For centuries, there has been little change plotted on Amsterdam maps. However, a desperate shortage of housing in the city led to an ambitious urban regeneration plan of the docklands to the east of Centraal Station – and at the dawn of the 21st century, the stunning results rose up on the skyline. With more than a nod to the nautical, the series of small islands and peninsulas contain buildings resembling whales and waves, and eccentric bridges criss-crossing canals. Gentrified warehouses – which once stored goods brought by ships from all corners of the world – have been turned into restaurants, cultural centers and artists' studios, and one street has a row of houses each individually designed by different architects. A mecca for architecture aficionados (it includes contributions by Renzo Piano and Larry Malcic), it's well worth exploring. But first stop should be architecture center, ARCAM (Prins Hendrikkade 600, 620 4878, www.arcam.nl, Tue-Sat 1pm-5pm) where you can pick up an invaluable map detailing the architecture of the area.
Do you enjoy seeking out places that have the "largest/smallest/most/least ______" in the world? Then you have definitely come to the right city. Amsterdam is home to both the house with the thinnest façade and the narrowest house overall. One of the houses on the Singel, house number 7, has the narrowest front. The width is only a meter. However, the other side of the house, technically the front, is wider. The narrowest house in Europe is situated at Oude Hoogstraat 22. The front is only two meters wide and the house itself is six meters deep. That sure is small.
Commemorating gay men and women persecuted in the past, and looking towards the promise of respect and inclusion, this monument settles into the city and is both eminently visible and unobtrusive. Comprised of three triangles that coalesce into a single triangular entity, the monument features a street level shape, a raised one, and a pink granite component that reaches out into the water and is often laid with flowers of remembrance. Connecting with other generations, the three triangles also point towards the Anne Frank House, the COC (a gay rights organization), and the National War Monument. The pink triangle is particularly relevant because it was the symbol with which gay citizens were branded during the Nazi persecution. Located here is the gay and lesbian information and souvenirs kiosk, Pink Point.
The silhouette of this spire-topped tower is an unmistakable sight in the city. Its base was originally part of the 15th-century city walls, although the upper part of the tower was added in the early 17th century. It incorporated a clock and chimes which still ring out regularly. The tower came into its present name in 1672, when the Dutch were at war and had to produce their own coinage. The physical act of minting was done in the adjacent guard house, and the tower's moniker has been commonplace ever since. It's right by the Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam's famous floating flower market.
Crowned by a graceful, circa-1606 spire, this tower was built in 1512 as an element in the city's defense system and rests right on the water. It was integral to town security during medieval days and helped protect shipbuilding facilities. The tower, which has a distinctive tilt and features several clock faces, now functions as part of Amsterdam's waterworks. It also served as artistic fodder for Rembrandt and can be spotted in a number of his works.
Amsterdam is a picturesque maze of narrow streets, winding waterways and bridges galore. One particular location in the city allows you to take in all three aspects at once: the Bridge of 15 Bridges. Make your way to the intersection of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht. Stand on the side with the odd numbers. Then, look in every direction – forward, backward, left and right. As the name implies, you'll see the 15 bridges. Once it is dark, this spot is exceptionally peaceful and romantic. The bridges are lit up, which creates a lovely setting. Whenever you decide to go, morning, noon or night, be sure to incorporate the Bridge of 15 Bridges into your walking tour itinerary.
Make your way to Dam Square and enjoy the constant hustle and bustle. The square is home to many attractions, including the Royal Palace, National Monument, Madame Tussauds and others. Take a tour of the Royal Palace; admire the beautiful architecture and elegance. In addition, the Royal Palace is still being used by the monarchy for state functions, ceremonies and other receptions, so you can experience not only history but also the here and now, modern day affairs. Make sure to check opening hours. The National Monument, situated at the other side of the square, is a memorial to the victims of World War II, as well as a symbol of liberation and peace. The Dam is also home to many events, such as celebrations, fairs and memorials. As it's less than a kilometer from Centraal Station, you cannot miss it.
No, this bridge isn't blue, as you might be led to expect. Rather, its name derives from the painted wooden bridge that formerly existed in its place. The current edifice, constructed of brick and sandstone, was built in anticipation of the 1883 World Exposition and makes a statement of wealth and permanence. Sculptures on the bridge refer to the city's seafaring history and include sea life, ships and crowns.
The Magerebrug, also known as the Skinny Bridge, is one of the most famous bridges in Amsterdam. Legend has it that this narrow wooden bridge was originally built for two wealthy, skinny sisters who lived on opposite sides of the Amstel River. According to the legend, the reasoning was simple; they wanted an easier way to see each other. The name "Skinny Bridge" comes from the width of the original bridge: a bridge barely wide enough for two persons to pass (and even that was difficult). This changed in 1871, when the bridge was replaced with a wider one. Today, this bridge sparkles at night over the Amstel River. The atmosphere creates the perfect place to share a romantic moment with your significant other.