In brief: This belt of canals surrounding the medieval centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and includes some of the city’s most spectacular buildings on some of its most beautiful canals.
Highlights: The canals themselves, the Westerkerk church, Anne Frank’s House, the Nine Streets shopping area, the flower market and Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein squares.
Getting there: Can be easily reached on foot or by bike from the medieval centre. From the Central Station you can take tram lines 1, 2 and 5 that pass through Leidseplein. To reach Rembrandtplein take lines 4, 9 and 14, whilst lines 13 and 17 pass through the west of the district.
Why stay: Its streets and canals are of exceptional architectural beauty. Here everything you might need by day or by night is literally around the corner.
The Grachtengordel district has always been considered a monument in itself, and has officially been so since 2010 when the UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site for its cultural and historic value. It is not surprising, therefore, that here you will find some of the most expensive properties not just in Amsterdam, but in the whole country.
Grachtengordel literally means ‘the canal belt’ and seen from the air you can see that it was in fact built in the form of a buckle around the medieval centre. Its origins can be found in the 17th century when a well-established merchant class with extensive purchasing power began to build their homes and mansions on this series of canals, of which Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht are the most important.
A stroll amongst the canals is a delight for the eyes, but apart from its architectural beauty, the district also has much more to offer. The most notable monument, and one which is difficult to miss, is the Westerkerk (West Church), that features the largest knave in the Netherlands and a spectacular 85m high bell tower.
Another place of interest that no visitor should miss is Anne Frank’s house, the place in which the young author of one of history’s most famous diaries hid with her family until they were deported by the Nazis. Not far from this, in Keizersgracht, you will find the Homomonument, a monument formed by three triangles in memory of the homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis.
Shopaholics will find what they are looking for in the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets), a web of streets offering everything imaginable and catering to all budgets. For another type of shopping, or simply a pleasant walk, you can visit the Bloemenmarkt (the flower market), which since 1860 has offered much more than just tulips.
When hunger strikes, you can enjoy a delicious cheese tasting session – with or without wine - at the Reypenaer cheese factory where you can become a genuine expert on this Dutch speciality. On the other hand, you can start the evening in Rembrandtplein or Leidseplein squares, full of restaurants, ‘bruin cafes’ and nightclubs and undoubtedly one of the most popular places in the capital to party. For a more alternative atmosphere, be sure to visit Reguliersdwarsstraat, Amsterdam’s quintessential gay street.
If you are looking for a good laugh, the renowned Boom Chicago is one of the world’s most famous comedy clubs (in English) and features an excellent food and drink service.