Cross Pelserbrug for the best views
From the Pelserbrug, you can see stunning views of Dordrecht in both directions. Most notably, you can see the Grote Kerk with its iconic tower in the distance.
Climb the Grote Kerk
The must-see building of Dordrecht is the Grote Kerk. This stunning medieval church in Dordrecht was built in the Brabant Gothic style. It was first built in 1285 although the church was later reconstructed following damage from a fire in 1470.
One of the main reasons to visit the Grote Kerk, which has an admission fee of a few euros, is that its leaning tower (that you can climb!) has stunning views over the historic city center of Dordrecht. The tower leans due to architects underestimating the ground’s ability to support the tower.
The tower was the tallest building in the city for many years with its 65 meter tower. Notably, the carillon of the Grote Kerk is the largest carillon in Europe with 67 bells. If you have the chance, be sure to catch one of the carillon concerts during the summer. During July and August, there are concerts on Thursday evenings that can heard from different points in Dordrecht.
Although I’ve climbed a lot of church towers in the Netherlands, I was really impressed with the views over the city center as well as the direct views of the warehouses below! This viewpoint also gives you a great chance to view the shape of the island of Dordrecht from above.
Browse the shops along Voorstraat
Voorstraat is the oldest and first street on Dordrecht. This charming street is full of charming shops as well as cafes. We ended up stopping into
Heer en Meester, an organic cafe with a stunning view of the Grote Kerk for a brief snack. My mom was quite impressed with the cake and coffee although everyone else raved about their ice cream.
We also enjoyed stepping into Gallery61 to browse for unique souvenirs, home goods, and decorations. This retro-inspired home goods store has a stunning interior full of plants, antiques, and signs.
Stop for a beer or a local drink
For beer, we loved DE TIJD – lokaal voor bieren. This cozy brown bar with a great beer selection is likely to have something to surprise you. Even if you’re not hungry for dinner and just want a snack, I recommend the beer bitterballen.
Rutte is a well-known Dutch distillery that is famous for its celery gin. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, a gin and tonic might be in order. If you’re really into gin, stop into the tasting room (Distilleerderij Rutte) to sample some of the gins in their historic tasting room between 9am and 5pm, which is on the way from the station into town.
Enter the Hof van Nederland and enjoy Hofstraat
Even if you don’t end up visiting Het Hof van Nederland, be sure to walk through the courtyard. This stunning museum was where the First Assembly of the Free States occurred in 1572. This event was where representatives from provinces of the Netherlands assembled to revolt against Spain. This led to the establishment of the Netherlands as a country. Even if you don’t pay for admission to the museum, you can still admire the exterior of the building prior to turning onto Hofstraat.
Hofstraat is one of the most stunning streets of Dordrecht. You’ll be able to spot several building with a typical Dordtse facade, which typically has an arch above the windows as well as a stepped roof.
Where to stay in Dordrecht
For a taste of Holland, I recommend staying overnight in Dordrecht to enjoy it at a slower pace. I recommend deciding whether you want to stay in the history city center at one of the cozy bed and breakfasts. (You’ll not find too many hotel chains in Dordrecht.)
One of the most famous hotels in Dordrecht is Villa Augustus. This quirky boutique hotel within a former water tower just outside of the city center is full of charm with individually decorated rooms and stunning gardens.
Getting to Dordrecht
From Amsterdam, the train will take a bit over one hour. However, if you’re based in Rotterdam or the Hague, Dordrecht is a quick ride on the train! It takes just fifteen minutes to visit Dordrecht from Rotterdam by train and costs € 4,40 each way (2018 prices). It’s a twenty minute walk from the train station to the Dordrecht historic city center.
If you’re driving, there’s ample paid parking near the train station. I would not recommend driving within the city center and remaining on foot.