In Amsterdam, each century has left its unique hallmark on the city landscape. Amsterdam may be famous for its “signature buildings” – the colorful 17th century merchants’ mansions along the canals – but its range of architecture is actually much broader.
In a city with almost 7,000 officially recognized historical buildings and monuments, you’ll find you’re just about tripping over them. That Amsterdam has such a great mass of historical structures gives the city its overall character, but a few stand out head and gables above the crowd.
The Portuguese Synagogue
During the 16th century, many Portuguese-Jewish families fled to Amsterdam in order to escape from the Inquisition. In the Netherlands they were allowed to practise their faith relatively freely and eventually constructed an enormous synagogue on the outskirts of central Amsterdam. Today, this monumental building is known as the Portuguese Synagogue and remains an important part of Amsterdam’s Jewish community.
In the 13th century a large dam was constructed on the mouth of the river Amstel. This impressive feat of engineering effectively united several settlements on either side of the river, which were eventually renamed under the singular title Amsterdam. Today this historical site is known as Dam Square and contains many important iconic buildings including the Narional Monument, the Royal Palace and the Neiuwe Kerk.
Based around the pink triangle that gay individuals were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps, the Homomument commemorates the queer victims of the holocaust, while paying tribute to the ongoing and historical struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ people. It was actually the first ever memorial of its kind, and inspired many other similar monuments in cities around the world.
A narrow, vaulted passageway leads to this charming garden surrounded by old houses. Begijnhof belongs to the more poetic Amsterdam attractions. The houses in the courtyard were once occupied by devout celibate Béguine nuns and are still home to single women today. In the centre of the lawns is a medieval church and at No.34 stands the oldest house in Amsterdam. The entrance is on the Spui and is indicated by a carved sign. Entry is free, but you must be quiet!
Anne Frank House
During World War II, German forces occupied Amsterdam and deported thousands of Jewish people to concentration camps beyond the Dutch border. For several years Anne Frank and her family hid within a concealed apartment in de Jordaan, before being caught by the German police. After the war, this secret sanctuary was converted into a museum that commemorates the Franks and other victims of the Holocaust.
De Oude Kerk
As Amsterdam’s oldest, surviving building, de Oude Kerk has witnessed a huge portion of the city’s history. The church dates back to 1306 and was originally owned by the Catholic faith. However, during, the Reformation Calvinists seized de Oude Kerk and converted it into a Protestant cathedral. Today, the church is surrounded by the Red Light District and its outer courtyard features two monuments that are dedicated to the city’s sex workers.
A trip to Holland just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a windmill. Believe it or not, there are 8 stunning windmills in at the heart of the city just waiting to admired. Don’t forget to take a camera for your sightseeng.
De Waag on Nieuwmarkt is the oldest secular building in Amsterdam and was originally part of the city’s outer fortifications. In 1617, de Waag was repurposed into a weigh house where goods were measured according to Dutch standards before being traded. During the 1970s huge riots broke up on Nieuwmarkt, in response to the municipalities plan to demolish large parts of the neighbourhood to make way for a new metro line.
The Canal Belt
Although inner Amsterdam’s crescent shaped canal system dates back to the 16th century, its main waterways were constructed between 1613 and 1665, during a city-wide renovation project. This aquatic network allowed traders to quickly transport goods around the city and significantly boosted Dutch commerce. Today, Prinsengracht, Kaizersgracht, Herengracht and Singel are collectively protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site.