Walk Amsterdam’s Grachtengordel Zuid
This walk really shows Amsterdam at its finest. Right in the middle of the city center are a few golden nuggets you don’t want to miss. Even though some of the highlights might be known to some, there are some real hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
This walk has an eclectic mix of art, cool places to go out, history, architecture, and much more. Whether your friend, partner, or slightly unknown cousin is visiting you’ll have a place to show them.
Enjoy your walk!
⏱️ Total Walking Time: 28 min
Calories: 130(or 600 if you stop for beers)
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: Brasserie Nel
Brasserie Nel serves ‘m well! This is really a one-of-a-kind place to have drinks. Right in the middle of the canal belt, you’ll find a rather large open area known as the ‘Amstelveld’. In the south-west corner of the square is the oldest wooden church in the city. And how typical Amsterdam is it to have a bar just outside that church. Sitting underneath the blossoming trees, enjoying the boats float by is the epitome of Amsterdam living!
Highlight A: De Blauwbrug
The Blauwbrug (or Blue Bridge) connects the city center to the historic Jewish area on the other side of the Amstel river. The bridge derives its name from the predecessor as this had blue handrails. You’ll notice that this is not your familiar Amsterdam bridge. The blue bridge actually had the same look and design as the Magere Burg which you can see a little further upstream. The city needed a more stern bridge for the trams that were going to cross it. As there was a large international convention in 1883, the city wanted to give the bridge more flair. The architects decided to make it look like Pont Neuf in Paris. Fun fact, you’ll see the pillars that sit in the water. Pont Neuf in Paris really needed this to break the ice in the fast-flowing river Seine. Here, they’re purely decorational.
Highlight B: Shallow house
Looks can be deceiving. Just a few steps from highlight A and C is the shallow house (left in the picture). Why is it called shallow? Have a peak through the windows and notice how close the wall is to the facade. Before 1900, the house was part of the brewery that was located here (or rather behind it). The plaque that was on the facade was removed only to be re-installed in 2002. Check it out on the ground floor, just left behind the front door.
Highlight C: (Gardens of) Museum Willet-Holthuysen
Easy to miss because of the fences and bikes in front of it. Take a peak between the bars and you’ll see the beautiful gardens of Museum Willet-Holthusen. The museum is actually really cool! It shows a historic canal house in its full glory. Inhabited by more than 20 of Amsterdam’s richest families between the 17th through 19th century, the last inhabitant decided to leave the house and garden to the city in 1895. Since then the house is open to the public. What you’ll find as part of the museum are beautiful art pieces, the scenic garden, and how houses were designed back in the day. So if you’re looking for some really retro interior design tips, this is the place to go!
Highlight D: Rembrandtplein
Ow Rembrandtplein…One of Amsterdam’s central squares it has a very distinct character. During the day, the green grass and terraces make for a very tranquil place. Yet, when the sun has set and dawn has come upon Rembrandtplein, the square transforms into the rowdy place that it really is. You’ll find some of the biggest clubs in the city here, such as Escape, Club Smokey, Club Prime, and Club John Doe. The fact that none of these places have more than 3,5 stars on Google Maps should tell you something.
💎Hidden Gem Alert💎 Cafe Schiller. Right in the middle of all the clubs at Rembrandtplein you’ll find this cute cafe. You’d never picture a place like this around here. It feels like time has stood still in this cool brown bar with Parisian vibes. In the back there is a spot that always smells like fresh herring, for the Dutch fish lovers.
Highlight E: Reguliersdwarsstraat
Right off Rembrandtplein you’ll find one of Amsterdam’s most lively streets. It’s widely known as the ‘gay street’, as most of the bars are gay bars. For those oblivious to visual cues, the massive rainbow flag on the pavement and the many, many rainbow flags on this street should give an indication of what this street is all about. No matter who you are or what you are, you’re sure to have a blast when going out here. At the end of the night you have two options: (1) either go home with that sexy guy or girl you met in the bar, or (2) enjoy a great choice of pizza, Thai, and vegan food on the other side of the street. Depending on your order, it might be better than sex.
🍸Yummy cocktails🍸 You definitely don’t want to miss the Flying Dutchman, a one minute walk away. The staff is super cool, the cocktails are amazing, and decor makes you feel you’re on a movie set. The best thing yet: look up on the ceiling for a real 17th century ceiling painting!
Highlight F: Stadsarchief (City Archives) in De Bazel
Often overlooked, but rich in history is the building De Bazel. It was originally built for the ‘Nederlandse Handelsmaatschappij’ (the Dutch Trade Company), the successor of the VOC. Later, it became the headquarters of the ABN AMRO bank complete with vault and everything. Fun fact, one of the nearby buildings was connected to De Bazel through an underground/underwater tunnel known as the ‘Poentunnel’.
Today this grandiose building houses the Amsterdam city archive – 30 miles of prints, books, maps, and anything else that has great abilities to collect dust. Half of the archive had to be moved to a location in Noord as the building was getting too small for all these historical artifacts. You can go in to visit cool exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. For anyone who loves Amsterdam history, you’ll feel like a kid in the candy store.
Highlight G: Foam Museum of Photography
Foam is one of those awesome little places tourists often don’t visit, but is definitely worth a visit. Situated in a stunning canal house (as clearly indicated with the arrows in the image). The exhibitions are always thought-provoking and give room for young talent. A good place to process all this great art is the lunchroom, with surprisingly good food. They serve breakfast and lunch. Good to know is that entrance is free for cardholders of the Museumkaart (if you don’t have one yet, we’d recommend getting one here; for 60E yearly, you have free entree to most museums in the country).
OMG FREE STUFF! Assuming Corona is over by the time you read this, check out their free tours on Thursday nights, hosted both in Dutch and English. Great for those of you learning to speak Dutch; do the one in Dutch first, then check how much you got on the English one.
Highlight H: 7 bruggetjes (the 7 little bridges) & Waldorf Astoria
Amsterdam is known for its many bridges. One place where you can see seven in a row is on the corner of Herengracht and Reguliersgracht (albeit only visible from a boat). The fun thing to do is stand on the corner and see all the canal cruises stop here for pictures. Yes, taking pictures of people taking pictures.
One thing you CAN see from here is the Waldorf Astoria, one of the most expensive hotels of the city. It was only the third Waldorf Astoria opened outside of the US (after Dubai and Berlin). The hotel has 93 rooms and spans the first seven buildings on the street. The restaurant has two Michellin stars and the staff’s clothes were designed by Jan Taminiau, who often designs outfits for Queen Maxima. In short, you won’t find many backpackers around here.