Exploring around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is really a small city but is not small on culture, history, great food, top class entertainment, and has great public transportation.

walking around amsterdam

Amsterdam is a mellow city and this attitude, many are convinced, is the reason we have few of the disadvantages of most western big cities.

The city is physically small, very beautiful, clean, relatively quiet, and thanks to the canals, and the wonderful bike-lane system has relatively easy traffic.

These words obviously can’t replace the real Amsterdam excitement.

To give you a good idea of what to expect on the ground when you arrive…

…come with us on a little walk around our beautiful Amsterdam…

Being a small city, and, although the concentric canal system can be a little confusing at first, finding your way can become very easy with a little time, a good pair of shoes, and a Map  (a compass would help enormously if you have one). Click here to go through various Amsterdam Maps

Our walk around tour takes you on a clockwise direction through the city starting with the medieval 13th century center core boasts the best of the city’s bustling streetlife and is home to stores, many bars, coffeeshops and restaurants, fanning south from this nineteenth-century landmark.

START Exploring…

Amsterdam’s focal point for urban life is Central Station. In summer there’s no livelier part of the city, as street performers compete for attention and guilders with the trams, busses, bicycles, pedestrians, cruse ships, ferries, boats, and taxis that converge wildly from all directions.

central station of amsterdam

From here, Damrak runs south into the heart of the city,” an uninviting avenue lined with overpriced restaurants, souvenir shops and oversized bobbing plastic canal tour boats” Once past “Damrak”, the worst street in Holland …the city blossoms into it’s genuine unique beauty.

Looming large on the left half way down Damrak is the BeursOnce a diamond exchange, now an exhibition hall, designed at the turn of the century by the leading light of the Dutch modern movement, H.P. Berlage. The building has a great tower to climb with a 360 o viewing walk as a reward for braving the incredibly steep and somewhat unnerving staircase. A museum is up in the rafters with a chance to look at the “big crack” up in the main end wall. This is very informative if you love old buildings as we do. The building is settling into the soft ground and is undergoing major restoration to the foundation. This is a common problem with old structures built on swampland and a source of endless work for generations to come.

At the end of Damrak is the “Dam Square” (photo taken from the top of the Krasnapolski Hotel)

Dam Square amsterdam

On the “Dam” (this photo was taken looking back down Damrak, to the north towards Central Station)

To the east on your Left… off the Damrak, is the red-light district, stretching across two canals Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal is without question one of the real sights of the city. This area is always crowded with people hoping to discover how shocking and sinful it all is. A little way off Damrak is Warmoesstraat, take the small street which leads to the Oude Kerk . A simple mostly fourteenth-century church with some beautifully carved misericords in the choir and the memorial tablet of Rembrandt’s first wife, Saskia van Uylenburg.

Damrak red carpet amsterdam

The Amstelkring, at the northern end of Oudezijds Voorburgwal, was once the principal Catholic place of worship in the city and is now a museum commemorating the days when Catholics had to confine their worship to the privacy of their homes. Known as “Our Dear Lord in the Attic”, it occupies the loft of a wealthy merchant’s house, together with those of two smaller houses behind it.

Just beyond, Zeedijk,the trail leads through to Nieuwmarkt, where the turreted Waag was originally part of the city’s fortifications, later becoming the civic weigh-house.

Kloveniersburgwal, which leads south, was the outer of the three eastern canals of sixteenth-century Amsterdam, and boasts, on the left, one of the city’s most impressive canal houses, built for the Trip family in 1662.

Further up on the right, the Oudemanhuispoort passage, once part of an almshouse and now filled with secondhand bookstalls, the passage leads to O.Z. Achterburgwal.

At the end of Damrak, is Dam Square, This is where the ‘Amstel was first dammed’, is the center of the city, it’s stone tower monument War Memorialserving as popular meeting place for tourists as well as the street hustlers.

On the western side, the Royal Palace was originally built as the city hall in the mid-seventeenth century. It received its royal moniker in 1808 when Napoleon’s brother Louis commandeered it as the one building fit for a king. He was forced to abdicate in 1810, leaving behind a sizable amount of the Empire furniture that still remains.

An interesting story ...It is said Rembrandt lost the bid for the mural paintings contract to decorate the vast Palace interior.

Imagine what the place would be worth now if he had been the low bidder or possibly had taken some city officials out to a nice expensive dinner…!

On the right (north) next door is the Nieuwe Kerk a fifteenth-century structure has been restored several times now. Mostly used for exhibitions and state occasions. Inside the resting place of famous people from Dutch history, among them the seventeenth-century naval hero Admiral de Ruyter, who lies in his opulent tomb in the choir, and the poet Vondel, commemorated by a modest urn near the main entrance.

South of Dam Square the road name changes to Rokin and follows the old course of the Amstel River. The Amstel canal is lined with marvelous houseboats on the water shadowed by grandiose nineteenth-century mansions on both sides going south along the length down to Amstel Station and the Rembrandt’s Tower. Amsterdam’s tallest building.

Running parallel to Damrak and Rokin on the right to the west is a long pedestrian street, Kalverstraat. This is a popular shopping street for tourists and locals alike. A large selection of clothes shops, shoe shops, and department style stores.

About halfway down Kalverstraat at No. 92, a gateway forms the entrance to the former orphanage that’s now the Amsterdam Historical Museum where artifacts, paintings and documents survey the city’s development from the thirteenth century.

