Exploring the Centrum in Amsterdam on foot is the best way to experience this old area of the city. From picturesque canals, to old kerks and of course, the Red Light District, there are many sights to see and history to absorb.
Visiting the city in late 2011 as part of a business trip, I took a few additional days to play tourist. Walking from the nearby Ambassade Hotel, I found myself in the heart of the Centrum within 10 minutes.
In Dam Square, before the Royal Palace, there are entertainers such as this masked Death figure who gives you a huge joint to “smoke” while he poses for a photo with you.
Right by Dam Square you find Nieuwe Kirk, built in the late 14th century and completed in the 15th century. This towering structure used to the be the tallest but now competes with the Royal Palace and others. It’s no longer used for church services but rather exhibitions. Some beautiful elements inside: golden choir gate; intricately carved wood pulpit and the memorial for Michiel de Ruyter, a famous 17th century Dutch Admiral.
The area around the Red Light District has some of the city’s oldest buildings where the architecture seems to have come to a standstill. And so is the case with the windows of this building where the red shutters evoke days of long ago.
If you look at the bridge in the distance you can see a huge tour group heading into the Red Light District. They were standing on the bridge, taking a photo of me, taking a photo of them. This photo was taken in the morning on a Sunday in November and yet the crowds were already starting to head out to do sight-seeing. By the afternoon it was so crowded I had to fight to get past people.
Not every bike is in working order in Amsterdam. Alas – here’s a sad excuse for a bike, still propped up against the building wall in a small thorough-fare in the Centrum. How it got so bent out of shape, I don’t know and still wonder to this day. It looks like the rim of this bike melted in the fashion of a watch in Salvador Dali’s paintings.
There’s a saying that eyes are like the windows to your soul. But peeking inside these windows in the Centrum you may find homes and businesses alike. A few, like these two on the left, are adorned with colourful fall flowers.
When exploring the Centrum in Amsterdam, what are your recommendations for touristy things to do?