Canals and Nine Streets
You should join a canal boat tour of Amsterdam to get your bearings and an overview of the tourist sites. Obviously, this should be as early as possible during your visit so you can plan the reast of the itinerary. Later, you can get a day tickets, 24-Hour or 48-Hour Passes for the Amsterdam Canal Bus that has three lines and 16 stops, so it’s a great way to see a great deal of the city; simply hop on and hop off as needed.
Eastern Canals and Rembrandthuis
Café de Sluyswacht is one of the famous spots on the eastern canals of Amsterdam. The little building stands on its own by a canal and that is the reason why it leans over more than the tower of Pisa. Built in 1695 to house the sluice master, it was converted to a pub since twenty years ago.
The oldest picture of the ‘St. Anthoniesluis’ is a drawing from the mid-16th century by an artist called Rembrandt van Rijn. The artist bought the house with the red shutters opposite “de Sluyswacht” in 1639 and nowadays it is a museum called “Rembrandthuis”.
There is a terrace around the bar and from the rear, there is a great view over the broadest canal in Amsterdam named ‘Oudeschans’ and one of the oldest defense-towers ‘De Montelbaanstoren’.
There are many canal tour companies to chose from. There are the large operators such as ‘Amsterdam Canal Cruises’, ‘Blue Boat Company’, ‘Stromma Canal Tours’ and ‘Lovers Canal Cruises’.
We chose the Lovers Canal Cruise 1-Hour tour that does a circuit of Amsterdam so you get your bearings. The special audio system transmits commentary in 16 languages as well as the captain’s personal live comments in Dutch and English. The Lovers Canal Cruises canal departs every 20 to 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Its boats leave from three locations: the jetty on the west side of the Centraal Station, Leidseplein, and the Prins Hendrikkade. Tickets cost €16 for adults and €8 for children aged 4 to 12 years.
There are also small boat operators that offer Champagne Canal Cruise down the scandalous Red Light District (Friendship Cruise Company) and all-you-can-eat pancakes on the Pannenkoekenboot or Pancake Boat down the IJ River.
As well as the Red Light District, you’ll pass Hortus Botanicus, the Amstel, the Skinny Bridge, the maritime museum, and other key attractions. The Champagne Canal Cruise costs €15 with a complimentary soft drink or €25 with a glass of Moët & Chandon. Additional beer, wine, and soft drinks can be purchased on board. Children aged 3 to 10 years pay €7.50, and children younger than 3 are free of charge if seated on a parent’s lap.
Pannenkoekenboot’s 75-minute cruise runs at various times on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The tour costs €18.50 for adults and €12.50 for children ages 3 to 12 years. Pancakes are included in the price.
De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Little Streets)
De 9 Straatjes are in the Canal Belt between Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals on the west side of the city centre (Centruum). Walk to the area in just 2 minutes from Dam Square or 4 minutes from the Munt. Most tourists do it on their way to Anne Frank’s House to Rijksmuseum.
Most buses and trams to the Centraal Station will get you to De 9 Straatjes. Stop at Dam Square, Westertoren or Spui.
The Canal Belt
Historically, the Canal Belt developed during the Golden Age when the old city within the Singel canal burst out of its seams with population growth. Ring after ring of canals (gracht) were built as the city grew. The Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht cnals were added and connected by side-streets. At the end of last century, a few entrepreneurs started an association and gave the area the name ‘De 9 Straatjes’.
The names of these nine streets refer to the old skin-tanning industry as Huiden-, Ree-, Beren- and Wolvenstraat mean Skin-, Deer-, Bear- and Wolf streets.
The nine streets on the grid from east-to-west and north-to-south are:
Reestraat, Hartenstraat and Gasthuismolensteeg.
Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat and Oude-spiegelstraat.
Runstraat, Huidenstraat and Wijde-heisteeg.
Some say all of Amsterdam is represented by De 9 Straatjes as the ideal neighbourhood to get to know Amsterdam in all its variety and richness.
The area offers a great overview of the architectural style of Amsterdam heritage. After 400 years it is still very lively with artisanal businesses, hidden cafes, hotspot restaurants and galleries, and a unique offer of specialised and authentic shops.
The shops deal in fashion, shoes & bags, vintage, antiques, housewares and one-offs.
We can also indulge in the clichés of Amsterdam: Tulips, Cheese, Bicycles and Pancakes!
The quaint and quirky streets across Amsterdam’s grandest canals are the city’s most photographed neighbourhood. You could (and we did) spend an entire day exploring the vintage and designer shopping, speciality stores and cosy cafés.
Bear in mind that “cafés” in Amsterdam are really bars so sometimes we stopped for a long time in one: drinking beer and eating bitterballen or cheese platters. There is no shortage of cheese in Amsterdam.
We had the perfect excuse: it was drizzling all day and the rain was cold…..
Other Amsterdam Reports
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).