Anyone who starts a sentence with the words “The closer to Dordt…”, can finish it in different ways. The original text reads “The closer to Dordt, the worse it gets”. It is an old saying that dates back to the nineteenth century and for which there are several explanations. A real resident of Dordrecht will complete the first few words in a different way. What you will hear a lot in Dordrecht is “The closer to Dordt, the more beautiful it gets”. After a visit to the center of Dordrecht on a sunny summer day, I share the latter variant. Those who pay close attention during a walk through the Voorstraat can see this saying on a side wall.
According to dentistrymyth, Dordrecht is a surprisingly nice city in the south of the province of South Holland. It is located where the Merwede splits into the Oude Maas and the Noord. This location ensured that Dordrecht received city rights at the beginning of the twelfth century and quickly grew into one of the six major cities of the then county of Holland. Dordrecht became an important depot: a place from which export products were further traded. Wine, wood and grain were particularly traded here. This can still be found in the place indications, such as the Wijnhaven and the Houttuinen. In the eighteenth century Dordrecht was overtaken by Rotterdam.
A visit to Dordrecht means walking through old streets and past many monumental buildings. Waterways still play a major role in the center. Now it is mainly pleasure craft that make use of this. The often impressive ships of professional shipping can now mainly be seen passing over the Beneden Merwede and the Oude Maas. The nice thing about Dordrecht is that it is a kind of voyage of discovery, where you regularly come across beautiful places and buildings that grab your attention. In addition, there are many notable sights that you can discover during a walk or bike ride through Dordrecht. As far as we are concerned, Dordrecht is a great Dutch city that is more than worth a visit.
Top 10 sights of Dordrecht
#1. main gate
Even for those who have seen quite a few Dutch city gates, the Groothoofdspoort is a special and very impressive building. It is a fairly large city gate that dates from the fifteenth century. A large-scale renovation took place in 1617-1618, giving the Groothoofdspoort a renaissance appearance. From the water side, which is the best side to admire the gate anyway, you can see the Maeght van Dordrecht. Around this city virgin you can see the coats of arms of cities with which Dordrecht had a good relationship.
#2. Dordrechts Museum
Museum lovers should definitely take a look at the Dordrechts Museum. This is one of the most captivating city museums. The Dordrechts Museum has an extensive and impressive collection, especially in the field of painting. Among the paintings are beautiful masterpieces by artists such as Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van Goyen and Ferdinand Bol. You can see a self-portrait of this painter who was born in Dordrecht, which he made at the age of thirty. A number of paintings in the Dordrechts Museum show what the landscape around Dordrecht must have looked like in the past.
#3. town hall
In the year 1383 Flemish merchants built a market hall in Dordrecht. About a century and a half later, the building was given the function of town hall. The facade, adapted in the 19th century, with the two lions on either side of an impressive staircase, was added in the 19th century. Today, the monumental building mainly has a ceremonial role. This way you can have your wedding performed here. Day-to-day city affairs have been handled since 1975 in the City Office, which was opened at that time.
#4. House of Gijn
During his lifetime, local banker and collector Simon van Gijn decided that his estate should be a museum. In the absence of descendants, Van Gijn (1836-1922) thought that this was the most beautiful way to let his life’s work live on. The result is Huis van Gijn: a museum where time seems to have stood still. The former home of Van Gijn shows what life as a rich man must have looked like in the early twentieth century in Dordrecht. The building to the left of the former residence is now also part of the museum. Here is the entrance. The museum offers a nice mix. You mainly dive into the history of Simon van Gijn, but you can also enjoy the collection that this man gathered during his life. The audio guide is recommended, because there are no signs or descriptions in the rooms and halls.
#5. The Court of the Netherlands
Het Hof (or the Hof van Nederland) is a former thirteenth-century Augustinian monastery. This is an important place in Dutch history, because in 1572 the First Free States Meeting was held here. The Court of the Netherlands has been a museum since 2015 that is part of the Dordrechts Museum. They want to tell here about Holland’s oldest city, Dordrecht. What is an absolute picture in terms of atmosphere, is the adjacent Hofstraat. In addition to a row of characteristic Dutch facades, you can also admire the statue of William of Orange here.
Water and ports are still an important element within Dordrecht. Within the city limits, several ports provide the necessary atmosphere. For many years now, bridges have provided better accessibility. Two pedestrian bridges that we specifically want to mention as places of interest are the Damiate Bridge and the Long Iron Bridge. They lie respectively over the Wolwevershaven and the Nieuwe Haven. The Damiate Bridge is a 15-metre-long drawbridge that has connected the quays of the Wolwevershaven here since 1855. The Long Iron Bridge dates from the same year, but is much longer: 40 meters. This immediately explains the name. Don’t forget to look around you when you walk in these historic harbor areas.
#7. Statue brothers De Witt
A statue of the De Witt brothers has been erected in Dordrecht since 1918. This statue, designed by sculptor Toon Dupuis, is placed on a sandstone frame designed by architect Dirk Roosenburg. The prominent placement of the huge memorial on the Visbrug makes it almost impossible to miss it when you visit the center of Dordrecht. In the Golden Age during the First Stadtholderless Era, Johan de Witte was Grand Pensionary of the province of Holland for nineteen years and thus the most important politician of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. His brother Cornelis de Witt was one of the leading figures of the pro-stateists in the Dutch Republic and was one of the best-known Dutchmen of his time.
#8. Big church
The Grote or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk is the second oldest surviving church in Dordrecht. The Brabant Gothic church was built in the fifteenth century as a Roman Catholic church. In 1572 the church came into the hands of the Protestants, like so many Dutch churches at that time. Characteristic element is the tower. What everyone will notice is that this 65 meter high tower was never completed. This gives the tower a unique appearance. You can climb the tower from April to October. As a reward for climbing no less than 275 steps, you can enjoy a beautiful view of Dordrecht.
#9. Arend Maartenshof
In many old Dutch cities you will find one or more courtyards. This way of living could have various causes. There are the beguinages, for example, where only single women associated with the church were allowed to live. The Arend Maartenshof has a different origin. This courtyard was built in 1625 by order of Arend Maartenszoon. By founding this 38-family almshouse for poor women, he wanted to improve his reputation up to that point. Now, in the 21st century, men or couples are also allowed to live in the Arend Maartenshof. The condition is that they are of impeccable behavior.
#10. front street
The Voorstraat is the busiest street in the historic center of Dordrecht. With a length of no less than 1200 meters, the Voorstraat has numerous shops and catering establishments. The nice thing about shopping in the Voorstraat is that there is still room for nice local shops. Even if you don’t like shopping you should take a stroll down this street. It takes you past beautiful facades and numerous facade decorations from different eras. In the alleys on the north side you can have beautiful views of the Wijnhaven and the buildings behind it.
We want to pick out two sights. The first is a mural called De Grachtwacht. This one was made in 2020 by Dordrecht Artists: Frans Kromeich and Rob van Kooten. The artwork shows five important residents of Dordrecht. At 265 Voorstraat is a building that has the disputed title of ‘narrowest house in Dordrecht’. This discussion stems from the fact that this building does not have its own entrance.