The 5 major Tourist Attractions in Breda, the Netherlands

The 5 major Tourist Attractions in Breda, the Netherlands

During Covid-time (doesn’t that seem like a long time ago already?), I travelled virtually. I made dream boards about my bucket list of places to go to.

And as another replacement, I made reviews about travel destinations. For example, about the tourist attractions in Breda.

Breda is the hometown of both Tom and me. It is a cosy, provincial town with a beautiful historic centre.

In the months before we left Breda to emigrate to Spain, I wandered around a lot, already feeling like a tourist, taking loads of pictures.

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Dutch sensitivities

Las Lanzas, Diego Velázquez.

Most Spanish people give a sign of recognition when they hear that we are from Breda. The town was under siege during the 80-year war between the Spaniards and the Dutch. Our new friends know because Diego Velázquez made a painting of the surrender of Breda.

We Dutch don’t call the painting La rendición de Breda (The surrender of Breda) but Las Lanzas (The Spears).

We pretend it is the original title by giving it a Spanish name, but it’s only called that way in the Netherlands, so nobody knows what we’re talking about. ROFLOL

Anyway, the original is in Museo del Prado in Madrid. In the Old Town Hall in Breda, it is just a copy.

Main tourist attractions in Breda

Chassepark, Breda
Chassépark and the “Grote Kerk” in the background.

I have to admit that there are only tufts of historic buildings left. Much was demolished in the 60s and 70s of the last century. To me, it is disappointing that the streets around those monumental buildings are mainly shopping streets that can be found in every city in the Netherlands.

However, a lot of effort has been put into modern buildings and urban planning. Nowadays more tourists are visiting Breda for the Chassé district with the urban planning of OMA, Office for Metropolitan Architecture, than to look at the historical sites.

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Without history there is no today or tomorrow, so I’ll start with some historical buildings. 

1. Grote Kerk – Big Church

Grote Kerk, Breda
OLV Kerk, Gothic church from the 15th century

The name is Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, or in English The Church of Our Lady, but popularly it’s called the Grote Kerk. The building is Gothic. This means a lot of upward lines and exuberant detailing.

In the 15th century, when it still was a Catholic church, the sacrament of the miracle of Nieuwervaart was moved to this church, bringing a lot of pilgrims to the city. And as you know people visiting towns means more money coming in, and more money means bigger buildings. 

In time the alterations made the tower bigger and bigger until its present height of 97 meters.

The struggle between Catholics and Protestants resulted in the Beeldenstorm (Iconoclastic Fury), in which many statues were destroyed. Since then, De Grote Kerk has been a Protestant church.

Even with a lot of statues and decorations destroyed, nowadays it’s tough to maintain a beautiful church like this. So there are some masses during the year, but most of the time the church is either to be viewed by interested tourists or to be rented for events.

2. Begijnhof – Beguinage

Begijnhof, Breda
The Beguinage, Breda, the Netherlands. A secluded area in the centre of Breda, strictly for women.

Wrongly Beguines are sometimes thought to be nuns. Although they were devout women, they never took the vows. They benefited from living together, secluded and protected, but were economically independent. They had jobs, for instance as caretakers.

In present days this gated area is occupied by ‘normal’ people and restricted to female residents. Male visitors are not allowed between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. 

Can you believe how funny it was when the other day there was a fire alarm in the middle of the night and next to all these women there were a couple of shivering men standing in the kitchen garden? Times they are a changin’. 🙂

3. Spanjaardsgat – Spaniards gate

Spanjaardsgat, Breda.
Spanjaardsgat, Breda: In between these two towers is a gate through which you can enter with a boat if the gate is open. It’s closed, most of the time!

the Netherlands were occupied several times by the Spaniards and in Breda they had their headquarters in the Castle of Breda. 

In 1590 we had our own Trojan horse: peat skipper Adriaan van Bergen hid soldiers in his boat under the peat and entered the castle for his fuel delivery.

That’s where the name comes from, Spanjaardsgat, the hole of the Spaniards. The gap that emerged in their defence.* 

There is only one small problem with this tale: this watergate was built in 1610! The ship sailed into the castle a bit further away. So the story doesn’t match the reality! 

