Unique Places in Amsterdam

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Amsterdam

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    The unique statues of Amsterdam

    by Okalbaishakhi Written Feb 12, 2015

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    Amsterdam, the famous Dutch capital, has its own share of beautiful tourist attractions in addition to institutions of global financial significance. It is the cultural as well as the commercial capital of the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s main places of tourist interest attract about 3.66 million international visitors annually and the list includes the oldest stock exchange in the world – the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, the Amsterdam Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam and the picturesque canals as well as its many cannabis coffee shops where small quantities of cannabis are sold and are strictly regulated and taxed! Most of Amsterdam’s main crowd pullers are its museums. Like Bratislava in Slovakia, Amsterdam is one of the “greatest small cities” in the world and is widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful and romantic destinations of Europe.
    Amsterdam has some magnificent statues and memorials. In this article, the focus is primarily on the unique sculptures dotting the Amsterdam cityscape. The first statues put on public display in Amsterdam are that of Rembrandt (1852), Vondel (1867) and Thorbecke (1876). Numerous others were installed and at present, there are very few squares or parks that do not contain at least one imposing sculpture. Our concern, however, is not the statues of royalty, poets or artists but some rather striking, uncommon ones whose maker is not known till date. It is rumoured that the city council is aware of the identity of the maker but has not publicly revealed his/ her name as they were sworn to secrecy.
    The Running Man - Also referred to as the “Man with the Violin Case”, it surfaced one night in 1982 at Tweede Marnixplantsoen (Marnixstraat). It was the first unclaimed sculpture to appear in the city. The iron man painted in black with no head appeared to be in a hurry yet courteous enough to doff his hat to onlookers. City-dwellers jokingly referred to him as the “Tram 10. Man” as the location was close by that particular route. One night, the statue suddenly disappeared only to resurface later, this time renovated in places where the metal had rusted and quite inexplicably painted blue. In 2011, it disappeared again to return with its violin case repaired and repainted in clear blue.

    Man with the Saw - Another unclaimed piece of sculpture - a little lumberjack sawing away at the very branch on which he is standing - is the second mysterious statue that made its appearance in Leidseplein in 1989, on January 30, a day before Queen Beatrix’s birthday. In 1996, the saw went missing and it was returned overnight and no one knows who took or returned it. A couple of years later, the iron man’s hat went missing. A sign was seen hanging from the statue about a week later, which read, “who has my hat?” with a phone number below it. Predictably, the hat was soon returned, presumably by whoever had confiscated it!

    The Fiddler - Also known as “The Violin Player in Stopera”, this statue in bronze created quite a stir when it was relocated to the entrance of the Stopera in 1991. This building is the Amsterdam Town Hall which is home to the opera as well as the city’s municipal administration. The musician seems to burst out of the floor while playing his instrument. Some refer to it as the expression of the spirit of the vibrant, irrepressible Jewish community which used to be centred in this district before the WWII.
    The Harmonica Man - This statue appeared on the façade of the house on Anjeliersstraat 175 in 1994. Though the maker’s name was not known, it is said this was created by the same anonymous artist.
    Three Little Gents - Yet another work in bronze and iron, apparently our anonymous sculptor’s favourite materials to work with, this group of sculptures depicts three men apparently engaged in an animated conversation at the De Ten Kate Market.
    His Master’s Skeelers - Located in Madelievenplein, there is a newly landscaped area which hosts "His Masters Skeelers". This statue is a more recent installation as compared to the other statues by the mysterious artist. It features a dog and a girl on roller-skates and is supposedly a reference to the famous painting of Francis Barraud namely "His Masters Voice". After the unveiling of the statue, a few days later, one of the springs on which the statues were positioned was damaged by some vandals, post which the piece was removed from display for a while.
    Other sculptures possibly crafted by the anonymous artist include some statuettes of men climbing a wall in the Anjelierstraat. One of these little metal figures is located on the corner of the Prinsengracht and is relatively easy to spot; the other is situated almost at the opposite end of the street and you can find a third on a little court towards the north.
    Apparently these statues have been regularly discovered in the city over the years and for long the city council claimed to be unaware of the identity of the creator before finally revealing that they were sworn to secrecy. Speculations fly wild though, with some claiming it was Dr. Andre Havas, a medical practitioner and a psychotherapist who sculpted in his leisure as his work shared similarities with these unclaimed pieces of art. Havas lives in the Anjelierstraat, just a few buildings away from the Harmonica man; therefore this seemed to be a reasonable conclusion to many. In addition to this, Anjelierstraat seems to be the street where much of the unclaimed works appear. Others say it is Floris de Graaf, a plastic surgeon at Amsterdam’s VU Hospital who apparently lives near four of these statues.
    Funnily enough, these statues have made their way to various significant landmarks of the city like Ouderkerkspein and Stopera without encountering much hassle from the authorities leaving many people wondering if the sculptor is in fact someone who wields considerable influence and power over the city’s governing structure. Usually, it is unthinkable that a free time sculptor would get their works mounted in the city hall of the capital, bypassing stringent permit procedures of the Dutch. Many claim the sculptor is the Dutch Queen Beatrix (now ‘princess’) who reigned over the Netherlands since 1980 till her abdication in 2013 and is known to be a talented sculptress. Visitors to the statue of “The Fiddler” also comment on the similarity between the facial features of the sculpture and that of Claus, Queen Beatrix’s husband. Some of these statues happen to be painted blue, red and white, reproducing the three colours of the flag of the Netherlands which, quite naturally, add further fuel to the ‘regal’ rumours.

