2016/07/10 Leave a comment
Interesting places in Amsterdam: what Wendy and Liz like to see themselves.
We lived in Amsterdam for almost 15 years and liked walking around, while shopping, sightseeing, visiting our favorite bars and restaurants.
So here, a description of a multi-day walk through the centre of Amsterdam, including several links to corresponding websites. The places we mention are our personal favourites and we like to visit them as often as we can.
We have given this tour description by mail to dozens of people and sometimes got glowing “thank-you’s”, and additions. Sometimes we accompanied friends on such a walking tour, and included a nice lunch, snack moment, dinner, and drinks, and occassionally even an Amsterdam Perl Mongers Emergency Social Meeting.
Disclaimer: this is by no means a thorough description of what can be seen. Some bits might not be 100% correct by now. This description was made by Wendy many years ago, and she’s not very good at maintaining stuff.
As always, beware of pickpockets. Especially Kalverstraat, Nieuwmarkt, Zeedijk, Dam and Nieuwendijk are infamous for tourists being robbed from wallets, bags, backpacks. It’s busy, and when they see you don’t pay attention, you’ll be their target.
Also, be careful in traffic. Car and truck drivers and bicyclists quite often don’t adhere to rules and signs. Before you cross a street, always check the street to the left and to the right. Even when you have right of way, or when a traffic light is green for pedestrians, don’t count on courtesy of other traffic, always look left and right and behind. Don’t get hurt.
From any of the places we mention, you can return to your car, or take a cab, or walk (if your feet don’t hurt like hell). Many more nice streets and canals and alleys and museums and shops and bars and restaurants to discover and to enjoy. We’ve never managed to take this route ourselves in one day and we hope we never do, because on our route there are too many interesting places that grab our attention, sometimes for at least an hour. We hope you enjoy it.
Wendy van Dijk & Elizabeth Mattijsen
Google Map ( Amsterdam center ) of the area that we’ll describe.
1. Start at the Amsterdam (Historic) Museum. The outside of the collection of buildings is interesting on its own, and the inside will take the better part of a day to see the interesting stuff. On the backside, there is a protruding wall with old harnasses in a beautiful setup, that you can see from the outside.
2. Walk towards the Kalverstraat, try to find signs to “Schuttersgalerij“. Go through the gallery and admire the immensely large paintings that can be seen (for free). These are so-called “schutters-stukken”, paintings of private militia that were guarding sections of Amsterdam in its Golden Age. By the way, the harnasses at the Amsterdam Museum are just around the corner of the Schuttersgalerij.
3. After walking through the Schuttersgalerij, you can walk on, towards the Begijnhof, which is a small entrance on your right. Walk around, exit at the other entrance (which is a bit concealed, behind the two churches. If you turn around, you can see this seems to be just a door of a building. This is done to not attract too many tourists. After entering this door and the hallway behind it, look to your left and admire the antique original gable stones. There’s another big collection of original gable stones on the far end of the Amsterdam Museum, in the Sint Luciënsteeg.
4. Cross the street “Spui” (which has some nice shops, including the American Book Center and a bookshop of Waterstone’s) and go into the Voetboogstraat.
In this alley, “Voetboogstraat” (Footbow Archer’s Street) you will find several pubs, and the place formerly known as “Schutter” (The Archer) was our regular hangout when we lived in Amsterdam, Liz almost “lived” there. Liz and I met there on the 21st of December, 1986. We are a bit sad that the bar is now closed, but we are happy that a new place has started, Restaurant Luitenant Cornelis, who serve nice food.
A couple of buildings further down the alley is a “Flemish frites” shop, the very best in town. Most of the time there is a line of people waiting for their turn. Wendy’s favourite is a “middle” frites with green pepper sauce and chopped onions, hmmm. Liz’s favourite is frites with samourai sauce, spicy!
By the way, I mentioned the American Book Center on the Spui: this is a very interesting bookshop: on the top floor you can find the Espresso Book Machine, the only “self-book-printing” service in The Netherlands: if you have a pdf (or many other formats) of a book and you want it properly printed in just one copy, you can get it done there. The machine is available to the public, and it is very interesting to look at.
5. At the end of the Voetboogstraat, enter the shopping centre Kalvertoren across the street and walk to the other end (which leads to the Kalverstraat), or, go left into the Heiligeweg. The top of this shooping center is a nice tower, called the Kalvertoren, you can get up with a slanted elevator and from the top you are offered a very nice view over a large section of Amsterdam.
