The 15 best things to do in Breda, Netherlands

As a Breda native, I was unaware of the city’s numerous attractions. From the Great Church to the Beguinage, and the Blind Walls Gallery to Valkenberg City Park, it was all ordinary to me for nineteen years. Now that I no longer live in Breda, I can appreciate its beauty and historical significance, with a plethora of attractions. As a genuine Breda insider, I have compiled a comprehensive guide of the best things to do in Breda, featuring stunning historical landmarks and recommendations for hidden gems.


Why Breda is worth visiting

Breda, often hailed as the most captivating historic city in the southern Netherlands, lives up to its nickname ‘Pearl of the South’ in splendid fashion. With a picturesque city center, dynamic street art, and a warm and welcoming ambiance, Breda is an unequivocal must-visit destination.

The moment sunlight graces Breda, the city transforms into an expansive outdoor terrace. Locals and tourists alike flock to the terraces of Grote Markt, infusing the city with a vibrant atmosphere. However, Breda’s allure isn’t confined to just warm days. In the winter, the city undergoes a charming metamorphosis, adorned with twinkling lights and a festive Christmas market that beckons.

Breda’s historical tapestry is rich and enduring. Centuries of history come to life throughout the historic center, weaving a captivating narrative. An emblematic embodiment of this historical splendor is the Grote Kerk (Great Church), a striking Gothic masterpiece. This architectural marvel not only represents the city’s design heritage but also treats visitors to a breathtaking panoramic view of Breda from its summit. Deep within the church, a hidden gem of royal history awaits: an exquisite chapel serving as the final resting place for the King’s ancestors.

Exploring Breda is an immersion into a treasure trove of culture and heritage. Meandering through its charming streets, marvelling at the intricate architecture, and indulging in the thriving art scene are all integral to the Breda experience. Culinary enthusiasts are equally catered to, with Breda offering a culinary palette ranging from traditional Dutch delicacies to global gastronomy.

While Breda is steeped in captivating history, its contemporary allure is equally compelling. Venture into the city center and uncover a world of amazing breakfast spots, trendy eateries, and one-of-a-kind boutique emporiums. The heart of this vibrant scene lies within the picturesque streets of Sint Janstraat, Sint Annastraat, and Veemarktstraat. Don’t overlook the unique graffiti art that graces Breda’s walls: a remarkable facet of the renowned Blind Wall Gallery, an art haven that spans the entire urban landscape. Concerned about missing out on any artistic marvels? Rest assured, a user-friendly app is at your fingertips, or simply consult the online map for precise locations.

In essence, Breda effortlessly blends its inviting historical ambiance with a contemporary urban flair. It is for sure one of the best cities to visit in the Netherlands, as a destination for a captivating rendezvous with the past and a vibrant embrace of the present. 


Where to stay in Breda

If you’re searching for the best place to stay in Breda, the historical city center is the ideal choice. All the attractions, restaurants, and trendy eateries are within walking distance from your place of stay. Moreover, you’ll discover a selection of truly unique hotel options. From a former monastery to a luxury hotel with themed suites!

The best hotels in Breda:

#1 Hotel Nassau Breda is situated within a complex of national monuments, housed in a former Catholic orphanage and a monastery. This new hotel beautifully preserves many elements of its historical past. For instance, the arched ceiling of the old church has been retained and transformed into the breakfast area. Imagine enjoying your breakfast with a view of the chapel and its stained-glass windows. Beyond its remarkable history, the hotel offers stunning luxury rooms and suites with plush box spring beds and a modern interior.

#2 Bliss Boutique Hotel boasts an ideal location in the heart of Breda’s historic center. While the hotel offers bike rentals, practically all the charming spots in Breda are within walking distance. This design-focused hotel features 7 luxurious suites, each with a unique theme. The Dickens & Jones Suite features subtle British accents, the Lodge Suite offers the ambiance of a forest cabin, and the pristine Wedding Suite caters to romantic travelers. All rooms are equipped with a fireplace and lavish bathtub.

#3 Boutique Hotel Het Scheepshuys is situated just outside Breda’s old town in the Brabantpark residential area. This distinctive property, dating back to 1927, is housed within a characteristic villa. Modern elements seamlessly blend with the villa’s historic charm in the interior design. This intimate boutique hotel features twelve charming rooms and suites. A delightful garden with a terrace awaits, and bike rentals are available, allowing guests to reach the heart of Breda within 10 minutes. 


