Europe

Breda: A Charming & Buzzing City in the Netherlands

introduction

While visiting the Netherlands, Breda is a beautiful city to explore and relax after Amsterdam or Rotterdam’s hustle and bustle. A smaller city, comparatively, yet a cozy and dynamic feeling. There is an entrepreneurial buzz in the town that draws you in with all the start-ups, pop-ups, and small bricks and mortars dispersed throughout the city. Even more impressive is the ingenuity of small businesses during this challenging time, such as cocktail delivery to your door (socially distant and safe, of course).

There is a great selection of restaurants, bars, cafes you can order take-out or delivery from. A coffee and a stroll is still a great way to get some exercise and see the city. A large park near the train station is a lovely spot for a picnic or a chat (weather permitting). Fun fact: chickens live in the park! Repurposed industerial areas add to this historic city’s charm. Breda is a very walkable city, but also lovely to explore by bike. It has even voted for the best city centre in the Netherlands!

Chickens in the park.
Video Credit: Sidestreet Travel

I should note that most of these photos and experiences were in January of this year pre-COVID.

short history

Breda is a smaller town in the south of Holland in the province of North Brabant. The city is quaint but packs in beautiful side streets that spiral out from the city centre. The church known as Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady) sits in the center of the town as a beacon, wonderfully aged and visible from most parts of the city. Historically, the city is known for having a strategic military position and is still an important place for military training. 

Relics of the military armaments.
Photo Credit: Sidestreet Travel
The criss-cross of sidestreets.
Photo Credit: Sidestreet Travel

cultural sidebar – sinterklaas

In the Netherlands, they celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th by leaving carrots in the children’s shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse and in exchange, the children are left presents. The family writes poems for one other and reads them aloud the next morning. I was lucky enough to experience this while on exchange as a student in Utrecht, and it is quickly approaching!

PRACTICAL MATTERS
  • Transportation: Bike, Walk, Trains, Bus, and Car
  • Currency: Euro
  • Languages: Dutch and English
  • Accommodation: Air Bnb, and Hotels. I was fortunate enough to have a place to stay right in the city centre, but there is a fair amount of Air Bnb’s available for rent.
If you’re lucky, you can catch a ride on the back of the bike! Video Credit: Sidestreet Travel

things to Do:

Warning – I have a bias for going to the cinema while travelling.

Cinema Chasse: This is a lovely independent cinema, offering a range of films. The cinema is modern and new, with big comfy seats, a well-stocked concession and adult beverages, should you feel inclined. I was dying to see Parasite and found a screening while I was in Breda, so of course, I booked tickets. When we watched, I forgot about the subtitles. They were in Dutch while the spoken language was Korean. Luckily, I had a handle on the film and an interpreter filling me in on the key points. In other instances, there would have been English subtitles, so just consider this if you go to a film here. 

Pathé Theatre: This theatre is focused on more commercial films. But it is an excellent option if you want to watch a blockbuster hit

Stedeliijk Museum Breda: The Stedelijk Museum is located just outside the city centre. It has a beautiful collection of older Dutch paintings, providing historical context to Breda’s past and its critical role in Dutch history. There are also contemporary exhibits on rotation. The museum is smaller, so it is feasible to do it all in one go and then take a break and have a coffee or lunch near the canal, at the Botanist or Dok19.

STreet art

There street art is Breda is beautiful! You can take a self-guided tour created by Blind Walls Gallery and see the city from a different persepective.

So You want to go Shopping?

What struck me is how connected the business community is in Breda. Businesses of all stripes support each other directly or indirectly, whether it is purchasing provisions from one company to use directly in another or choosing local brands and businesses over chains. Everybody also knows everybody. There is a tight-knit feeling in the city.

Algorithmic PerfumeryThis is truly a novel concept shop. This is a perfume shop, but with a twist. The process is experiential. First, you take a survey to understand your smell preferences and then go into the shop to do the second part, smelling different scents to hone in on our likes. After that, their AI produces three scents (if you buy the sample pack), which you are then able to tweak at the scent desk. I loved developing my own scent by tweaking something designed for me and trying something slightly different from what I wouldn’t usually have gone for. If you’re in Breda, you must go here!

HutspotIs a beautifully curated shop featuring women’s and men’s clothing, jewellery, homeware, books, and gifts. With a clean, modern aesthetic, they carry homegrown Dutch brands and international brands—a great spot to pick up a gift or something nice for yourself. 

De Pinderkaaswinkle: I love peanut butter, and when I stumbled on this peanut putter pop-up shop, I fell in love! They offer a unique selection of natural peanut butter with different flavours. You can do a taster of little ones to see which ones you like best or jump right in for a full-size jar. They also offer cool merchandise and a recipe book! Great for presents or a cool souvenir. 

