Walking route through the old city center
Discover the versatile neighbourhood of the old city center: the unique sights, cozy shopping streets and culinary hotspots in medieval Amsterdam.
The free map with this walk on it is also available at Restaurant In de Waag where you can have a cappuccino, a sandwich or a snack; the perfect location to start this walk!
A) De Waag
When the weigh-house on Dam square got too small, the former town gate ‘Sint Antoniespoort’ got his new function as weigh-house in 1617. Here all merchants weighed their goods. On the top floor of the building guilds were housed among which the surgeons guild. In 1632 Rembrandt painted The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp in here. Nowadays you can find Café-Restaurant In de Waag within this building, where they lit 300 candles each evening. The name of the Nieuwmarkt, the square at which The Waag is located, comes from the place where the new market was held when the city had to extend and the ‘old market’ could not take place at Dam Square anymore.
B) Buddhist Temple
This temple named ‘Fo Guang Shan He Hwa’ was built in 2000 and occupied and maintained by an abbess and four nuns. The temple is dedicated to Guan Yin, a female Buddha. Her name means: The wise full of compassion. Her statue can be admired within the public area of the temple. The Zeedijk and Nieuwmarkt area are also known as the Chinatown of Amsterdam; it is the neighborhood where in the beginning of the 20th century the first Chinese people established themselves within Europe. Therefore you can find a lot of Chinese shops here like Toko Dun Yong, restaurants like Nam Kee and Sea Palace and even the street signs are also written in Chinese. The Chinese neighborhood is unique in the world because besides the Chinese there are living a lot of other nationalities as well. You can see this from the many Thai restaurants like Bird, Me Naam Naan and Song Kwae.
C) Leeuwenburgh House
The Leeuwenburgh, also known as ‘The Weapon of Riga’, has a stepped gable, a wooden frame and brick walls. This building at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 14 was built in 1605 by a merchant from the Russian city Riga. In the middle gable stone you can identify two crossing keys: The weapon of Riga. On the left gable stone there is a fort displayed with a lion’s head.
You are located here at the former beer quay, the part of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal where the porters were loading and unloading the heavy barrels with beer from the boats which were shipped to Amsterdam from Germany. The inhabitants of this part of Amsterdam (bierkaai) were well-known as invincible fighters, of which the proverbial ‘vechten tegen de bierkaai’ (literally: ‘fighting against the beer quay’) derives, which means that something is a losing battle. Near the Leeuwenburgh you find the brewery, tasting room and shop of De Prael, located in a former auction house. You can have an interesting guided tour here and learn more about Dutch beer and the brewing process. On your way to stopping point I you will come across Museum Our Lord in the Attic. This remarkable hidden church in the attic is definitely worth a visit.
D) Police Station Warmoesstraat
Up till the end of 2000 this was a well-known police station located in five buildings which were connected with each other by small corridors and steep stairways. Officers at this police station were familiar with pick pockets, car thieves, vandals, drug dealers, liquidations, mugging, corruption and illegal gambling. The Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat were streets where you could better stay away from in the 70s up till the 90s. Baantjer, one particular officer who worked at this station for 28 years, has written many famous crime novels about his experiences here. Former detective Ton used to work at Police Station Warmoesstraat as well during these troubled times and nowadays tells about this period during his walking tours through this district. Because this was a no-go area at the time the inhabitants insisted the government of Amsterdam to intervene for which there was formed a social management organization called the NV Zeedijk to maintain this area. Nowadays they still look out for a balanced area of both inhabitants, tourism and shops at the Zeedijk and other streets close by.
Looking for a place to have lunch? At De Bakkerswinkel you can have a delicious lunch, savory pies or sweet delicacies and much more!
E) Old Church
The history of the Old Church goes back to 1250, when Amsterdam was a small town along the Amstel river. Every time when the city experienced economic prosperity, they embellished this church. Except for the tombstone of the wife of Rembrandt – Saskia van Rijn – you can admire other tombs of famous sea admirals and an impressive organ and pulpit from 1640 in this church. The area around the church is very versatile: you can find the famous ladies behind the red lit windows, a daycare, a coffee tasting room, Restaurant ANNA, the Prostitute Information Centre, but also an arcade hall called the TonTon club.
