Some of the touristic highlights along the route:
Skinny Bridge over the Amstel
As you walk past the Carré Theatre on the Amstel on 15 October you will have a wonderful view of the Skinny Bridge (see also the logo). The first Skinny Bridge was built in 1691. There is a local legend that the bridge was named after the so-called skinny sisters. These two sisters lived on opposite sides of the river. They are said to have had the bridge built to make it easier to visit each other. The bridge has been rebuilt several times over the years, but always in the original style so it has retained its appeal. Vehicles were allowed to drive across the bridge until 2003. Following repair and refurbishment, use of the bridge is now restricted to cyclists and pedestrians. In the evening the Skinny Bridge is very popular with couples and photographers. At night the bridge is illuminated with thousands of lights and is definitely worth a visit.
The Hermitage Amsterdam is located in the beautiful restored Amstelhof, that used to provide shelter to 400 elderly women. Above the central monumental entrance (a false door) the original inscription is still visible: Diaconie Oude Vrouwen Huys anno 1681. Today the building looks from the outside the way it looked in 1681.
Nieuwmarkt square and Zeedijk street
With the construction of the Zeedijk (Sea Dike) in the late 13th century, an end came to the floods that had ravaged Amsterdam many times in its history. Due to this protection Amsterdam became a metropolis. The dike is still visible. Bilingual street signs show the names of Zeedijk street, Geldersekade street, Stormsteeg street and Nieuwmarkt square in both Dutch and Chinese. This is not an ancient custom, but one that was introduced a couple of years ago to highlight the fact that Amsterdam has a China Town. In the 1980s this was very much a no-go area. Zeedijk street was a hub of crime and drug activity. Then the Chinese started buying up the properties and now it is a prime location. A ‘go’ area! From Nieuwmarkt square you walk along Zeedijk street, past the Chinese He Hua temple and lots of charming little Chinese shops and restaurants. The temple, built in the traditional Chinese palace style, is the largest in Europe and is open to the public during opening hours.
Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder
The beautiful 17th century is one of the city’s oldest museums and has a hidden church in the attic. Private churches were common in the Northern Netherlands, born of necessity when in 1581 the practice of the Catholic religion was prohibited. Visitors are taken back in time almost 350 years and wander through corridors, rooms, kitchens and stairs to the magnificent church in the attic.
The history of the Oude Kerk (Old Church), in the middle of the Red Light District, goes back to 1250 when Amsterdam was just a small settlement on the Amstel River. Whenever the city experienced a period of prosperity, the church would be embellished. Besides the Grave Stone of Saskia van Rijn, Rembrandt’s first wife, there are Grave monuments of famous sea admirals, a beautiful organ and a pulpit from 1640.
The Amsterdam Canal District
In the 17th century Amsterdam was bursting at the seams. The city was enjoying a Golden Age economically, politically and culturally. Rapid expansion was essential. So the municipal anthorities drew up an expansion plan that would make Amsterdam five times as big. The ring of canals with its 14 kilometres of canal and 80 bridges is a masterpiece of urban planning, hydraulic engineering and architectural design. The systematic planting of trees alongside the canals and the creation of magnificent gardens made Amsterdam a leafy city from the start. This systematic urban development project served as an example throughout the world until well into the 19th century. In 2010 the 17th- century canal ring area of Amsterdam was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.