Western islands

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When you proceed in the west of the city from Haarlemmerstraat towards the north under the railway line you will arrive at the Western Islands: Bickers Island, Realen Island and Prinsen Island. In this area there are splendid historic warehouses dating from the seventeenth century.

The western islands were laid out between 1613 and 1615 with a view to expanding the port area. Warehouses and shipyards were built. For over 300 years, until after the Second World War, shipbuilding and related activities continued to characterize the western islands. After that the ships became too large for this harbor area. The names of streets still remind us of these times: Teertuinen and Breeuwersstraat, Zandhoek and Silodam.

This location has always provided great inspiration to artists. George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) worked on Prinsen Island up to 1914 and Jacob Olie (1834-1905) came from the Western Islands and photographed the area extensively.

Artists and musicians rediscovered the area after the Second World War. These included Jef Diederen, Reinier Lucassen, Willem Breuker, Benno Premsela and Johan van der Keuken who all lived and worked here. The warehouses acquired a new purpose as residential accommodation. Industry disappeared apart from a couple of picturesque small shipyards. The Western Islands are a world in themselves like an island in the city. Much of the industrial past is preserved.

Aficionados of colorful drawbridges will enjoy a visit to the Western Islands. The Drieharingen Bridge over Realengracht is a remarkable timber drawbridge that connects Prinsen Island to Realen Island. It is the narrowest drawbridge of Amsterdam. It is called after the house ‘De Drie Haringen’ (the three herrings) at Vierwindendwarsstraat 1 on Realen Island, recognizable from the three fishes above the door. Almost all of the islands are interconnected by timber ‘sling bridges’, like the large Sloterdijker bridge to Prinsen Island and the two bridges at Zandhoek.

Between ‘Tussen de Bogen’ (Between the Arches), the arches of the old railway dike that separates the area from the city work and shopping areas have been reinstalled. You will find furniture makers, architects, artists and other traditional and service businesses.

Accessibility Western Islands from Central Station: To Haarlemmerplein: city bus 18 and 22 To Barentszplein: city bus 48

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