* A naughtier translation of gat is butt. 🙂

Bouvigne, Breda
The estate Bouvigne, located just outside of Breda in the woods, the Mastbosch.

4. Bouvigne

Just outside Breda lies the castle Bouvigne. A Renaissance building surrounded by water. It is state property now, after being in the hands of the royal family of Orange for several centuries. 

My mother has very dear memories of this castle. She was a youth leader working for the Catholic association that organized activities for young girls in the 30s of the 20th century. Her eyes always lit up when she talked about that period or showed me pictures of the community dances and the hat she wore.

5. Chassé theater

Chassetheater, Breda
Chassé theatre, Breda, the Netherlands. Designed in 1995 by the famous architect Herman Hertzberger.

You might have the impression there are only old buildings in Breda. Nothing is less true. Definitely visit the Chassé theatre, built in 1995 by the famous architect Herman Hertzberger. 

There are two remarkable things about this building.

One is the roof with its feminine curves.

For the second remarkable thing you have to go inside. The neighbouring building (a former convent and now a casino) slides into this theatre and adds a little piece of 17th-century to this 20th-century building. 

That’s not all

I highlighted these 5 buildings that can be visited all in one day. Yet, if you have more time at your disposal, there is a lot more worthwhile visiting.

To mention a few: 

  • Stedelijk Museum Breda, which resides in a former military base with a 20th-century annexe;
  • Belcrum district, a 1930s residential area with some abandoned factories and a beautiful Water Tower. The district is a breeding ground for the creative industry, which takes good use of the old factories;
  • Chassé district, the urban planning was done by OMA and the different apartment buildings were designed by several other architects.

Several events are worth the effort of a visit, like Graphic Matters, a graphic design festival and the biannual Breda Photo. I have been a voluntary guide for these festivals, so there is a lot to tell. I’ll save that for another time!

Related: Photo Festival Rencontres 2023 in Arles from a Viewer’s Perspective

Have you ever visited Breda? I hope I have tempted you now to do it if you haven’t. Let me know in the comment box.

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The southern part of the Netherlands is famous for its 5-day celebration of Carnaval. Alaaf!

14 thoughts on “The 5 major Tourist Attractions in Breda, the Netherlands”

  1. Hi Hannie,
    This is really a beautiful article about Breda. I haven’t been there yet, but I plan to go. We live in Apeldoorn, so it is not far from where we live. I read and heard a lot about Breda and have always been very curious about seeing it. You really brought the Beauty of this town closer to my heart.

    I love to see historic places, and here in the Netherlands, there are lots of them. We will definitely visit the Grote Kerk. It is a pity that so many historic buildings are destroyed and not built up again. But I am sure that it is still imposing to be there. The church is impressive anyway.

    I have to laugh about your story of the women in the Begijnhof. You are so right. Modern times and thinking has changed quite a lot. Lol.
    Your photo of the Bouvigne is beautiful. I believe you took the photo. The castle in winter is such an impression. We don’t have so much snow anymore in winter. It is so peaceful, but also majestic.

    Thank you very much for this beautiful post! I certainly will go to Breda. I hope next year everything will be normal again so that we can travel again.

    Blessings, Sylvia

    • Oh, aren’t we all longing to be able to move around again. I am sure you are going to like Breda. And yes, I took all the pictures. We lived 6 cycle-kilometers from Breda and I often cycled at the bank of the river Mark from my village to Breda to take pictures. There was always a lot to go to, because of all the events that were organized in town.

      And for quite some time there was a Graphic Design Museum. A small museum but they always had marvelous exhibitions. And since my profession back then was graphic design I always had a marvelous time then looking around. 🙂

  2. I have never been to Breda, but I have heard a lot about it. I always knew it was worth a visit, but it just did not happen for me, even though I used to live in Belgium and I was not really that far, but perhaps one day I will go.
    The anecdote of the women in the Begijnhof where only women are allowed to live was funny. Where did these men come from in the middle of the night? 😉 Were they living there or some nightly visitors 😉 ? I am also wondering how a former convent ended up a casino. There is probably a story too 😉
    Was the surrender of Breda to the Spaniards part of the war against King Philip of Spain or was that a different war?

