Dutch capital Amsterdam is the most well-known and visited city, drawing many visitors each year. However, many visitors have little knowledge about the city before their arrival, except for the famous red-light district and the city’s liberal rules on marijuana and prostitution. Those are interesting, to be sure, but there is so much more to the town, including the historic district of Amsterdam.
Was it ever brought to your attention that the entire city center of Amsterdam (Amsterdam Old Town) is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site? It is a pleasure for residents and visitors to go about their daily lives in this vibrant open-air museum. A large portion of the inscribed property comprises canal rings dating back to the 17th century. These canal rings include the Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Singel, located in the heart of Amsterdam Old Town. However, the surrounding areas of Amsterdam Old Town are also protected as part of the buffer zone.
#1: Pay a visit to the oldest building in Amsterdam’s Old Town.
The Oude Kerk is the oldest structure in Amsterdam’s historic center. It was initially built in 1213 and today stands in the heart of Amsterdam’s famed red-light district. You can either tour the building or go inside to see the most recent artwork on display. After that, have a cup of coffee at Quartier Putain or Koffieschenkerij, which is right next door.
#2 Take a canal cruise through Amsterdam’s Old Town.
A canal sail through Amsterdam’s Old Town is a must-do activity during your visit. When viewed from the water, the city appears quite different. As you float down the canals and across arched bridges, you may take in the sights of the lovely 17th-century grachtenhuizen that are all around you. You may arrange a regular canal cruise or even a special one that includes candlelight meals or all-you-can-drink alcohol for a small additional fee.
#3 Take a look at de Waag
The Waag is a 15th-century edifice in the heart of Amsterdam’s Old Town that is reminiscent of a castle in appearance. Although it was initially built as a city gate and a part of its defensive walls, it later operated as a “weigh house” to collect taxes on goods entering the city. Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp shows the structure being utilized as a surgeon’s guildhall and anatomical theater and a surgeon’s guildhall.
The Waag is currently home to a restaurant lit solemnly by candlelight. Take a break and enjoy a drink and food.
#4 Pay a visit to the Hidden Hofjes
Throughout Amsterdam’s Old Town and many other old Dutch towns, there are secret courtyards known as hofjes that are spread throughout the city’s oldest areas. These structures were initially used to provide free or low-cost accommodation for widows and older ladies who required a residence place. Many of them continue to provide low-cost housing to their tenants, who may be elderly women or college students. The Begijnhof, located close to the Spui, is Amsterdam’s most well-known hofje. Take a step into this haven of calm and quiet in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic Old Town district. There are more of these hidden courtyards in the Jordaan district as well.
#5 Shops in Amsterdam
The Negen Straatjes, often known as the Nine Little Streets, is a prominent shopping district in Amsterdam’s historic center. This area comprises three parallel roads that are each divided into three blocks by the canals, resulting in a total of nine streets. Boutique shops selling clothes and home furnishings and several attractive cafes can be found in this area. If you want to experience some traditional Dutch pannenkoeken, you can stop by Pancakes for a bite to eat.
#6 Sip a drink on a rooftop terrace
If you can be in Amsterdam Old Town on a beautiful day, be sure to stop for a drink and a snack at one of the city’s wonderful canalside terraces. A good coffee shop can be found on practically any corner of Amsterdam’s Old Town, but a few of our faves are Cafe ‘t Smalle, Van Zuylen, and Spanjer & van Twist, among others. Bitterballen is a famous Dutch delicacy that mixes excellently with a cold beer. It is highly recommended that you order some bitterballen if you haven’t already done so.
#7 Pay a visit to the Palace
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam, located on Dam Square in Amsterdam’s Old Town, is a must-see. Initially serving as the municipal hall, it is currently the site of formal functions for the Dutch monarchy and the Dutch government. However, the Palace is open to the general public as well. Take advantage of the audio tour, which will let you learn about Dutch history while you wander around the chambers, appreciating the magnificent halls and luxurious furnishings.