Guest post by Claire van Teunenbroek, 4th year PhD student at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU University.
There are more than enough museums in Amsterdam. In order to make a selection I asked several real ‘Amsterdamers’ about the ‘must see’ places in Amsterdam.
The history of Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city like no other. It started as a little fishing village (named Amstelledamme) in the 13th century and since then the city has always been driven by trade. Fun fact: the early progress of Amsterdam in the 14th century is partially due though exclusive trading rights to beer imports from Hamburg. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Amsterdam underwent a rapid development. This time was called the Golden Age. Unfortunately only a handful of medieval buildings survive today: among them are the Old and New Churches (see below) and the Houten Huis (Wooden House) at the Begijnhof.
By the 17th century Amsterdam turned into the richest city on earth by trading in beer, wheat, guns, tobacco and diamonds. While Dutch ships sailed all over the world, artists such as Rembrandt led a cultural renaissance in the city. Some of the oldest buildings date back to the Golden Age, such as the town hall at the Dam Square (now Royal Palace). In addition, the Amsterdam residents were and still are a diverse group resulting in part from the high rates of immigration from those fleeing persecution in their homelands (especially in the 16th and 17th century).
From 14 may 1940 to 5 May 1945, Amsterdam was occupied by Nazi Germany. More than 100,000 were deported, among them Anne Frank (you can visit the Anne Frank house where the girl and her family hid from the Nazis for more than two years, but note that the Anne Frank house is almost always fully booked during the summer times so try to get your tickets in advance). Now a days, the city is again home to many different nationalities. Just go for a walk in the Amsterdam forest or ‘een rondje Bosbaan’ and see for yourself.
Places to visit
Amsterdam has several interesting places to visit but ISTR Conference participants will have limited time to be tourists. Visiting the following places will give you an idea of the rich history of Amsterdam. If you want to visit any of these places I advise you to search for additional information about possible reservation requirements.
Amsterdam Heineken Beer Museum
Admission: €18 p.p.
Opening times: daily 10.30am – 17.30 pm
Where: Stadhouderskade 78, 1072 AE Amsterdam
Beer helped build Amsterdam and it is still an important substance for the city; if you love it as much as the Dutch, you can visit the Amsterdam Heineken beer museum. This iconic and historic beer museum is a top tourist attraction. The brewery was established in 1864 and now a days Heineken is a huge multinational company. During the tour you can see their old defunct brewery, with several amusement park attractions added to the exhibition. You can admire the 19th century architecture, old photographs and other memorabilia from the Heineken family. Beer tasting is included in the admission price (for adults only, of course).
Oude Kerk (Old church): 13th century church
Admission: €10.00 p.p.
Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm
Where: Oudekerksplein, 1012 GX Amsterdam
Built in the 13th century, this protestant church is the oldest in Amsterdam and it was originally built as a Catholic place of worship, which is why the Oude Kerk features things characteristic for Catholic cathedrals (like sculpted misericords in the choir, high windows, impressive old gravestones and exceptional architecture). In 1566 the interior was demolished when the Amsterdam population revolted against the Catholic Church. Traces of vandalism remain visible until today. Another interesting fact is the that contrast between the religious house and its surroundings could not be bigger: next to the church you will see a coffee shop.
Nieuwe kerk (New church)
Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm
Where: Dam Square, Amsterdam
Adjacent to the Royal Palace you can find the Nieuwe Kerk, a church of the highest order. It was built circa 1400 to make up for the shortage of churches in the city over the years. Contrary to the Oude Kerk, it managed to escape major damage during the revolt against the Catholic Church. However, two centuries later it was completely demolished when plumbers accidentally started a fire. It was restored to its former glory, exhibiting the early Renaissance style. Today, the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam is the most important church in the Netherlands. Since 1814, Dutch monarchs have been inaugurated here, including the reigning King Willem – Alexander. In between coronations and weddings, the Amsterdam New Church is the venue for the temporary art and history exhibitions.
In addition, you can taste some wine under the Nieuwe Kerk at The Wine Cellar. This cozy (and often overlooked) location is below grount at the side of the historic church.
