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With a population of over 213,000 people, Eindhoven is a major city in the province of North Brabant and it's the fifth largest city in the Netherlands.
Right until the beginning of the 20th century, Eindhoven was no more than a village. Less than a century later its number of inhabitants had boomed to over 200,000. The main reason for this tremendous increase in size was the the establishment of electronics multinational Philips, which was founded as a light bulb manufacturing company in 1891 and was headquartered in Eindhoven until 1997. As Philips grew, the city of Eindhoven grew with it to feed the company's constantly growing need for workers. Philips' strong presence in the city gained it the title of "Lichtstad" (City of Light) and is still prominent today, as many of its former buildings are considered valuable industrial heritage and have been renovated. Frits Philips (1905-2005), who lead the company for decades, was the city's main beneficiary and was extremely popular among the people of Eindhoven. When walking the streets of Eindhoven today, you'll find his and other names associated with Philips everywhere. Parks, theaters, sports facilities and many streets are named in their honor.
Although Eindhoven is an old city, with town and market rights already awarded in 1232, little of this long history is visible when exploring its center today. Large parts of the city were destroyed during air raids in World War II and post-war reconstruction was focused on ambitious, modernist plans with little respect for the historic heritage that was left. Nevertheless, there are 140 national heritage sites (Rijksmonumenten) in and directly around the city, including many 19th and early 20th century buildings and a handful of older ones.
In order to claim you have seen Eindhoven, at least a glance at its Philips-related history is a must. Fortunately, this is hardly a challenge as many of the Philips sights are right in the heart of the city. The Van Abbe museum is the main attraction listed by travel guides and is an excellent pick if you're into modern art.
Van Abbemuseum, Bilderdijklaan 10. Tue-Sun 11AM-5PM. The Van Abbemuseum is one of the leading museums for modern and contemporary art. The impressive collection includes works of Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, El Lissitzky, Theo van Doesburg, Mondriaan and Appel. January 2003 the completely renovated museum opened its doors again. The museum café is a pleasant place next to the Dommel river and can be visited on its own (free). Every first Thursday evening of the month, admission to the museum is free from 5 PM. €12, students: €6.
DAF Museum, Tongelresestraat 27. Tue-Sun 10AM-5PM. Learn all about the history and designs of DAF vehicles from 1928 till the present day. The collection includes trucks, extraordinary cars and other DAF-products, but also 1930 shops and company offices from old times. €9, students: €7.
Historic OpenAir Museum, Boutenslaan 161 B. Travel back into Eindhoven's history. This historic museum boost reconstructions of an Iron Age village, a farm around the year 1000 and the Medieval town of Eindhoven. Try visiting during weekends or holidays, when there are extra activities.
Museum Kempenland, St. Antoniusstraat 7 (currently closed for renovation, but scheduled to open mid-2011). This museum is in the Steentjeskerk, a church building make of tiny stones and a national heritage site itself. It houses a broad collection of material culture and art works from the region.
MU Artspace, Emmasingel 20 (in the Witte Dame, opposite the Public Library on the first floor.). Mu brings expositions about the hybrid visual culture of now and later. It aims to be 'an adventurous guide to all art lovers with a keen interest in the energetic mix of art, design, pop-culture and new media.' Also popular with young people (<35). It often has lectures or other activities on Thursdays.
Philips first Incandescent Lamp Factory of 1891, Emmasingel 31,. Tue-Sun 11-17. Philips first factory lies right in the heart of the city. Although the Philips factories have been relocated to other parts of the world, this little museum gives an insight in the original process of making a light bulb in the late 19th century. 8 €, 6-18 years 4 €.
Ton Smits House, Jacob Reviuslaan 25. Only on Wednesdays, from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m., unless you make an appointment. Take a look in this former studio and residence of Dutch cartoonist and artist Ton Smits, who drew hundreds of humour-sketches in well known American magazines including The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. He lived and worked in Eindhoven from 1957 until his death in 1981. 2.50 euro.
De Admirant, Emmasingel. The highest building in Eindhoven, directly opposite the Witte Dame. The 105 meter tower is the sky-high middle point of a new shopping area called "Around the Admirant". The "Around the Admirant" area was designed to include not only the retail stores in the Admirant's down floors, but also those in the organically shaped Blob. All the top floors are residential apartments.
Evoluon, Noord Brabantlaan 1a. This mushroom-shaped building strongly resembles the popular idea of a UFO, making it a very futuristic design when it was built in 1966. It was built for the 75-year anniversary of Philips, as a symbol for the company's technological achievements. It served as a popular technology museum until diminishing incomes led to it's closure in the 80's. Nowadays, it's a conference center.
Lichttoren (Light Tower), Corner of Mathildelaan and Emmasingel. On the top floors of this 7-edged, white tower building, Philips used to perform it's light bulb endurance tests. The 24/7 burning lights in the building gained it the title of "Light Tower". Later it also housed the headquarters of Philps' lightning department. Around it where some of the company's main production buildings. After serious renovations, the building now holds private lofts and offices. On the down floor restaurant Usine offers a nicely decorated surrounding for a coffee break.
Witte Dame (White Lady), Emmasingel. Next to the Light Tower is the Witte Dame. It was designed by Dirk Roosenburg and built in 1931 in the style of the New Objectivity. It originally served as a radio factory and now houses Eindhoven's Design Academy and Public Library.
Vestedatoren, corner of Vestdijk and Smalle Haven. The 2006 Vesteda tower is considered one of the main landmarks in Eindhoven's skyline. With 90 meters this apartment building is the 5th highest building in the city. It was designed by Jo Coenen and is part of his broader design for the modern urban Smalle Haven area surrounding it.
Hovenring. is a suspended bicycle path roundabout on the border between Eindhoven and Veldhoven in the Netherlands. It is the first suspended bicycle roundabout in the world.