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The Architecture of Amsterdam: 20 Must-see Buildings

Amsterdam is best known for its luxurious canal houses and charming gabled facades, but the city has enough architectural treasures to keep design lovers busy for weeks. From windmills and drawbridges to the Amsterdam School and cutting-edge modern design, learn the stories behind Amsterdam’s most memorable structures.

Amsterdam photo

Amsterdam Netherlands dancing houses over river Amstel landmark in old european city spring landscape.

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its origins lie in the 12th century when fishermen living along the banks of the River Amstel built a bridge across the waterway near the IJ, then a large saltwater inlet. Most of the city’s territory is below sea level and therefore it lies on land that has been reclaimed from the water. Amsterdam is all about practical urban planning, amazing cycling infrastructure, tulip-lined canal bridges, and old merchant houses that tilt at impossible angles. Throughout the year Amsterdam is one of Europe’s foremost architecture and design city, not only because of 17-th century rings of canals. Amsterdam is where modern architecture developed organically between facades of historical buildings. Since it is not a very big city, all sites of interest are within acceptable distance, this is why Amsterdam is so popular with lovers of architecture.

The History of Amsterdam Architecture

The old centre was formed by rings of canals with unique mostly 17th century residences of wealthy merchants, financiers, craftsmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians and artists. Because of lack of space, these houses were mostly narrow, not more than 30ft wide (9 meters). They are are characterized by big narrow windows, decorative gable tops, very narrow stairs inside and pulley outside to transport larger objects to upper floors. Very often the residences served also as businesses. Merchant’s houses had their storage in attics and cellars. Sometimes the lift was installed in the middle of the house plan, to transport the goods between floors. The office of the merchant was usually on the ground floor. Like in Venice the canals were the main way of transporting the goods. At the end of the 18th century classicism produced in Amsterdam several monumental buildings, with probably the most interesting called Felix Meritis by Jacob Otten.


The development of Amsterdam into the modern city at the end of the 19th century resulted in construction of the several landmark city buildings as Central Station, Central Post Office(today rebuilt into a shopping mall Magna Plaza), Rijksmuseum (State Museum), Stedelijk Museum (Municipal Museum), Stadsschouwburg (City Theater), Concertgebouw (City Philharmonic)and St. Nicolaaskerk. The foremost architect of this was P.J.H.Cuypers. Architecture of these building was searching for the historical inspiration, using elements of gothic and renaissance. Art Deco popular at the turn of the 19th century in the whole Europe, left several interesting buildings in Amsterdam with the American Hotel as its foremost example with wonderful interior of the café and lunch room. At the beginning of the 20th century an important milestone has been a vast plan of the expansion of Amsterdam into the dimension of the European metropolis, called Plan Zuid (Plan South – 1915) by an architect H.P.Berlage, often regarded as the Father of the Modern Dutch architecture.

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Located just near the Dam square the Stock Exchange building (1903, now called Beurs van Berlage and used as exhibition and concert hall) also by the architect Berlage precedes the Amsterdam School style and is often regarded as influential to the whole Dutch architecture of the first half of the 20th.At the beginning of the 20th century, the new housing law in the Netherlands started the boom of the low cost housing for the working class. Most of these quarters were built in a new distinctive style called the Amsterdam School (Dutch: Amsterdamse School). It was first applied by Michel de Kerk is a housing block called Het Schip (The Ship) – today regarded as a monument, with the museum of this architecture style in a former post office.

As in many other European countries Dutch architecture after 1920 has been influenced by the ideas of the French architect Le Corbusier. New technologies – use of concrete, prefabrication, standardization as well as strongly emphasized function of the building are characteristic for architecture of this movement. The most imprtant architects were Gerrit Rietveld, Jacobus Oud, Johannes Duiker, Cornelis van Eesteren, Michiel Brinkman and Leendert van der Vlugt. The finest examples of functionalism were, still influenced by the Amsterdam School style housing district Betondorp (1921-1928) and Van Gogh Museum, by Gerrit Rietveld (1963-1973).

