Must-see hidden sights of Amsterdam
City tour guide and Get Events part-owner Reinier Meijerwill shares his local knowledge of some beautiful and less known places to visit in Amsterdam.
The kalverstraat... been there done that. The red light district... seen it. Do you feel like it is time to find some hidden gems in the centre of Amsterdam? Here's a guide to get you started.
Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic)
Because of the 'Alteration' (the name given to the change of power in Amsterdam in 1578), Catholics were not allowed to openly practice their beliefs. As such, secret churches shot up out of the ground like mushrooms. On Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40, there is one of these former clandestine churches: Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder.
Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder was founded in 1661 when Jan Hartman, a humble man who made a living by selling stockings, bought the property on Oudezijdsvoorburgwal. In the attic of this property he built a hidden Roman Catholic church for his son, who was studying for priesthood.
A long time this clandestine church remained a secret. It didn't take long before the Amsterdam city council was informed of the existence of this church, but because Amsterdam was also tolerant at that time, secret churches were generally condoned.
For more than two hundred years, Mr Hartman's little attic served as a parish church for the town, up until 1887 when it lost it's function because of the opening of the larger St. Nicholas Church, opposite Amsterdam central station. On April 28, 1888, Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder was opened to the public and that makes it the oldest museum of Amsterdam.
The attic and the house are kept in near-original state, so you really feel like you are visiting Amsterdam of the 17th century. Definitely worth a visit!
Woonbootmuseum (Houseboat museum)
Amsterdam is known for its houseboats, and this is for good reason: Amsterdam showcases a wide variety of houseboats, in all shapes and sizes. Since the first houseboats settled on the canals in the course of the 20th century, Amsterdam now counts about 2,400 houseboats.
On Prinsengracht there is a very special houseboat called Hendrika Maria, the only houseboat museum in the world. This former cargo vessel transported sand and gravel from 1914 until well into the 60s. After its days as a cargo ship it was converted into a houseboat, but the original appearance was kept intact.
The Hendrika Maria has been inhabited for over 20 years. Now, open to the public, it will give you a good idea of what living on the canals of Amsterdam feels like.
Another well-hidden treasure is the Karthuizerhof, also known as the Huiszittenweduwenhof, which is located in the heart of Amsterdam's Jordaan district.
In the 14th century, on the place where the Karthuizerhof now stands, there used to be the St Andries-ter-Zaliger-Haven monastery. This monastery, which was founded by the Carthusian monks in 1566, was unfortunately destroyed by the Beggars as part of the ‘Alteration rage' that prevailed in the Netherlands during this time.
In 1649 the former regents of Amsterdam decided to buy the land where the monastery once stood and build the Huiszittenweduwenhof.
Western Isles of Amsterdam
During the 16th century there was great need for new areas of land for timber storage and warehouses. Wood was very important at that time, not only used for building houses, but also for the construction of ships.
Because of the scarcity of build-able land around Amsterdam they started the construction of the Bickers island, the Prinsen Island and the Realen island in 1614. Soon these Western Islands where full of shipyards where they would store timber, fish, grain and salt.
A walk through the Western Isles will give you a good picture of Amsterdam during its Golden Age. Try to spot the smallest drawbridge of the city, known as de drie haringenbrug(the three herring bridge), located amid the former shipyards.
Reinier Meijerwill / Expatica
Reinier Meijerwill is part-owner of Get Events, a company that specializes in guided city tours, bachelor parties and other interesting events in Amsterdam and all the major cities in Holland.
Photo credit: Neil Rickards (Our Lord in the Attic)
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