Directly outside, the glassed-in Civic Guard Gallery draws passersby with free glimpses of the large company portraits.

Just around the corner off Sint Luciensteeg, the Begijnhof is a small court of seventeenth-century buildings; the poor and elderly led a religious life here, celebrating mass in their own, concealed Catholic Church. The plain and simple English Reformed Church, which takes up one side of The Begijnhof, has pulpit panels designed by the young Piet Mondrian.

Close by, the Spui is a lively corner of town whose mixture of bookshops and crowded lively bars center’s around the small plein is host to the Used book Market. The artistic focal point is a statue of a young boy known as ‘t Lieverdje ( The Little Darling ).

In the opposite direction, Kalverstraat comes to an end at Muntplein and the Munttoren originally a mint and part of the old city walls, topped with a spire by Hendrik de Keyser in 1620.

Across the Singel is the Flower Market, while in the other direction Reguliersbreestraat turns left toward the loud restaurants of Rembrandtsplein.

The Flower Market is at the Singel at the Koningsplein. The trams continue west out Leidsestraat crossing the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht,

Going to the southwest down Leidsestraat leads to The Leidseplein. This is the vibrant movie, live theater and music club area. Leidsestraat is lined with and the area streets are peppered with, fashionable boutiques, theaters, bars, coffeeshops, restaurants. The world famous Paradiso theater, the classic American Hotel, the popular Boom Chicago Comedy Show, and one of the best Bar/Coffeeshops in Amsterdam, Rookies.Countless others make their home in this, our most favorite part of Amsterdam’s center.

Farther out beyond The Leidseplein is Vondel Park.

To the southeast is The Rijksmuseum and the beautifully renovated Museumplein featuring the recently restored and enlarged Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art.

Rijksmuseum in amsterdam

The Museumplein is a lively wide open area and recreation playground that stretches out to Amsterdam’s concert hall The Concertgebouw. Hidden underground is a parking facility and a state of the art Albert Hein Supermarket.

To the right of The Leidseplein following Prinsengracht back around to the north towards central station will bring you to the Jordan.

The Leidseplein in amsterdam

This area is dearly loved by Amsterdamers and visitors alike. The Jordan is ‘Old Amsterdam’. The people fortunate to live in this district enjoy what most consider the most charming and original part of the city. Towards the center over the Prinsengracht is the district known as the “9’s”. Nine little streets spanning three canals. An area with the most wonderful selection of little shops in Amsterdam. Everything from the Toothbrush Store to the Eyeglass Museum .When you get up to Rozen Gracht you are at the Wester Kerk and Just beyond and almost next door along Prinsengracht is The Ann Frank House at No. 263.

To the south of the Flower Market is Reguliersgracht, an appealing stretch of water with distinctive steep bridges; it was to have been filled in at the beginning of the century but was saved by public outcry.

Across the Amstel from here, the large

Muziektheater and Town Hall 

dubbed the Stopera after the 1980s campaign to “Stop the Opera”. Outside is Waterlooplein, home to the city’s excellent flea market.(Closed Sundays)

Muziektheater and Town Hall

Behind, Jodenbreestraat was once the main street of the Jodenhoek, the city’s Jewish quarter, and is the site of the Rembrandt House at no. 4 till 6(Mon/Sat 10am till 5pm, Sun 1 till 5pm;), which the painter bought at the height of his fame, living here for over twenty one years. The museum has recently reopened after a major restoration that has been done with a nice attention to details. The museum presents a huge number of the artist’s engravings.

Close by, a collection of mementos of the Jewish community are shown in the Portuguese Synagogue (Mon/Fri & Sun 10 am till 3 pm;) closed Yom Kippur; completed in 1675 and once the largest synagogue in the world.

Across the way, the Jewish Historical Museum (daily 11am till 5pm; closed Yom Kippur;) is cleverly housed in a complex of Ashkenazi synagogues dating from the late seventeenth century and gives a broad and imaginative introduction to Jewish life and beliefs.

Down Muiderstraat from here, the prim Hortus Botanicus, Plantage Middenlaan 2 (April/Oct Mon/Fri 9 am till 5 pm, Sat & Sun 11 am till 5 pm; Nov/March Sat & Sun 9 am till 4 pm ), is a Dutch sized botanical garden whose 6000 plant species make a wonderfully relaxed break from the rest of central Amsterdam; Try the coffee and cakes in the Orangery.

Four hundred meters down Plantage Middenlaan is Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo with it’s enterance around the corner off Plantage Kerklaan (daily 9 am till 5 pm)

Beyond which is the Kromhout Shipyard Museum at Hoogte Kadijk 147 (Mon/Fri 10 am till 4 pm), one of the few survivors of the shipbuilding industry that flourished during the nineteenth century, is a combination of industrial monument, operating shipyard, and museum.  

A short walk back to northwest, is the Maritime Museum on Kattenburgerplein

(Tues/Sat 10am till 5 pm, Sun noon till 5 pm), Perfectly housed in the fortress-like, seventeenth-century arsenal, with numerous marine attractions: maps, navigational equipment and weapons, and the most impressive exhibits are the large models of sailing ships.

The faithful reproduction of the 17th-century sailing ship   ” The Amsterdam” is hard to miss if she is in port, and is worth a visit.