Later years (before 1990) brought several different streams in Dutch architecture. The most interesting architects of the 1960-1990 in Amsterdam were Aldo van Eyck, Herman Hertzberger. Still, it may seem that functionalism has been heavily influencing new projects. Modern architecture in the Netherlands after 1990 is one of the most interesting in the world. Interesting realizations include Silodam, the New Islands (Borneo, Java, Sporenburg, KNSM), IJburg. Many Dutch architects who recognized abroad have their works here, including the Rotterdam based star architect Rem Koolhaas, Sjoerd Soeters, Wiel Arets, Benthem & Crouwel, Ben van Berkel, Ton Alberts. Foreign architects include Renzo Piano (Nemo Museum, called before the New Metropolis), Sven-Ingvar Andersson (creation of the new Museumplein), Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz (rebuilding of the Rijksmuseum).


20 Must-see Buildings in Amsterdam 

1. ARCAM / René van Zuuk

This art gallery completed in 2003 is a beautifully compact, sculptural structure arranged in three levels. The building is covered in coated aluminum that flows from bottom to roof and over, all around the building on opposite sides. A special feature is the sculptural glass facade at the main entrance. 

The ARchitecture Centre Amsterdam (ARCAM) needed a significantly larger accommodation. Therefore a wonderful location close to the Oosterdok was allocated to this promotional institute. In the vicinity of Renzo Piano’s New Metropolis was a small pavilion also designed by him that was going to be demolished. The columns and some of the floors needed to be integrated in the new design. Reuse of foundation parts was not the only limitation laid upon the architect. Consultation in the early stages of the design process of various parties (among others, two successive government architects) resulted in a maximum building envelope. This outline provided a trapezoidal building volume up to three storeys high. In addition three important requirements had to be taken into account. First, the view of the pavilion from the Maritime Museum needed to be utmost modest. This providing the possibility to lower the waterfront façade compared to the street façade at the Prins Hendrikkade. Second, the street facade needed to represent a closed character and at the same time the building should open up on the waterfront. Last but not least it was demanded that the pavilion would be a compact monolith.

Despite, or thanks to, this strict package of requirements an unprecedented shape emerged, turning the architecture centre into a landmark. The new pavilion is indeed a humble and compact three-storey building. On the street level an exhibition space is located. The upper floor is fitted with glass partitions, creating an attic-like atmosphere. On the waterfront, at the quay level, a multipurpose space for meetings, discussions and reception of groups (classes, excursions). The internal openness is remarkable. All the different levels are linked by voids, in a way that all the spaces are a part of a perceptible larger entity. The different facades all have their own distinctive perspective. For example the folded skin combined with the bevelling glass facade results in a spectacular entrance. On the other hand the east side displays a most austere view. The waterfront view reveals the soul of the pavilion through the curtain glass, barely showing the structural steelwork. In this view the layered organization is visualised in the elevation.


2. Rijksmuseum Asian Pavilion / Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos

This magnificent building by Pierre Cuypers has been dedicated to arts and history since its completion in 1885. The newest addition – the Asian pavilion – was designed by Cruz y Ortiz and opened in 2013. The museum’s two inner courtyards have now been opened up, with the removal of galleries that were added in the 1950s and 1960s. A two-part atrium has been created by sinking the floor of the two courtyards below ground level and connecting them via an underground zone beneath the original passageway through the building. Notable paintings include The Milkmaid (1657) by Vermeer. 

Following a European tender process, Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos of Seville were chosen by a committee chaired by the chief government architect Jo Coenen to lead the transformation of the Rijksmuseum. Cruz y Ortiz proposed minimal alterations to the building itself. The firm has recreated the clear layout conceived by the museum’s original architect, Pierre Cuypers, stripping the building of its later additions to ensure that it is once again a coherent whole. The result transforms the 19th century building into a bright and spacious 21st century museum. The new Rijksmuseum features an impressive new entrance area; a new Asian Pavilion; a new outdoor exhibition space and garden, and much more.  Also restored to their former glory are the high-ceilinged, spacious, late 19th century galleries. In keeping with the plan to restore the building where possible, the original monumental ornaments that decorated the walls and ceilings will be returned to the Gallery of Honour, the Grand Hall, the Night Watch Gallery and the stairwells. Cuypers‘ hallmark is best preserved in the library where the original design and ornaments have largely been maintained. The French interior architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, whose work for the Louvre has earned him international acclaim, was invited to devise the interior design for the transformed Rijksmuseum. He has created all display elements for the galleries that complement the restored 19th century museum, including the display cases, plinths, lighting and furniture. In consultation with Cruz y Ortiz, Wilmotte has also determined the interior colour scheme, which has been inspired by Pierre Cuypers’ palette for the building.



