amsterdam  western europe
Museums
M01- Rijksmuseum M02- Rembrandt House Museum M03- Anne Frank-House
 
M04- Hermitage Amsterdam M05- Het Schip  
Churches
C01- Oude Kerk C02- Nieuwe Kerk C03- Zuiderkerk
C04- Westerkerk C05- English Reformed Church Noorderkirk
Bridges
 
BR01- Magere Brug BR02- Blauwe brug  
     
Buildings
B01- Royal Palace B02- Spaarndammerbuurt B03-Beurs van Berlage
B04-Centraal Station B05- De Waag B06- Munttoren
B07- Begijnhof B08- Olympisch Stadion B09- Heineken Brewery
 
B10- Hubertus House Herengracht 170-172 Kloveniersburgwal 29
     
Concert halls
   
CO01- Concertgebouw CO02- Stopera  
     
Red-light districts
   
RL01- de Wallen    
     
Squares
S01- Dam Square S02- Leidseplein S03- Museumplein
S04- Waterlooplein S05- Markenplein S06- Albert Cuyp markt
   
S07- Homomonument    
     
Styles
Gothic Architecture Early Renaissance Amsterdam Renaissance
Plain Amsterdam Renaissance Renaissance Dutch Classicism
'Flat Style' Louis Styles Revival Styles
 
Stepped gables Strap work decoration  
     
Facade types
Bell-shaped gable Cornices Neck-gables
Raised Cornices Raised neck-gable Wooden facades
Other
Dutch Renaissance architects Building a house in Amsterdam Warehouses
Urban Expansion Bridges Churches
 
Introduction
In the course of the 17th century the famous crescent shape of the Amsterdam city centre was designed and realised resulting in the unique ring of canals. A number of narrow streets and canals, fanning out from the centre of the crescent, traversed the network of concentric semicircular canals. On the outskirts of the city centre, the canals ended in squares, where the city gates were located. The squares were used as parking places, since vehicles were not always allowed into the city itself.

The Venice of the North consists of approx. 90 islands, separated by some 100 kilometres of canals and linked by about 400 stone bridges.
About 20,000 buildings make up the historical city centre (800 hectares). One third was built before 1850. Approximately 6,700 "national monuments" (i.e. historic buildings preserved by the national government authority) are located in this area, whereas another 290 "municipal monuments" are preserved by the Amsterdam council. A further 1,160 buildings fall outside these categories. They are labelled "original premises" because of their intrinsic cultural historical interest. In 1989 this monumental whole was recommended for inclusion in the list of protected cityscapes under the Dutch Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act (the legal status is expected to be granted this year). Moreover, the city centre is eligible for a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. After all, Amsterdam is the proud owner of one of the most important intact historical city centres of the world.

Amsterdam is not a city of churches and palaces, but of monumental mansions. The only two houses in Amsterdam worthy of the name palace are the Royal Palace in the Dam Square and the Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29. And even these two were not commissioned by royalty or aristocratic patrons. Originally, the Royal Palace was designed to serve as Amsterdam’s town hall and the Trippenhuis was built for wealthy citizens.



Historical photograph
showing the former town hall (1648-55), now the Royal Palace


The monumental character of the Amsterdam city centre is largely determined by numerous 17th and 18th century houses, once owned by wealthy merchants and prominent citizens. Moreover, the warehouses deserve mention. Amsterdam warehouse architecture is unique in the world. Most of the state controlled monuments, however, are dwellings. The ring of canals (Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht; Dutch "gracht" means "canal") is the location of approx. 2,200 buildings, 1,550 of which are listed as historic buildings. Amsterdam's beauty is largely determined by the style of these buildings, better described as "citizens' architecture". The choice of this style was a conscious one. The aim: to replace the Gothic style with its vertical accents and religious overtones by a profane Classicist style. The Royal Palace e.g. contains many supreme examples of symbolism derived from Classical Antiquity.




Historical photographs of NZ Voorburgwal:
near Sint Nicolaasstraat and Pijpenmarkt


In the second half of the 19th century this monumental whole was severely threatened. Canals were filled in, streets were widened and bridges lowered. Many irreplaceable buildings were demolished in the process of restructuring the city. In 1867 the Nieuwezijds Achterburgwal (the present Spuistraat) was filled in and in 1884 the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal underwent the same treatment. Between 1893 and 1896 the Raadhuisstraat-Rozengracht traffic breakthrough was realised. As part of this major restructuring the Warmoesgracht and the Rozengracht were filled in and a breach was created in the rows of facades on the Herengracht and Keizersgracht to allow for the building of a new thoroughfare.

