Delfshaven District Walking Tour, Rotterdam

Delfshaven District Walking Tour (Self Guided), Rotterdam

Part of the old city of Rotterdam, the borough of Delfshaven – situated on the right bank of the river Nieuwe Maas, is rich in history. Prior to 1886 it had been a separate municipality which grew around the port of the city of Delft.

Delft itself was not located on a major river, so in 1389 a Voorhaven (outer harbor) to the south, along with the Aelbrechtskolk waterpass, had to be created to enable seafaring vessels to dock in and avoid heavy tolls levied by the neighboring and competing port of Rotterdam. The settlement was thence known as Delfshaven ("Port of Delft").

Over the centuries the maritime theme has brought about a number of historical associations for Delfshaven, one of which is its being the birthplace of the illustrious admiral Piet Pieterszoon Hein (Pietersen Heyn). One of the Dutch West India Company's most famous commanders, Piet Hein was born here in 1577 on the street that now bears his name – Piet Heynstraat. A Piet Heyn Monument is also found nearby, in Piet Heynsplein square.

Another historic location associated with the sea is the Oude Kerk or Pelgrimskerk (“Pilgrim Fathers' Church”), a place from where on 1 August, 1620, after a night of prayer, a group of English Puritans famously set sail for what has later become the United States of America. Not far from the Church sits De Pelgrim (“The Pilgrim”) Brewery, the very first beer-making enterprise in Rotterdam, renowned for its signature brews.

Delfshaven miraculously escaped the Luftwaffe bombing of Rotterdam in 1940; hence the number of well-preserved Medieval buildings still in place, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience the “breath of centuries” firsthand.

For a more detailed acquaintance with the historic Delfshaven, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Delfshaven District Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Delfshaven District Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Rotterdam (See other walking tours in Rotterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Author: valery
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Schiedamseweg Shopping Street
  • Aelbrechtskolk (Aelbrecht Waterway)
  • Voorhaven (Outer Harbor)
  • Molen de Distilleerketel (Distilling Kettle Mill)
  • Dutch Pinball Museum
  • Pilgrim Fathers Church
  • De Pelgrim Brewery
  • Piet Heynstraat (Piet Heyn Street)
  • Piet Heyn Monument
Schiedamseweg Shopping Street

1) Schiedamseweg Shopping Street

The Schiedamseweg stands as a renowned shopping boulevard located within the Delfshaven district of Rotterdam. Stretching from the historic Aelbrechtskolk in Delfshaven to the bustling Marconiplein, the Schiedamseweg is a significant part of the Schielands Hoge Zeedijk, encompassing its course from Marconiplein up to the municipal border of Schiedam, affectionately referred to as Rotterdamsedijk.

Built in 1910, the Schiedamseweg connected Delfshaven and Schiedam, replacing the narrow Mathenesserdijk route. This broad boulevard was carefully planned as the main axis in the Bospolder/Tussendijken area. Structures on the east side feature Neo-Renaissance style, while those past Spanjaardstraat on the west have a simpler design. The Schiedamseweg's development was completed by the late 1920s.

Tragedy struck Rotterdam-West on March 31, 1943, when the area fell victim to the Rotterdam-West bombing. This catastrophic event led to the devastation of the western portion of the Schiedamseweg. The aftermath of the bombing resulted in a staggering loss of approximately 400 lives and rendered 16,000 individuals homeless. However, the neighborhood experienced a rebirth during the 1950s, with reconstruction efforts taking place. Even in 2007, the remnants of the fire boundary at Wattierstraat remained distinctly visible.

In the 1980s, a significant development unfolded beneath the Schiedamseweg: the construction of the Calandlijn tunnel, connecting Coolhaven and Marconiplein. This endeavor led to the closure of the Schiedamseweg for an extended period due to the tunnel's construction. The method employed for this project involved a shell tunnel design, with the tunnel floor being assembled on-site while tunnel roof segments were prefabricated and transported from elsewhere.
Aelbrechtskolk (Aelbrecht Waterway)

2) Aelbrechtskolk (Aelbrecht Waterway)

The now picturesque part of Rotterdam, popular for its delightful residential and commercial properties, the Aelbrechtskolk area in the historic Delfshaven district is a former canal-lock. It was built in the early 15th century after Aelbrecht van Beieren, Count of Holland and Zeeland, had granted Delft the right to dig its own schie (waterway) to the Maas river in 1389.

The result was that the Delfshavense Schie, discharged into the river between the ports of Schiedam and Rotterdam, allowed Delft to benefit solely from the hefty port dues. The canal opening in the dyke, which could be closed at high water by a sturdy lock, was made around 1400.

The original sluis (lock ) in Aelbrechtskolk was located where today's Café De Oude Sluis is. In 1594 it was replaced and moved. Many other local buildings also had to go eventually, to make way for the new Schiedamseweg, which was extended to the Binnenweg around 1910 to create a direct link between Schiedam and Rotterdam.

