/ The Amsterdam Guide
Amsterdam — By Marianne on July 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm
Filed under: architecture, City Walk, museum, red light district, restaurant, top-feature

Amsterdam City Walk: Herengracht

Herengracht canal rings the city centre, linking Brouwersgracht in the north and the Amstel River in the south. The Herengracht was dug in 1612. Together with Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, it provided housing for Amsterdam’s fast growing population. Wealthy merchants and gentlemen of independent means settled in the lavishly decorated canal-side mansions. Today, many of houses along Herengracht are too large for families to live in. They now function as offices for banks, lawyers and architects. With less hustle and bustle than in the city center, Herengracht is one of my favorite canals for a leisurely stroll.

Big Loft in Red Light District
Zeedijk , Amsterdam
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A short walk takes you from Centraal Station to Zeedijk; the street where our walk starts. Zeedijk is the main street in Amsterdam’s tiny China Town. It is sprinkled with Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food treats. Right at the beginning of Zeedijk at No 1 is In ‘t Aepjen, a pub housed in a wooden medieval house.

Amble to No 206, the Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Europe and was built in traditional Chinese style. If you are here on a Saturday afternoon, you can join the guided tour and the tea ceremony afterward.

Pop in at No 143, Eetcafe Latei, for a frothy cappuccino and a quick bite. Rummage through the second-hand goods because the place doubles as bric-a-brac store. Everything is for sale from the chair you are sitting on to the clock on the wall.

trippenhuis amsterdam

Trippenhuis

Continue across Nieuwmarkt to Kloveniersburgwal. Stop for a moment at No 29, Trippenhuis, Amsterdam’s widest house, 9 m (30ft) across. The house was built for the two brothers Trip who controlled all Europe’s munitions supplies in the seventeenth century. The chimneys resemble cannons and military insignia pepper the gun-powder grey exterior.

The Trip’s coachman lived at Klovenierswal No 26. This house is Amsterdam’s narrowest house, only 2.5 m (8.2 ft) wide. Reportedly their coachman grumbled that he would be happy with a house the size of the Trip’s front door.

Keep the canal of Kloveniersburgwal on your right. Cross Halvemaansbrug, turn left and walk along the Amstel River until you get to Blauwbrug. The name of the bridge means Blue Bridge, however, it is not blue at all, but named after an earlier wooden bridge that was painted dark blue. The present bridge was built in 1874 and was inspired by the Alexandre III bridge in Paris, France.

Stand on the bridge for a wonderful view of the Amstel River. To the north is the Stopera complex housing the town hall and Muziektheater. Looking south, you will see Magere Brug, or Skinny Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in Amsterdam.

stopera blauwbrug amsterdam

Stopera seen from Blauwbrug

Amble to Amstelstraat (continuation of Blauwbrug) to No 31: Heineken the City, the Heineken Brand Store. Three brim with fashion, travel, events, music and of course beer.

Walk to the end of Amstelstraat, turn left into Utrechtsestraat, then right to Herengracht. Stop for a moment at No 605, Museum Willet-Holthuysen, if you want a glimpse of life in seventeenth century Amsterdam.

Herengracht 573 is home to Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, Museum of Bags and Purses. This is the place to learn everything about handbags. They began life as storage places for personal belongings because pockets had not been invented yet.

Continue as far as the bridge that spans Reguliersgracht and Herengracht. Stand on the bridge for a spectacular view of fifteen bridges. Six arched bridges in a row stretch in front of you. On your left, you will see six more bridges across Herengracht. On your right there are another two. The fifteenth bridge is the one on which you are standing.

Continue on Herengracht until you get to No 502, The house with the pillars, the official residence of the Mayor of Amsterdam. The memorial tablet in front of the house reminds of the plight of the slaves. In the sixteenth century, Paul Godin lived here. He was the head of the Dutch West Indian Company and slave trader.

herengracht amsterdam

Herengracht 508

Stroll to Nos 508 -510, two houses with twin neck gables sporting sea gods and tritons. The gods sit on dolphins while half human, half fish tritons resound their horns to abate the storm. In seventeenth century Amsterdam gables were status symbols. Land was in short supply and house owners were taxed according to the width of their house front. Adding a high gable was a way to show one’s wealth.

Cat Lovers will purr at the art collection of cat statuettes, cat portraits, cat paintings, cat pop art and cat artifacts in Het Kattenkabinet, The Cat Museum, at Herengracht 497.

The De Vicq House, Herengracht 476, is a 17th-century double house. Statues of Mercury, Venus and a spying eagle look down on to the street. If you think this house has grand steps to the front door, walk on to number 480 to see an even grander one.