3. Stedelijk Museum / Benthem Crouwel Architekten

The existing building of the Stedelijk Museum was created in 1895 by the municipal architect A.W. Weismann. It is celebrated for its majestic staircase, grand rooms, and natural lighting, which were the base points for the 2012 redesign by Benthem Crouwel Architects. The contrast of the new building versus the old building is obvious from the outside but inside the museum, you hardly notice strolling from the new building into the old. The museum’s collection includes modern art, contemporary art, and design.

The Stedelijk Museum is internationally known and renowned for its commendable collection of contemporary art. Although her collection is equivalent with the international top museums in this field, the building was outdated. The position on the Museumplein (Museum square) in Amsterdam, where the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw also are situated, created all options to be back at the top of the museums with a renovated and expanded building.

The new extension does not ask for more of the same, but to supplement by variety and by adding new opportunities for exhibitions. The old remains and forms unity with the new. Both in terms of exhibitions and routing, making compelling choices between old and new has been averted. The expansion is not a subordinate, or very different pavilion next to the existing building, but an integrated addition. The contrast of the new building versus the old building is obvious from the outside; inside the museum you hardly notice strolling from the new building into the old. In the new entrance all public functions, such as the entrance desks, knowledge center, museum shop and restaurant are located in a large open, transparent space where the plaza floor continues to the outside of the existing building. The square is part of the building as much as it is a part of the Museumplein. The wing-shaped, cantilevered roof over the square at height of the stone frames, reinforces the open transition from square to building and removes any doubts about the whereabouts of the entrance. The smooth white volume, also known as ‘the bathtub’, is made from fiber enforced composite. The typical shape of the building arose by pulling the exterior facade tight around the interior functions. The jutting roof was added as a functional protection against sun and rain. Against the backdrop of the old building, the roof with the volume underneath is the new powerful image of the Stedelijk Museum.


4. PVH Campus Houthavens Amsterdam / MVSA Architects

PVH Campus was built in 2018 as the European Headquarters for Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger’s parent company, PVH. The complex is composed of three very different buildings. Given their different focuses and functions, the architects’ approach stresses unity in diversity, with three overlapping water-related concepts. The European HQ Calvin Klein & Tommy Hilfiger building, the first to be completed, has the sleek lines and shiny finishes of a sailing ship. The middle, low-rise building, the social hub of the campus, has a stratified yet flowing form inspired by a waterfall. The third, a high-rise office complex, has a graphic façade that reflects the movement of waves.

For the smallest of the PVH Campus buildings, the waterfall inspired them– a poetic meeting of land and water that they wanted to channel in the design. The 125 Danzigerkade building therefore has an organic, stratified form. Its flowing lines and expanses of sensuously curving glass ‘ripple’ spectacularly to create the entrance. Spread over four storeys, the 4,500m² building will function as a central meeting place for all those working on the campus, hence its inclusive horizontal dynamic. The European HQ are the place where the brand showcases its collections and welcomes clients from all over Europe. Its height and iconic form give the campus an easily recognizable presence and identity, as well as contributing to the new series of stunning landmarks on the IJ waterway. The 12-storey building is designed to house showrooms, offices and a restaurant and is crowned by an impressive roof terrace. A maritime setting suggests a variety of associations, so to underline the shared yet separate identity of the three buildings.


5. The Whale / de Architekten Cie.

The Whale is one of three big ‘meteorites’ which have landed in-between the low-rise row houses on the Islands of Borneo and Sporenburg. The traditional closed block has been transformed by lifting the two, so the public space flows through underneath. Thanks to its sculptural shape, this building by Frits van Dongen is a real landmark. The program includes 194 flats, offices, and retail space and inside the block, there is a private garden designed by West 8.

By elevating the building on two sides – the line of the roof corresponding to the movement of the sun – the lower floors receive sunlight coming in from under the actual building. Accordingly, light and space have free access into the heart of the building. The result is a redefinition of the closed block: the inner area transforms the
traditionally private domain into an almost public city garden.The elegant, elevated form conceals the enormous programme: 214 apartments with business areas underneath and an underground car park on a plot as large as a football field. As a consequence of its extraordinary design, The Whale consistently affords different views of the environment from various positions generating at the same time an enormous diversity of housing types, in the lower and upper edges of the building in particular. Conservatories provide a wide view of Amsterdam’s inner city and across the expansive waters of the river IJ.


