Located in the South of the Netherlands, only 10km from the Belgium border, Breda is the 9th largest city in the country and features a wealth of historical buildings and cultural attractions.
In the 11th century, Breda owed allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor and saw many changes in ownership and allegiance until the 1500’s where it became a residence city under the House of Orange-Nassau.
Later in the 1500’s, the city was practically burnt to the ground during a huge fire, and then conquered by Spanish troops.
Continuing Breda’s tumultuous history, the city was occupied in WW2 and then liberated by Polish forces – Today it stands as an important city in the Netherlands with a wealth of service orientated business.
Breda is a fantastic tourist destination and its old architecture, beautiful parks and quiet charm attract many visitors per year.
Lets explore the best things to do in Breda:
1. Grote of Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk
Easily the most impressive building in Breda, the Grote Kerk towers over the city and takes pride of place in the centre of the old town.
Designed in a intricate Gothic style, the exterior has many pointed turrets and also a large bell tower that stands at 97m.
While the exterior boasts a Gothic design, the interior has elements of Renaissance influence especially the choir seating and the immense organ.
Furthermore, the tiled floor, ornate columns and high-vaulted ceilings give the impression of power and beauty, and make this church a remarkable place to visit.
2. Begijnhof Museum
Many Dutch cities have a Begijnhof and this is usually an enclosed courtyard with an interior garden.
At the south end of the Valkenberg park lies the Bred Begijnhof Museum and it could not be more traditional or full of character.
Surrounding this magical courtyard are 29 quaint houses that have survived from the 1800’s, and two small churches.
These buildings provide a charming setting and enclose the courtyard perfectly.
Central to the Begijnhof is a small garden featuring different species of plants and herbs – You cannot find a more picturesque and peaceful place in the whole of Breda.
Located approximately 3km to the south of Breda lies the stunning woodland park of Mastbos.
Stretching for over 1200 acres, this is undoubtedly the cities most visited natural spot and it draws many locals and tourists on a daily basis.
Full of tall and imposing pine trees, the forest is absolutely magnificent and provides some opportunities to explore the many trails that wind through its expanse.
As one of the oldest wooded areas in the country, Mastbos has been well looked after and there are many picnic sites, benches, and adequate parking.
4. Reptile House De Aarde
For a different kind of attraction, the Reptile House is sure to excite and provide an interesting morning or afternoon visit.
With an extremely cheap entrance fee and located on the eastern side of Breda, the Reptile House De Aarde offers the perfect opportunity to escape the city centre.
Inside you will find an intriguing range of reptiles including turtles, alligators, snakes, and geckos.
All of the tanks and displays are extremely well maintained, clean and the inhabitants have a great deal of space.
Children will simply love the reptiles and the owners will make you feel welcomed.
5. Breda Castle
Created in the 12th century as a fortress, a castle has stood in Breda for hundreds of years.
Over the years the castle has been added too, changed and reinforced into its current form that stands in the centre of the old town.
Features of the castle include the Spaniards Hole canal gateway, the brilliant Stadtholder’s gate at the main entrance and the blokhuis guard tower.
Organized tours of the castle are available which include the grounds, gallery (that includes exhibitions about the travels of Count Henry III) and the library.
As one of the main historical monuments in Breda, the castle is a must see attraction.
6. Canal Boat Tour
What better way to see the beautiful town of Breda than an open-top boat tour on its canal network? A boat tour will show you the architecture and sights of Breda from a different angle and allow you to relax from the energy consuming sight-seeing.
The canal system has a ring that circles the town centre and many smaller channels that snake off from this; during the tour you will see water towers, the famous Spaniards hole, and other beautiful landmarks.
Starting from the Haven which is in the Vismarkt area, typical boat tours will last for approximately an hour and most have excellent prices, and in some instances children may be free.
7. Grote Markt
A market square is often the centre point of a city, especially in historic Europe.
Grote Markt square in Breda exemplifies all the qualities that a market place should have – A large church, a host of picturesque architecture, cobbled pavements and plenty of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.
Aside from the fantastic structures of the Grote Kerk and the Church of St.