In 1900 watchful Amsterdam citizens managed to thwart the plan to fill in the Reguliersgracht. However, demolition work continued in other areas. The buildings between the Singel and the Keizersgracht were pulled down between 1917 and 1918 to allow for the widening of the Vijzelstraat. Then, in 1925, the houses between the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht were demolished as part of the same project. In many other places attempts were made to make the city centre more easily accessible to modern traffic. In the 1930s the Rokin was filled in. Moreover, the Amstel Embankment between Munt and Blauwbrug was widened. Major projects of this type were completed even after the World War II. In the 1950s further plans were made to fill in canals and pull down historical buildings. Fortunately, these plans were only partially realised. Had not the city come to its senses, the Nieuwmarkt and Jordaan areas would now have resembled the Weesperstraat, where a large-scale restructuring (1968) resulted in a motorway connecting the Weesperstraat to the IJ-tunnel. The Jodenbreestraat was widened and similar plans were made with respect to the Sint Antoniebreestraat. However, the successful restoration of the important Huis De Pinto proved a turning point. The municipal policy involving large-scale urban development was abandoned.

Large-scale projects affecting the historical city centre in order to accommodate the needs of modern traffic are no longer to be expected. The monumental mansions which underwent drastic alterations during the 19th and 20th centuries, when many of them were turned into offices, are now being restored to their original residential functions. Since the Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites was founded in 1953, over 4,000 premises underwent restoration. Almost 10% of these projects was completed by Stadsherstel (a private enterprise for the restoration of monuments). The historic buildings are lovingly restored and saved from destruction. The ring of canals is to become once more the stylish residential area it once was. Twenty years ago, only 60,000 people actually lived in the city centre. Over the past two decades this number has gone up to 80,000. However positive this development may be, it is anything but a cause for satisfaction. Out of the approx. 7,300 historic buildings (either state controlled or falling under the jurisdiction of the city of Amsterdam) about 2,400 require restoration. The Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites listed 280 "endangered" monumental dwellings which urgently require restoration.
Aerial view of the old city centre
Amsterdam is a treasure-house of more historic buildings and sites than any other city in the world. This map gives an accurate idea of the dispersion of the historic buildings and sites over the Amsterdam city centre. According to the most recent data (January 1, 1999) there are 6,936 historic buildings in Amsterdam which fall under the jurisdiction of the national government. Among them are 144 so-called large monuments (churches and public buildings, i.e. buildings commissioned and/or used by the local authorities and government controlled institutions); the remainder, by far the largest part, consists of smaller buildings, especially private houses. Lined up side by side these historic buildings would form a row 52 kilometres long. But buildings are not the only structures we are concerned with here. Amsterdam is the location of many historic sites such as bridges, sluices etc. The Dutch Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act gives the following definition of historic buildings and/or sites: "all objects at least fifty years old which are of general interest because of their aesthetic value, their scientific interest or their cultural-historical significance". An object which meets the above criteria, however, may be called a historic building or site only if it is officially listed as such. The age limit applies only to the buildings and sites which fall under the jurisdiction of the national government not to the objects which are the responsibility of the city of Amsterdam.

Apart from single buildings and sites larger wholes may be eligible for a position on the list, on condition they are of considerable architectural or cultural-historical value. The basic characteristics of the city centre remained intact in spite of the major damage done since the 1850s. Such a large part of both the infrastructure and the architecture of the ring of canals survived in the original set-up that the preservation of larger wholes, sometimes entire neighbourhoods, is warranted. Amsterdam has several so-called "protected cityscapes", a term precisely defined by the Dutch Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act (e.g. the Nieuwmarktbuurt). In 1989 the Amsterdam city centre was recommended in its entirety (i.e. the whole area within the confinement of the Singelgracht) for inclusion in the list of "protected cityscapes". It is expected that the official legal status will be granted this year.

Special thanks to the Amsterdam Bureau of Monuments and Archeology website, http://www.bma.amsterdam.nl
 
Architectural heritage
Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, with about 7 000 registered historic buildings. The street pattern is largely unchanged since the 19th century - there was no major bombing during World War II. The centre consists of 90 islands, linked by 400 bridges. Its most prominent feature is the concentric canal ring begun in the 17th century. The city office for architectural heritage (BMA) [8] has an excellent online introduction to the architectural history, and the types of historical buildings. The website includes a cycle route along important examples.

