Heading south for spring
2019-04-08 | By Kim Mcclure
If Breda is the city of living well, then spring is the ideal time to embrace this spirit of style. As the weather warms up in April and May, the city comes alive with musical and artistic events.
Why Breda should be your pre-summer sojourn
Arts and culture are just some of the many attractive traits for which Breda is known. It’s earned a reputation as one of the Netherlands more vibrant and romantic cities, with an exciting urban nightlife–largely due to the vast student population and impressive shopping opportunities. Add to this the city’s fortification and two major rivers running through its heart, and it’s easy to see why visitors are charmed by Breda. During the spring and heading into the summer, Breda is a great destination for a day or longer.
Luxury in the low country
Breda sits in the province of North Brabant in the southern part of the Netherlands. It’s long been a haven for wealthy families and royalty to build homes, and this is reflected in the sense of style in the city. High-end restaurants and boutiques are not in short supply.
Its gastronomic roots hark back to the establishment of many key food and drink industries here–sugar, liquorice and chocolate specifically. It was also home to the largest brewery in the Netherlands, but industry is now largely logistics and trade.
Little but large
Even though Breda has a relatively small population, its residents and visitors are keen-spirited, which is why it has a lively nightlife nonetheless. This air of festivity intensifies during spring and into summer, with a range of interesting cultural activities for visitors (and locals).
Jazz in the south
Although jazz in its purest form may be an acquired musical taste, there’s no doubt that where there’s jazz, a festive time will follow. The Breda Jazz Festival is no exception. An upbeat and diverse jazz line-up makes this one of the key events in Breda’s cultural calendar. In fact, the Breda Jazz Festival is the oldest and biggest jazz festival in The Netherlands. Considering the number and vastness of Dutch music festivals, this is a feat in itself. Held for the first time in 1971, the festival attracts around 250,000 jazz lovers for four days, kicking off on Ascension Day (30 May) at midday. The 17 playgrounds and stages around the city attract crowds not only from within the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany–but from across Europe. International performers visit from the USA, France, UK, Japan and Australia and are joined by the finest local Dutch musicians. What’s truly unique about the Breda Jazz Festival is that all outdoor concerts are free, with a select few paid indoor concerts. It is a truly democratised music festival, catering to all age groups and tastes. It’s the perfect way to soak up the new spring sunshine with the best possible soundtrack–it’s Breda festivity at its finest.
Design on show
Breda keeps its standards of style and culture high for its biggest annual art fair, Art Breda, in May. The fair has brought together some of the finest antiques, art and design work in the Netherlands and Belgium since it was started in 2010 (although at that time it was held in Utrecht, before later moving to the charming southern city).
The fair has grown in popularity and notoriety and now attracts art enthusiasts from across Europe, perhaps due to the fact that the collective works span so many periods and styles. Around 80 galleries, salons, antique dealers, jewellers, photographers and studios showcase the best in Dutch and Belgian art and design–from eclectic to Golden Age.
You can be assured of the quality of the exhibited work too, as every piece is voted on and vetted by the organising committee. The fair will enrich and educate, whether you’re an art newbie or enthusiast. And if you’re unsure where or how to navigate the impressive event, two free guided tours are given daily, in the morning and the afternoon. If you’d like to turn your fair visit into a southern sojourn, the festival also offers package discounts with local hotels.
Breda on a plate
In keeping with stylish Breda living, it would only be fitting to punctuate your jazz or art appreciation with fine (but relaxed) dining. Some local cafes loved by locals and tourists provide the perfect backdrop to soak up the vibe of the city.
PuiCk is conveniently located in the centre and serves feel-good healthy foods – with a side of artistic decor to browse as you wait. Expect fresh salad bowls, Middle Eastern bites and more.
Brasserie Bardot (and it’s little sister Petit Bardot) offers a bite of sophisticated European dining in a relaxed atmosphere, with seasonal eats. Perfect fuel for long days of cultural touring.
Head south before summer
Although the major cities in the Netherlands offer so many experiences, venture beyond these and your home town to explore what the rest of the country has to offer.
Cities like Breda are gold – alive with the Dutch spirit of gezelligheid but with the distinctive character and personality of the south. Whether by train or car, it’s a unique and romantic spring weekend getaway. And who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new-found love for jazz and antiques?
About the author
Kim McClure is a South African copywriter living in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her favourite Dutch artists are Marlene Dumas (like Kim, born in South Africa) and Vermeer.