Old Church (Oude Kerk)
The Old Church, consecrated in 1368, is so named to differentiate it from the New Church that you saw on Dam Square. It is well worth a visit inside to see the beautifully rustic interior and floor burial stones commemorating the historic and wealthy Amsterdam residents buried beneath. Most notable are the organist and composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) and Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh (1612-1642). Rembrandt himself is interred in a pauper’s grave at the Westerkerk across town (more on that later).
Address: Oudekerksplein 23, 1012 GX Amsterdam
Phone: 020 625 8284
13 and older €5
Tower climb €5
Now for a quick trip across the oldest part of Amsterdam. If you are doing this tour by bicycle, I suggest you walk your bike through these areas as the streets are narrow, and some are pedestrian only. I’ll let you know when you should get back on your bicycle.
Notice the red-lit windows surrounding the Old Church. As you walk away from the Old Church you will pass several cannabis coffee shops and pubs on Warmoesstraat, the oldest existing street in Amsterdam.
After turning onto Oudebrugsteeg, at the end of the block of buildings on your left, notice an ornately decorated building. This is the old tax collector's office, built in 1638. At that time the main harbor was just across the street, where today you see several canal cruise ships docked. Taxes were assessed on the goods coming off the merchant ships in this harbor. Notice the Amsterdam coat of arms consisting of two golden lions holding the crest emblazoned with three St. Andrew's crosses and topped with the Austrian imperial crown (once the protectorate of Amsterdam).
Follow the GPS instructions along narrow walkways and pedestrian shopping streets until reaching a cobblestone terrace above the Singel Canal. On this terrace you will see a large statue of Multatuli. Multatuli (a pen name for Eduard Douwes Dekker) was a novelist who wrote about the abuses of colonialism in the Dutch East Indies, earning him the role as Holland’s conscience in the 19th century. As you look north along the Singel you will see the copper dome of the Neo-Classical Round Lutheran Church, which opened in 1671.
OK, back on your bicycles and continue west, crossing over the Herengracht and Keizersgracht. You are now out of the old center and into the western canal district, one of the grandest residential neighborhoods of Amsterdam. In the 17th century (known as the Dutch Golden Age), these neighborhoods were home to the wealthy merchant class that ran Amsterdam. As of 2009 the canal ring is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are four main canals that ring the old center. They are (in order as you move away from the center) the Singel (old Dutch word meaning circle), the Herengracht (Gentleman’s Canal), Keizersgracht (Emporer’s Canal), and the Prinsengracht (Prince’s Canal). The Singel was dug around 1450, while the other three were dug in the early 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age.
When you come to the Prinsengracht make a left before crossing over the canal. If you’re biking, you are now traveling against traffic so ride carefully. Riding a bike against traffic is acceptable if your destination is on that block. This applies to you, as you are only 150 meters from our next point of interest, the Anne Frank House.