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    Facades

    by egonwegh Updated Sep 9, 2014

    A selection of facades, doorways and memorial stones in Amsterdam. The lion's head with the water spout reminded me of France or Italy. Another one of these decorations, the Annunciation, with the very compactly written text 'Ecce Ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum' looks similar to the work of the Italian artist Della Robbia.

    Amsterdam, facades and memorial stones Amsterdam, facades and memorial stones Amsterdam, facades and memorial stones Amsterdam, facades and memorial stones
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    Banning poles (Dutch: Banpalen)

    by Pijlmans Updated Apr 6, 2014

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    Four authentic "banning poles" or "boundary stakes" (banpaal in Dutch) can be found around Amsterdam. In 1544 emperor Charles V granted Amsterdam the right to ban criminals, vagabonds and other undesirable individuals to one German mile (7.4 km) outside the city gates. Six boundary stakes along the main approaches to the city indicated the borders of this banishment area. Exiles were forbidden to enter the area within the limits of the stakes until their banishment had ended. By entering the area they risked capital punishment.

    Banning was a popular punishment for thieves and beggars, but also for cursing, gambling or prostitution. Nobody has been exiled since 1800.

    On the banning poles is written "Terminus Proscriptions" and "Uiterste Palen Der Ballingen" which is respectively Latin and Dutch for "limit post of the banished".

    Interestingly, in 1650 the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt made an etching showing one of these banning poles. This "Rembrandt pole" dates from 1624 and has been relocated several times. The lower part unfortunately has been destroyed, but the remaining part can now be found in the Geuzenbos at the Spaarnwouderdijk, close to its original position where it was painted by Rembrandt. The exact location is behind the water-pumping station near the Wethouder van Essenweg. You'll have to climb over a small wooden fence to reach it, this is completely legal to do, the fence is just there to keep the sheep inside (coordinates N52 23.521 E4 46.153).

    The other 3 remaining banning poles can be found here:

    - Sloterweg in Sloten, hidden in an alley between house numbers 1204 and 1208. The original boundary stake from 1624 along the Sloterweg in Sloten marked the southwestern extent of the banishment area and was replaced in 1794, since it was falling into ruin (coordinates N52 20.501 E4 47.927).

    - Amsterdamseweg 210 in Amstelveen dating from 1625 . The banning pool on the Amsterdamseweg in Amstelveen is close to the parks De Braak, Thijssepark and Broersepark in Amstelveen and a visit to the banning pole could be combined with a visit to these parks (coordinates N52 18.810 E4 50.826).

