Amsterdam’s old centre is hemmed in by the Ij River to the north and spreads south in a web of medieval streets and canals. Most of the city’s main monuments are located along the canals, so a boat cruise or walking are pleasant ways of discovering Amsterdam’s’ rich architectural heritage: with 7000 officially recognised historical buildings and monuments, including its famous narrow gabled-houses, it is one of Europe’s most atmospheric cities.
You cannot go to Amsterdam without visiting a wooden house. The great fires of 1421 and 1452 destroyed most of them, but two beautiful examples remain:
Het Huis met de Hoofden
Around Dam square:
Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace)
Amsterdam’s Narrowest House
Reputedly the narrowest house in the world, the house is only 101 centimetres wide, although behind the facade it broadens out to more normal dimensions.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
Beurs van Berlage (Old Stock Exchange)
Schreierstoren (Weepers' Tower)
Oude Kerk (Old Church)
The main interest of this bourgeois house lies in the extraordinary history of its attic, which conceals a secret Catholic church dating from the Reformation, when public catholic worship was banned.
Sint Nicolaaskerk (1884-1887)
Built in the late 19th century, St Nicholas is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved Roman Catholic churches in Amsterdam. It is worth visiting for its marvellous interior and unique combination of baroque and neo-renaissance details. The imposing structure features two identical towers on either side of the ornate stain glass rose window, crowned by a statue of St Nicholas, Amsterdam’s patron saint. The Sauer organ is a major attraction, particularly during the International Organ concert festival. At 5 pm every Saturday (September to June) the choir performs the Choral evensong. Admission is free.
The area also has some of the city’s most attractive old houses, along Warmoessstraat.
Zuiderkerk (South Church)
Westerkerk (West Church)
This magnificent 17th-century Renaissance church is one of the city's most important landmarks. The spire crowned by a blue orb and crown and gilded weathercock is the highest church tower in Amsterdam, with a height of 85 meters. Rembrandt is reputedly buried there, although the exact site is unknown. The church gets several mentions in Anne Frank’s diary as the family could see its tower from their attic. Steps will take you to the top of the tower where you get breathtaking views of the city.
The white-painted drawbridge is probably the most famous and beautiful bridge in Amsterdam. Originally very narrow, hence the name, two people could barely cross it at the same time. It has spanned the River Amstel since 1672 and is illuminated in the evening.
The Royal Riding School first opened in 1882 and was designed by the architect A.L. Van Gendt. Inspired from the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, the stylish 19th century interior retains much of its original design.
Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre) and Memorial
Originally built in 1892, the luxurious theatre (it boasted a chandelier with 140 gaslights) was the main entertainment centre in the Jewish neighbourhood until 1914. It was used by the Nazis as a deportation centre during World War II and a Wall of Remembrance, erected in 1962, bears the names of the 104 000 Jews who were deported from the Netherlands. A small memorial garden, situated behind the museum, provides a quiet haven.
Wandering around the Jewish Quarter will give you an insight into Jewish life and history in Amsterdam.
The beautiful synagogue, modelled after the Temple of Solomon, was completed in 1675 and was at the time the largest synagogue in the world. Miraculously, it survived the nazi occupation of the city and was left unscathed. It testifies to the rich Jewish culture and large Jewish population in Amsterdam in the 17th century. The interior is designed in the Sephardi style. Two large brass chandeliers hold 1000 candles, which are lit during services.The Ets Haim (Tree of Life) library is located nearby and is one of the oldest in the world.
Jewish Historical Museum
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