Audio tourTypical Amsterdam
- Audio tour Summary
- Central Station
- Bicycle tower block
- Life on and around the water (Singel)
- De Dam
- Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal
- North-South Metro Line
- Brown cafe's
- De Febo
- Coffeeshops (Hash Museum, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148)
- Outro. De Dam
Audio tour Summary
What image pops up when you think of Amsterdam? The canals, the ‘red light district’, or the paintings of the old Dutch masters? It’s all possible. For there are many traits that make Amsterdam so unique. Items that give this city its distinct, free appearance and yet have their roots firmly planted in the past. In this I-Tour we will tell you more about everything that is typically Amsterdam. By the means of videos, remarkable stories, photographs and quiz questions you will discover what it is that makes Amsterdam so special. And of course we will take a walk around the old city centre. So you can have a taste of its ambience and experience what it is that gives this city its distinctive character.
What image pops up when you think of Amsterdam? The canals, the ‘red light district’, or the paintings of the old Dutch masters? It’s all possible. For there are many traits that make Amsterdam so unique. Items that give this city its distinct, free appearance and yet have their roots firmly planted in the past.
Bicycle tower block
In Amsterdam, the easiest way to get from A to B is by bike. Almost every Amsterdammer possesses one. And all of these bikes need a place for parking, such as this tower block for bikes, diagonally left in front of you. This three story parking lot for bicycles has a capacity of no less than two-and-a-half thousand bikes.
These aren’t by far the only bicycles you will come across during your I-Tour. Just take a look around at any given moment along the tour. Odds are you’ll spot a few close-by – in bike racks, against houses or chained to bridges or street lights. There is a reason for that, by the way. You’ll never guess how many bikes get stolen in Amsterdam; it’s about 50,000 annually! To prevent their bikes from being stolen, many inhabitants paint or decorate their bicycle. They spray paint it bright yellow, attach flowers to the handlebar or cover it in stickers. No effort is spared to make sure their bike is unique and stands out among the other, usually black, bicycles. It will make a thief hesitant to snatch it away.
Life on and around the water (Singel)
In front of you unfolds a typical Amsterdam tableau- canals, bridges, grand historical dwellings with their signature Dutch facades. If the weather is nice, it’s safe to say there will be plenty of boats on the water. It’s these moments when the Amsterdam people enjoy the water in their city to the fullest.
To the Amsterdammers, the water is the place of choice for leisure and celebration. Take for instance Queensday, the day that the Dutch people celebrate the birthday of their former queen Juliana. But also SAIL, the inauguration of the Dutch National Football (soccer) team and the Gay Parade take the abundant waters of Amsterdam as their setting for festivities. Every year, there even are concerts taking place on the canals, such as the Prinsengrachtconcert. At those events, the canals are so extremely crowded that you would be able to walk right over it.
One of the most colourful events on the canals would probably be the Gay Pride. Would you like to see how celebrations take place on the water during this parade? Then take a look at the video in the menu.
Cross Singel via the wide bridge in front of Cafü van Zuylen. Walk past the statue of the Dutch writer Multatuli. Edward Douwes Dekkers, as his real name was, is among the most famous Dutch writers of the 19th century. He used to work as an official in the Dutch Indies. It was here that he wrote his most famous work ‘Max Havelaar’, a novel in which he, based on his own experiences, denounced the way the native population was being treated by the Dutch Indian governance.
You have now reached de Dam. This lively square has been the beating heart of the city for centuries. Hundreds of years ago, it was a market square which emerged on the spot where the first inhabitants of Amsterdam constructed a dam in the Amstel river. Ships from all the corners of the world would drop anchor here to trade their goods.
In present days de Dam is a symbolical location. It features various national symbols. Such as the white, stone column across the road. This is the National monument, designated as a memorial to the Dutch war victims. Every year on May 4th, the national memorial day is held here. Another important symbol on de Dam is the Royal Palace, situated at the right side of the plaza. Adjacent to the palace is the New Church, in which all the coronations and royal weddings take place. The most recent which took place, was when crown prince Willem-Alexander married Maxima Zorregieta a few years ago. After the ceremony in the New Church, they officially presented themselves to the Dutch people as a married couple, on the balcony of the Royal Palace. It was witnessed by an enormous crowd of eager spectators on the square.