    - Along the river Amstel, Amsteldijk Noord, close to house number 65. This banning pole from 1625 is included in a marked 10 km walk through the Middelpolder (coordinates N52 18.624 E4 54.278).

    I made a 48 km cycle tour along the banning poles called Amsterbanned. Click on the link for more info!

    Banpaal Amstel river Banpaal Amstelveen Banpaal Amstelveen Banpaal Sloten Banpaal Geuzenbos
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    Vintage VouDou Records

    by pieter_jan_v Updated Jan 30, 2014

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    A new smaller shop started in 2013: Vintage VouDou Records at the Oudekerksplein 26 at the heart of the Red Light District (ring the door bell at the gate).

    The shop's specialities are Soul, Funk, Latin, Afro, Calypso, Brazil, Jazz and Soundtrack.

    Business hours:
    Mo-We: On appointment by phone
    Th-Fr: 3PM - 7PM
    Sa: 1PM - 6PM
    Open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

    Vintage VouDou Records - Amsterdam Vintage VouDou Records - Amsterdam
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    Haarlemmerdijk - Spending money.

    by Jerelis Written Jan 26, 2014

    You’re also in the right place for a makeover, the lovely Sharon at Dare2Ware will make a piercing so much fun. The artists at House of Tattoos around the corner are also extremely talented. And if you want to top off your new look with a bright magenta fringe, visit Kinki hairdressers down the street.

    With all those stores offering fashion and accessories, toys, gifts, jewellery, books, electronics and specialty delicatessens – the biggest problem in the Haarlemmerdijk will be deciding what to spend your money on. Do consider that ‘de Dijk’ is a Mecca for foodies like myself. So, do-it-yourself with kitchen utensils from Deksels!, the amazing cookbooks at De Kookboekhandel (one of its kind!), cupcake supplies from De Tafel van 18, or the Tea Bar‘s teas. Or just feast on Jordino’s Italian ice cream, Small World‘s huge sandwiches and restaurant Balraj’s great Indian food. Do consider the slogan of this amazing street: If you think you’ve seen it all, then you haven’t been to Amsterdam’s Haarlemmerdijk yet!

    Address: Haarlemmerdijk, Amsterdam.
    Directions: At the north western part of the old historical city center of Amsterdam.

    Amazing cookbooks at De Kookboekhandel . Kitchen utensils from Deksels.
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    Haarlemmerdijk - The old road to Haarlem.

    by Jerelis Updated Jan 26, 2014

    Some streets make you want to strut down them like you’re Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. De Haarlemmerdijk might not match 1970′s Brooklyn, but with its plethora of detail stores and beautiful old buildings, no wonder a lot of places here have been noticed by other members of Virtual Tourist! It’s amazing how many great hangouts can be found along such a small stretch of pavement. I will describe some of my favorites later on.

    The streets starts out at the square Haarlemmerplein, with the amazing Haarlemmerpoort or Willemspoort city gate, which is located at the western end of the Haarlemmerdijk. Like in most cities in the 1970s, a traffic thoroughfare was built in this particular neighbourhood, for which a large part of the Haarlemmerdijk and part of the buildings on the north facade of Haarlemmerplein were demolished. This caused the square to lose its cohesion and alos lose some of these beautiful old mansions and great facades to look at. Currently, new buildings are being built on the north facade to once again complete the square. Still a shame!

    Address: Haarlemmerdijk, Amsterdam.
    Directions: At the north western part of the old historical city center of Amsterdam.

    The Haarlemmerpoort. The book shop Brinkman.
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    Haarlemmerdijk - Watching the World go by.

    by Jerelis Written Jan 26, 2014

    Have you ever had the feeling that all of the world’s shopping streets pretty much have the same stuff on offer? Well then, you need to visit Amsterdam’s Haarlemmerdijk – it’s hip and it’s the perfect spot for hours of relaxed browsing, dining and bar-hopping! The Haarlemmerdijk is a true gem. Offering independent boutiques and specialty stores, little salons, trendy but affordable restaurants and bars and the oldest cinema in Amsterdam. You are guaranteed to find a special little something from Amsterdam in this alternative shopping district. And with a constant passing parade of people along the Haarlemmerdijk, you can spend a very entertaining time just watching the world go by.