6. At the end of the Heiligeweg / the shopping centre, go right onto the Kalverstraat, towards the Munttoren.
7. At the Munttoren, go right, over the bridge, and go right again, onto the floating flower market. On the bridge, you can take a look at the back side of the flower market shops, and as you will see, most of them are just big canal boats with shops build on them.
8. At the other end of the flower market, go left into the Leidsestraat, towards the Leidseplein (Leidse Square).
10. Enter the Vondelpark and walk straight ahead to the main section of the park. Go to your right and walk around (counterclockwise).
11. When you arrive at the “left side” (as seen from your point of entry into the park) of the Vondelpark, close to where you entered, exit and walk into the neighbourhood. Reasonably wealthy neighbourhood here with a lot of classy houses.
11a. You will certainly get across the PC Hooftstraat, the most expensive shopping street of The Netherlands.
12. Keep on going left and right (not the other way around) and you will wind up in the Van Baerlestraat. Follow this street, away from the Vondelpark.
13. Arrive at the Museumplein (Museum Square) on your left hand and turn left and walk onto the square.
14. Walk towards the Rijksmuseum, which is the museum farthest away when you
enter the Museumplein. On your left you will see the Stedelijk Museum (City Museum of Amsterdam, which is a museum of modern art) and the Van Gogh Museum (indeed, filled with stuff by Van Gogh and his contemporaries). Behind you, you will see the Concertgebouw (Concert Building, indeed, they do opera and classical music here).
15. At the Rijksmuseum, if all would be well, you would be able to walk through the alley under the center section of the Rijksmuseum. Walk on until you are at the front side of the alley.
15a. If you want to spend several hours watching the most wonderful art that The Netherlands ever created, pay the museum a visit. Our national treasure is always on display, the famous Night Watch (Nachtwacht) by Rembrandt.
16. Carefully cross the very busy street (Stadhouderskade) and on the other side of the canal, enter the Spiegelgracht, which continues into the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat.
17. At the end, turn right onto the Herengracht. The houses at this part of the canal are the most expensive houses of The Netherlands, it is called the Gouden Bocht (“Golden Bend”). Some say that the houses at #475 and #476 are the prettiest, but most buildings here can use a cleanup.
18. At the first bridge that you encounter, go left onto the Vijzelstraat and walk on until you reach the Munttoren (again).
19. Walk straight on after the Munttoren, crossing the street that comes from the left (“Singel“). On the other side, go to your right and cross that even busier street (“Rokin“), towards the magnificent building of “Hotel de l’Europe“, onto the Nieuwe Doelenstraat.
19a. Instead of crossing the Singel and the Rokin, you could go to your right, cross the Muntplein and walk into the Reguliersbreestraat and walk towards the Rembrandtplein. In the Reguliersbreestraat you will find Tuschinsky, probably the most beautiful cinema of the country. Go in, and try to join one of their tours of the building (it really is worth the time).
On Rembrandtplein you will find a statue of Rembrandt and a lot of bars and restaurants, and if you look closely, the main office of Booking.com.
19b. Walk on, cross the whole square, and enter the Amstelstraat. For anybody interesting, in this street is Vieve La Vie, a lovely lesbian bar.
19c. At the end of Amstelstraat, walk on to the Blauwbrug (the Blue Bridge). Hundreds of thousands of tourists have made millions of pictures from here. This bridge crosses the river Amstel.
On the other side is the Stopera (Stadhuis-Opera, or city hall and opera building, all in one, and a nice bar too).
Opposite, to the right, across the street and a bit further, of the Stopera is the Jewish Historical Museum. Behind the Stopera is the Waterloopleinmarkt (Waterloo Square Market, where you can find stuff typically for a flea market, but also some genuine antiques).
19d. On the left side of the Stopera, just walk along the Amstel-side of the building, you will end up at a small bridge to the Staalstraat, cross another small bridge, walk on, and another bridge, over the Kloveniersburgwal, where you go right. After some 100 meters, enter the Oudemanhuispoort on your left. There are bookshops, and some lovely garden-like places of the Faculty of Law of the University of Amsterdam. Walk on to the other side, to the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, and go left (you just skipped the next two sections of this tour).
20. Take a look on the lovely quay on your left, which is called “Oude Turfmarkt” (“Old Peat Market”). There’s a lovely archeology museum, Allard Pierson Musem. But go into the Nieuwe Doelenstraat.
