Delft, cherished by artist Johannes Vermeer, is often overlooked as a Dutch tourist destination considering its larger, more cosmopolitan neighbours: Amsterdam is an hour by train and Den Haag (The Hague), some 25 minutes. But quaint does have a place and a time - and Delft exemplifies it.
Royal Delft: Delft, the town, is synonymous with Royal Delft, the porcelain. An entire industry of so-called Delftware began in the 17th century but just this one factory remains today. It's open for tours and even offers would-be painters the chance to get a feel for the craft through workshops. Visitors get a thorough look at the history of the porcelain and watch the factory's seven painters or a handful of artisans who make the pottery. There's also a café and a shop where you can buy Delftware. Workshops must be booked in advance and start at $20, which does not include the pottery. Regular entry is $11. Skip the guided audio tour; there's plenty of information on the walls and in pamphlets ( royaldelft.nl).
Central Delft: Delft walkabout: Delft's charm is best experienced by ambling. Walk along the canals, admire the architecture, watch out for bikes and enjoy. There are several must-sees, including the towering, brick cathedral in the old city centre, the Oude Kerk (Old Church), which dates to at least the 1200s ( oudekerk-delft.nl). Vermeer was buried here in 1675.
The Vermeer Center showcases the life and work of artist Johannes Vermeer, who was born in Delft in 1632. The centre, which is housed at the former St. Lucas Guild - where Vermeer served as dean of the painters - has examples of his work, a recreation of his studio, and more. Entry is $9.75 ( vermeerdelft.nl).
The Museum Het Prinsenhof tells the story of William of Orange, who led the Netherlands Revolt, a clash between the Protestants and Catholics in the late 1500s. Also on display are artworks and other wares from the city's 17th-century Golden Age ( prinsenhof-delft.nl). Entry is $10.50.
Search for the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) but don't let the name fool you. Work on this cathedral, on the market square, started in 1396. Entrance fee of $5 gets you into both the Old and New churches. You can hear the bells of the Nieuwe Kerk each morning from Hotel Emauspoort.
Dutch caravan sleepover: Our room at the hotel was one of two Dutch caravans set up inside the courtyard. The caravans look like wheeled wooden circus wagons, though they're equipped with heat, shower, toilet and TV. They're named for a famous Dutch clown character, Pipo, and his wife Mammaloe. Caravans are about $132 a night. Inside the hotel, a themed-Vermeer room costs $210.
Day trip from Delft: Den Haag, home of the United Nation's International Criminal Court, offers a larger city feel and standout museums. The museum devoted to the avant-garde graphic artist M.C. Escher is well worth the trip to Den Haag alone. Visitors to the museum, Escher in Het Paleis, see the works of Dutch-born Escher displayed in the Lange Voorhout Palace, which has been owned by the Dutch royal family for more than a century. The museum showcases Escher's life and work, while also telling the story of the royal family. Even the light fixtures in each room are a sight to behold. Entry is a bargain at $11. Splurge on the chance to play with depth and be in your own Escher-style keepsake print picture and accompanying digital copy ( escherinhetpaleis.nl).
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