Walk Amsterdam’s Sarphatistraat and Mauritskade
When you think of Amsterdam, ‘Military History’ is probably not one of the first things that come to mind. Yet, the city has numerous interesting sights that are worth exploring.
In this lesser known part of the city you’ll come across the old Amsterdam Cavalry, two former city gates, and barracks used by Napoleon (and later for zoo animals). We have a great suggestion for some good coffee. If this is not strong enough for you, there is always the great locally-brewed beer of Brewery ‘t Ij. And as always: this walk wouldn’t be complete without some of our local hidden gems.
Enjoy your walk!
⏱️ Total Walking Time: 54 min
🧭 Directions: Hit this Link, then click the top right corner of the map to open full screen in Google Maps
FYI: the technology behind Google Maps is sometimes a bit shaky, so sometimes you need to click the link more than once, or zoom in to get the route view. Apologies for the inconvenience.
☕ Best Roast en Route: Bakhuys Amsterdam
Bread, croissants and pizzas are baked in the wood fire ovens, at this fourth-generation family owned bakery. Breakfast until 2pm and quality coffee seal the deal. In busy times, students of the nearby Hogeschool van Amsterdam (Amsterdam University of applied sciences) line the benches of the communal tables, or those working from home drop down their laptops and work among the buzz. Pass, start, end, or start & end your walk with a treat from the Bakhuys, there are certainly enough goodies to sample.
Highlight A: Bolwerk Weesp
A diagram on a flagstone surrounded by a cropped hexagonal green hedge row marks the area once occupied by bolwerk Weesp (stronghold Weesp). Bolwerk Weesp is the first and oldest military stop on the walk. By 1660 a 5-metre-high horseshoe shaped wall surrounded Amsterdam. The wall was built to defend the city and had 8 gates and 26 strongholds. The wall was surrounded by a 60m wide moat, the ‘Singel’ canal. By 1805 this section of the wall had deteriorated, and the decision was made to lower and excavate it. Spinoza street (in which you are standing) was built in 1870. The only physical trace of the stronghold that remains is the slight bend in the Singelgracht.
Highlight B: Amsterdam Cavalry Barracks
The Kavallerie Kazerne was built in 1864 by the Dutch ministry of defence in neoclassical 19th century style. It is the second and most recently built military stop on our walk, and has been transformed several times in its relatively short history; 75 years after construction the occupying German army and tanks had replaced Dutch soldiers and horses. The military withdrew completely from the buildings in 1988. The studios, workshops and offices of the Rijksakademie now fill the complex. Here’s what we’ve learned from the Kavallerie Kazerne; make art not war.
Highlight C: Muiderpoort
Yet more military history hiding in full view on Sarphatistraat: Built in 1770, Muiderpoort was one of 8 gates in the fortified city wall moated by the Singelgracht. It is the second Muiderpoort to stand on this site, after foundations of the first sunk in 1769. The Muiderpoort first was built around 1660, in the same phase of city fortification as the bolwerk Weesp (see Highlight A).
On 9 October 1811 Napoleon made a stylish entrance into Amsterdam through Muiderpoort, mounted on a white horse. When Napoleon and Empress Marie Louise entered the city, they found the streets lavishly decorated to celebrate their arrival. Holland had been annexed by Napoleon in 1810.
The Dutch order of tax advisors has been hiding out in the office inside the gate since 2002; slowly eroding the street-cred it gained from Napoleon’s statement arrival.
Highlight D: Oranje-Nassau Kazerne
Construction began on the barracks (Kazerne) in 1810 after Napoleon ordered a building that would simultaneously house 2,400 troops and impose the magnificence of his empire on the citizens of Amsterdam. Ooh la la.
Each citizen of Amsterdam was ordered to pay 5% of the rental value of his house towards the construction of the barracks. Those who refused had to give room and board to French soldiers instead. A mon avis, it is likely the tax was more of a lasting imposition of the architecture.
The French left Amsterdam not long after construction of the barracks was completed in 1813, and the Dutch army took up residence. Henceforth, the Dutch Royal coat of arms is displayed on the building, which includes the French phrase “Je Maintiendrai” (I will preserve), I guess we can say the French have had a lasting impact.
Fun fact: between 2 periods when the building was used by the Dutch army, it housed animals from the Artis zoo across the canal. Today the barracks houses offices and apartments.
Check out the South and the North side to see the impressive emblems on the building.
Highlight E: De Gooyer and Brouwerij ‘t IJ
The ‘De Gooyer’ windmill was built in 1609 and originally stood on the site of the Oranje-Nassau Kazerne. When the barracks were constructed the windmill had to be moved as they stole its thunder wind (sorry, wind, I mean wind, I couldn’t resist). It is the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands at 26.6m high. The windmill is the last remaining example of those that used to stand on the fortified city walls to mill corn.
The Ij Brewery is nestled just below the windmill in an old municipal bath house. Despite being referred to in common parlance as the windmill brewery, the two are unrelated. The beer is very tasty, and is not at all brewed in a bath.
Highlight F: Rocking Chairs
Strolling along the Singlegracht on Mauritskade you come across 5 giant rocking chairs in leafy square, half exposed to Maurtiskade. Take a seat and watch the world go by.
Highlight G: Tropen Museum
Or Museum of the Tropics in English (that was a killer translation, phew). The building was purpose-built to house the museum in 1926 (finally, I hear you say, a non-military building, not in any way linked to the city wall!) A museum of the same concept was originally founded in Haarlem in 1864, and showcased Dutch overseas territories and their people. After its relocation to Amsterdam, the museum gradually gained a more global scope, and in 1960s and 1970s the Dutch government encouraged it to expand its vision and consider social issues faced by people across the world.
Highlight H: Dubbeltjespanden
Easy to miss, a quaint street of small workers houses right in the centre of Amsterdam runs perpendicular to Mauritskade proper. Constructed 1870 – 1886, these houses were the first built by an association of workers who came together to build houses that would meet the needs of a working man’s family, including keeping them healthy. In post-industrial revolution Europe, health of workers was a newly emerging concern. The houses were rented out to association members, who paid a small sum of each week towards eventually owning the house. Today they remain charming, and judging by the number of bikes outside, fully occupied.
Your Fav Hidden Gems
The above highlights are just some of our favorite spots along the way. If something catches your eye while en route, share a picture with us so we can share with the group next week. Email is the best.
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