Visit the city following the itinerary suggested by the Amsterdam Journal
by Elizabeth Cross (9/3/99)
For a major city, Amsterdam has an amazingly compact city centre.
Even if you only have, a few hours to spend here, you can still explore the city on foot.
Amsterdam Journal has devised a walking route which can take as little as three hours to complete but which will show you several of our top tourist attractions and introduce you to this unique multifaceted metropolis which has been described as "The Venice of the North".
The past and present seem to exist simultaneously in Amsterdam.
The city centre is full of glorious 17th century mansions, 19th century buildings, art deco architecture, ultra modern housing and busy shopping centres.
Much of the city centre is contained by the concentric canals which were built in the 17th century when the city experienced a period of unprecedented economic growth.
The 18th Century
Amsterdam suffered a severe economic decline at the end of the 18th century and throughout the 18th century it remained a sleepy city which seemed to have ground to a halt.
Whilst cities like London and Paris demolished their old city centres to make way for imposing monuments, few people in 19th century Amsterdam had the enthusiasm or optimism to make such sweeping changes.
This decline has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as due to it we can still enjoy the grace and charm of the 17th century buildings and Amsterdam has remained an intimate, accessible city.
So, when you arrive in Amsterdam get your free copy of the Amsterdam Journal and follow this itinerary.
Our walk starts at Central Station (A), the gateway to the city.
Some people have described Central Station, which was built In 1889 by Cuypers, as the biggest single mistake ever made in Amsterdam's architectural history, since it cut the city off from the waters at the IJ and destroyed a very beautiful view.
Personally I quite like it. From Central Station walk straight ahead and you will come to the bustle of the Damrak (B).
On the left, by the water are the Rondvaart Boten.
Here you can board a boat and take an hour tour around the canals, including the oldest canals dating back to 1200-1400. It's an unforgettable experience.
Walking on you will meet the most interesting building on the Damrak (B).
The Beurs van Berlage, which is one of the most important buildings in 20th century Dutch architecture. The building originally served as a gigantic trading centre and stock exchange, but today it is used for large scale concerts and travelling exhibitions that include pieces which are too large to be shown in regular museums. For a really amazing view of the city, you should visit the cafe at the top of the tower.
Next, you come to Dam Square (C) which has been at the heart of Amsterdam life for hundreds of years.
It's home to the Palace, which looks somewhat forbidding from the outside but Is spectacular from the inside. It 'was built in the 17th century by Jacob van Campen and Constantijn Huygen, the famous writer described it as "The eighth wonder of the world."
It's open to the public and is well worth ' a visit.
If you-want an amusing and educational crash course in Dutch history, you could do worse than to visit, Madame Tussaud, also on Dam Square, where exquisitely detailed scenes take you back to the 17th century.
If you look to your left you will see the War Monument, designed by JJP Oud in 1956.
We will continue our route through the Kalverstraat, (D) probably the busiest shopping street in Amsterdam.
The wide variety of shops make this the perfect place to browse if you want to look for presents. This street can be incredibly crowded, but don't despair because there are three excellent ways to escape far from the madding crowd.
The first is De Papagaai, a neo gothic Catholic church at no.58, which dates from 1848. Even if you don't want to go in stop for a moment to look at the beautiful mosaic in the portal.
The next oasis of peace is the 17th century courtyard of the Amsterdam Historical Museum at no.92. where you can stop for something to eat or drink.
If you keep walking along the Kalverstraat, you will come to the third exceptional place, The Begijnhof.
This is an enchanting courtyard surrounded by pristine white houses, bordered by rose filled front gardens, most of which date from the 17th century.
The Wooden House at no.33 however dates from c.1475 and is the oldest inhabited house in Amsterdam.
One of the newest attractions in Amsterdam is the ultra modern shopping mall The Kalvertoren. If you go here be sure to go the cafe on the top of the tower as it has one of the best views in the whole of Amsterdam.
Next stop is the Munt (D) the l7th century mint tower. From here, cross the Rokin at the traffic lights and head for the imposing Hotel de L'Europe.
