The old center of Amsterdam consists almost entirely of historic buildings. With 8000 listed buildings it is far and away the largest historic city center in the Netherlands. These historic buildings include the palace on the Dam square, the Waag in Nieuwmarkt and Central Station (Built at the end of the nineteenth century by Cuypers, the Dutch architect who also built the Rijksmuseum).
Dam square is one of the oldest areas in Amsterdam. In the thirteenth century fishermen who were living along the banks of the River Amstel built a bridge over it. It is from this that the Dam square derives its name. The Dam square is now surrounded by a major shopping area with the two shopping streets ‘Kalverstraat’ and ‘Nieuwendijk’ and the department stores ‘Bijenkorf’, ‘Magna Plaza’ and ‘Kalvertoren’.
Worth seeing is the Begijnhof, located between Spui and Kalverstraat, a fourteenth century courtyard, founded for pious women who did not want to take the veil.
In the Nes, a narrow, dark side street leading off the Dam square, there are many theatres, including the Flemish Culture Theatre ‘De Brakke Grond’, ‘De Engelenbak’ and Theatre Frascati.
The Nieuwmarkt is a lively neighborhood with many bars, restaurants and pavement cafés. The most imposing building in Nieuwmarkt is De Waag, or weigh house. This used to be the city gate to the east, and part of the late fifteenth century fortifications of the city. Due to further expansion of the city the gate was by the beginning of the seventeenth century within the walls and was then converted to weigh house. Nowadays De Waag provides accommodation to a café/restaurant.
The Zeedijk runs from Nieuwmarkt to the Prins Hendrikkade. It is the main street of Amsterdam’s China Town. There are many Chinese shops, department stores, massage parlors and restaurants. You will even find a Buddhist temple, built in traditional Chinese palace style. The history of the Zeedijk goes back to deep in the Middle Ages. The dike protected Amsterdam from the water of what was then the Zuiderzee. In the seventeenth century the Zeedijk was still one of the most respectable locations for a merchant to live. Compared with then the street now has less allure, but if you raise your gaze you will see many houses with original and restored clock, spout and neck gables that are a reminder of the wealthy residents of times gone by.
The little streets around Oudezijds Voorburgwal enjoy international fame as the Red Light District. Prostitutes practice here their profession. In Amsterdam the area is sometimes also called ‘de wallen’, referring then to Oudezijds Voor and Achterburgwal. It is not far from the Dam square
At Waterlooplein a large daily market provides you with the opportunity to buy both new and secondhand items, from clothes and jewelry to furniture and bicycles. Next to the market is Stopera where the Stadhuis (City Hall) and the Opera (‘Music Theatre’) are both housed. The Music Theatre has a varied programme of opera and ballet.
- Dam square
- Western canal belt
- Eastern canal belt
- Zoo Artis
- Eastern islands
- Eastern docklands
- Western islands
- Museum district
- De Pijp
- De Baarsjes
- Rivierenbuurt / RAI