When you walk back to stopping point A, you will come across the Pijlsteeg, between the Damstraat and the NH Collection Krasnapolsky Amsterdam Hotel. In this alley you find tastingroom and distillery Wynand Fockink. Around the corner, at the end of the Warmoesstraat you can find the Condomerie and Metropolitan, where you can taste the best house made chocolate of Amsterdam. The VR Gamehouse is just a little further away, where a virtual reality experience comes alive for the young and old.
F) The Royal Palace
Back in 1648, the famous architect Jacob van Campen got the task to build an impressive city hall for Amsterdam. This city hall is nowadays better known as The Royal Palace on Dam square. When the Royal family is not using the palace, it is publicly opened. A site definitely worth visiting to take a look yourself.
Did you know that next to the New Church, at Museumfoto, you can make a funny souvenir of yourself as a Dutch painting? If you want to keep yourself going for this walk, a delicious burger is available at Ellis Gourmet Burger at the Gravenstraat. A peak for children is Ripley’s Believe It or Not! at Dam square.
G) The Beguinage Courtyard
Around the year 1150, a group of women decided to form a religious community; the superior goal was to educate as well as take care of the ill people. The Beguinage Courtyard consisted of small houses and a church around a patio, which was locked at night. Take a look within this peaceful oasis close to the busy Kalverstraat. You can find the entrance at Spui square, where you will find a book market every Friday. If you want to make a longer stop here, treat yourself with the most delicious Flemish fries at Vlaams Friethuis Vleminckx in Voetboogsteeg, the alley between Spui square and Heiligeweg. This Sausmeester (sauce master) has the best sauces for your fries!
H) House at The Three Canals
Have you ever been in the alley Gebed Zonder End (prayer without an end)? You pass this alley on your way to stopping point C. People liked the name of this alley so much that the street sign got stolen many times. As a solution they painted the street name on the wall. The alley got its name because of the monasteries that were located in this part of Amsterdam in medieval times. At Gebed zonder End, the Sint Clara Convent was located, a nunnery founded around 1397. At this almost hidden alley you will also find the romantic restaurant Kapitein Zeppos.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal is the oldest canal of Amsterdam. It was dug between 1342 and 1380. A lot of houses at this part of the canal are beautifully renovated, for example the House at The Three Canals, with three stepped gables. On the gable stone it says ‘Fluwelen Burgwal’ (velvet rampart) which refers to the velvet clothing in which the wealthy people dressed themselves back then.
I) Sint Antoniesluis
This sluice was built in 1602 and connects the Zwanenburgwal with the Oudeschans. The St. Antoniesluis refreshes the water of the canals. The crooked house at this sluice is called the House of Gosler: this was the name of the hardware store that was located here in the beginning of the 19th century. Since 1973 this house is a national monument, nowadays used as a café: De Sluyswacht. Around the corner here, on the Jodenbreestraat, you can find The Rembrandt House Museum ; the house where famous Dutch painter Rembrandt used to live and work during twenty years of his life. Here you can view a wonderful collection of his etchings and go back to the era of Rembrandt and the studio of Rembrandt is fully recovered into its original condition. If you go around the corner into the Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat you can get a free tour at the Gassan Diamond factory to learn more about the diamond grinding process at this family business.
Till the end of the 16th century this was the outer canal of the city. The name comes from the old Dutch word ‘klovers’, some sort of old guns, with which the citizen force did their shooting exercises. At the corner of the Kloveniersburgwal and the Amstel river stood a tavern where the portraits of the famous citizen forces hang. The most famous portrait is of course The Night's Watch.
At this point you cross the Kloveniersburgwal on the bridge between the two Hoogstraten, the old and the new Hoogstraat. Here, and at the other two ‘Dam streets’ you find a great amount of nice little shops, restaurants etcetera! Also The Smallest House of Amsterdam is located in this street, nowadays a cute teashop. Owner Niels can tell you anything about this adorable little house and all tea flavours he sells. Other tips for this street are Capsicum for their wonderful fabrics or Antiquariaat Kok & Zn to wander between thousands of books.