6. Cuyperspassage / Benthem Crouwel Architects

While not strictly a building, the Cuyperspassage’s incredible design merit it getting onto this list! Cuyperspassage is the name of the new tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station that connects the city and the waters of the IJ river. Since the end of 2015 it has been used by large numbers of cyclists, some 15,000 daily, and pedestrians 24 hours a day. This ‘slow traffic corridor’ was exactly what many users of the city felt was lacking. What once was by necessity a left or right turn is now, at long last, straight ahead. The tunnel is clad on one side by nearly 80,000 Delft Blue tiles: a true Dutch spectacle at a central spot in Amsterdam. The tunnel is 110 metres long, ten metres wide and three metres high. Its design makes a clear division between the two modes of travel. By making the pedestrian level appreciably higher than the cycleway, pedestrians know where they have to be and feel safe there. Cyclists enjoy the spatial sensation of a rapid through route, accompanied by a continuous run of LED lamps along the raised edge of the footpath. The pedestrian path has a smooth finish of handmade glazed ceramic tiles. The cycleway by contrast has a rougher, open finish of black sound-absorbing asphalt and steel gratings. This is to enhance user comfort, given the tunnel’s concrete structure and great length. The gratings are impossible to litter with posters and flyers and their open structure reduces the risk of graffiti.

Along the footpath wall is a tile tableau designed by Irma Boom Office. The design steps off from a restored work by the Rotterdam tile painter Cornelis Boumeester (1652-1733). His tile panel depicting the Warship Rotterdam and the Herring Fleet is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Irma Boom replaced the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms. The cyclist or pedestrian leaves the old historic part of Amsterdam through Cuyperspassage and heads towards ‘new Amsterdam’ in the north, or vice versa. The tableau fades away towards the IJ-river, the lines of the original work gradually dissolving. Then it builds up again in an abstract form from light to dark blue, as if encouraging cyclists to slow down as the ferry comes into view. Its drawn lines and pixels also visualize the transition in art from the old to the new. The ceramic company, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, spent five years making the 46,000 wall tiles for the tableau, as well as 33,000 floor tiles. 


7. Het Schip (1919)

The world famous Arbeiderspaleis (Worker’s Palace) Het Schip, was built in 1919 by architect Michel de Klerk at Spaarndammerplantsoen. It was here that de Klerk built a meeting house and a post office for the housing association (Eigen Haard 102 house). The building earned its nickname ‘Het Schip’ (The Ship) because of its expressive masonry and wavy shapes. Due to its towers and grand gateway, it also has also the feel of a grand palace. Swing by Museum Het Schip for regular guided tours around the building and neighbourhood alongside art and design exhibitions from the period.

In the 19th and early 20th century, Amsterdam faced a major housing shortage, with many working-class people living in cramped quarters with no electricity or running water. Heating was usually provided by burning peat, and poor families often lived in a single room together. In response to these squalid conditions, the Dutch government passed the National Housing Act (Woningwet) in 1901. This law set up much higher standards for housing and resulted in both the demolition of older, inadequate tenement buildings and the creation of new housing blocks with much better living conditions and prices that made them accessible to Amsterdam’s poorer citizens. The new law also set aside financial resources for the development of low-income housing.  One of the affordable housing developments created in the wake of the passage of the National Housing Act was the Spaarndammerbuurt, where Het Schip and several other Amsterdam School social housing projects are located.

Much of the new low-income housing was financed by cooperative housing associations run by groups such as workers’ collectives, socialist organizations, religious groups. One such group was Eigen Haard, or “our own hearth,” a socialist group that commissioned Michel de Klerk to design and build three blocks of proletarian housing, including Het Schip.


8. Sarphatistraat Offices / Steven Holl Architects

This renovated building is the former federal warehouse of medical supplies. In 1997 it was turned into a new office space. The main structure is a four-story brick “U” merging internally with a new ‘sponge’ pavilion on the canal. While the exterior expression is one of the complementary contrasts (existing brick adjacent to new perforated copper), the interior strategy is one fusion. The porous architecture of the rectangular pavilion is inscribed with a concept from the music of Morton Feldman’s “Patterns in a Chromatic Field”. The ambition to achieve a space of gossameroptic phenomena with chance-located reflected color is especially effective at night when the color patches paint and reflect in the canal.

