About Jan S
Lives in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
Since Jul. 2012
65+ year old male
After my career as a civil servant in a Dutch ministry I took my PhD in public administration. My wife and I like to travel to Italy and to England, where our son and his family live. Sometimes we change routes and travel around, like in Spain and Israel. I like to cycle and to paint. Our two daughters live nearby. Amsterdam is our hometown, but growing a bit too loud and busy now. We like authentic nature and ancient cities.
Historic Walking Areas, Historic Sites
Neighbourhoods, Points of Interest & Landmarks
Sacred & Religious Sites, Churches & Cathedrals
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Historic Sites, Art Museums
History Museums, Speciality Museums
Bridges, Historic Sites
Bars & Clubs
Flea & Street Markets
Art Museums, Speciality Museums
History Museums, Art Museums
Historic Sites, History Museums
Mass Transportation Systems, Points of Interest & Landmarks, Architectural Buildings
Theatres, Concerts, Historic Sites
A tour in the canal boat is a terrific way to see Amsterdam, from the water. There are several companies and several starting points. One is Rederij Kooy on Rokin, near Spui. I suggest that one. So we cycle that way via Spiegelgracht, Herengracht, Koningsplein, Spui. Another one starts at Leidsebosje near Leidseplein.
This is a very special place, oasis only to be reached through a wooden door on Spui, next to nr. Here old church related women (Begijnen) used to live. In the middle you find the English (in fact Presbyterian) church. For English speaking churchgoers a place to remember for services on Sundays 10.30 am.
The nine little streets are in fact three crossing streets connecting three canals. They became shopping streets with cute little boutiques. Unless you are eager to shop, you can leave them or just cycle through from Herengracht to Prinsengracht, because that's where we are heading. You can even zigzag to and fro, so that you don't miss the real thing here: the variety of facades on the canals Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.
On Prinsengracht near Rozengracht we pass the majestic Westerkerk. It is crowned by the crown of the Emperor Maximilian, who endowed the city with special rights to use this symbol in its 'logo' to thank for support in a local war 1492.The church is one of the major buildings of Amsterdams golden age (17th century), built by Hendrik de Keyser. The tower is separately from the church owned by the municipality. In summer there are possibilities to climb the tower with a guide. Don't miss that opportunity for the view. Next to Westerkerk is Ann Frank house. Always long queues. It is an icon. Let's skip it and wait for another opportunity for remembrance tomorrow at Hollandse Schouwburg.
Jordaan is one of the first extensions of the city for the working class. In the beginning of the 20th century it was a typical neighborhood with its own folk culture. Now it is gentrified, but the streets remained the same containing many small little shops, less high brow than in the Nine Streets. You may cross a few streets, the picturesque canals like Bloemgracht and Leliegracht and from there head north through narrow alleys till you finally end at Spuistraat and Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal. Turn right till you see Dam Square or the back of the Royal Palace on Dam.
Dam is the place in the river where Amster-dam started. The central square, where the sumptuous town hall was built by Jacob van Campen, since Napoleon owned by the state and reception hall for the King. The Dam is also locating the National Monument memorizing WWII, Madame Tusseauds and the department store Bijenkorf. The latter I find disappointing now, with all kinds of luxury shops-in-shop.
Crossing Damstraat on two rather narrow canals (OZ Voorburgwal + OZ Achterburgwal) on your left hand side you find the famous red light district. At any time it is crowded here, difficult to cycle. Right in the middle of this area OZ Voorburgwal the oldest Church of Amsterdam, Oude Kerk (1387) is situated. Remarkable oasis. You could enter here for several expositions, e.g. World Press Photo.
After Damstraat and Oude Hoogstraat we arrive at Nieuwmarkt. The old building in the middle is the Waag, where goods were weighed and traded. This area was scene of fierce riots around 1980 to prevent demolishing for the construction of the Metro. Now everyone is happy with the result. Down Anthoniebreestraat you will see some pleasant architecture that was built here around Zuiderkerk (South Church. We already saw West Church, North Church and Old Church, all protestant churches since 1578, reformation year in Amsterdam). Where the street broadens, we come to a sluice (left hand) and on our right a majestic brickstone building stads out. This was Rembrandts house in his best days. Now museum. Nice to visit, but we can't have it all.
Jodenbreestraat ends at a crosspoint of roads, near Waterlooplein ( a flea market) dominated by a few major buildings. One is a catholic church with two towers, but the largest is the old Portuguese synagogue. Unfortunately not open for the public. Across the street the Ashkenazy synagogue can be visited. It contains the Jewish Historical Museum.
Now continue along the modern rather plain townhall of Amsterdam, annex Opera house. Just before the bridge over the Amstel turn left. After two bridges you will find a complex of old brickstone buildings that now hosts an affiliate branch of the Russian Hermitage. Sometimes nice expositions of treasuries of the Czars are displayed here.
Near the end of our first day we see a old style wooden bridge over the Amstel. The Magere (meager) bridge only dates from the 1930's, but you should not know that. It is a nice view, especially at night when it is illuminated.