You are now in the Nieuwe Doelenstraat (E) in the heart of the university area.
It you want to drink something whilst enjoying a perfect view, then head for De Jaren, a large trendy cafe which has a beautiful terrace at the back overlooking the river Amstel.
The Kloveniersburgwal (F) at the end of this street boasts some of the most beautiful canal houses in the city, several of which have been named as national monuments.
In medieval times, the city wall used to run along the even side of this canal. When it was broken down in the 17th century, the Kloveniersburgwal became the place to be for upper class Amsterdammer's and this peaceful tree lined canal still has a feeling of past grandeur.
Look out for the Poppenhuis at no.95 which was built in 1642 for Joan van Poppen who unfortunately is only remembered for squandering his father's immense fortune.
The Engelbewaarder at no.59 is one of the nicest cafes in Amsterdam.
If you, are visiting on a Sunday you can hear live music between 4pm and 7pm.
Another magnificent mansion, the Trippenhuis can be seen at no.29 and across the water at no-26 is the intriguing Little Trippenhuis which it only 2.30 meters broad at the front. By now, the Nieuwmarkt (H) should be in sight.
There are lots of great places to eat here, ranging from an Italian ice cream parlour to Thai takeaways. The square at the Nieuwmarkt is dominated by the Waag which used to serve as an entrance port to the city when it was still surrounded by its medieval walls, but which now houses a cafe and exhibition space.
Nleuwmarkt is also part of China Town and you can find all sorts of oriental delicacies at Oriental and Co. on the corner of the Nieuwmark/Sint Antoniesbreestraat.
Most of the old Sint Antoniesbreestraat has been demolished to make way for modern buildings but at no. 69 you can find the House of Pinto which was made for a rich Portuguese Jewish merchant Isaac de Pinto who belonged to one of Amsterdam's leading banking families.
Further along is the Waterlooplein, (K) Holland's largest open air flea market and a mecca for young people and students.
If you walk around the back of the market by the water you will come to enormous white Music Theatre which war built in the 1980s along with the City Hall.
Many old houses had to be demolished for the new project and this provoked severe rioting and running battles between squatters and the police.
This earned the building its nickname The Stopera (short for stop the opera).
On your right is the Blauwbrug from which you can see the skinny bridge and the Royal Carre Theatre. Across the bridge is the Amstelstraat (L).
Left of it, just across the bridge, note Amstel Diamonds one of Amsterdam's best diamond shops.
The Amstelstraat is home to several of the city's discos.
Beside Club It, you can see the beautiful classically arranged back garden of the Willet Holthuysant museum, which is the only canal house permanently open to the public.
The Rembrandtplein a few yards further up (M) is the centre of Amsterdam nightlife, with a host of discos and night clubs.
If you like art deco, don't miss Schiller one of the most beautiful and luxurious cafes in town.
If you fancy something more modern keep going until you reach the Regulierbreestraat, ( N ) another crowded shopping street and home to the cinema Thuschinsky.
At the top of the street to your left you can take a slight detour off the route to visit the legendary floating flower market on the Singel, but to continue on course, turn right for the Rokin (P).
It is home to a host of exclusive antique and jewellery shops.
One of the most interesting shops is cigar shop Hajeanus at no.92-96. As well as being the best cigar shop in town, it is also housed in a monumental building which exudes an air of old fashioned luxury.
Another popular destination on the Rokin is The Tara, a traditional Irish pub which has an open fire in the backroom in winter. If you have enough time left this is also a good moment to rest your legs after all that walking and take a tourist boat trip (on your right) Rokin leads straight to Dam Square and from there you can retrace your steps back to Central Station.
The Cruise Terminal
If at any time during the walk you are worried about time, most places on the route are very near a tram or metro station that will take you straight back to the station.
From the Central Station cruise passengers can walk in 10-15 minutes back to the ship at the cruise terminal. Or of course take a cab.
We hope you enjoy your walk and the people and places you see along the way.
For further information: The Amsterdam Journal