Think of Amsterdam and you’ll think of canals. No wonder, since the city is built around a maze of waterways. Sadly enough, a few canals had to be sacrificed for cars, trams and busses. Right now, you are standing on top of such a canal that has been filled in. Until 1884, water would flow through Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Can you imagine how, instead of trams, ships would use to pass by here? Take a look at the images to see how this place used to look like.
You are now at Spui, one of Amsterdam’s best known squares. To the right in the centre of the square you can see a small, bronze statue. Can you see what is being depicted? It’s a typical Amsterdam rascal that could be found on every street corner in past times. Even though these rascals were often up to some mischief, they generally had a heart of gold. This statue is titled ‘Lieverdje’, or ‘Sweetheart’, and is a memory to these scoundrels who have long disappeared from the streetscapes of Amsterdam.
But there is more symbolical value to this statue. One of the most renown movements of the Sixties evolved here. This is the spot where the first Provos rallied. These followers of the Provo counterculture movement protested in a non-violent way against the Establishment. As their name suggests, they mostly did this by provoking the authorities.
These photos show a few of the things the provos were often up to from 1965 on.
North-South Metro Line
Over here you can observe the construction of the Noord/Zuidlijn, or North/Southline, at the wide street you’re at right now called Rokin. When completed, this North/South line will cross the entire city of Amsterdam. From Amsterdam North it will pass underneath the IJ and past Central Station, to the station and business district of Amsterdam South. The primary reasons for its construction are economic benefits, and the reduction of the crowdedness in the city tramcars and busses, as well as the travel times. The line will almost halve the North to South travel time; from 31 minutes to 16 minutes.
The construction of the North/South line does not always go as easy as planned. The construction activities have often been put to a halt due to the sagging of historical buildings on its route. Unfortunately, drilling tunnels in soft, soggy soil is a risky business- more than many an Amsterdammer would like. Not surprisingly, many inhabitants opposed against the construction. They now see their worst expectations come true. And to add fuel to the fire, all the troubles have caused the costs to considerably exceed the expected budget. All things added up, the Amsterdammers are fed up to the back teeth with the controversial line. But who knows; perhaps all these irritations will vanish into thin air once they can at last make use of this fast and comfortable connection.
Do you want to see what’s going on beneath the surface near Rokin station? Then watch the video.
To the right of you, you can see an elegantly decorated gate. Walk through this Oudemanhuispoort, as it is called, into the alley. This name means Oldmenshomegate. Keep on walking straight into the Oudemanhuiscomplex, which used to be a home to elderly Amsterdammers. These days, you will mostly find young Amsterdammers here. It’s now a part of the University of Amsterdam. It houses the faculties of Jurisprudence and Social Sciences.
To the right you can see 15 historical shop displays, which still remain in full use. Every day, a book market is being held here. The merchants store their books in the displays, which they open up during the market. Make sure to take a look around here before you continue your I-Tour further into the corridor.
In weekends and after 6 ‘o clock, the corridor is closed. The best alternative then is to walk along the water and go into the next street called Rusland to the right. Proceed straight ahead over the bridge.
Did you notice those little bollards on the sidewalks? There are thousands of them in Amsterdam. These ‘Amsterdammertjes’, or ‘Little Amsterdammers’ are there to prevent people from parking their cars on the sidewalk.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the bollards. Can see the three crosses on the side? They are a reference to the city’s coat of arms; two lions carrying a red shield with three vertically ordered black crosses on it. Take a look at the images to see how the coat of arms exactly looks. But, what exactly is the meaning behind these three crosses? Play the quiz to find out. You can start the quiz in the upper right of the screen. When you have finished it, continue walking along the water towards the little bridge.
The monumental house on the right hand side of the street, is ˙het RembrandthuisÓ. It was the residence of the most prominent painter of the Dutch School, Rembrandt van Rijn, for many years. You’ll probably know him as the painter of the Nightwatch. The interior of the mansion is just like it was when the painter lived here three centuries ago. If you like, you could buy a ticket and see the house from the inside.