The 15 best things to do in Breda

#1 The Breda Old Town

When it comes to exploring Breda, there’s more to discover than just individual landmarks or attractions. The heart of Breda lies in its charming old town. Strolling through the historic city center within the ring of canals, one can’t help but feel transported to a bygone era.

In Breda, the most captivating treasures are concentrated in the historic heart. The Old Town is defined by the waters of the Oude Mark, the streets of Oude Vest and Vlaszak, and the Breda Castle and Valkenberg Park in the north. Within this area, the city’s iconic sites await, with the Grote Markt and its grand Grote Kerk as the central focal point.

The historical core of the city grew around the impressive Breda Castle, which was once the residence of the lords of Breda. As the former royal city of the Nassau dynasty, who ruled over Breda from 1403 onwards and are linked to the current Dutch monarchy, the city carries an air of regal allure.

As you wander through charming streets, each building facade seems to whisper stories of the past. The photogenic historic buildings are interspersed with cozy squares, markets, and picturesque churches. Particularly fascinating are the courtyard houses from the era of the noble Breda Nassau family. They are silent witnesses of a time when these monumental structures hosted significant guests of the Nassau family. You’ll find many of these in the Catharinastraat, St. Janstraat, and Nieuwstraat.

For a delightful pause, visit the Merkxtuin. It is a hidden gem that remains largely unknown, even to locals. Tucked away in the heart of the old city, this small sculpture garden offers a unique view of the rear facades of the elegant patrician houses on Catharinastraat. Access the garden through discreet entrances: one next to Eetcafé Publieke Werken at St. Annastraat 12 and another between Catharinastraat 24 and 26.

Another hidden treasure? Opposite the Hema store on one of the busiest shopping streets, you’ll find an incredibly charming chapel, usually open for visitors.


#2 The Blind Walls Gallery

The ultimate Breda museum isn’t confined to walls – it is the remarkable Blind Walls Gallery. What’s even more exciting? This museum is free to explore, as it’s not housed within a single building, but rather scattered across the entire city. Did you know that Breda boasts one of the most extraordinary street art scenes worldwide?

Since its inception in 2015, the Blind Walls Gallery has hosted artists from around the globe who paint their artistic interpretations on Breda’s blank walls. Each mural is inspired by thorough research into the wall’s location or the background of the chosen building.

This “street gallery” has evolved into an awe-inspiring collection of over 100 murals scattered throughout the city, both in the historical center and surrounding neighborhoods. For a concentrated burst of mural magic, head to the Mols parking lot near Achter De Lange Stallen. It is a hotspot for mural enthusiasts.

If you want to ensure you don’t miss any, the official website offers an interactive map and specific walking and cycling routes.

Breda Blind Wall Gallery
Breda Blind Wall Gallery

#3 The Grand Church

Breda’s quintessential landmark is none other than the Grote Kerk, also known as the Church of Our Lady. This attraction is open almost year-round and offers free admission. A visit to this monumental church is an absolute must during your Breda city trip.

The construction of this Gothic-style church began in the 15th century under the patronage of the first Nassau to reside in Breda. Beneath the church lies a crypt for the Nassau family, the ancestors of the current Dutch monarchy, with the Prinsenkapel (Princes’ Chapel) situated above.

Interestingly, even the present-day Dutch royal family was intended to have a connection to this church. William of Orange had already reserved his final resting place here. However, during the Eighty Years’ War with Spain, he was assassinated in Delft while Breda remained under Spanish occupation. The Prinsenkapel is open for visitors, and it’s worth taking a moment to admire its exquisite ceiling.

Unfortunately, the church suffered damage during the Iconoclasm of 1566. Although it remained in Catholic hands for another decade, it officially became a Protestant church in 1637 and was renamed the “Grote Kerk” (Grand Church). Despite these changes, many original treasures, including tomb monuments and stained glass windows, have been preserved.

The towering 97-meter spire is an iconic sight visible from all corners of the old city. Guided by a city expert, you can ascend the spiral staircase and relish breathtaking views of Breda.

Grote Kerk Breda
Grote Kerk Breda

#4 Begijnhof (Beguine’s Courtyard)

In the heart of historic Breda lies a small haven that transports you centuries back in time – the Begijnhof. Encircled by walls and residences, this historic site is among the oldest in the city, boasting a rich and extraordinary history.

Upon entering the gate of Begijnhof on Catharinastraat, a sense of tranquility envelops you. The contrast with the nearby hustle and bustle makes this courtyard even more remarkable. The eye is drawn to the picturesque houses surrounding two courtyards, which encircle an inviting herb garden.