The oldest parts of the city are Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk. Two mediaeval wooden houses survive, at Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1. Other old houses are Warmoesstraat 83 (built circa 1400), Warmoesstraat 5 (circa 1500) and Begijnhof 2-3 (circa. 1425).

The Begijnhof is a late-mediaeval enclosed courtyard with the houses of beguines, women living in a semi-religious community. Beguinages are found in northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and north-western Germany.

Around 1650, Amsterdam was the main trading city of Europe. Goods were stored in warehouses along the canals and harbours, and about 600 survive. Many are now converted to apartments, and have lost some of their original appearance. The main concentrations of old warehouses are at Prinseneiland, Realengracht, Brouwersgracht, Oude Schans, and Oudezijds Kolk. There are others on the three main canals, especially Prinsengracht.

There are several large warehouses for more specific uses. The biggest is the Admiralty Arsenal (1656-1657), now the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) at Kattenburgerplein. Others include the former turf warehouses (1550) along the Nes, now the municipal pawn office; a similar warehouse at Waterlooplein 69-75 (Arsenaal, 1610), now an architectural academy, and the warehouse of the West India Company (1642) at the corner of Prins Hendrikkade and s-Gravenhekje. The 19th-century warehouses, along the Oostelijke Handelskade, are surrounded by new office buildings.

The trading city of Amsterdam was ruled by a merchant-based oligarchy, who built canal houses and mansions in the most prestigious locations, especially along the main canals. The BMA website has a chronological list of the most important:

Singel 140-142, De Dolphijn (circa 1600)
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 14, Wapen van Riga (1605)
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 57, De Gecroonde Raep (1615), in Baroque Amsterdam Renaissance style
Herengracht 170-172, Bartolotti House (circa 1617)
Keizersgracht 123, House with the Heads (1622)
Herengracht 168 (1638)
Rokin 145 (1643)
Kloveniersburgwal 29, Trip House (1662)
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 187 (1663)
Singel 104-106 (1743)
Singel 36, Zeevrugt (1763)
The Jordaan was built around 1650 along with the canal ring, but not for the wealthy merchants. For a long time it was considered the typical working-class area of Amsterdam, and included some notorious slums. It was probably the first example of gentrification in the Netherlands, even before the word was used. The name probably drives from the nickname 'Jordan' for the Prinsengracht. Apart from a few wider canals, the streets are narrow, in an incomplete grid pattern.

19th-century architecture is under-represented in Amsterdam. Immediately outside the Singelgracht (former city moat) is a ring of 19th-century housing. The most prominent buildings from this period are Centraal Station (1889) and the Rijksmuseum (1885), both by P. J. H. Cuypers.

Churches
There are five main churches in the historic centre. The oldest is the Oude Kerk (1306) on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in the red-light district. It was followed by the Nieuwe Kerk (15th century) on the Dam. The late-mediaeval city also had smaller chapels such as the Sint Olofskapel (circa 1440) on Zeedijk, and convent chapels such as the Agnietenkapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 (originally 1470), now the University of Amsterdam museum. Around 1600, three new Protestant churches were built:

Zuiderkerk (1603) at Zuiderkerkhof, now an information centre on housing and planning.
Noorderkerk (1620/230) at Noordermarkt on the Prinsengracht.
Westerkerk (1620/31) on Westermarkt is the largest of the three. The church is open for visitors from Monday to Friday, 11.00 -15.00, from April to September. You can climb the tower - in good weather you can see the coast.
Later churches included the Oosterkerk (1669) in the eastern islands, and the heavily restored Lutheran Church on the Singel (1671), now used by a hotel as a conference centre. Catholic churches were long forbidden, and only built again in the 19th-century: the most prominent is the Neo-Baroque Church of St. Nicholas (1887) opposite Central Station.

The most prominent synagogue is the Portugese-Israelite Synagogue (1675) at Mr. Visserplein, in an austere Classicist style.

[edit]Modern architecture
Since there was little large-scale demolition in the historic centre, most 20th-century and recent architecture is outside it. The most prominent in architectural history are the residential complexes by architects of the Amsterdam School, for instance at Zaanstraat / Oostzaanstraat.