Anthony, this square also features s large range of restaurants with outdoor seating – perfect to enjoy a quality meal and people watch.
8. Spaniards Hole
Otherwise known as the Spanjaardsgat in Dutch, this is an old fortification that lies at the confluence of the rivers Aa and Mark.
Constructed in the 17th century, the Spaniards Hole was originally used as a fortress gate that would allow supplies to be shipped into Breda via its canal system.
The fortification gets its name as this was supposedly the place where Breda was liberated from Spanish occupation.
It is possible on rare occasions to have a guided tour of the walls and tower, however this attraction is mainly a great photographic opportunity with stunning reflections from the canal it sits on.
9. Castle Bouvigne
While the exact origins of this castle and grounds are unknown, some form of structure at Bouvigne has been present since the 1400’s.
Almost fairy-tale in its design and setting, the castle is just one single building; however it sits perfectly on a man-made lake and its walls sink down into the water creating the impression that it is floating.
Surrounding the castle and lake are a series of gorgeous French gardens that are open to the public.
Included in the gardens are many varieties of Fuchsia, sculptures and also an orchard.
For a pleasant trip from Breda city centre, Castle Bouvigne provides an excellent opportunity to escape and enjoy some culture and nature.
10. Valkenberg Park
Surrounded by Canals and the delightful Begijnhof, Valkeberg Park is in a prime location in the centre of Breda and is a joyous place to take a walk and enjoy the outdoors.
As the main park in Breda, Valkenberg spans a large area and contains main fountains, ponds, varieties of trees and flowers and also defensive towers from the old city wall.
At the main entrance to the park is the Barony Monument, which was built in the memory of the influence that the House of Orange had in this region.
Valkenberg is a great place to take your children to let off a little steam, or to enjoy an invigorating walk in the fresh air.
11. Breda Museum
One of the few museums in Breda, this delightful establishment features a collection of local art from the region.
Located on the outskirts of the old town centre, in the Chassepark, this understated museum has a lovely design and beautiful white washed interior courtyards.
Permanent exhibitions in the museum include “Mirrors of Time”, and “Dust traps” together with a host of interesting and detailed art from the region.
A wonderful collection for art lovers, the Breda Museum is sure to provide an engaging and intriguing experience.
The small suburb of Ginneken is located at the southern end of Breda and its quaint style and weekly market are a must see when in the area.
One of the mains squares in Ginneken (actually a triangle!) is located at the intersections of Duivelsbruglaan and Raadhuisstraat streets – This is a thriving place with several cafes, eateries and outdoor seating.
The locals live this place too and when the market is held, it is a positively wonderful place to mingle with the residence and take in a slice of local life.
13. Sint Antoniuskathedraal
A Roman Catholic church located just off of the Grote Markt square in the centre of Breda old town, the building is also known as the St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral.
Created in 1837 in a fantastic Neoclassical style, the church has a large bell tower that towers over the surrounding buildings in the old town (Except the Grote Kerk!). Inside the church is an ornate wooden organ above the main doors, many white marble columns and various religious iconography.
At the far end is an opulent golden altar and the ceiling features intricate decorations.
As a historic religious building, Sint Antoniuskathedraal is a fantastic place to visit if you are walking through the town centre.
14. Polish War Cemetery
Many Polish soldiers gave their lives during World War II in the Netherlands and there are many tributes, memorials and cemeteries throughout the country.
In the west part of Breda, there is a small but beautiful cemetery honouring the Polish land and air forces that died here.
Immaculately maintained and beautifully presented, this memorial is a quiet place for reflection and is a peaceful place to visit to pay tribute and also to see some WW2 history.
15. Breda Old Town
The old town centre of Bred is extremely picturesque and offers a fantastic place to explore.
Surrounded by the circular canal, the old town centre sits within this boundary and the centre is considered to be the Grote Markt which is a large open square next to the Grote Kerk.
Starting from the square, you can see the fabulous church, check out the market stalls, have a coffee in one of the charming café’s and then explore the surrounding areas.
Admire the historic architecture, and generally enjoy the pleasant and laid back atmosphere of Breda.