    For example start with a croissant at Mediterannee and go by “2 For Joy” for fresh roasted coffee. Shop at revamp store Restored; at Mary Ann, run by wonderful ladies who really know how to rock old-school brassieres; at sneaker store Seventyfive, or photography specialists Nivo Schweitzer. As a film fan, I love browsing through the cult DVDs and posters at the wonderfully geeky Silver Screen, or catch a screening in one of Amsterdam’s nicest and oldest cinemas, The Movies.

    Address: Haarlemmerdijk, Amsterdam.
    Directions: At the north western part of the old historical city center of Amsterdam.

    Beautiful facades at the Haarlemmerdijk. Amsterdam���s nicest and oldest cinemas, The Movies.
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    Frankendael

    by Nemorino Updated Oct 23, 2013

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    Frankendael House is said to be one of the very few remaining stately homes in Amsterdam. It was built in the 17th century on reclaimed land that used to be a lake, hence the name Watergraafsmeer.

    The house and park are on Middenweg. Follow the number 9 tram line to get there.

    Second photo: The house itself is closed and seems to be empty, but the surrounding park is open to the public.

    Third photo: Pond in the park at Frankendael.

    1. Frankendael House 2. Entrance to the park 3. Pond in the park at Frankendael

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    Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theater)

    by Nemorino Updated Oct 23, 2013

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    The Hollandsche Schouwburg was built as a theater in 1892, but during the Second World War it was taken over by the Nazis and used as a deportation center for Jews. Thousands of men, women and children were sent from here to the concentration camps, where most of them were murdered.

    In 1962 the Hollandsche Schouwburg formally became a war memorial, with an open courtyard and obelisk where the theater stage used to be. On the first floor there is an exhibition about the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands. It is open daily from 11:00 to 16:00. (Closed on Yom Kippur.) Admission is free.

    The address is Plantage Middenlaan 24.

    Tram 9 and 14, get off at Plantage Kerklaan.

    Hollandsche Schouwburg

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  • Dutch Expressionism architecture(Amsterdam school)

    by max_t Written Sep 19, 2013

    If you love architecture of the first half of 20th century, an Amsterdam school tour is a must!
    I was cycling across the city when two buildings at Roelof Hartplein Square (south from central Amsterdam) made me pull brakes astonished.
    The first remarkable building was almost functionalist Het Nieuwe Huis, a dark redbrick with round-shaped prominent ends of central façade topped with oval towers and a clocktower. The second one was Huize Lydia, U-shaped residental with geometrical shapes and Art Nouveau windows and entrances (with notable typeface used for numbers).
    Later I discovered that both were examples of Amsterdam school, аn architectural movement of 1910-1930s, a part of Expressionist architecture. Unfortunately I had no time to explore more of it but it’s a good reason to come again.
    Amsterdam school is well described in Wikipedia and Dutch article lists buildings in Amsterdam and other cities of Netherlands. The most important it Het Schip which even hosts museum of the Amsterdam School!

    Het Schip Het Niewe Huis Typeface
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    Plane Spotting at Schiphol

    by swissfondue Updated Aug 11, 2013

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    If you are an aviation enthusiast or just enjoy watching planes take off and land then Schiphol Airport is the place to be. As well as a massive observation deck called the Panorama Terrace which runs the length of the main terminal building there are a number of parking places close to the runway. At any time of the day you will see locals setting up beside the tarmac for a few hours of plane spotting and a picnic. Easy directions on how to access these areas can be found on the airport website. Schiphol is one of Europe's busiest airports using five runways so there is something to see every couple of minutes. Schiphol airport is a few minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal. Alternatively, there is plenty of car parking available (charges apply) and of course a bike track runs around the airport perimeter.

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    Ferris Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL

    by TrendsetterME Updated May 26, 2013

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    Whatever the weather, there is always something going on there on the Dam Square ...

