From the World Heritage inscription for the Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht:
The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term program that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.
I had actually been to Amsterdam before but never bothered to take any photos of the inner canal area. It was declared a UNESCO after my first visit, so I never put it on my list. My first stop on this trip was to rectify that issue.
I think in many ways, Amsterdam gets a bad rap. So many people associate Amsterdam as a European version of Las Vegas with its red-light district and marijuana cafes. Yes, those things do exist and you will see them in spades when you walk out of the train station, but you don’t have to walk far to find a different city.
Amsterdam is one of the best museum cities in the world. It is easily the best city for bicycling on Earth.
The Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht begins right when you exit the Amsterdam Central train station. It is impossible to miss.
The Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands. It was inscribed by UNESCO in 2010. The protected area represents the historic urban ensemble within the notable canal district of Amsterdam. This canal system was established to form the so-called port city that the city was initially designed for in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The site consists of a network of canals that encircled the entire town. The fortified boundaries within the city’s inland, the Singelgracht, was also part of the area encircled by the network of canals. This was part of a long-term program of extending the city with the use of the canal system. The canals are built in concentric arcs to make it easier to fill in the intermediate spaces within the city.
About Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht
The city of Amsterdam has undergone many expansions over the course of its history. However, the biggest expansion would have to be the one in the 17th century, which is commemorated in the UNESCO recognition of the Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht. The shape of the ring of canals is that of a moon. The 17th century was also the same time when the city flourished and gained wealth due to trade.
The Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht is a massive urban landscape. The core zone of this UNESCO site consists of 3,466 national monuments. Some of these notable monuments include the following:
- Anne Frank House
- Groenlandsche Pakhuizen (warehouse)
- Clandestine Churches in Remonstrant and Mennonite
- Protestant Churches in Westerkerk and Noorderkerk
The formation of the massive Amsterdam canal system was part of the city planning. At the time that the canals were built, there was massive immigration on the city. The three canals that were built are residential developments; these are namely the Patrician’s Canal (Herengracht), Emperor’s Canal (Keizersgracht), and Prince’s Canal (Prinsengracht). The fourth canal, Singelgracht, was designed for water management and for defensive purposes. Singel circles the medieval city serving as a moat since the 15th century. It is now regarded as the inner-most canal in Amsterdam.
Herengracht is the first of the three major canals. This is best known for the Golden Bend wherein you will find many of the double-wide mansions, coach houses, and inner gardens. The other notable canal in Amsterdam is the Keizersgracht. It is the second widest of the three major canals that comprise the Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht. The canal is named after the Holy Roman Emperor – Maximilian I. Finally, the longest of the main canals is the Prinsengracht. The canal is named after Prince of Orange.
Other Notable Canals
Zwanenburgwal: This canal and street are located at the heart of Amsterdam. Some of its notable residents include philosopher Spinoza and painter Rembrandt. It was also recognized as one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful streets. The canal was named after the textile industry that dominated this part of town.
Brouwersgracht: Also located in the city center, this part of the Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht connects the Singel with the three other major canals in the city. The canal is where the ships from Asia would dock bringing silk and spices. The former warehouses near this canal have been converted into apartments.
Kloveniersburgwal: This canal runs from Nieuwmarkt to Amstel River. Therefore, it is located on the edge of this medieval city. There were a few grand mansions along this canal that were built during the 17th century.
Brantasgracht, Majanggracht, Seranggacht, and Lamonggracht: These are the four of the newest canals that were built in Amsterdam. The canals are also known for the classic canal houses that are built along the canal lines. These houses were designed by 19 Dutch architects. These houses are also featured in many travel guides to Amsterdam.
View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in The Netherlands.