Walk Around Amsterdam’s Dam Square
This walk takes you right to the heart of the old city center, tracing Amsterdam’s fascinating story back to its 800 year origins. Starting from the historical epicenter or Dam square, we will introduce you to historical gems which hide in plain sight right in the middle of Amsterdam! From hidden courtyards and famous artworks, to quaint book markets, and old city halls. While this area, right by the Kalverstraat, Red Light district and Rokin, is the busiest part of the city, we’ll take you on a peaceful route that connects the quiet corners of Amsterdam’s city center.
Enjoy your walk!
📐 Distance: 3 km
⏱️ Total Walking Time: 45 min
🍴 Calories: 185
🧭 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: De Laatste Kruimel
As you can see from their enticing window display, De Laatste Kruimel is an organic deli selling fantastic scones, bread, cakes and sandwiches all from local produce. And it sure does leave you searching for every last crumb! The cozy interior with palettes and colorful wallpaper is a great spot to sit down after some shopping in town, and if you’re in luck you can claim a spot on the pretty terrace overlooking the canal and soak up some vitamin D!
Highlight A: Dam Square
Standing right at the heart of the city, Dam Square is more than just a popular central plaza. It tells the fascinating story of the very origins of Amsterdam as the city we know it today. In the 13th century, a dam was built in this very spot around the Amstel river to prevent citywide flooding. The dam itself brought together several smaller settlements on each side, which eventually became renamed ‘Amster-dam’. Dam square features several highlights, including the Nieuwe Kerk, the Royal Palace and the National Monument, and its architecture represents important movements throughout Amsterdam’s history: buildings from the Golden Age, up to 20th century neoclassicism.
Highlight B: Nieuwe Kerk
Despite its name, the Nieuwe Kerk (“new church”) dates back to the 15th century. Its name differentiated it from the Oude Kerk, which was getting too small for the the city’s growing population. The Nieuwe Kerk was badly damaged in 1654 in widespread fires, and was rebuilt in gothic architectural style a few years later. Now, the church is used for Royal ceremonies such as coronations — most recently that of King Willem-Alexander in 2013 — and hosts exhibitions, including the World Press Photo’s yearly expo.
Fun fact: Dam Palace was built higher than the Nieuwe Kerk. This was to show the world that in Amsterdam ‘the church’ didn’t stand above the common man.
Highlight C: Amsterdam Museum
Since 1975 the Amsterdam Museum has been situated here — a former convent that, from 1581 onwards, was used as Amsterdam’s municipal orphanage. The orphanage was home to thousands of children between 1580 and 1960, many of whom had lost their parents to the plague. Discovery the Amsterdam Gallery, previously known as the ‘schuttersgalerij’ or the ‘Civic Guards’ Gallery’, a covered street connecting the Begijnensteeg alleyway to the museum. This ‘museum street’ is totally free and accessible to the public, and features everything from original portraits by the Dutch Masters, to present day artists such as photographer Rineke Dijkstra. You can discover Goliath here too: Amsterdam’s famous 350-year-old wooden giant. Question is, where is David?
Highlight D: Begijnhof
The Begijnhof, Amsterdam’s famous and picturesque square, may seem well hidden, but it is in fact easy to reach from Amsterdam Museum through a large wooden door just behind the Kalverstraat. Dating back to at least the 14th century, the Begijnhof is among the oldest enclosed courtyards in Amsterdam. The Begijnhof’s name comes from its original occupants, who were a group of semi-monastic women known as Beguines. The last occupant still lived here in the second half of the 20th century. This serene courtyard features several historical sites, including Amsterdam’s English Reformed Church, the Catholic ‘Houten Huys’, and one of the oldest townhouses in the entire city.
Highlight E: Oudemanhuispoort & Oudemannenhuis
Wander along the quaint ancient passageways of the University of Amsterdam’s law department, Oudemanhuispoort. As you peruse the stalls selling second hand books, prints and maps, bear in mind that you’re walking in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh, who famously frequented the book market! The name ‘Oudemannenhuis’ (old men’s home) derives from the fact it was an old people’s home, even though women in fact made up the majority.
Highlight F: Spinhuis
Our next stop-off is one with a rather strange history. The Spinhuis was built in 1596 in order to act as the city’s juvenile court. The story goes that when a 16 year old boy, Evert Jansz was brought before the Spinhuis for theft, the judges were unsure of how to appropriately punish the teenager. Consequences for an adult would have been severe: either lashing, mutilation or humiliation. Their reluctance to discipline a minor in the same way led to the formation of the juvenile court. Its name originates from the fact that the young girls who were brought to the court were made to spin. The house soon took on another function, as parents used it as an exemplary warning to their own children: they would bring them on Sundays to show them what happened to naughty children who don’t listen to their parents! Medieval parenting 101!
Highlight G: Smallest House of Amsterdam
This has got to be the cutest stop on this walk! Welcome to Het Kleinste Huis, the tiniest house in Amsterdam! Seeing as nowadays there could be some debate as to whether this is indeed the smallest living space, it’s maybe worth pointing out that a narrower house is yet to be found. Any lingering doubts? You can check it out yourselves! We think this little house serves up the best high tea in Amsterdam, but make sure to reserve — there’s only room for four – six people per level!
Highlight H: Hotel the Grand
Situated in the former city hall of Amsterdam, the over 600 year-old walls of the hotel Sofitel Legend The Grand is now one of Amsterdam’s most luxury hotels. Its renovation in 1992 spared no expense, as you can tell from just the exquisite features of the entrance. You’re very welcome to take a look and walk inside the courtyard, or even ask the concierge if you can take a look inside the hotel. Their Christmas decorations are beautiful as well, which is why we took that picture to show the Grand. The owner of the hotel is a real entrepreneur – during the Corona pandemic (when people couldn’t go to the beach) the hotel created a mini beach in the courtyard of the hotel. If you can’t go to the beach, the beach will come to you!
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.Emailis the best.
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