Rotterdam’s old town: Delfshaven

Windmill De Destilleerketel (Credit: By Michielverbeek, Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike most of Rotterdam, the borough of Delfshaven survived the Rotterdam Blitz in 1940, leaving its centuries-old buildings intact.

This charming neighborhood was once an independent town before being annexed by Rotterdam in the 19th century.  Historically, it was a busy port (Delfshaven means “Port of Delf”). Its main industries were herring fishing, shipbuilding, and the distilling of gin, and it was also an important location for the East India Company, both as a port and for warehousing goods.

Old world charm

These days, Delfshaven is a quiet area within the very busy city of Rotterdam.  You probably shouldn’t plan to spend an entire day here as there aren’t a whole lot of attractions, but the neighborhood is laced with canals, and its narrow streets are wonderful for exploring.  Consider combining a stroll through Delfshaven with a trip through Museumpark, and follow that up with a sit down at one of Delfshaven’s canal-front cafes for a delightful break from modern Rotterdam.

Historical Landmarks

There are two landmarks of interest in Delfshaven.  The first is De Destilleerketel (pictured at the beginning of this post), which is an historic cornmill that is open to the public for tours.

The second is the Oude Kerk (“old church”), also known as the Pilgrim Fathers’ Church, so named because the Puritans had their last service here before sailing for America in 1620.

Oude Kerk
The Puritans left England in 1607 to avoid religious persecution, and for several years the congregation found a home in the Netherlands.  Over time, concerns about fitting in with the Dutch culture and the perceived liberal morals of the Dutch people motivated the Pilgrims to seek out a New World.  The Pilgrims left Delfshaven on the Speedwell, which they later found to be unseaworthy.  They transferred to the Mayflower in Plymouth, England, which of course was the ship that took them across the Atlantic.
The church is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays and holds services on Sundays.