Adjacent to the entrance stands the Begijnhof Museum, housed in one of the authentic beguinage houses on Catharinastraat. This museum offers a glimpse into the daily life of a beguine, featuring reconstructed living and kitchen spaces. Upstairs, exhibitions shed light on unique aspects of beguine life.

The beguines themselves formed a community of devout Catholic women from the late 12th century onwards. Often of noble birth, they chose lives of reflection and prayer. Differing from traditional convent practices, they didn’t take perpetual vows. The community in Breda likely emerged around 1240.

In 1535, the Begijnhof relocated to its present location on Catharinastraat, making way for the expansion of Breda Castle. This move was agreed upon under the personal protection of the Nassau family. This protection ensured that the Begijnhof could later survive as one of the few Catholic institutions in the Netherlands even after the Protestant Reformation.

By the 20th century, fewer beguines resided in the courtyard. Increasingly, it housed outside residents, single women or widows with no Catholic ties. The very last beguine, Cornelia Catharina Frijters, passed away in 1990. To this day, the homes are exclusively rented to single women, thus preserving the tradition in a unique way.

Breda Begijnhof

#5 The Stedelijk Museum

Breda’s most significant museum is the Stedelijk Museum, the youngest city museum in the Netherlands. Boasting a collection of over 60,000 artifacts – ranging from paintings and jewelry to garments from eras long past and contemporary artworks – this is the ultimate destination for art and culture in Breda.

Two permanent exhibitions provide insight into Breda’s history, from the Nassau dynasty to the 19th century. Additionally, rotating exhibitions offer fresh perspectives. The museum is the result of the merger between Breda’s Museum and the Museum of the Image (MOTI).

The origins of Breda’s Museum date back to 1903 when the Stedelijk Museum voor Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde opened its doors, focusing on the city’s history. In 1932, the collection was enriched by the contributions of the Bisschoppelijk Museum Foundation. Over the years, various local institutions, owners, and artists donated items, leading to the steady expansion of the collection.

In more recent years, the museum merged with MOTI. In the spring of 2017, the new museum found its home in the iconic Oudemannenhuis, also known as De Beyerd, nestled on the charming Boschstraat.

#6 The Spanjaardsgat

The Spanjaardsgat is one of the icons of Breda, located near the Haven of Breda and part of the area surrounding Breda Castle. This historical water gate consists of two imposing defense towers and was originally constructed by Count Henry III.

The best view of the Spanjaardsgat can be enjoyed from the Hoge Brug, which also overlooks the charming Haven of Breda. The bridge is adorned with numerous love locks, similar to those found in various other European cities.

The name of the gate refers to a significant event in Breda’s history, the ruse with the Turfship of Breda in 1590. Turf shipper Adriaan van Bergen played a pivotal role in the recapture of the Castle from the Spanish, smuggling soldiers of Prince Maurice inside the castle walls aboard his ship.

However, this water gate with its two towers was only built in 1610, and drawings and engravings indicate that the turf ship had entered the moat from the northern side. So, it is not the true “Spanjaardsgat”.

The water gate is usually visible only from the outside, but guided tours of the castle grounds also provide an inside view. The free Spanjaardsgat concerts are held annually on pontoons in the Spanjaardsgat. Additionally, the annual arrival of Sinterklaas in Breda, a typical Dutch tradition, takes place here.

Spanjaardsgat Breda

#7 The Central Market Square

The beating heart of Breda is the Grote Markt, surrounded by the iconic Onze Lievevrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), the historic Town Hall, and stately townhouses, a role it has held for centuries.

During warm summer days, the square becomes a hub for locals and visitors to enjoy the terraces. Throughout the summer, the square transforms into one vast extended terrace, with areas shaded by plane trees and others bathed in sunlight. This is when the square exudes a lively and convivial atmosphere.

Furthermore, even in the winter months, the square takes on a fairytale ambiance. A gigantic Christmas tree adorns the square, accompanied by enchanting lights, and the adjacent Kerkplein hosts a Christmas market.

The square has existed since the early Middle Ages, albeit smaller in size. It underwent transformation following the devastating city fire of 1534, when a series of burnt houses created room for an expansion of the market square. Even then, it was a market square where goods were traded, mainly textiles. This market culture endures, as evidenced by the weekly general markets dating back to 1321, now held on Tuesday mornings and Fridays.