Most of the buildings around the Aelbrechtskolk are historically important and listed as the National Heritage. Among them is the Oude- or Pelgrimvaderskerk, the old church where the Pilgrim Fathers (a group of English Puritans) had spent a night praying before embarking on their perilous journey across the Atlantic to America in 1620.
Voorhaven (Outer Harbor)

3) Voorhaven (Outer Harbor)

The Voorhaven (“outer harbor”) in Delfshaven, Rotterdam is exactly what its name suggests. This harbor was dug in 1389 as part of the construction of the Delfshavense Schie (waterway) between Overschie and the Nieuwe Maas, and functioned as an outer harbor for the then inland city of Delft (separate from Rotterdam).

The very term “outer harbor” means that it lies in front of the actual harbor or canal/lock, and the Voorhaven of Rotterdam-Delfshaven is one of the earliest and perfect examples of such in the Netherlands.

Originally, the Voorhaven was situated outside the dykes (i.e. between Schielands Hoge Zeedijk and the Nieuwe Maas) and the Aelbrechtskolk was the lock. After the opening of the Ruigeplaatsluis in 1875, the Voorhaven was free of tides.

The direct connection between the Voorhaven and the Nieuwe Maas was closed in 1968 by the Westzeedijk. Since then, the connection to the Nieuwe Maas has been via the Achterhaven, the Coolhaven and the Parksluizen.
Molen de Distilleerketel (Distilling Kettle Mill)

4) Molen de Distilleerketel (Distilling Kettle Mill)

Delfshaven's historical panorama remains incomplete without the presence of a windmill, an integral element. Fortunately, this locality proudly preserves its very own windmill, the sole survivor within the heart of Rotterdam, accompanied by other edifices from before the war.

Referred to as the "Distilleerketel" or Distilling Kettle, this windmill was originally constructed in 1727 to grind malt for distilleries. This function possibly gave rise to its name. Alternatively, the nomenclature might have arisen from its visual resemblance to a kettle – an upright cylindrical tower measuring 10 meters, constructed from stone and crowned with a cap.

The mill suffered destruction by fire in 1899, yet it was meticulously reconstructed at a new location, some eleven meters distant from its original placement. During this reconstruction, the hull was raised by a meter, resulting in a slightly more slender profile compared to its predecessor. The mill also endured partial devastation due to bombing in 1940 during World War II. Nevertheless, the Distilleerketel underwent a complete restoration in 1986, a fact commemorated by the Latin inscription on the ornate green-and-white panel: "1727-1940 RESTORED THROUGH THE DILIGENT EFFORTS OF MANY CITIZENS IN 1986".

A shop named the "Molenwinkel van Delfshaven" was inaugurated in September 2018. This establishment offers a variety of flour-based products produced by the mill. Additionally, it features an assortment of items for sale, including coffee, tea, and delicacies from Virginia's Kitchen, as well as mementos representing diverse regions of the Netherlands.

To learn more about this windmill and the Dutch windmill culture, plus to enjoy a great view of historic Delfshaven and downtown Rotterdam from the upper deck, take a 15-minute tour for a small fee.
Dutch Pinball Museum

5) Dutch Pinball Museum

Situated within the historic Delfshaven, another prominent marvel is the Dutch Pinball Museum (Nederlands Flipperkastmuseum). As its name implies, this museum is entirely devoted to chronicling the evolution of pinball machines. Its inauguration took place in August 2015, within a former warehouse located on the Rijnhaven, where remnants of the Port Railway still grace the entrance vicinity.

Within the museum's confines, a collection of around 120 pinball machines is presented, spanning two floors. The majority of these machines are fully operational and open for play. The lower level hosts vintage displays, including the inaugural pinball machine with flippers dating back to 1947, famously known as the Humpty Dumpty.

Ascending to the upper floor unveils more contemporary exhibits from the 1960s onward, encompassing present-day installations extending into the 21st century. Notable among these are the Addams Family, Doctor Who, Revenge from Mars, and Indiana Jones pinball machines, among several others.
Pilgrim Fathers Church

6) Pilgrim Fathers Church

The origins of the Old or Pilgrim Fathers' Church can be traced back to 1417 when the site witnessed the consecration of the Roman Catholic Saint Anthony church. The first visual representation of the church dates back to 1512. In 1574, during the Reformation, the church underwent changes in alignment with its new Protestant identity.

In 1608, English Dissenters found refuge in the Netherlands. After leaving the Church of England, they formed their own religious group. After living in Leiden for eleven years, they became known as Pilgrims and set off for America in 1620 from Delfshaven on the ship Speedwell. Their aim was to worship freely and preserve their English identity.

Historical records indicate that the Pilgrim Fathers gathered in prayer on the dock adjacent to the church. It was much later that the church came to be known as Pilgrim Fathers' Church, a name bestowed by American visitors.