Museum of the Amsterdam School [9], located in the best-known example of their architecture. Open Wednesday to Sunday 13.00 to 17.00, entrance € 2.50.
The largest concentration of new residential buildings is in the Eastern Docklands. The zone includes three artificial islands: Borneo, Sporenburg, and Java/KNSM, together with the quayside along Piet Heinkade, and some adjoining projects. Accessible by tram 10, tram 26 to Rietlandpark, or best of all by bicycle.
The largest concentration of box-like office buildings is in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost (South-East) around Bijlmer station (train and metro), but the area does have some spectacular buildings, such as the Amsterdam ArenA stadium and the new Bijlmer ArenA station (nearing completion and already in use).
Amsterdam is replacing older sewage plants by a single modern plant, in the port zone. Connecting existing sewers to the new plant requires long main sewers, and the use of sewage booster pumps - a new technique at this scale. The new booster pump stations are a unique type of building, designed by separate architects. The three complete pumps are located at Klaprozenweg in the north, on Spaklerweg (just east of the A10 motorway), and beside and under Postjesweg, in the Rembrandtpark.
[edit]Windmills
Windmills were not built in urban areas, since the building obstructed the wind. The Amsterdam windmills were all originally outside the city walls. Nearest to the centre are De Gooyer and De Otter:

De Gooyer (1814, restored) on Funenkade
De Otter (1631), a restored and functioning sawmill, opposite Buyskade, west of the Jordaan.
De Bloem (1878) on the Haarlemmerweg 465 at Nieuwpoortkade,
De 1200 Roe, Haarlemmerweg 701 near Seineweg
De 100 Roe (1674), in the Ookmeer sports fields along Ma Braunpad
D'Admiraal (1792), Noordhollandschkanaaldijk 21, on the bank of the Noordhollands Kanaal in the north, ferry from Central Station.
Riekermolen (1636) on the bank of the Amstel river at Kalfjeslaan
De Jonge Dikkert in Amstelveen (corner of Molenweg and Amsterdamseweg) is now a restaurant [10].
Only the Molen van Sloten [11] is open daily for visitors, at Akersluis 10, about 10 minutes walk from the terminus of tram line 2, open from 10.00 to 16.00.

Museums
An English-language list at the GVB (public transport) website includes the tram and bus routes for each museum: Museums and attractions.

The Museumkaart (museum card) costs €29.95 (or €17.45 for those under 25 years old). It gives discount admission (typically 40% or 50%) in over 400 museums across the Netherlands, and sometimes free admission. You can buy it at most major museums.