The layers of perforated materials, from copper on the exterior toply wood on the interior, contain all services such as lighting, supply, and return air grilles. The perforated screens developed in three dimensions are analogous to the Menger sponge principle of openings continuously cut in planes approaching zero volume. The complex is entered through the original 20th-century brick courtyard. Passing through the interior reveals gradually more porous spaces until reaching the Menger sponge pavilion overlooking the canal. While the major portion of 50,000 square-foot project is workspace for the social housing company’s employees, the large sponge space is open to receive all uses from public gatherings to performance events. Given back to the community, the immediate canal edge has a new boardwalk.


9. De Dageraad (1917)

In 1917, architect Hendrik Berlage renewed the image of Amsterdam by introducing  young architects and artisans from the Amsterdam School to Amsterdam’s southern neighbourhoods. These designers rejuvenated the visual language and expression of the constructions erected by the municipality. De Dageraad (The Dawn) is a complex built by the social housing association and its name, drawn from the symbolism of a rising sun, is a reference to the socialist movement that Amsterdam experienced during this period. The complex was designed by two of the founding fathers of the Amsterdam School: the architects Piet Kramer and Michel de Klerk. Between them, the two men designed residential and commercial buildings as well as two parks, and as an after- thought, the Coöperatiehof built a library. The visitor centre of Museum De Dageraad offers guided tours of the building and houses a film exhibition that focuses on the Amsterdam School movement. 


10. Hotel nhow Amsterdam RAI / OMA

The main hotel for the RAI Amsterdam convention and exhibition center, the scheme offers 650 hotel rooms across 25 floors. Formed of three shifting triangular volumes, the scheme draws from a triangular advertising column on the Europaplein that once stood prominently on the site. The project has been 15-years in the making, as a larger 800-room proposal was once rejected by the city a few years back. The building composed of stacked three shifted triangular volumes.

Located in the Zuidas business district, an emerging urban entity in Amsterdam, the Nhow Amsterdam RAI Hotel is the main hotel for the RAI Amsterdam convention and exhibition center. Along with the 650 rooms in total, the 91-meter building will include a restaurant, a bar, and a live television studio, providing, therefore, places for work and for entertainment. With a composition that stands out from its context, the stacked tower’s conceptual approach was inspired by “the triangular advertising column on the Europaplein which was once so prominent on the site but now has been overtaken by the many office buildings that have been erected in its vicinity”. Integrating the RAI convention and exhibition center in the city, the project embraces the dense flows of pedestrians, cyclists and automotive traffic that traverse the site. Regarding the façade of the building, it is made completely from aluminum with a filling of glass panels. The lobby, spread over two-story, holds retail spaces on the ground floor, and a lounge and bar on the first. 19 Floors out of a total of 24, are occupied by the hotel, leaving space to host accessible public and semi-public facilities on the top floors. In fact, this area entitled “On Air”, includes meeting and conference rooms, lounges and a broadcasting studio, from which a daily television show can be recorded.


11. NEMO Science Museum / Renzo Piano

Surrounded by water, this science and technology museum has a ship-like form and pre-oxidized copper-clad façades, referencing the surrounding harbor areas. The museum has its origins in 1923 but its present building dates to 1997. A pedestrian ramp leads up onto the building’s sloping roof that serves as a public piazza for visitors and as a social focus for the neighborhood. Don’t miss the beautiful skyline views from its rooftop. While the exterior of the building is what mostly comes to mind when thinking about it, it’s the relationship between the interiors and its exterior counterpart that brings about a fascinating culmination of contextual spaces. It serves as a specimen of architectural study, a study of contextual structures and their interrelationships. NEMO is Renzo Piano’s one of finest examples of the creation of complex interior spaces and his flair for experimentation in architectural design. This article will use NEMO to explore the core principles of Renzo Piano’s work, his building philosophy and signature characteristics.

As a testament to Renzo Piano’s way of design, the National Center for Science and Technology (NEMO Science Museum) emerges from the pedestrian walkway, continuing over to the roof through a staircase towards the highest point of the structure. The striking relationship between the city and the building is that the structure forms a canvas for the public to inhabit while serving a fundamentally different function. The space taken by the roads in the tunnel beneath for vehicles is replaced by the public square on the roof of the building, creating a continuous pedestrian space for people. The interiors follow the form of the exterior, creating a similar sequence of spaces meant for totally different purposes, but they seem almost like parallel living spaces with light wells interspersed – a distinctive characteristic of Renzo’s work. The lightwells serve as a bridge between the outside and the inside of the building, providing lighting based on the contextual changes of the environment.