The Old or Pilgrim Fathers' Church boasts an airy and expansive interior. White plastered arches delineate the nave from the aisles. The unadorned walls are adorned with commemorative panels listing the names of the vicars who tended to the congregation from 1574. The intricately carved pulpit originates from the 18th century.

Typical of Dutch Protestant churches, the pulpit is situated within a rectangular enclosure. This space also accommodated the church council during services and served as the site for baptisms. The choir area features stained-glass windows illustrating the six days of Creation. The church is home to a 44-bell carillon, although the oldest bell cast in 1464 is now on exhibit due to its cracked condition.
De Pelgrim Brewery

7) De Pelgrim Brewery

In a beer-loving country like The Netherlands it's no wonder to find a plethora of regional and even seasonal brews. Quite naturally, the city of Rotterdam is no exception in this respect and has its own landmark brewery, called De Pelgrim (“The Pilgrim”), where award-wining beers are brewed using local water and the best-sourced ingredients including aromatic hops and pure yeast.

The brewery is sitting next to the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church, hence the name, and as such is a distinctive local attraction. Operational since May 9, 1996, this is the first ever brewery in Rotterdam – a city where, prior to that, no other beer-making facility had been present.

De Pelgrim's building, dating from 1580, was initially designed to accommodate the Town Hall of Delfshaven (then a separate municipality from Rotterdam). Centuries later, Harry van de Wiel, a beer lover and entrepreneur, saw it as a perfect location for his long-coveted brewing business.

The result has been a beautiful, traditional brewing installation whose signature robust, artisanal beers now can be enjoyed, both draught and bottled (0.75 liter and 3 liters units), in De Pelgrim’s own Tasting Room as well as other establishments throughout the city.

Two varieties are brewed here permanently: Pelgrim 1580 and Mayflower Tripel, where the former is a fresh bitter based on the Altbier from Düsseldorf, Germany; and the latter has a full spicy flavor thanks to the special hops added. It is also possible to request your own brew, subject to available options. Just make sure to get your precious purchase properly packaged afterwards for a long trip back home.
Piet Heynstraat (Piet Heyn Street)

8) Piet Heynstraat (Piet Heyn Street)

The street known as Piet Heynstraat can be found within the Delfshaven district of Rotterdam. It is named after Piet Heyn, a notable 17th-century explorer who hailed from this very street.

Piet Heyn Street is situated in the area recognized as Old Delfshaven. Commencing at Voorhaven, the street spans approximately 50 meters before culminating at Piet Heynplein. At this square stands a statue honoring Piet Hein.

On November 25, 1577, the renowned Dutch navigator Piet Heyn came into the world in Delfshaven. Originally labeled as Kerkstraat due to its proximity to the neighboring Oude Kerk, the street underwent a transformation. Piet Heyn achieved naval glory through his triumph over a Spanish silver fleet in 1628. The house of Piet Heyn's birth was eventually razed during the 19th century. In its place arose a new edifice, crafted in the traditional Dutch style, now known as Piet-Heynshuis. This establishment can be located at Piet Heynstraat, number 6.

The designation Piet Heynstraat has persisted since the year 1870.
Piet Heyn Monument

9) Piet Heyn Monument

The Piet Heyn Monument, erected in 1870, stands as a tribute to the navigator Piet Hein within the Delfshaven district.

Born in 1577 in Delfshaven, Piet Heyn rose to prominence, leading the West India Company and becoming a lieutenant admiral for Holland and West Friesland. In 1867, stonemason Hoogh's group crafted a winter snow statue of Heyn, based on a drawing by Arnold Houbraken. In January 1868, an impressive snow sculpture amazed locals. Mayor Rösener Manz led efforts for an official statue. With Prince Hendrik as honorary president, funds were raised by his committee. In 1869, sculptor Joseph Graven from 's-Hertogenbosch was chosen to create the statue, using Udelfangen sandstone due to budget limits.

The statue, standing three meters tall, portrays Piet Hein in full-length attire, donning a surcoat and boots. The sculpture captures the moment when he issues the command to engage the Dunkirk hijackers. In his right hand, Hein holds the commander's staff, while his left-hand rests on the sword's hilt. Adjacent to him lie a cannon and anchor at his feet, all set against the backdrop of his face based on Houbraken's portrait.

Master stonemason Hoogte undertook the construction of the pedestal. Carved from Escauzijn stone, a natural material sourced from the Écaussinnes quarry, the nearly three-meter-high pedestal provides a solid foundation.

On October 17, 1870, the monument was unveiled in the presence of notable dignitaries, including King William III, Prince Henry, King Loudon's Commissioner, and Ministers Fock and Brocx. By 19th-century customs, an iron fence of human height initially surrounded the statue. The monument gained recognition as a national treasure when it was added to the Monuments Register in 1973.

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