Not to be missed is the artwork “Judith with the Head of Holofernes”, sculpted in 1947 by the artist Niel Steenbergen. This subtle monument symbolizes liberation, with the powerful image of Judith, a Jewish woman, representing the triumph of good over evil.

Breda | 10 verrassende stedentrips in Nederland | 10 surprising city trips in the Netherlands | The Orange Backpack

#8 The St. Anthony Cathedral

The St. Anthony Cathedral, also known as the St. Anthony Church, stands proudly on the charming Sint-Janstraat. It serves as the cathedral of the Breda diocese, even though its grandeur might not be immediately evident. While the Protestant Grote Kerk (Great Church) could be considered Breda’s most iconic church, the St. Anthony Cathedral holds greater significance for the Catholic community.

After a period during which Catholics could only gather in clandestine churches, the St. Anthony Church officially became the first sanctioned Catholic church in 1836. This marked the establishment of the Breda diocese and, in 1853, it served as its very first cathedral.

The cathedral’s architecture reflects the style of its time. Designed by architect Pieter Huijsers in the neoclassical style of the era, the facade, especially, showcases this influence with its classical columns – Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian – and a pediment beneath the bell tower reminiscent of the grandeur of Greek temples. The small tower atop resembles a temple of love, inspired by Roman or Greek design.

While the role of cathedral shifted to other churches over time, the St. Anthony Cathedral regained that title. In 2001, at the request of the Bishop, the cathedral was once again granted the honorary title of cathedral.

Sint Antonius Kathedraal Breda

#9 The Breda Castle

Breda Castle is a significant part of Breda’s heritage, though visiting it can be a bit challenging. Once the proud ancestral seat of the Nassau family, predecessors of the Dutch Royal Family, it now functions as a military training school.

The earliest origins of this castle date back to the year 1198 when a modest fortress stood here. It came under the ownership of the Nassau family, ancestors of the Dutch Royals, through the marriage of a German Nassau Count and Breda’s Johanna van Polanen in the early fifteenth century. This union brought the Nassaus to the Netherlands and established Breda as their principal residence.

During the sixteenth century, the castle underwent a transformation into an opulent Renaissance palace. With the expertise of Thomas Vincidor de Bologna, a student of the renowned Raphael, the castle was extensively renovated. The castle’s history became even more significant when William of Orange Nassau, known in the Netherlands as the Father of the Nation, chose to reside here during his famous struggle against Spanish rule. The castle took on a new role as a military fortress during this time.

A turning point in the castle’s history occurred in 1826 when the Royal Military Academy (KMA) made it their home. With this new purpose, the castle underwent further changes, this time aimed at practical adaptations for military use. Unfortunately, this transformation led to the removal of many exquisite Renaissance ornaments that once adorned its halls and corridors.

Though Breda Castle may be situated within a military area, it’s still possible to catch a glimpse of its historical grandeur. Guided tours offer visitors the opportunity to explore the corridors of this ancient structure and uncover the stories concealed within its walls. Additionally, the KMA occasionally opens its doors during public events, providing a rare chance for the public to experience the castle up close.

#10 The Ginneken District

Beyond the historic city center, the Ginneken is our favorite neighborhood in Breda. Starting from Van Coothplein on the south side of the city, the Nieuwe Ginnekenstraat – which transitions into the Wilhelminastraat – leads towards the Ginneken. Along this street and within the Ginneken itself, you’ll discover numerous trendy breakfast spots, charming coffee shops, and delightful concept stores. It truly is one of the city’s hidden gems.

Once an independent village dating back to 1611, the Ginneken has preserved its cozy village atmosphere, even after becoming part of Breda in 1942. Be sure to visit the Ginnekenmarkt, a quaint triangular square with a village pump. During the summer, this is a delightful spot to enjoy a drink on the terrace.

#11 The Waalse Kerk (Walloon Church)

Adjacent to the Valkenberg City Park, the remarkable Waalse Kerk, or Walloon Church, stands on Catharinastraat. It is a unique example of a medieval city chapel and is believed to be the only perfectly preserved Gothic chapel from the early 15th century.

It was originally founded in 1440 by Johanna van Polanen, a prominent noblewoman from Breda who brought the Nassau family to the Netherlands through marriage to a Nassau Count. The Gothic chapel was dedicated to Saint Wendelinus of Trier, a patron saint against infectious diseases.