12. EYE Filmmuseum

It’s hard to miss the sloping silhouette of the EYE Filmmuseum as it juts out dramatically over the harbour. Offering some of the best views in the city, this monolithic shell is located on the north side of Amsterdam Central Station and contains several state-of-the-art cinemas and the largest film archives in the Netherlands. There’s an entrance fee for most exhibitions, but the permanent collection is free to visit.

Both the Eye Film Institute’s concept and urban implementation are based on an overlay of two creative disciplines which have at their core reality and fiction, illusion and real experience. The building concept becomes the story board, the architecture the scenography. By delivering a dynamic interplay, the building’s assigned role oscillates between acting as the urban scenery’s protagonist and as a dramaturgical element placed in front of a heterogeneous landscape setting. On the interface between land and water, between historic centre and modern development area, the building adopts many faces from each viewpoint, thus finding itself in a constant dialogue with its surroundings. Its radiance overcomes the city’s natural divide and historic lifeline, the IJ river, and is defined by its interaction with the surroundings, its positioning, and geometry. The area’s distinctive communicative effect goes beyond the confines of the building, thus transforming the visit to the Film Institute into a sustained encounter between urban reality and cinematographic fiction. As a multi finctional meeting point, the building’s architectural formulation complies in multiple ways with the responsibility held by a cultural institution of the highest functionality and sustainability.

Smooth, crystalline surfaces reflect the incoming light in varied ways, thus creating permanent optical changes throughout the day. This effect is also reflected on the building’s exterior through the main design idea of an architectural enactment of movement and light, both crucial parameters of film as a medium. Focused outer references, mainly the extensive southern façade opening, signal the pulsating vivaciousness of its surroundings and of the opposite city centre. They increase both the building’s and the northern shore’s attractivity and appeal.


13. Royal Palace Amsterdam

Despite its name, the palace on Dam Square wasn’t always owned by the Dutch royal family. The building was originally constructed as a city hall during the height of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century – a time when Amsterdam was one of the most powerful cities in the world. The palace was designed to symbolise the city’s international influence, paying homage to classical Roman and Greek architecture.

After the patriot revolution which swept the House of Orange from power a decade earlier, the new Batavian Republic was forced to accept Louis Napoleon, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, as King Louis I of Holland in 1806. After holding his court at The Hague and Utrecht, Louis Napoleon moved to Amsterdam, and converted the Town Hall into a royal palace for himself. The King of Holland did not have long to appreciate his new palace. He abdicated on 2 July 1810. It was made property of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1936.  The palace was renovated from 2005 until June 2009, during which, among other things, asbestos was removed. Since 14 June 2009, the palace is open again to visitors. The sandstone of yellowish hue has darkened considerably in the course of time. The Royal Palace was built in the seventeenth century as the Town Hall of Amsterdam, after a design by Jacob van Campen. It’s paintings and sculptures were made by some of the most distinguished artists of the time and allude to the city’s influence and prosperity in the Dutch Golden Age. Astride the rear of the building is a 6-metre-tall statue of Atlas carrying the Globe on his shoulders.


14. Pathé Tuschinski

Pathé Tuschinski is regularly credited as the most beautiful cinema in the world due to its astounding external and interior design. The entire cinema is a visual feast, adorned with a spectacular pastiche of Art Deco and Art Nouveau flourishes, designed by Hijman Louis de Jong. Alongside the broad selection of regular movie screenings, Tuschinski also hosts a number of international film festivals.

The theater was founded by Abraham Tuschinski, together with his brothers-in-law Hermann Gerschtanowitz and Hermann Ehrlich. Construction started on 18 June 1919, the theater was built in Art Deco, Jugendstil and the Amsterdams School style.  Tuschinski wanted to open the theatre with the first theatre organ in the Netherlands; unfortunately Wurlitzer couldn’t deliver one in time. Determined to open with an organ Tuschinski travelled to Brussels to acquire an existing one from another cinema. On October 28, 1921, the theatre opened its doors for the first time. When it first opened, the theater contained electro-technical features, then considered revolutionary. Its unique heating and ventilation system kept the temperature even throughout the building.

During the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940 Tuschinski lost all four of his cinemas in Rotterdam; his family and his four cinemas outside Rotterdam survived. Following the bombing the Nazis occupied the Netherlands and in May 1940 Tuschinski, Ehrlich and Gerschtanowitz were fired by the Nazis from their own company. Tuschinski was taken over by the German film company Tobis Film.  Tobios changed the name Tuschinski to the Tivoli on 1 November 1940.  Tuschinski and Gerschtanowitz were deported to Auschwitz, and all of them were murdered by the Nazis in 1942. After the Dutch liberation the name Tuschinski was restored, but only three members of the Tuschinski, Gerschtanowitz and Ehrlich families survived the war. The site was declared a national monument in 1967 due to its distinctive architecture. 

