Walk Amsterdam’s Spiegelkwartier en Weteringsschans
This week we are discovering another part of the centre. We will discover old canals, hear about some lost buildings, like the palace of Volksvlijt that tragically burned down, and lost plans for the city. We will visit a century old bakery, where you can try out some of its famous pastries. We’ll be able to enjoy many art pieces in the Spiegelkwartier, known for its many galleries and antique shops and hear about the fairy tale of the 13 warehouses on the Achtergracht. This tour has it all. Are you ready?
Enjoy your walk!
Total Walking Time: 41 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: Back to Black Weteringschans
We find Back to Black to be one of the nicest coffee shops in town, this one in particular. It’s mostly the locals and real coffee-lovers who know about this place, so it really attracts the right crowds. They pour you a coffee that is just amazing, and they have a lot to choose from. Also the snacks are yummy yummy. After you’ve had your coffee, it’s worth strolling around the area just East of the coffee shop.
Highlight A: De Magere Brug
In the seventeenth century the city was growing fast. New plans were made to build extra residences, and a new broad stone bridge was designed to connect the kerkstraat with the other side of the Amstel. Then came the year of disaster – 1672. Suddenly finances were tight. The extra residences were not needed and the plans for the bridge were canceled. When at the end of the seventeenth century some small wooden houses were placed across the Amstel after all, a new bridge was designed. Unlike the original plans, this bridge was not built wide, but skinny, hence its name: the skinny bridge (magere brug).
Highlight B: The Tale of the Achtergracht
On the Achtergracht you can find 13 old warehouses. A tale has been going around about the creation of these warehouses. Supposedly, every night, some of the ships would come loose and drift in the canal. They were not stolen, but left on the side canal wall. The captain was sick of trying to tie up all of his ships every morning. One night, he stayed up to catch the people responsible. He found it was not people who did this. Every night little elves played among the ships and untied the ships in the Achtergracht. The shipper caught one of them. The little elf promised the shipper that if he were to let her go she would give him 20 gold pieces. The shipper agreed and received the gold pieces in return. With the gold he built the 13 warehouses here. He named the first 12 after the 12 months and the last one after the elf, called Sun.
Highlight C: Frederiksplein
You wouldn’t say so, but on this very spot used to be a gigantic palace; het Paleis van Volksvlijt. Built to house exhibitions, over time it began to serve more as an entertainment building. It contained galeries, luxury shops and music concerts, particularly organ shows and opera. Sadly, the palace never drew enough money and bits of its property were sold over time. In April 1927 the kitchen caught fire and even though the building almost completely consisted of glass and iron, the fire rapidly took hold. The palace burnt down to the ground and was never rebuilt. In its place stands the building of the Dutch Central Bank, completed in 1967.
Highlight D: Holtkamp’s cake and pastry shop
Since 1886, the building on Vijzelgracht 15 has been a bakery. The extravagant-looking interior was designed by the son of the first baker, named Piet Kramer in 1928. Piet Kramer was a famous architect at that time and had built some great masterpieces in Amsterdam School style (like: het Scheepsvaarthuis in Amsterdam and de Bijenkorf in The Hague). The Holtkamp family took over the bakery in 1969 and it has run a successful family business ever since.
The bakery itself is only 20m2, but its kitchen is gigantic and can fit up to 35 people to work there. The bakery is famous for its selection in cakes but also Dutch delicacies, such as kroketten and bitterballen.
Highlight E: Spiegelkwartier
The Spiegelkwartier dates back to the seventeenth century and is located between the Herengracht and the Rijksmuseum. Artisans of many specialties were the first to settle here, such as clock makers, upholsters, and craftsmen. With the opening of the Rijksmuseum in 1885 many antique shops settled here, especially in the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, hoping to entice the art and antique loving museum visitors. The neighborhood numbers more than seventy antique shops and galleries today.
Highlight F: The Stork
On the corner of the Prinsengracht and the Reguliersgracht you can find a little red building with a stork in its corner. During the seventeenth century this building was home to a midwife. She placed the stork in its corner to advertise her practices.
Highlight G: Amstelkerk on the Amstelveld
In the 17th century, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht were expanded to make room for the city’s growing population. In between these canals the city built a long street, along which four blocks were kept unbuilt. These empty squares meant to house the new churches for the neighborhoods, hence the streets name Kerkstraat (church street). Amstelveld was one of those open areas meant for a big church. The small building you can see in the corner was an emergency church, so that the ceremonies could continue during the construction of the big church. The big church was never built. Fun fact: this building is the largest wooden building in Amsterdam.
Highlight H: Utrechtsestraat
This street dates back to 1658. The street used to lead to the Utrechtsepoort (Utrechtsgate), which is where it received its name. This street was one of the first to get tram rails, which were completed in 1877. Back then, trams were still pulled by horses. As the trams have become bigger, the street is too narrow to have two trams pass each other. So the trams have to wait for another on the canal bridges.
Today, Utrechtsestraat is great for shopping and bottling popping. You’ll find a lot of boutique shops, small restaurants, and a lot of places to booze up. Also fun to check out is the high-end Coffeeshop Boerejongens, you’ll see and smell them from a distance. These are some of our other favorites on Utrechtsestraat:
- Meat & Greek: Great pitas!
- Tempo Doeloe: Super Indonesian
- Concerto Koffie: A coffee bar inside a record store
- Ali Ocakba Amsterdam: Simply killer Turkish dining
- SLA: Because we also wanted to have something healthy in this list
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 best to firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
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