Kamille & Demille: An iconic home goods store, beautifully stocked with an excellent selection of kitchen treats and accessories. You will find pretty much anything you need for your home and more. I picked up some lovely postcards for friends, but that was me restraining myself. You will see locals with the iconic tote bag in most cities. 

Bunker TattooIs a famous studio with locals. They have an excellent selection of artistic styles available here. It is wise to book in advance. This place is hard to get a spot. 

Albert Heijn: This is a national grocery chain. They have stand-alone shops and convenient to-go shops at the train stations and the airport. They have pretty much everything you need on the fly.

HEMA: Is another national chain. It is a department store that specializes in most aspects of home life, beauty, and clothing. I usually go for homeware, some beauty products, and bike essentials. It’s also a great spot to get Dutch specific items like candies and special occasion items (such as Sinterklaas). 

Weekly Markets: Grote Food Market & Flea Market

Where to satiate your hunger

It should be noted that although this section is relatively small, there are lots of tasty places to eat in Breda. And, it is also possible to eat or lightly snack at many of the bars listed below. I will highlight Dok19 for light snacks and dinner and the Botanist for brunch!

Tiger Club Asian fusion, a restaurant that highlights the popular dishes in Korean, Chinese, Thai, and Japanese cuisine. All the delicious things you may seek out in an individual restaurant live harmoniously here. I tried the dim sum, gyoza, dumplings (pictured), bao, pad thai, and fried rice. My favourite was the baos, so soft and a fun twist on a traditional dish. The dumpling platter is a great dish to share and make sure to try the unique Japanese beer offerings. 

In Kannen/Kruiken: – A cute cafe and breakfast spot, it’s a long narrowish space that’s cozy and homely. Couches and lounge chairs are interspersed through the dining tables. A long communal table at the back is bright and airy from the natural light cascading down from the sunlight. It’s a perfect spot for kids, and you can make takeaway coffee. 

Fancy an Adult Beverage?

Dok19: A famous watering hole for locals has two floors and an expansive terrace by the water. The most popular spots are in front of the bar. Here you can see how small the city really is as locals bump into each other continuously. The upstairs is a cozy area to share beers with friends or have an intimate conversation while people watching from the balcony. Sit outside if you want a more lively atmosphere. It’s packed even in the cold. Dok19 is well-known for its old school hip-hop vibes, with a famed circuit of DJs regularly in residence.   

Dok 19 hip-hop set.
Photo Credit: Sidestreet Travel

De Botanist: Vibrant and verdant, this is a cocktail bar with a modern tropical vibe. The bar is a great place to sit and meet people or chat with the bartender about making you a refreshing concoction. They offer cocktails of the day, so be adventurous and try one of their creative cocktails. Good solo, for two, or a large group. They also offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Cafe LievenseThis is a large bar with a stunning courtyard when the weather permits. The space is suitable for groups and serves light snacks, beer, and wine. It’s a cozy bar with a relaxed vibe, popular with locals and a little more tucked away than some of the other more central bars. 

Cafe De Bruine Pij: Cozy and full of character, this is a bar with an extensive collection of collateral crammed onto its walls and peanut shells littering the floor. If you love beer, it’s an excellent spot. They have a good selection of local offerings or something different. The patio is substantial and ideal for groups or solo and people watching. 

A great beer selection at Cafe de Bruine Pij.
Photo Credit: Sidestreet Travel

1535 Wijnhuys: Is a wine bar with an excellent selection of hand-picked wines from around the world. The server’s knowledge of wines is vast, and it was great to discuss their collection and try their recommendations. It’s an intimate spot with a casual vibe, great for a few glasses of wine before or after dinner. 

A delicious selection of world wines at 1535 Wijnhuys.
Photo Credit: Sidestreet Travel

Caffeine addict?

Yirga: Is one of my favourite cafes. It’s modern yet relaxing with an excellent menu for breakfast, lunch, or snacks. Many of the ingredients in the dishes are locally grown by the team at Yirga. They have a beautiful terrace outside, so when the weather is warm and sunny, it’s the perfect place for a coffee or a glass of wine. They also have a beautiful selection of handmade ceramics from a local ceramist, an excellent selection of independent zines, wine, and whole coffee beans to-go. It’s also on a charming side street, making them feel more hidden and off the beaten path.

Sowieso KoffieBarA cozy cafe to read a book, the newspaper, catch up with friends or do a little work. It has a welcoming vibe that feels like you’re visiting a friend. There is also a cute small courtyard for sunny days: great coffee, snacks, and sandwiches. 

Barista CafeThis cafe has the best carrot cake I’ve ever tried. I was very impressed with the modern take on a classic cake. The flat whites are also delicious. If you need something more substantial, they have a tasty sandwich selection. I also later found out they make homemade pumpkin pies for Canadian Thanksgiving! 

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