A walking tour of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a compact capital city that’s perfect for exploring on foot. At its centre, the concentric circles of the 17th-century canal ring ensure you never walk in a straight line for long, and there’s something to discover around almost every bend
Beers and beasts
Approximately 1,650 steps: Begin your walk at Brouwerij ’t IJ in Amsterdam East, accessible via the #7 (Hoogte Kadijk stop) or #14 (Pontanusstraat) tram. Amsterdam’s original craft brewery is located in a former neighbourhood bathhouse at the foot of De Gooyer windmill – spot the original soap holders behind the fermentation tank. Head northwest to turn left on Sarphatistraat, then right on Entrepotdok. This canal-side road is lined with 84 historic warehouses, the oldest built in 1708, which are now apartments. Glance left for a good chance of sighting a zebra, giraffe or elephant across the canal at Artis Zoo.
Approximately 2,875 steps: At the end of Entrepotdok, turn right and emerge through the large 1830-built gate. Straight ahead you’ll spot the masts of the Dutch East India Company replica ship moored at the National Maritime Museum. But, for now, turn left on to Kadijksplein. Note the curved green metal urinal just before you cross the bridge. Dubbed ‘the curl’, this iconic structure signals imminent relief (for men, anyway) all over town. Turn left again on to Rapenburgerplein for a jenever, the Dutch precursor to gin, on the terrace at Café De Druif – serving seafarers since 1631. Press on until you spot the three-climate greenhouse at the Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens. Walk past to turn right into Jonas Daniel Meijerplein.
Approximately 3,025 steps: Located in Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter, this square has a dark history as the location of the first roundups of Amsterdam’s Jews in 1941. In its centre, the Dockworker statue represents the Amsterdam general strike in February of that year, the first public protest against the persecution of Jews in occupied Europe. In front of houses 13, 15 and 19, brass paving stones memorialise residents taken to concentration camps. German artist Gunter Demnig has placed tens of thousands of these moving ‘stumbling stones’ throughout Europe.
Stop and shop
Approximately 3,575 steps: Continue past the 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue, once the largest in the world. Cross left towards the Jewish Historical Museum, then turn right on Mr. Visserplein. Walk through Waterlooplein, home of the Netherlands’ oldest flea market, to shop for souvenirs, antiques and snappy second-hand clothes. Turn right at Houtkopersdwarsstraat. Pop into the HEMA store ahead for Dutch-designed trinkets and homewares, then turn left towards the tower of the 400-year-old Zuiderkerk. At the corner of Zwanenburgwal, look left for the Rembrandt House Museum, where the artist lived from 1639 to 1656, then right to Café de Sluyswacht. Built in 1695, this extraordinarily crooked lockkeeper’s house is now a bar. If you’re ready for a break, head to the back patio overlooking the canal for beer and bitterballen: bite-size beef-roux croquettes.
Sights and snacks
Approximately 5,475 steps: Head left on Zwanenburgwal through the rest of the market and left again past the National Opera and Ballet to the Blauwbrug, a bridge where Rembrandt often worked. As you cross, look left to spot the ‘skinny’ white drawbridge, then turn right along the Amstel, the river after which the city is named. Just past Bakkerstraat are the ‘dancing’ houses, crooked from hundreds of years of sinking in swampy soil. Continue towards the Munttoren (Mint Tower), listening for carillon bells on the quarter hour. Turn left at the tower, then right into the colourful Flower Market. At the end of the market, try traditional Dutch herring with onions and pickles at Frens Haringhandel.
Approximately 7,900 steps: Continue along the Singel Canal until turning left at Wijde Heisteeg into the first of the 9 Streets. This shopping area is actually three streets of three blocks each packed with charming stores and plenty of places to stop for frites with satay sauce or mayonnaise, a pannekoek (a crêpe-like pancake) or stroopwafel (a thin waffle cookie filled with syrup). Once you’ve had your fill, turn right on Prinsengracht. Walk until you reach the Westerkerk, where Rembrandt is buried. The statue of Anne Frank stands in front of it. The diarist listened to Westerkerk’s bells from her hiding place from the Nazis, located just past the church.
Approximately 7,975 steps: To the right of the church is the Homomonument: three large granite triangles that commemorate LGBT people killed in World War II and draw attention to ongoing persecution. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2001, and this place serves as both a memorial and a place of celebration during Pride and Liberation Day. Next to the monument is Pink Point, an LGBT information kiosk with souvenirs and helpful staff.
The old new
Approximately 9,600-10,000 steps: Continue on Prinsengracht past Anne Frank House to turn right on Leliegracht. Continue straight through several street name changes to the main street Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Turn right to cross at the crosswalk and end your tour in Dam Square, entering between the Nieuwe Kerk (the ‘New Church’, only 600 years old) and the Royal Palace.