Amsterdam’s most desired canal houses cluster around the Gouden Bocht – the Golden Bend. This curve of Herengracht between Vijzelstraat and Leidsestraat is the stretch where in the 17th century wealthy merchants built their lavish homes.

Amble further down Herengracht to No 380, built in the style of a French castle mansion. Frolicking cherubs festoon the bay windows and reclining figures grace the gable. It is the home of The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. Its three-kilometer archives houses war documents and included Anne Frank’s diary. On 3 May 2010, the journal went to the Anne Frank House. The diary is on permanent display in the Diary Room, built for the sixtieth anniversary of the Anne Frank House.

Herengracht 366 – 368 was built for Jacob Cromhout, whose family name translates as ‘warped wood’. This is exactly what you see carved in the gable stone; a crooked wood log. The only way to see the impressive interior and two seventeenth century kitchen is to visit the Biblical Museum housed in the building.

huis bartolotti amsterdam

House Bartolotti

Stroll on to No 170, the ‘house with the bright colors’ as it is sometimes referred to. Willem van den Heuvel, influential and rich, commissioned Hendrick de Keyser, Amsterdam’s most celebrated architect to design a dwelling that fitted Van den Heuvel’s status. Van den Heuvel inherited a handsome sum of money from his Italian great-uncle. To honor him, Van den Heuvel changed his first name into Guillelmo and adopted his uncle’s family name, Bartolotti.

Retrace your steps and turn right into Raadhuisstraat. Italian Eetcafé, Il Panorama, across the road serves tasty pizzas, tantalizing pasta dishes and delectable crusty rolls filled with goat cheese smothered in honey and topped with crispy apple.

Continue along Raadhuisstraat until you get to Prinsengracht. Wave down a Stop/Go Minibus. This corn flower blue mini bus winds its way along Prinsengracht and whisks you to Centraal station.

QUICK FACTS:

WHAT: In ‘t Aepjen
WHERE: Zeedijk 1 (map)
OPENING HOURS: 3 pm – 1 am, Friday and Saturday until 3 am

WHAT: Fo Guang Shan He Hua Temple
WHERE: Zeedijk 106 (map)
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday – Saturday 12 noon – 5 pm, Sundays 10 am – 5 pm

WHAT: Eetcafé Latei
WHERE: Zeedijk 143 (map)
OPENING HOURS:
Mon – Wed: 8 am – 5 pm
Thu – Fri: 8 am – 10 pm
Sat: 10 am – 10 pm and Sun: 11 am – 5 pm

WHAT: Heineken The City
WHERE: Amstelstraat 31 (map)
OPENING HOURS:
Monday 12.18 – midnight, Tue – Sat 10.18 am – midnight

WHAT: Museum of Bags and Purses
WHERE: Herengracht 573 (map)
OPENING HOURS: Daily 10 am – 5 pm
ADMISSION FEE: €7.50

WHAT: Kattenkabinet, Cat Museum
WHERE: Herengracht 497 (map)
OPENING HOURS: Mon – Fri: 10 am – 4 pm, Sat – Sun: noon – 5 pm
ADMISSION FEE: €5

WHAT: Bijbelsmuseum, Biblical Museum
WHERE: Herengracht 368, map
OPENING HOURS: Mon – Sat 10 am – 5 pm, Sun: 11 am – 5 pm
ADMISSION FEE: €8

WHAT: Il Panorama, Italian Eetcafé
WHERE: Herengracht 174, map
OPEN: daily 12 pm – 10.30 pm

photo credit: personal collection

Related places:
  1. A
    In Het Aepjen, Zeedijk 1, 1012 AN Amsterdam
    In Het Aepjen, Zeedijk 1, 1012 AN Amsterdam, , , NL
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Di Shue Fang Tea Corner
    Zeedijk 106- 118, Amsterdam, , Netherlands
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Latei
    Zeedijk 143, 1012 Amsterdam
    View Details and Book
  4. D
    Heineken the City
    Amstelstraat 31, 1017 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands
    View Details and Book
  5. E
    Tassenmuseum / Museum of Bags and Purses
    Herengracht 573
    View Details and Book
  6. F
    Stichting het Kattenkabinet
    Herengracht 497, Amsterdam, , Netherlands
    View Details and Book
  7. G
    Bijbels Museum
    Herengracht 366-368, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    View Details and Book
  8. H
    Panorama
    Herengracht 194, Amsterdam, Noord Holland, Netherlands, 1016 BS
    View Details and Book
Tags: architecture, City Walk, museum, red light district, restaurant, top-feature


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