Inspired by the settings of the beautiful art film Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), I recently visited the picturesque town of Delft in the South of the Netherlands. In this post, I will tell provide seven tried-and-tested tips to trace the settings of this fabulous period film…
About the film:
Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the fictional story of a 17-year-old maidservant called Griet (Scarlett Johansson), who starts to work in the household of Delft-based artist Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) in 1665.
Much to the detest of his jealous wife, Vermeer then chooses Griet to be the model for one of his most famous paintings: The portrait that has become known by the name "Girl with a Pearl Earring".
Read more about the film in my film review post All About Art – 4 Picture Perfect Films
Delft's historic city centre is small and compact and can thus be easily explored by foot.
And thanks to the fact that Delft still boosts so many historical buildings (including some from Johannes Vermeer's times), you really feel as if you've stepped back in time here…
Read more about visiting Delft in my travel post A quick guide to Delft.
My Top 7 Tips:
1. Check out the Market Square and the Town Hall
In the back of this scene, you can see the medieval Town Hall, which still looks exactly the same today as it did in Johannes Vermeer's times.
And just as in former times and in the film, the square in front of the Town Hall still hosts a market several times a week.
A few steps from here, next to the Vermeer Centrum museum in the Voldesgracht street, you will find the old Meat Hall, where Griet goes shopping for meat and meets her "match" Pieter (no pun intended). 🙂
Furthermore, you can spot the steps of the stone bridge that Griet walks across in the film (if you stand in front of the Vermeer Centrum, turn right and walk along the Voldesgracht until you reach the back of the New Church).
2. Get yourself a Vermeer Combiticket
The Vermeer Combiticket covers all of Delft's main sightseeing attractions and of course all sights related to Johannes Vermeer at a fraction of the cost you would pay for each ticket separately. It includes entry to:
- the Vermeer Centrum Delft, which exhibits copies of all of Vermeer's known paintings in chronological order and provides lots of information about his life, the times he lived in and the city of Delft! (an audio guide is included,too)
- the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), where Johannes Vermeer was baptised
- the Oude Kerk (Old Church), where Johannes Vermeer was buried
- the Museum Prinsenhof Delft, which exhibits paintings of Vemeer's contemporaries and pieces of Delft's famous blue pottery, called "Delftware". The museum also tells the story of William of Orange, the "founding father of the Netherlands", who was murdered on the stairs of this very building in 1584 (you can still see the bullet holes in the wall)
With the Combiticket, you will also get a leaflet for the self-guided Vermeer cube walk (which normally costs 2.50 €) as well as a coffee or tea with a Dutch syrup waffle in the Café Mechelen inside the Vermeer Centrum.
3. Go on a self-guided Vermeer walk around town
It's up to you, which of your Vermeer Combiticket attractions you check out first. You don't have to do them all in one day as the ticket is usually valid until the end of the year.
But for a good first overview of the city, I recommend to start with the "Vermeer cube walk". It's called "cube walk" because you will see various "cubes" with information about Vermeer's work and life, spread all over town.
On the walk, you will pass by the streets where Johannes Vermeer was born, where he grew up and where he lived with his wife Catharina at the time in which the film Girl with a Pearl Earring is set.
You can also trace the locations of Vermeer's famous Delft paintings "The Little Street" (now exhibited in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum) and the "View of Delft" (now in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, see no. 6 in this post).
4. Go on a Canal Boat Tour
Read more in my post Discover Delft by boat: My Review of the most Dutch Tour to take in Delft.
5. Check out a historical canal house from the inside
If you want to know how those typical Delft canal houses look like from the inside, I recommend a visit to the Museum Paul Tetar van Elven on Koornmarkt 67.
Once owned by the Delft painter, copyist and collector Paul Tetar van Elven (1823–1896), this house has been lovingly restored as to how it would have looked like in the 19th century.
Originally though, the house is much older as it was built shortly after the big town fire in 1536.
In former times, the top floor (the attic) was almost certainly reserved for the servants. Going up here gives you a little bit of an impression of Griet's servant life in the film.
After she starts mixing colours for Vermeer before and after her shifts as a housemaid, Griet (Scarlett Johansson) sleeps on the floor of the attic because this is the location of Master Vermeer's art studio.
Entry is 5 € for adults and there are usually volunteers who are happy to tell you about the intriguing history of the house. For more info, check out their website.
6. See the real "Girl with a Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshuis Museum in nearby The Hague
Now it's time to see the lady herself! The original Vermeer painting of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is located inside the Mauritshuis Museum in nearby The Hague.
Just hop on the tram and you will be in The Hague in about 30 minutes. For 6.50 €, you can get a day ticket for unlimited travel on all trams and busses in Delft and The Hague from Delft's tourism information point VVV Delft (Kerkstraat 3).
Aside from Vermeer's two masterpieces "The Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "The View of Delft", the Mauritshuis features many other renowned art works – including several famous paintings from the so-called "Dutch Golden Age".
For your tour through the museum, I would recommend getting an audio guide for an additional 3.50 € or downloading the (free!) smartphone app as the written information on the walls is very sparse. It basically just states the painter and the year.
There is lots to see in the Netherland's third largest city. Thus, I would recommend to combine your day trip to The Hague with a guided tour by Elswhere Tours and you can be sure to tick off all the highlights of the city in one day. Freelance guide Els offers both a free (tip-based) walking tour as well as differently themed paid tours, such as the Historical Gossip Tour on Sundays.
Check out Elswhere Tours for more info!
The Mauritshuis Museum is open Tuesdays-Sundays from 10 am to 6 pm and Mondays from 1 to 6 pm. Tickets are 14 € for adults and can be bought online or in person at the main ticket office in the reception hall.
7. Get the best Delft souvenir photo ever!
If you're a girl, you're in luck because with just a few props, local artist Barbara van Gelder will turn you into the Girl with a Pearl Earring yourself!
The photo costs 10 € and already includes one print. A "golden" frame is an additional 5 € and if you want an assistant to take some photos with your own camera, it's 2.50 € more. I did all of that and paid 17.50 € in total.
I didn't quite get the exact pose of the "Girl with A Pearl Earring", but it was nevertheless a fun transformation…
For a historical photo shoot at "Something Extra", drop by the studio on Oude Langendijk 36. The studio is not always open, so if you only have limited time in Delft, you can make a reservation via the artist's website.
I hope you find my 7 tips to trace the Girl with a Pearl Earring in Delft useful. If so, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about your travel experiences!
For more information about visiting Delft on a film-inspired trip, check out my post A quick guide to Delft.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclosure: In order to write my review, I received a complimentary Vermeer Combiticket by VVV Delft, complimentary museum entry by the Mauritshuis Museum as well as a complimentary ticket for the Delft City Tour by Happy Days Tours Delft. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and thus reflect my personal, unbiased experience.