The American Hotel ("Americain", as Amsterdammers call it) is a meeting place, where you might end your day.
Start your day soon after 9 a.m. in the Rijksmuseum, an absolute must, but during the rest of the day too crowded to be pleasant.
In the south part of the city larger planned extensions in the 1930s (architect Berlage) create very pleasant residential areas, with great architectural interest (e.g. Minervalaan, Churchilllaan). Cycle a bit around there and end up in this very special area, built from 1910 to 1920. Idealist architects wanted to create good houses for working people. On the third day we may visit such a place as it looked inside (museum Het Schip).
A bit northward you bump on Albert Cuyp street, crossing east-west. A daily city market. Nice and noisy.
Back to Museumplein, museums are tempting. But we have to select. Choice between Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh might end in choosing neither. Van Gogh is built around one iconic painter. Almost permanently crowds are queueing to deter reasonably calculating visitors with limited time. Stedelijk has a fine modern art collection and less crowds, but you have to be a fan of (very) modern art. A famous collection of Malevitch is permanently exposed here.
See above. Remember Van Gogh is just one painter. If you are a fan, you cannot avoid this museum.
May be, instead of museums, you'd better relax in this park, which still has a quasi hippie atmosphere. You could have lunch here or, probably after a long museum day a relaxing seat. Ponder over your dinner location, which might need some more cycling. May be near Overtoom or in the Oud-West areas. Plenty of places there, like Zus & Zus, Room 66, Speijkervet. Also remember the idea about Indonesian rijsttafel I mentioned earlier.
After breakfast, we cycle downtown again.This is going to be the longer cycling stretch as we want to see some things relatively further off centre. A nice idea is to look how Amsterdam merchants lived and to see the interior of these canal houses. Museum Van Loon is one of these places that shows this best.
Another canal house you can visit, contains a very nice and specialized collection. Something special! Nearby is Reguliersgracht, with very nice views at the bridges that cross Herengracht and Keizersgracht.
Find the Kerkstraat and cross the Amstel at Magere Brug, continue all the way on (Nieuwe) Kerkstraat eastward ending at Roetersstraat. Turn left, towards the Artis Zoo. On Plantage Middellaan Hollandse Schouwburg is the place where the Amsterdam Jews were gathered before they were sent to the camps. It is a memorial now, not a museum. The Resistance museum is nearby, in the end of the street of the Zoo.
The country and Amsterdam in particular was deeply effected by the Second World War. This museum gives a very good impression. May be better go here than to the overcrowded Anne Frank house.
After the Verzetsmuseum cross a narrow bridge to reach Entrepotdok. Here are warehouses nicely transformed into apartments. This eastern part of the harbour is no longer in use. The harbour of Amsterdam, still nr. 4 in Europe (so bigger than London, Marseille, Genova or Le Havre), entirely situated on the westside of the centre. Continue via Kadijksplein towards Prins Hendrikkade. Soon you will see the National Maritime Museum. In the 17th century this was the headquarter of the mighty Dutch navy. The Scheepvaartmuseum is beautifully restored and certainly worth visiting for fans, who would swap another museum for this one.
My advise for architecture lovers is to wander a bit around in the old harbour area, where modern residential neighborhoods were built on former harbour islands. The first of these islands were Wittenburg and Kattenburg. So I suggest you drive along Wittenburgerkade, and then under Pakhuis De Zwijger to Jan Schaeferbridge, which leads you to Java Island (Jan Schaefer was a social democrat who became from baker alderman of Amsterdam and secretary of state for Housing. His famous most words are like: "in bullshit one cannot live'). Java island is the newest outlay, where even a small new canal was built. From Java island you can exit on the other end to Oostelijke Handelskade, From there find Dijksgracht and Oosterdokskade, where some modern buildings are made in a nice urban setting. One of these buildings hosts the new Public Library of Amsterdam. An attraction by itself.
Next monument is Central station, obviously a creation of the same architect that built Rijksmuseum (Cuypers). Neo-romanticism this style is called. The building is great, but the location is a mistake according to many Amsterdammers, because it takes away the historic view from the city on to the IJ waterfront.
From central station we cycle westward, following the waterfront. E.g. through Haarlemmerstraat, where we pass the West Indies House, one of the headquarters of the West Indies Company, the colonizing agency of the Dutch in the Western hemisphere. At the end of Haarlemmerstraat we see Haarlemmerpoort, one of the few remaining gate buildings, now standing alone on a square being useless. From here reach Zaanstraat and surroundings, another area with Amsterdam School architecture. Here is one house installed as museum (Het Schip) with interior of the 1930s. From here you could head south and remain a little while in the Westerpark. From there find the Nassaukade, the broad canal defending the city on its limits from threats in the 19th century. This road finally leads you back to Leidseplein.
Finally, you might consider to visit one of the best concerthalls in the world with the best orchestra, Concertgebouworkest. Of course if there is a music play of your liking on stage. I that case you might want to have a quick dinner nearby. like in De Knijp, Bark or others Here ends my trip Amsterdam on bike. I hope you will be satisfied.