When you visit Amsterdam you’ll experience you enter an open air museum and set foot on the historic grounds of the Golden Age. Much history has been preserved in Amsterdam. And although there are always structural changes in Amsterdam, much has remained unchanged. The city has many streets that have hardly changed compared to centuries ago.
In this article we take a look at some striking streets and squares with an important historical and tourist function. Next to Dam Square, Amsterdam’s oldest square, we’ll further explore some world-famous canals from the Golden Age, the partly subdued parts of the Amstel river in the old city centre and three historic squares where it is good for tourists.
1. Dam Square
You can’t miss this central and always busy square in the historic heart of the city. Here you will find the Royal Palace, the New Church and the National Monument. The Dam Square is traditionally the heart of the city. Here a dam was built in the Amstel river in the middle of the 13th century. Amsterdam has developed around this place. From the 14th century Dam Square was not only geographically, but also became administratively the centre of the city when the city hall was built here.
This vast square with lots of greenery is located directly behind the Rijksmuseum. You can lie here in the grass and enjoy the beautiful buildings and museums in the neighborhood. The Museumplein exists in its current architectural form since 1999. In a distant past, the World Exhibition of 1883 was held here and in the winter the site was used as an ice rink. Around the Museumplein you’ll find several museums including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum.
The 2,4 kilometer long Herengracht is the second of four Amsterdam canals belonging to the canals belt. It is one of the most beautiful canals of Amsterdam with many prestigious buildings and national monuments. The canal came into its current form from 1612 onwards. Many houses were then occupied by regents, mayors and tradesmen who earned their capital in trade with South America or the Dutch East Indies. Walking or navigating the Herengracht is a huge sensation.
The Damrak is a large street and a water between Dam Square and Central Station. The Amstel River flowed here for a long time. After the Damrak was filled in in 1845, it became an important road, especially for trams. A part of the wet Damrak still exists and provides an iconic image of canal houses that rise from the water. From a historical point of view, it is certainly worth it to cross this street.
This historic square now offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation and entertainment. It is a pleasant meeting place for Amsterdammers and tourists. Here you will find many cozy terraces, theaters and restaurants. The square dates back to 1660 and was built as a ‘car square’, where visitors from outside the city could park their cars before going further into the city. After more than a century it also acquired a cultural function, when in 1774 the first theater was built on the square.
The Keizersgracht is the third of the four Amsterdam canals that together form the Canal Belt. It is a canal on which hundreds of monumental buildings from the Golden Age can be admired. The 2.8 kilometer long canal was dug around the city center from 1615 onwards. Almost three years later almost all lots were built on the east side. The western part was connected fifty years later.
The Rembrandtplein came to life unscheduled in 1668 as a result of the city expansions. Today it’s Amsterdam’s entertainment area par excellence with many catering facilities and terraces. The Rembrandtplein is one of Amsterdam’s most famous nightlife areas due to the many bars and cafés. Here you’ll also find the Rembrandt monument from 1852. It’s the oldest still existing statue in Amsterdam and was cast in one piece.
The Rokin is a water and a street in Amsterdam. It’s located between Dam Square and Muntplein and an actual continuation of the Damrak. Here, in the centre of the city, the Amstel river used to run. In 1933 and 1936 the river was partly filled. There is still a wet part of the Rokin in which tour boats moor. This produces beautiful images that are worth viewing.