Rijksmuseum - masterpieces exhibition, [12]. The largest and most prestigious museum for art and history in the Netherlands: works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch masters. The museum is being completely renovated, but the major masterpieces are still on show. Open 09.00 to 18.00, open until 22.00 on Fridays. Admission € 10 for adults, under 18 free. In the garden is a small temporary exhibition on the renovation plans.
NEMO. NEMO is the biggest science centre in the Netherlands; an educational attraction where you can discover a world of science and technology in an entertaining way. NEMO takes you on a voyage of discovery between fantasy and reality. You will discover how scientific phenomena influence your daily life. You will learn about technology and engineering, ICT and bio- and behavioural sciences.
Van Gogh Museum, [13]. This museum is dedicated to this late 19th century Dutch painter. Do not expect to see all of Van Gogh's works however as they only have a portion at this museum, others are at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and elsewhere. Still worth the visit though, especially with the audio tour. At only € 1,50, the audio tour, in the language of your choice, will give you a much better understanding of Van Gogh's life and his paintings. Open late on Fridays.
Stedelijk Museum, [14]. The Amsterdam municipal museum of modern art. Temporarily located east of Central Station, 10 minutes walk from there.
Amsterdams Historisch Museum, [15]. The city’s historical museum. Two entrances, at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 and Kalverstraat 92. Open 10.00-17.00, opens one hour later on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Entrance € 6 adults, € 3 children.
Anne Frank House, [16]. Don't let the long line discourage you; it moves quickly and the experience inside the hiding places on the top floors is moving. The museum lacks any exhibits to explain the historical context at the time of Anne's diary, however. Go in the early evening around 17:00 to avoid any lines. The Anne Frank House is open later during the summer.
Katten Kabinet, [17]. A cat museum. Housed in a beautiful restored palatial home in an upscale area street - very Masterpiece Theater. It was opened by the homeowner after his favourite cat died... and he still lives in the home. Lots of cat-related art, and real felines.
Filmmuseum, [18]. A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of contemporary and historical films. Multiple screenings daily. The Filmmuseum is located in the Vondelpark, between park entrances Roemer Visscherstraat and Vondelstraat. Despite the name the "Filmmuseum" this is not a museum, rather just an alternative cinema funded by the government.
Museum Amstelkring, [19]. Most locals don't recognize the official name, but will know what you mean if you say "Our Lord in the Attic." This is a Catholic church stuffed into the upper stories of a house built in 1663, when Catholics were persecuted and had to disguise their churches. It's a beautiful place to visit, and amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place. Now a museum, open Monday-Saturday 10.00 - 17.00 , Sunday 13.00-17.00, admission € 7, under 18 € 1. Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40, in the red-light district.
Tropenmuseum, [20]. Ethnographic / cultural museum about Africa, Asia, and South America.
Royal Palace. This former City Hall (built in 1651) is currently closed for renovation. (It is mainly used for diplomatic receptions and to welcome visiting heads of state, not as a royal residence).
Allard Pierson Museum. The Allard Pierson Museum is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam . The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Cyprus, the Greek World, Etruria and the Roman Empire are revived in this museum. Art-objects and utensils, dating from 4000 B.C. till 500 A.D. give a good impression of everyday-life, mythology and religion in Antiquity.
[edit]Zoo and botanical garden
Hortus Botanicus, [21]. The 'Hortus' as it is called by locals, was formerly the Botanical Garden of the University of Amsterdam. Monday to Friday 9.00 - 17.00, Saturday and Sunday 10.00 - 17.00, open until 21.00 in July and August, admission € 6.
Artis Zoo, [22]. An entry ticket for Artis also provides admission to the Planetarium, the Geological Museum, the Aquarium and the Zoological Museum. Artis is also a botanical garden, with plants and trees gathered from all over the world, just like the animal species.
[edit]Parks and countryside
The nearest open countryside is north of the city, about 20 minutes by bike. Cross the IJ by ferry behind Central Station, and follow the cycle signs for the villages of Ransdorp, Zunderdorp, Schellingwoude or Durgerdam. Cycling along the Amstel river for about 30 to 40 minutes will also take you into open countryside, and the village of Oudekerk.

Vondelpark, [23]. The only large park in the older part of the city. Especially in the summer it's lively and crowded. Meet the locals there.
Rembrandtpark. Not too far west of the Vondelpark, but much quieter.
Museumplein. Not exactly a park, but a large grassed open space. Around its edges are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw, and the temporarily closed Stedelijk Museum.
Westerpark, [24]. Newly expanded park, at the western edge of the centre, with cultural activities in a former gas factory. Access from Haarlemmerweg.
Amsterdamse Bos, [25]. A much larger forest-type park on the outskirts of the city. Access from Amstelveenseweg.
[edit]Beach
The whole coast west of Amsterdam is a single long beach. The nearest stretch is at Zandvoort - 20 minutes by train from Central Station. In summer there are direct trains every half-hour, otherwise change trains at Haarlem. Zandvoort is usually very crowded in summer, the place to be for the hip incrowd. The long beaches continue north of IJmuiden, which are more family oriented. For the most accessible route, take the train to Castricum, and then bus (or minibus) 267. Or, you can take the hydrofoil boat located behind the Central Station [26].

There is a temporary artificial beach [27], surrounded by construction sites, in the new suburb of IJburg. Tram 26 to the last stop, then a few minutes walk.

Attractions and tours
Former Heineken Brewery (Heineken Experience), Stadhouderskade 78, [28]. Not a functioning brewery any more. Tuesdays to Sundays 10.00 - 18.00. Shameless promotion for Holland's leading export beer, but they charge tourists € 10 to get in. That includes three drink coupons and a take home beer glass or souvenir bottle opener.
Organised city tours. Several operators offer tours, visits to diamond factories, other guided visits, and canal cruises. Unless you really need a guide - for instance if you speak only Chinese - it is cheaper to visit everything yourself.
[edit]Red Light District
The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. Known as 'De Wallen' (the walls) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and usually adjoining streets such as Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk. The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district, has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums - this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by brothels. The other attractions of Red Light area are Moulin Rouge striptease, Banana Bar and several peep show bars. The price for a peep show can vary from 2 euros to 10 euros and of one show in Moulin Rouge are 45 euro onwards which include a drink also. The banana bar has shows starting from 25 euros. Note: Don't try to take photos of prostitutes even from the streets or you might lose your camera without any warning.
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