    • LOL, Christine, what do you think these men came from? 😉 They were definitely not living there because they can’t get a permit!
      The story of the convent is indeed more complicated. Between being a convent and a casino, it was a barrack for the army. Devotion, fight and money. It seems to me that it’s the most common combination, but I am prejudiced. 😀
      Yes, the surrender was part of the 80-year war against the Spanish.

  3. Oh, yes, we have visited Breda about two years ago. As our daughter is in Maastricht, whenever we visit The Netherlands, we take the opportunity to travel a bit around and get to know Holland.
    We spent a day in Breda and enjoyed it very much! We visited the Grote Kerk-it is magnificent. We climbed up the tower (which is not an easy task, I must say – the 300 steps are narrow at places and pretty slippery. It is pretty high, as well, so a very good exercise, too). But, the view from 60 m high is well worth it.
    We also visited Begijnhof, which I found incredibly tidy-although people live there, you couldn’t see anything not in place. We also saw some incredible liliputanian world in the Miniaturenmuseum.
    It was also a market day, so we also bought some beautiful antique spoons as a present for a friend who collects them.
    We had a delicious dinner in a very cosy restaurant in Grote Markt, but I can’t recall it’s name right now.
    We truly enjoyed our day very much and would gladly go for another visit. When it will be possible again, we probably will.

    • How marvelous to hear, Kerryanne! Hah, and you did even more than I ever did, climbing the tower. Are you not allowed to go higher than 60m? Because the tower is almost 100m high.
      If you bought antique spoons than your visit must have been on a Wednesday? The vegetables and other stuff market is at Tuesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays is the antiques market with old books and antique China.

  4. Hi Hannie, what a fascinating place the Netherlands looks, I have never had the pleasure of visiting but after reading your brilliant article it is now on my must go to go list!

    Some of these places look beautiful, you are so lucky to live in Breda, is it a big town, do you get a lot of tourists?

    • It’s definitely a recommendation to go there, Amy, despite the fact that I emigrated to Spain 😉
      The town is reasonable big for Dutch standards, which is pretty small in the eyes of most other countries. The population is about 200.000. And there are a lot of tourists, so in high season (summer) it’s too crowded, at least in my opinion!

  5. The only thing I know about Breda is their football club LOL. But now I know a lot more about this beautiful town in the Netherlands. It looks like an amazing place to visit. I haven’t been in the Netherlands yet, but I’ll put Bread on the list. Thanks for sharing!

    • LOL, NAC has its ups and downs, Ivan, to say the least. And although I am prejudiced of course, since Breda is my hometown, I think it’s a beautiful city. ‘Everybody’ only visits Amsterdam, but there is so much more to see in the Netherlands. 🙂

  6. What a great place to visit. I have been to the Netherlands a few times in the past, but mostly in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. One weekend we rented a car and went to visit Antwerp in Belgium. I see that Breda is on the way so I could have used the information in this article then.

    Unfortunately, it is harder and harder to travel due to pandemic these days.

    • Yes, it’s a huge pity we can’t travel at the moment. I too have a lot of places on my bucket list, but for the time being I have to keep myself to virtual traveling. 🙂
      Amsterdam and Rotterdam are wonderful places to visit as well. Especially Rotterdam is taking a huge leap at the moment in constructing modern beautiful buildings. Have you already seen the new train station there? That’s a must-see the next time you visit. 🙂

  7. Wow this sounds like a wonderful place to visit. I really like the photo of the Grote Kerk. The Chasse theatre sounds fascinating as well. The architecture is gorgeous. I love the historical sites as well. I look forward to hearing about these festivals, they sound like they could be fun. Once international travel opens up I will adding Breda to my growing list of places to visit. What would be the best time of year to visit?

    • How marvelous that I made you enthusiastic, Deb!
      Spring and autumn are the best times, unless you like the cold, than winter will do as well, as it can be lovely with snow covered houses. Dutch summers are too humid in my opinion and too crowded as well.
      The festivals are biannual in september and october. 🙂


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