21. Go left at the Binnengasthuisstraat.
22. At the end, go right (Grimburgwal) and immediately to the left onto the Oudezijds Achterburgwal.
22. Take one of the streets to the right, for instance “Rusland” (this is Dutch for “Russia”) until you reach the Kloveniersburgwal. Go left onto that street.
23. At the end of the Kloveniersburgwal, you will reach the Nieuwmarkt. Enjoy the view, the shops, restaurants and pubs. There are a lot of typical Chinese shops (toko) where you can buy spicy food, noodles, Chinese hats/shoes/art.
24. Visit the “Waag” (“weighing scales”: witches have not been burnt here, several witch hangings did occur on Dam Square), the big building on the end of the square. Or just have a nice cup of coffee/tea in the quite nice restaurant/pub on the ground floor. The Waag started as a city gate, and you can still see where the gate was in two sides of the building. On the two other sides used to be the city walls, but the walls have been removed when the city grew larger. The Waag became an anatomical theater, and later a weighing house for many types of goods (“waag” means “place where you can weigh your goods).
25. Behind the Waag you will find the Zeedijk. Enter this narrow , windy, busy and long shopping street. Halfway you will find a large buddhist temple.
26. At the end of the Zeedijk you will see (across the busy street, Prins Hendrikkade, and the water of the Damrak) the Central Station (train station), which is a beautiful building. Walk to your left on the Prins Hendrikkade towards the large bridge that leads toward the train station, and go left onto the Damrak, towards the Dam (Dam Square).
26a. Instead of completely following the Zeedijk, you can turn left at several places. A nice place is the Molensteeg, which you can follow until you reach the Oude Kerk (Old Church). Walk around this church and on the other side, into the Wijde Kerksteeg and cross the Warmoesstraat, into the Paternostersteeg. Go left into the Beursstraat and right into the Beursplein. The pretty building on your right is the “Beurs van Berlage” (“Exchange of Berlage”). You have reached the Damrak. Go left towards the Dam.
26b. First you could go into the Central Station. It has been renovated lately and it looks lovely again (well, most of it). You could walk all the way to the other end of the station and wind up at the back side. There’s a very busy street, so careful when you cross it. You are now on the banks of the IJ, one of the busiest sea arms of The Netherlands: to the left it goes to the North Sea, to the right it goes to the IJsselmeer (actually, first the Markerwaard) Just enjoy the view of the boats, the ferries, the tourist canal boats and all the people.
On the other side of the water is the EYE Film Museum, and both the museum and the boat trip to the other side are worth your time.
When you are done enjoying the view, turn around, go back into the station and go all the way to the front. By the way, the station has several entries and exits and hallways, so there is more than one way to go through.
27. On the Dam, you will see our National Monument on your left, the Royal Palace on Dam Square (our National Palace) on your right. Across the Dam, you will see the entrance of the Kalverstraat (earlier, you have been on the other end of that long street), which will lead you back to the Amsterdam (Historic) Museum.
27a. Instead of immediately going into the Kalverstraat, you could dwell a bit on the Dam. To the right of the palace is a big church, the “Nieuwe Kerk” (“New Church”), which often has nice exhibitions (step in, you can have a view of part of the church from the shop next to the paid entrance area).
A bit more to the right of the Nieuwe Kerk you will see the entrance to another long and windy and busy, shopping street, “Nieuwendijk”. That will lead to (again) the Prins Hendrikkade, but this time at the other end of the Central Station.
Go to your left onto the Singel and walk by the “Ronde Lutherse Kerk” (“Round Lutheran Church”). The Singel brings you eventually to the Raadhuisstraat. There, on your left, you will see the backside of the Palace on Dam Square.
You could go the right into the Raadhuisstraat and into the Westermarkt. There is the Westerkerk (“West Church”). At the end of the Westerkerk is the Prinsengracht. Go right (don’t cross the canal) and you will reach the Anne Frankhuis (the house where Anne Frank has been hiding during the Second World War) (and she was betrayed and taken from there to the concentration camp where she was killed in the gas chamber).
End of tour. Hope you enjoyed yourselves.
(Maybe I will add more information in the future)
More links and background stories to complete the touristic roundview.
