Breda is an unexpected delight. Close as it is to the border, it's usually in a festive mood, the numerous terrace cafes and pubs bubbling away. Its historic core, though perhaps not the most beautiful in Holland, has a real pulse and a vibrant cultural life. This is a place where in mid-summer people take to the bucolic Mark river valley to paint landscapes and recite poetry. It also has one of the great parks of Holland, the Valkenburg.
Breda's present peace belies a turbulent past; its strategic proximity to the border meant it was often overrun by invading armies. During the Eighty Years' War it was sacked no less than five times by the Spaniards who saw it as the gateway to the north.