Around a century later, it was gifted to the beguines and became part of the Begijnhof (Beguine’s Courtyard). Following the Reformation and the transition of the Netherlands to Protestantism, the Catholic beguines were compelled to relinquish their church. The altar and saintly statues were removed, and the church was handed over to the French-speaking Walloon community.

Today, the Waalse Kerk continues to host church services, some conducted in French. It also serves as a wedding venue and hosts exhibitions, concerts, and events. During the summer months, the doors of this historic site are often opened to visitors.

Waalse Kerk Breda

#12 The Mastbos and Bouvigne Castle

For the most enchanting slice of nature in Breda, your destination is the Mastbos, where you’ll also discover the exquisite Bouvigne Castle. The Mastbos forest was created 500 years ago by Hendrik III of Nassau and boasts beech avenues, heathlands, and ponds. Particularly picturesque is the boardwalk on the southern side, winding through a lovely heathland area.

Nestled on the fringes of the Mastbos stands Bouvigne Castle. While the exact age of the castle remains shrouded in mystery, its extensive history is undeniable. The castle has changed hands over the centuries, often serving the Princes of Orange. Since 1930, the castle has found its home under governmental guardianship.

With its fairy-tale tower and elegant architecture, it’s a sight to behold. The castle is surrounded by three distinctive gardens and an orchard. Although the castle itself is not accessible, the gardens of Bouvigne are open to the public. Created around 1913 in the prevailing styles of the time – French, English, and German – each garden exudes its own unique character. Notable features include the abundant fuchsias and the collection of sculptures.

Breda Bouvigne

#13 The canals of Breda

Defining the heart of Breda’s city center are the atmospheric waterways known as “singles”, embracing the city. Wondering why these water features are termed singels and not canals? While canals often served purposes like drainage, transportation, and defense, singels have a distinct character. Although both forms of urban water encircle city centers, singels typically lack the defensive nature and massive masonry walls that characterize canals.

One of the best things to do in Breda is taking a canal cruise along the singels. During the journey, the skipper shares insights and tales about the history and landmarks along the route. The route encompasses attractions such as the historic Spanjaardsgat, Breda Castle, and the Koepel, once a prison.

An intriguing detail: along the Academiesingel stands a remarkable artwork titled “The Lighthouse”. This extraordinary 18-meter-tall artwork was created by the Italian artist Aldo Rossi.

The concept for The Lighthouse took root during Rossi’s exhibition in 1985 at the Beyerd. Eventually, the artwork was unveiled seven years later, on October 9, 1992. Originally intended for placement in Wilhelminapark, neighborhood opposition led to the lighthouse now adorning the waterfront of the singel, at the corner of Academiesingel and Emmastraat, for nearly a quarter-century.

Singels Breda

#14 The Lutheran Church

One of the best-kept secrets among Breda’s landmarks is the Lutheran Church. Tucked away between and behind other buildings, this structure might not catch your eye at first glance unless you know exactly where to look. The Lutheran Church is situated to the east of the Grote Markt (Main Square) and can be accessed through a discreet alley at Veemarktstraat 11.

The origins of the Lutheran congregation in Breda trace back to the year 1566 when this community was formed. Centuries later, the need arose for a inconspicuous church because, during the reign of the Dutch Republic, only the Reformed could possess clearly identifiable church buildings.

In 1777, a mansion with a forecourt on Veemarktstraat was acquired for this purpose. After careful adjustments and preparations, the mansion was transformed into a church building. The forecourt was developed with two elegant houses, and a narrow passage with a gate still leads to the church behind the houses. The official consecration didn’t occur until 1786.

#15 Valkenberg City Park

Adjacent to Breda Castle and along the route to the bustling Central Station lies the verdant Valkenberg City Park. Once serving as the castle’s private garden, the park was exclusively a retreat for the castle’s inhabitants. The park’s name refers to the falconry house that once stood at its periphery. Falcons (‘valken’ in Dutch) were utilized by nobles and their guests for the then-trendy sport of falconry.

The main entrance to Valkenberg is at Willemstraat, where the impressive Baroniemonument from 1905 welcomes visitors. Another entrance can be found next to the Begijnhof. A large pond with a fountain graces the heart of the park. Artworks, a photogenic bridge, and remnants of defensive towers that were part of the city wall can also be found.

Since 2002, the Valkenberg has been home to the “T Huis”, a design by architect and artist John Körmeling. This transparent structure provides an ideal spot for families to enjoy a relaxed lunch or coffee while children have fun in the adjacent playground.

Valkenberg Breda

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