Rembrandt was very concerned with his standing. He liked the world to understand that he was a renown and talented artist. That is why he purchased this ornamental mansion. He was at the height of his fame at that time, so Rembrandt saw no need to put too much stress on the expenses on the house and its luxurious furnishing. However, after twenty years he could no longer keep it up financially. His paintings no longer earned him enough income to sustain his comfortable life in this gorgeous place. He even got hit by bankruptcy, which forced him to sell the house, and all of its furnishing. In 1658 he moved to a more moderate house in the working class neighbourhood Jordaan.
Do you see the little slanted house on the waterside? This is one of the many characteristic ‘bruine cafe’s’, or ‘brown cafes’ that can be found scattered throughout Amsterdam. As the name suggests, the brown colour is notably represented in the interiors of these cafes. The brown lacquered wood is recurring in the bar, the tables and portions of the walls. These brown elements create a very distinctive atmosphere which the Dutch would describe as ‘gezellig’. This is a word that cannot be translated, although the English ‘cosy’ and German ‘gemutlichkeit’ are pretty close.
It’s definitely a recommendation to pay a visit to one of the many brown cafes during your stay, and go for a lager or a ‘pikketanissie’- the Amsterdam slang term for gin. It’s the best way to find out and experience the meaning of ‘gezellig’. We’ll encounter plenty of brown cafes along the I-Tour, especially in de Wallen, which we will visit later on.
How does one live right in the centre of the city near the water, without having to buy an expensive house? This question has led to an invasion of houseboats in the centre of Amsterdam. It is no longer allowed to just randomly place a houseboat at any location, and they no longer are that cheap anymore either. Still there are plenty of them to be found when you wander through the city- as is the case in the water over here.
As you can see, there are roughly speaking two different types of houseboats. Actual barges that have been modified into a dwelling, and the floating pontoons which have a house built on top. The latter have the advantage that they are more spacious and lighter than the modified boats. On the other hand, these pontoons are not so easy to move. Moreover, they are also more prone to sinking in unexpected situations. Proof of this you can see in the video taken during the inauguration of the Dutch football team after their victory at the European Championships in 1988. The houseboats of Amsterdam suffered heavily during these celebrations.
You now walk onto Nieuwmarkt. This was, and still is, a classic Dutch market square. This buzzing square has been the centre of the neighbourhood since ages. Goods which were brought here by ships from every corner in the world, were being traded here. Before these goods were allowed into the trading circuit, they had to be weighed in de Waag. This is the monumental building with the little towers that you can see in the middle of the plaza. Nowadays this lavish building houses a cafe-restaurant.
The Nieuwmarkt along with de Waag used to be the principal Northern gateway to the city. Throughout the ages, the square hasn’t lost this function either. Because nowadays, the Nieuwemarkt provides access to one of the best known parts of the city, the red light district. We will tell you more about this, when we reach the heart of this district.
The Nieuwmarkt is one of the many market squares which Amsterdam counts. Even in these times, market stalls offer typical Dutch products daily, such as flowers, cheese or fish. Try for instance a fresh herring with onion, a genuine Dutch delicacy.
The street you are walking on as we speak, is called Zeedijk, which means ‘sea dike’. A rather odd name for a street when there is no sea to be found anywhere nearby, don’t you think? It hasn’t always been like this. A few centuries ago, this place was not as densely built on as it is now, and this heightened road functioned as a dike against the water if the Amsterdam IJ. This was a bay and was directly connected to the sea.
Nowadays, Zeedijk is a symbol to multicultural Amsterdam. As you can see from the street signs and the abundance of Asian shops, this street is the heart of the Chinatown. It has been this since around the middle of the last century. When many people from China fled the Maoist regime in their own country to abroad, some of them settled here, around Zeedijk, because –as it is closely situated to the port- many Chinese sailors already had their homes here.
Besides Chinese, many other cultures can be encountered around Zeedijk, such as Surinamese and Indonesian bistros and, of course, the authentic Dutch brown cafes.