Begijnhof, Schuttersgalerij, Amsterdam (Historic) Museum
The Begijnhof, the Civic Guard gallery (Schuttersgalerij) and the Amsterdam Historic Museum are located in the same city block, next to eachother. The Schuttersgalerij is a gallery under a wing of the museum, it is a through traffic path for pedestrians, with sliding doors at beginning and end. It is guarded because of the fifteen-or-so enormous paintings, the so-called “schuttersstukken” (paintings of companies, military units, civic guards). Men with guns were so-called “schutters” (“aim-and-shoot-ers”). The famous Nighwatch of Rembrand is such a schuttersstuk, but that one is the most beautiful one and can be found in another museum, the Rijksmuseum (“State Museum”).
The “court of the Beguines” is a lovely little silent spot in the center of Amsterdam. Beguines were religious lay-people. In this court dozens of them lived a bit secluded from the busy surroundings. The houses are quite old. Try to be here when the large amounts of tourists are gone, and even better, when both churches are open for visit: the (protestants) English church and the (catholic) “Johannes en Ursula church”. Enjoy this quiet place.
Wiki-page English on Begijnhof
Wiki-page Dutch on Begijnhof
Wiki-page English on Beguines
Nice pictures of the Begijnhof
Amsterdam Historic Museum (Amsterdams Historisch Museum)
Amsterdam has a long and rich and well-documented history. The museum
contains not just documents and paintings, but many “daily-use” objects,
harnasses, coins and statues.
Civic Guards Gallery (Schuttersgalerij)
Dutch text about the Schuttersgalerij
Click on “Schutters” to see the paintings
Picture of the Schuttersgalerij
Lots of pictures on Flickr, like these
Voetboogstraat and surroundings
Flemish frites Vleminckx since 1957
The Flemish frites (“Vlaamse friet”: like French fries, but thicker, and made from fresh potatoes, which are skinned and cut into pieces right there in the shop) are very good and tasty. I think they are the best in The Netherlands. They remind me of the Irish potatoe parts, but the frites are without skins. And there’s a large selection of sauces. I prefer Samurai (very spicy) or green pepper sauce with chopped onions. They only serve frites, no other food.
Restaurant Luitenant Cornelis
This restaurant is quite nice. Before, this place used to be “De Schutter”, which was a pub that served nice bar food, and this is where Liz & Wendy met in 1986. It is on the first floor, so you have to walk up the stairs. It has changed significantly since we met there.
The tower on the top floor offers a very nice panorama of Amsterdam.
The tower of the Mint, in old times (Medieval Ages) part of the gates in the large wall around Amsterdam. The tower is lovely.
The flower market is just around the corner from the Munttoren. While standing next to the Munttoren, on the bridge over the canal, you have a nice view on the backside of the market stalls. The flower market is a semi-normal street (pedestrians only) and all shops are flowers only. Well, the shops on the waterside. On the landside, the shops are diverse: mostly for tourists (for instance, there’s a cheese shop, and I would most definitely not buy my cheese here!). The flower market itself is of course mostly a tourist trap…
At the end of the flower market, you have reaced the Leidsestraat. A real shopping street, but most of the buildings show the age of the area: old style, classical architecture.
At the end of the Leidsestraat you will reach the cozy Leidseplein (Leidse Square). Sometimes street artists perform: they make music, dance, act, do silly things. At the Leidseplein you will see the City Theatre (Stadsschouwburg) on your right. Liz and I have been there often for performances of ESTA (English Speaking Theatre Amsterdam, which does no longer exist).
Vondel was a famous Dutch poet. The Vondelpark is a public park, long, surrounded by Amsterdam neighbourhoods on all sides. It has many nice spots to sit and look around, and even some nice places for tourists and other visitors to drink/eat (‘t Blauwe Theehuis (the Blue Tea House) or Vondelpark 3). The eastern part of the Vondelpark is not very interesting: long and narrow. Walk under and beyond the first street (Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat) and enter the interesting part.
Film Museum EYE
This museum used to be in Vondelpark, but has moved to the IJ, on the opposite side of the Central Station, across the water, and has its own posh modern style building. It’s worth a visit, and the boat ride is an added bonus. They are often open late in weekends, but on weekdays they open at 09:00.
After walking counterclockwise around in the park and nearing the point of entry, there is an exit to the PC Hooftstraat. This is probably the most expensive shopping street of The Netherlands, with extravagant prices, posh shops, and even more posh visitors and cars. The neighbourhood around this street is typically well-to-do.