    So, expect lots of entertainment. In spring, there may be a carnival on or u can have a go on the colorful "Ferris Wheel".

    Here you can watch my "Wheel @ Dam Square" Video ... :
    Wheel Video

    In the summer months, mimes and other street performers come out to surprise unexpected onlookers.

    Even its such popular at the Dam Square area, that you might even have to wait for a seat at one of the many cafés and bars.

    Very enjoyable and recommendable spot of Amsterdam ... :)

    Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL Wheel, Dam Square, Amsterdam, NL
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    H.H. Petrus en Pauluskerk

    by leics Written Apr 6, 2013

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    I stumbled upon the Roman Catholic church of Saints Peter and Paul quite unexpectedly whilst having my last wander around central historical Amsterdam before taking the train to Schiphol for my flight back.

    Kalverstraat is shopping...shopping...shopping, filled with national and multi-national chains stores as well as individual upmarket shops. Not somewhere I intended to linger, so it was pure chance that I happened to wander the section which included ‘Der Pappegai’ (The Parrot’).

    Why ‘Der Pappegai’? Well, there were times in the past when Roman Catholicism could not be practised inthe Netherlands (as in the UK) and the original church was hidden in the garden of the bird-trader’s house which once stood on this spot. You can see the parrot on one side of the entrance portal, with a statue of St Joseph on the opposite side.

    By the mid-1800s Roman Catholics were free to practise their religion and the building you can visit now dates from that time. The architect was one Gerrit Moele who did a great job of creating a neo-Gothic church light enough to be built on Amsterdam’s soft soil. The entrance portal is really quite small, so the width and lofty heights of the church within comes as a great surprise.

    There is some lovely stained glass within the church but my eye was particularly caught by the beautiful mosaics in the entrance portal, created by Antoon Molkenboer, and especially by the figure of Mary Magdalene (who is, the church website tells me, supposed to represent a worldly woman and the materialism of Kalverstraat).

    The church invites you in for ’15 minutes of calm’ and I did think it would be a lovely place to sit and ponder for a while, regardless of religion (or lack of it).

    If you visit on a Sunday you will hear Gregorian chant at the 1030 and 1215 Masses, which are both in Latin.

    Beautiful mosaic Interior Entrance on Kalverstraat Stained-glass The parrot...
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    Singel 166

    by leics Updated Apr 6, 2013

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    This house has the narrowest facade in the city. The (probably untruthful) story goes that when a wealthy Amsterdammer had his huge house constructed his coachman said that the doorway was 'as wide as a house'. So the coachman got a house built for his quarters, as wide as the doorway.

    Singel 166 must be a fun place to live...as long as you are only one or two people!

    I love the way every inch of space has been used to create another dwelling along the canal. I noticed several other very narrow houses as I wandered along this oldest of Amsterdam's canals (it was, originally, the defensive moat for the Medieval city).

    Singel 166 tucked between its neighbours. A modern reflection of those narrow buildings
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    Windows 1

    by leics Updated Apr 5, 2013

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    Swanet told me that the numerous variations on the windows over front doors on canalside houses were also a way of marking the address. I suspect this may have become fashionable when the stone carvings were though a bit 'passe'.

    Now I've made a second visit, and also visited Delft and Leiden, I think the system was that particular shapes were used, but not repeated, in any one street. The patterns could be repeated in other streets. So, for example, you'd be looking for 'the house with two circles' (probably drawn for you) in e.g. Laangestraat.

    Whatever, it is truly amazing how many variations of straight and curved lines can be made. There are also often little 'golden' additions, which I assume were used to make further differences when the street was particularly long and needed more variations.

    Again, it is well worth taking the time to notice these windows as you walk the canals. Some still have their huge sticking-out circular glass sections where once a candle or lantern would have been placed.

    More windows in the travelogue

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Amsterdam Off The Beaten Path

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If you want to discover the Amsterdam hidden gems, best visit one of the local tourist offices first. They have great walking- and cycling routes booklets that will lead you to the most surprising...
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