Every Dutch individual is familiar with FEBO, the national fast-food chain that allows people to take snacks ‘out of the wall’. You can see one on your left hand. Are you aware of the fact that this Dutch phenomena originated right here, in Amsterdam? FEBO is a company homely to Amsterdam. The Amsterdammer Johan de Borst opened the doors of the first FEBO restaurant. This Maison Febo actually was a traditional baker which also possessed a modern kitchen where they made croquettes. From 1960 on, warm snacks were sold from an automatic around the corner- in these days considered as an outright innovation to the Dutch fast-food culture!
The snackwall was a tremendous hit. Customers no longer needed to stand in lines before they were being helped, but were able to choose their snack behind the little panels by themselves, insert coins, open the hatch and enjoy their warm snack. Soon, FEBO opened more restaurants in other cities. Presently FEBO has around 70 restaurants scattered throughout the country. Almost every Dutch person is probably acquainted with FEBO or has eaten a snack from a wall at some point in their lives. Yet barely anyone knows where FEBO owes its name to. Have you got a clue? Play the quiz in order to find it out.
Everyone is familiar with the fact that Amsterdam has a large red light district containing dark alleys and prostitutes behind windows illuminated in red. But how did it actually come to this?
For ages, Amsterdam was a busy harbour city where vessels from all corners of the world would drop anchor. The red light district is located on this exact spot because in those days, it was close to the harbours . After spending months at sea, many sailors often came here for a little disport. When the harbour gradually started to decrease in size, it was eventually relocated to the north-western side of the city. This was quite unprofitable for the red light district, as it took away the customers. However, this changed when after World War 2, the amount of brothels started to rise again. While other cities started to outlaw prostitution, Amsterdam was allowing it. This started an influx of prostitutes to this neighbourhood. Besides, it also conformed to the image of freedom of the city.
In present days, the authorities are not as tolerant towards the prostitution. They claim it stimulates the local criminality. They have been working on reducing the amount of brothels for the past few years. Measures they use to do this include a stricter supervision on brothels and by buying the houses that have become vacant. If you ever return to Amsterdam, it’s very likely that the red light district as we know it now, no longer exists.
Coffeeshops (Hash Museum, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 148)
If you ask any tourist for things that are typical to Amsterdam, coffeshops are probably included on his list. There are many of those to be found here in de Wallen. You must have encountered a few of them already, such as The Bulldog which you will pass soon.
Nowhere else on the planet is the sale and use of softdrugs as common as it is in this part of Amsterdam . It belongs to this city, so to speak. But how is it possible that marijuana is permitted in the Netherlands? And why do the coffeeshops flourish particularly over here?
The reason for the large amount of coffeshops in de Wallen, is that there are a lot of potential customers here. Most of them are tourists. It’s less clear what the reason for adopting the current policy of tolerance was 30 years ago. On this day there still are heavy debates between the policy’s supporters and opponents. Those who oppose claim that legalising stimulates drug abuse, while the supporters say that it leads to a reduction of criminality. Worth mentioning is that the Dutch state earns about 300 billion euros annually from the sale of softdrugs. If you consider this, it’s not that strange to tolerate it, is it?
Outro. De Dam
What is the thing that makes Amsterdam the way it is? You should be able to answer this question by now. Because during this I-Tour you have come across various things that give this city its own, unique character. Think of the brown cafes, amsterdammertjes and the houseboats. But also the things that are not as substantial, such as the free image of the city which can even be traced back far into history, like the freedom of religion in the 17th century. But also in present days; just think of the red light district, the Gay Pride and the many coffeeshops
Your I-Tour finishes here, at de Dam, the heart of the city. This place gives you access to anything- whether you want to go shopping, have a taste of the culture or go for some food and drinks. We hope you enjoyed your I-Tour, and that you will walk or bike an I-Tour 360 more often. There’s plenty of them around here, for instance Edam and Monnickendam, close to Volendam. Do you want to see the Amsterdam Canal District with your own eyes? Then have the I-Tour in this other unique part of this fascinating city.
1 reviewReview this tour
Zeer gave tour, zo mooi dat de audio start als je in de buurt komt van de bezienswaardigheid.