If you missed the PC Hooftstraat, try to reach the Van Baerlestraat and go east, away from the Vondelpark. You will reach the Museumplein (Museum Square). On your right you will see the Concertgebouw (Concert Hall; they do classical concerts and opera here). On your left you will see the Stedelijk Museum (General City Museum, modern art) and the Van Goghmuseum. Just before you reached the Museumplein, the street on your left “Paulus Potterstraat” is the street where you can enter these museums.
The Rijksmuseum (State Museum) is in my opinion the most beautiful, nicest and most tasteful museum of classical art in The Netherlands. When you come from the Van Baerlestraat and turn left into the Museumplein, the Rijksmuseum is on the far end, across the square. After many years a renovation and restoration is beautifully finished, and now it is extremely busy again. If you want to visit, you might want to plan ahead and buy tickets online. Therefore only part of the building is open, and just a small part of the collection is on display. On display is The Night Watch by Rembrandt.
This street was in 1872 named after the two Stadhouders: William II (1626-1650) and
William III (1650-1702). The canal along this street is called the Singelgracht, which is not
a complete horseshoe canal, like the more inner canals of Amsterdam.
Since Liz and I left Amsterdam, the Rembrandt Square has been heavily reconstructed. The statue of Rembrandt now has a 3D-depiction (of course, lovely statues) of his famous Nightwatch.
On Rembrandt Square, stand in front of Rembrandt’s statue. Look behind him. That big building is the main office of Booking.com. It is not open for visitors/tourists (!), but if you know some Perl-people, you might get invited in (so, plan your journey, and don’t ask Liz or Wendy who to ask, because we don’t work there). Of course, it’s mostly “just another office building”, but the view from the top floors is amazing.
Spiegelgracht and Spiegelkwartier (with Nieuwe Spiegelstraat)
These two streets contain a lot of pubs, restaurants and art galleries and real antique shops. It also contains many classical Amsterdam houses.
The area around this square contains many lovely streets, alleys, shops, canals, houses. You problably also will find the Red Light District (locally known as De Wallen) in this
neighbouwhood: prostitutes sitting on a chair behind their window, offering their services.
The Waag is a beautiful building (oldest parts from 1488) and it contains a restaurant.
The shops around the Nieuwmarkt are quite special, and amongst my favourites are the Chinese shops, with strange food types, clothing, shoes, statues and swords.
On the east side of the Nieuwmarkt, enter the Koningsstraat to visit the first (and oldest still-existing) European comic book shop: Lambiek. You will see the colourful sign from far away. The interior is just what you’d expect: comic books everywhere, ranging from new to very old, from decent to corny to sweet, Dutch and English and several other languages. I was a regular and I still love to come here. Liz and I made their original website in 1994 and it was one of the five first commercial websites of The Netherlands.
The Zeedijk (the sea dike) is one of the oldest streets of Amsterdam. It now is a long and windy and very busy shopping street. The shops are not exactly posh, but they are diverse and offer a lot of different goods, foods, drinks, clothes and also touristic stuff.
Amsterdam Centraal Station
The central railway station is a lovely building, both the outside and the inside, lots of details that are just gorgeous. It is busy!
The Oude Kerk (old church) is really old, early 14th century. Worth to walk around. Often, cultural stuff is going on: art exhibition, photo exhibition.
Beurs van Berlage
This is the old Stock Exchange. It is a nice building. Often, exhibitions of art and other stuff can be visited here.
The Dam Square contains our national monument and national palace (the queen does not live here!). Nothing spectacular compared to similar places in London, but for the Dutch it is special.
Wiki English about the Royal Palace on Dam Square
Wiki English on Nieuwe Kerk
Department store Bijenkorf (“beehive”) is a lovely building and a great shop (really) to go shopping. That’s where Liz and I bought our camel.
Near the Dam is our favorite bookshop: Scheltema Boekverkopers on Rokin 9, the largest bookstore of Amsterdam. It has five floors with books, and quite a lot of English language books.
This street has a lovely pedestrian pavement with a roof over it, called the Gallery.
Rembrandt was buried here. It is a lovely building. Around it are some romantic places.
Anne Frank House
She didn’t survive the Second World War, but the house that she and others hid in for several years did. Many tourists visit Anne Frank House and it can be really busy, with long lines of people waiting to enter. I’ve been here several times and I think it is worth a visit.