The French-based Pathé acquired the MGM Cinemas chain in The Netherlands including Tuschinski in 1995. They renovated the cinema from 1998 to 2002 to its original style and a corridor was constructed to Tuschinski 3, giving the complex a total of 6 auditoriums.  During the centennial in 2021,  Time Out magazine named Tuschinski the most beautiful cinema in the world.  The western facade is flanked by two towers. It is decorated with ceramic sculptures and contains several leadlight windows. The building contains Asian influences while the lobby was designed in a way to offer theatergoers the feeling that they are stepping into an illusion. The Tuschinski’s main auditorium has served as both a movie theater and a live performance space since its opening. In addition to a film screen, it also contains a stage and an organ. 


15. Centraal Station 

Amsterdam Central Station main train station is the real heart of the city: central not only by the name, but also as the biggest public transport transfer spot, serving not only visitors to Amsterdam, but also city inhabitants. Every day 250,000 people go through the Amsterdam Central Station. Amsterdam Centraal was designed by Pierre Cuypers, who is also known for his design of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. While Cuypers was the principal architect, it is believed that he focused mostly on the decoration of the station building and left the structural design to railway engineers. The station was built by contractor Philipp Holzmann. The new central station replaced Amsterdam Willemspoort Station, which had closed in 1878. 

Cuypers’ design of the station building in many ways strongly resembled his other architectural masterpiece, the Rijksmuseum, of which the construction had begun in 1876. It features a palace-like, Gothic/Renaissance Revival facade, with two turrets and many ornamental details and stone reliefs referring to the capital city’s industrial and commercial importance. Cuypers’ station reflects the romantic nationalistic mood in the late nineteenth-century Netherlands, with its many decorative elements glorifying the nation’s economic and colonial power at the time. Since 1997, the station has been continuously undergoing reconstruction works because of the development of the North-South Line of the Amsterdam Metro, which was originally planned to be completed in 2014. Due to several setbacks, some at the Amsterdam Centraal building site, the line was fully completed in 2018.


16. Houten Huys (Wooden House)

The ancient, restored wooden house (Het Houten Huys, 34 Begijnhof) is famous as one of the two wooden houses still existing in the center of Amsterdam (the other one being Zeedijk 1); there are annexed villages like Nieuwendam (Amsterdam North) with many wooden houses and even a wooden church. This house dates from about 1528, and is the oldest wooden house in Amsterdam. The courtyard has two bleaching greens, one on each side of the chapel. The house is a part of the Begijnhof:  one of the oldest hofjes in Amsterdam, Netherlands. A group of historic buildings, mostly private dwellings, centre on it. As the name suggests, it was originally a Béguinage. Today it is also the site of two churches, the Catholic Houten Huys and the English Reformed Church.


17. Embassy of the Free Mind

The Embassy of the Free Mind is a museum, library and platform for free thinking, inspired by the philosophy of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica collection. The museum focusses on the European culture of free thinking of the past 2.000 years, with Hermetic wisdom as the source of inspiration: insight into the connection between God, cosmos and man. This connection is reflected in the Hermetic, alchemical, astrological, magical, mystical, kabbalistic and Rosicrucian texts and images in the collection. The Embassy of the Free Mind was opened in October 2017 by the author Dan Brown.  The roots of the museum lie in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Ritman Library). This scientific research library, with a collection of 25.000 books and an own publisher dates back from 1958 when Amsterdam based businessman Joost Ritman started it as a private library.  In 1984 the library got open for general public and moved within Amsterdam to the Bloemstraat. Ritman brought together manuscripts and printed books in the area of the hermetic tradition, took care of the coherence of the diverse collection and showed their importance and relevancy for the world today.

The canal house was built in 1622 by Hendrick de Keyser and is listed as one of the ‘Top 100 buildings of the Dutch Rijksdienst’. Six heads adorn the façade. They depict the Roman gods Apollo, Ceres, Mercury, Minerva, Bacchus and Diana. God of commerce Mercury and goddess of wisdom Minerva were placed left and right of the central entrance in the 17th century to make it clear that this was the home of a wise merchant (Mercator Sapiens). Lodewijk and Laurens de Geer, from 1634 residents of the House with the Heads for 150 years, were besides affluent entrepreneurs also patrons of free thinkers and made the printing of their works possible.