Houten huis and Begijnhof
Opening times: daily 8am – 17 pm
Where: Beijnhof, number 34
Het Houten Huis is the oldest house in Amsterdam, dating from around 1420. It is one of the two remaining wooden-front houses in the city; timber houses were banned in 1521 after a series of catastrophic fires. You can find the house at number 14 at the Begijnhof courtyard. The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard dating around the early 18th century. The courtyard was originally built for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns.
Ons Lieve Heer op Solder: Amsterdam’s secret religious house
Admission: €11.00 p.p.
Opening times: daily 10am – 18 pm
Where: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38, 1012 GE, Amsterdam.
Museum Ons Lieve Heer op Solder is a 17th century canal house with a catholic church in the attic. Catholicism was officially outlawed after the reformation in the 16th century. As a result, many followers of Catholicism were forced to worship in secret. Some built hidden churches like this chapel. The chapel remains almost completely intact. The chapel is tucked away in the hearth of Amsterdam’s inner city. The church symbolizes the characteristic (religious) tolerance of the Netherlands, established by the Dutch in the sixteenth century under Willem of Orange. It is also the oldest museum in the city, second only to the Rijksmuseum.
Town hall at the Dam Square (now Royal Palace)
Admission: €10.00 p.p.
Opening times: daily 10am – 17 pm
Where: Nieuwezijds Voorburg 147, de Dam Amsterdam
Originally the town hall, the building was built in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age. It was then the largest secular building in Europe. It later became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal house. Fun fact: the building includes 13,659 wooden piles.
Het Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam: accurate replica of a VOC ship and more
Admission: €15.00 p.p.
Opening times: daily 9am – 17 pm
Where: Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam
You don’t even have to go inside to be marvelled by this museum. The building was built in 1656 to house equipment for Dutch warships, like canons, munition, sails and ropes. Now a days the building hosts several exhibitions related to ships and the sea. In front of the museum lies a replica of the VOC-ship Amsterdam. You can enter the ship while visiting the museum and touch the canons, sails and ropes. Also, you can go below deck to get hands on experience.
Cheese museum: because the Dutch love their cheese
Admission: free of charge, but a donation is always welcome
Opening times: daily 9am – 10 pm
Where: Prinsengracht 112, 1015 EA Amsterdam
The Dutch love their cheese and have a more than 600-year tradition of cheese-making. Most of the cheeses you can find (and bite if you buy one) in the museum are named after Dutch cities, like Gouda, Maaslander and Leerdammer. The museum is about a step away from the Anne Frank House, on the other side of the Prinsengracht, and is completely dedicated to Dutch cheese. The museum also has an attractive shop. At least one of the sellers wears traditional Dutch clothes and so could you! You can visit the “photo corner” where you can dress up as Dutch farmers in order to take a picture (all free of charge).
Amsterdam Forest, Bosbaan and Dutch pancakes at a local farm: Boederij Meerzicht
Opening times Boederij Meerzicht: daily 10am – 19 pm
Where: Koenenkade 56, 1081 KG Amsterdam
Site Boederij Meerzicht: https://www.boerderijmeerzicht.nl/english
After a busy day I advise you to take a walk through the Amsterdam forest (2,471 acres) and enjoy a delicious (and very Dutch) pancake at the Boederij Meerzicht. The farm was built around 1857, long before they planted the Amsterdamse forest. The farm is one of the few farms that managed to remain even after the forest was built. The farm is now run by the third generation, but grandma’s pancake recipe remains the same. Enjoy!
If you feel like walking, you can follow the Bosbaan, which is a rowing lake situated in the Amsterdam forest. The Bosbaan measures a length of 2200 metres. The Amsterdam forest has several open areas and meadows. Some of which are located along an artificial beach along ponds.
Traditional Dutch Cuisine: Restaurant Moeders
Opening times: 17 pm – 24 pm (Monday – Friday) Weekends: 12.00 pm – 24 pm.
Where: Rozengracht 251, 1015 sX Amsterdam
Moeders (Dutch for “mothers”) opened in 1990. During the opening the guest were asked to bring their own plate, glass and cutlery. As a result, the wooden tables are set with a diverse range of plates, wineglasses and cutlery. Moeders is known for several Dutch specialties. You can order several traditional Dutch home dishes. In addition, the desserts are simply amazing.
We look forward to welcoming you to Amsterdam!