Amsterdam Canal Apartments

Two comfortable canal apartments in the heart of the historic city centre of Amsterdam

History

Some history about the area you will stay in and Amsterdam in general.

The is rich in traces of the middle Ages, when the city was founded. Here are some of the must-see sights.

The area around the Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat is one of the oldest parts of Amsterdam. For centuries, it’s been dominated by the inns, pubs and brothels frequented by the many visiting sailors. Sample the atmosphere of the Middle Ages at the Medieval festival Hartjesdagen every August on the Zeedijk. Or visit café ’t Aepje (“The Monkey”) at Zeedijk 1, one of the oldest houses in the city and in fact one of only two remaining wooden houses in the city (most burned down during the great fires of 1421 and 1451).

The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of the seedy Red Light District. It’s believed to be the city’s oldest structure, built around 1306, on the site of a chapel dating from around 1250.

The St. Antoniespoort (St. Anthony’s Gate), now Restaurant the Waag, on the Nieuwmarkt was originally the largest fortified entrance to the city of Amsterdam constructed in the late 15th Century.

The Schreierstoren, now the interesting VOC café and the Montelbaanstoren were also part of this city wall. Inside de Waag at the side entrance you can still see the Theatrum Anatomicum where Rembrandt did paint his famous Anatomical lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

The Kloveniersburgwal and Gelderskade canals were also part of the medieval defense works, dug in the year 1425 to serve as a moat around the city.

This century is known as the “Golden Age” in Holland. During this time, the Dutch were the world’s superpower and Amsterdam was the centre of the world, collecting immense wealth from all corners of the globe.

From the boardrooms of the Oost-Indisch Huis (East India House now called Bushuis from the University of Amsterdam) at the corner of Kloveniersburgwal and Hoogstraat, the Dutch East India Company controlled the immensely profitable trade with Asia.

Moored outside the Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum) on Kattenburgerplein is a stunning replica of the “Amsterdam,” a 17th Century Dutch East India Company sailing ship. The museum itself was in use for centuries as a navy storehouse.

The Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House) on Jodenbreestraat is the house where world-famous painter Rembrandt lived most of his life. It has been lovingly restored to its original 17th Century state. Exploring the house, you can travel back in time and actually imagine you walking around a Vermeer painting! The museum also houses a unique collection of etchings and drawings by Rembrandt; many depict 17th Century street life in the Jodenbreestraat, as well as neighborhood landmarks like the Montelbaantoren defensive tower.

Many of the local merchants built fabulous mansions to show off the riches they had collected on the high seas. One of the most famous of these grand buildings, which were often more like small palaces, is the imposing Trippenhuis on Kloveniersburgwal. Built in Classical style in 1662, it was owned by the brothers Trip, who became fabulously wealthy as arms dealers. Another lovely example of 17th Century mansions is the Huis De Pinto on St. Antoniebreestraat, which was owned by Portuguese-Jewish merchant De Pinto. It’s one of the few buildings in the street (along with the Rembrandthuis) to survive the tearing down of many old buildings in the neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s.

Museum Amstelkring on Oudezijds Voorburgwal is actually a restored 17th Century Mansion with a secret Roman-Catholic church on the top floor, affectionately known as “Ons’ Lieve Heer op Zolder” (“Our Dear Lord in the Attic”).

Opposite the Trippenhuis is the Kleine Trippenhuis on Kloveniersburgwal 29. Built for the Trip brothers’ coachman in 1660, it measures just 2.44 meters in width. Around the corner, on Oude Hoogstraat 22, is a house that’s even smaller, just 2.02 meters wide and 6 meters deep. To see the world’s smallest house, you have to travel a little out of the Nieuwmarkt area, to Singel 7. This house is just 1.01 meters (!) wide. To be honest, though, this is actually the back side of the house, so Oude Hoogstraat 22 takes the prize as the cities (and probably the worlds) smallest.

Up until World War II, Amsterdam was home to the largest Jewish community in Western Europe; hence, the city was also known as “Jerusalem of the West”. Today, Amsterdammers still use the (originally Yiddish) name “Mokum” for their city. At the center of the city’s pre-World War II Jewish quarter was the Jodenbreestraat (“Jewish Broad Street”).

The 17th Century Portuguese Synagogue (known as the “Snoge”) which you still can visit except on Saturdays and Jewish holidays) on Mr. Visserplein was restored to its original glory in 1993 and is still in use today. Adjacent, the Jewish Historical Museum stands on the spot where the German Synagogue once stood. In between the synagogue and museum is a square called Daniel Meyerplein, where a statue marks the February 1941 general strike in the city to protest the Nazi persecution of Amsterdam’s Jews. The strike was sparked when the Nazis started raiding the Jewish quarter and rounding up hundreds of Jews to be sent off to the concentration camps.

Jewish traders turned Amsterdam into a major centre for the international diamond industry. You can see diamond cutting and polishing in action by visiting one of the local gem centers, like Gassan Diamonds in the Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat.

Complete your tour of Jewish Amsterdam by having a bite at one of the neighborhood’s kosher restaurants, like King Solomon on Waterlooplein,

Amsterdam gained its reputation as Europe’s flower power capital in the turbulent 1960s, when the city became a hotbed of political and cultural radicalism. The pot-smoking hippies created a tolerant, free-thinking atmosphere in the city and paved the way for the decriminalization of soft drugs. The first of Amsterdam’s infamous coffee shops, where marijuana and hash can be bought and smoked, opened in 1972; in the Nieuwmarkt area, Coffee shop Rusland on Rusland opened its doors in 1975 and is still “smoking” today.

In the 1970s, a severe housing shortage led to “krakers” (squatters) illegally occupying many of the city center’s decrepit, often condemned buildings, including those in the former Jewish quarter around Jodenbreestraat and Waterlooplein. The city announced plans to tear down most of the houses in the Nieuwmarkt area to make way for large-scale property development along with a new subway line and highway running right through the neighborhood. These plans were met by massive riots in the Nieuwmarkt area by squatters and local residents in 1975. Following the riots, the city canceled most of its drastic remodeling plans, though the subway line and Stopera (city hall/opera house) did get constructed. A vivid reminder of the squatter days is alternative bookstore Het Fort van Sjakoo on Jodenbreestraat.

In the Seventies Amsterdam became known as the “gay capital of Europe”. After World War II, gay/lesbian culture exploded and the city got its reputation as a gay Mecca. The Amstel Taveerne on the Amstel is the oldest gay bar in Amsterdam that is still in operation today under the name of Amstel 55. Argos on Warmoesstraat was the world’s first leather bar, opening its doors in the late 1950s.