18. Silodam / MVRDV

This new housing building is located next to two former grain warehouses (silos) that have been converted into housing. The 157 flats, business units, and public spaces in the Housing Silo are compressed within a 10 story high and 20 meters deep urban envelope. The apartments, rented and owned in different sizes, are stacked legibly on the façade as each of them is expressed differently. Tours are available from 3€ sending an email to 2 weeks in advance. 

In the western part of the Amsterdam harbor an extensive urban operation has been undertaken in order to densify the city and to meet the demands of the market, even on one of the more vulnerable areas. A former dam with a silo building on top has been transformed into a new neighbourhood that consists of a series of relatively costly components: a dam with a sunken parking lot, renovation of the old silo buildings, the required mix of less expensive social housing, the underwater protection barrier against oil tankers, the required deep piling foundation and the expensive temporary dry-dock constructions.

“The clients asked us to make a building for a lot of different housing types and also a lot of different financing models, so we wanted to explore the differences in financial categories – not in just making bigger and smaller apartments that were all the same, but with everything in very different spaces inside,” explains architect Nathalie de Vries in the movie.


19. Amsterdam University College

Science Park Amsterdam, the international knowledge centre in the Watergraafsmeer neighbourhood is the new home for the Liberal Arts and Sciences program at the Amsterdam University College, a joint institute of the University of Amsterdam and VU University Amsterdam. Science Park is located in the eastern part of the city, close to Amsterdam’s historic seventeenth-century city centre. In September 2012, international students and professors started at the new school of 5,800 m², that can accommodate 900 students. Surrounded by other science buildings, the SciencePark provides an interesting environment for the AUC with optimal opportunities for cross fertilization of ideas and talent. The park has an urban character in which buildings, landscape and public space are strongly intertwined. Science Park encompasses a program of 500,000 m² in total including office buildings, laboratories and educational facilities, hotel, conference facilities, sports and cultural programs, restaurants and housing.

Arriving from the city center or the new train station Amsterdam Science Park, the sculptural AUC building together with the Anna Hoeve historic farm house, form the new entrance to the Science Park. Mecanoo designed Amsterdam University College as an inspiring home for a community of international students and their professors. It is an inviting building with a spacious loft on top. The loft was created by placing the roof diagonally north-south. The tilting roof forms a loft where the more contained, quiet study areas and library are housed. Large voids form the heart of the building and create a visual relationship between the different floors. A staircase winds through the voids, symbolising a sense of community for its users. Distinguished spaces such as the restaurant, common room and study hall are double height. Vast windows in these rooms offer beautiful views of the surroundings. The striking façade is made of corten steel and furnishes the building with a warm yet formal presence which resonates with the architecture of the Science Park.


20. Oude Kerk

The Oude Kerk (English: Old Church) is Amsterdam’s oldest building and youngest art institutes (since 2012). The building was founded circa 1213 and consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht with Saint Nicolas as its patron saint. After the Reformation in 1578, it became a Calvinist church, which it remains today. It stands in De Wallen, now Amsterdam’s main red-light district. The square surrounding the church is the Oudekerksplein. By around 1213, a wooden chapel had been erected at the location of today’s Oude Kerk. Over time, this structure was replaced by a stone church that was consecrated in 1306.

The church has seen a number of renovations performed by 15 generations of Amsterdam citizens. The church stood for only a half-century before the first alterations were made; the aisles were lengthened and wrapped around the choir in a half circle to support the structure.Locals would gather in the church to gossip, peddlers sold their goods, and beggars sought shelter. This was not tolerated by the Calvinists, however, and the homeless were expelled. In 1681, the choir was closed-off with an oak screen. Rembrandt was a frequent visitor to the Oude Kerk and his children were all christened here. It is the only building in Amsterdam that remains in its original state since Rembrandt walked its halls.

The church covers an area of some 3,300 m2 (36,000 sq ft). The foundations were set on an artificial mound, thought to be the most solid ground of the settlement in this marshy province. The ceiling of the Oude Kerk is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe. The Estonian oak planks date to 1390 and boast some of the best acoustics in Europe. The Oude Kerk contains 12 misericords, leaning posts installed underside folding seats.



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