The Dutch Design Capital and one of the world’s smartest regions; it makes no difference how new or how familiar you are with Eindhoven, this innovative city will keep you stimulated. If you set out for a couple of days of heritage, you will have an enjoyable introduction to local icons such as Philips and Piet Hein Eek, but just as much to places where even the locals would be surprised, such as Woensel and along the winding River Dommel Path.
In 1891 Gerard Philips started manufacturing light bulbs in Eindhoven; a business that grew from a modest family business to the multinational electronics giant we know today. For decades, Philips successfully shaped the development of Eindhoven from a poor, agricultural region to a prosperous manufacturing town and a cradle of technology and innovation. You can experience this unusual voyage through the past, present and future in the interactive Philips Museum, located in the very place where the very first electric lamp saw the light of day.
You will also get a taste of the trail of industrial heritage that Philips has left behind; a trail that is definitely worth following. Past the Philips ‘Light Tower’, for example, where you can stay overnight in the artistic Inntel Hotels Art Eindhoven.
Industrial heritage is what brings together the most iconic places in Eindhoven. As well as the Philips industrial sites, there are also military barracks and dairies where nowadays anything can happen. The former Philips factory site in Strijp-S has developed into a familiar hotspot in the city, but Strijp-R also has a few surprises in store. Where previously components for radios and TVs came off the production line, you can now get a glimpse into the workshop of one of the most successful designers ever seen in the Netherlands: Piet Hein Eek. Your eyes will deceive you in the shop, you can visit the galleries and round off your visit in the Piet Hein Eek restaurant, with a menu full of local products. Or you can enjoy some fries in the adjoining ‘Friet Piet’ snack bar.
Eindhoven takes design one step further in Kazerne (the Barracks) where you can eat, drink, work and sleep in exhibition rooms. You will experience design in a unique way in the ‘Klein Paradijs’ former military barracks, located on the edge of the city centre. At your table, for example, in the Benz at Kazerne fine dining restaurant where chef Thomas Voets will pamper you, or in the Kazerne bar/restaurant where first-rate Italian dishes are served among top class design. And of course in the boutique hotel where you can sleep among design that is also for sale.
Young talent and established names both get exposure in the exhibition rooms. The founder, Annemoon Geurts, who also graduated at the Design Academy Eindhoven, is responsible with her team for this unusual design experience that originally started as a pop-up concept during Dutch Design Week and which has grown to become the complete experience you can now partake in on the Paradijslaan.
The great thing about industrial heritage is that stories from long ago can still be experienced. You’ll find an example of one of these on the Kanaaldijk. The former Campina dairy products site is being transformed in to a bustling urban quarter filled with creative entrepreneurs. One of these is Mark, who fell in love with the distillation process while on holiday with his wife. They initially opened a distillery next to the City Brewery and are now housed in a listed monument in the former milk delivery building on the Campina site.
Where once milk was delivered by horse and cart, there now stands a shiny copper distillation still where Mark explains the distillation process with passion to visitors. Today they are producing Ginniken Gin which is made from blackberries and pine cones from the area around Breda. On other days you might come across their own Orion gin, Lucky Bastard beer or rum. Be sure to visit the shop before you leave!
There’s plenty to do in Eindhoven in the evening – in fact there’s more to do! You can experience this, of course, during the annual GLOW light festival, but there are also plenty of permanent light artworks to admire in the city. The Loom Light is just a stone’s throw from the Campina site, you can see the Dome of Light in the Heuvel shopping centre, the strikingly illuminated chimneys at Strijp-T are visible from a distance and you can admire the 90 metre long Space by Daan Roosegaarde (also famous for the light-emitting cycle path on the Van Gogh Route) at the Central Station. You will find a complete summary of all the light art objects here.
For an unusual experience of light art you can take the whole family to the Motion Experience in the Piazza shopping centre. You will be totally immersed in a world of light and sound in the various spaces. Grope your way through life-size projections, sit down at a table for a themed light show, or take selfies surrounded by optical illusions.
You can also stay overnight at countless unusual heritage locations in Eindhoven. In addition to Kazerne and the Philips light tower, you can also stay at Domus Dela. This top class location is a hidden gem in a historic complex of the Augustinian Order. You can stay overnight in the modern Boutique Hotel Mariënhage in rooms with names like ‘Heavenly White’ and ‘Modern Monk’. The adjoining Brasserie Rita (named after the patron of hopeless cases and impossible causes) you can enjoy lunch, dinner or a snack in the fitting surroundings of the conservatory or the lovely courtyard garden: classical but with a modern twist. How about carpaccio of Basque beef, veal escalope or pumpkin steak, with beautifully prepared deserts and snack boards.
Did you know that the River Dommel flows right through Eindhoven? This winding brook links Brabant villages and towns along a length of more than 120 kilometres. In Eindhoven it winds through parks, under bridges and past various sights. Highly recommended for spending part of the day! You can walk or cycle beside the Dommel using a route map showing the junctions. If you are staying in Hotel Mariënhage you can pick up the route directly behind the monastery. This will take you past the Van Abbe Museum; impressive even from the outside, but well worth a visit. A bit further on and a stately home by the water will attract your attention. This is Huize de Laak, where Anton Philips once lived.
If you follow the brook, close to the Central Sataion you will find the Silly Walks cycle underpass under the Dommel bridge, in which several ridiculous Monty Python walks are illustrated. Eindhoven is teeming with trendy murals such as this. Tip: follow one of the street art routes in the city to see the most attractive works, while at the same time come across places that you would otherwise miss.
This type of street art can be found not only in the centre but also out in the suburbs of Eindhoven. And that can sometimes lead to surprisingly interesting places. In Woensel, for example, a suburb that really could do with some extra colour and inspiration. This has now been achieved through the Woensel West Side Stores project. Close by in the Edisonstraat there are dozens of small businesses which open their doors to you with much passion and craftsmanship. Shops full of vintage discoveries, tiny exotic restaurants and boutiques with unique merchandise will lead you right through the neighbourhood.
Have a good look around while you are shopping, because this neighbourhood is full of hidden stories. For example, if you walk through the fairy tale gates of Volta Galvani, you’ll step into what must be Eindhoven’s most colourful street. The original occupants could choose the colour of their own house, provided it was different from the neighbours. This is Woensel West Side in a nutshell: revitalised and surprising. And that’s exactly the reason you will keep on coming back, because there is always something new to experience in this city.