Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour, Amsterdam

Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Amsterdam

Amsterdam's numerous churches are an unique example of architectural diversity. Whether you are a keen church goer or simply interested in the architectural and historic aspects, Amsterdam will not disappoint. Take this self guided walk to visit the important religious sites in Amsterdam. The walk starts from the central station and visit eight religious sites in the city.
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Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam (See other walking tours in Amsterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Centraal Station
  • St. Nicolaaskerk
  • Oude Kerk (Old Church)
  • Zuiderkerk (South Church)
  • Begijnhof Chapel
  • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady)
  • Westerkerk (West Church)
  • Noorderkerk (North Church)
Centraal Station

1) Centraal Station (must see)

When in Amsterdam, you are bound to visit the Centraal Station, one way or another, at least once. With over 1,500 trains pulling in here daily, this is one of the busiest transportation hubs of the city, serving nearly 250,000 commuters per day. In this sense, this is a true heart of Amsterdam!

The Centraal Station began service at the end of the 19th century. Designed by architects P.J.H. Cuypers and A.L. van Gendt, it symbolized the rebirth of the country's once ailing economy.

An interesting fact about this station is that it was built on three man-made islands and its current location is not the one originally chosen. To erect the structure as massive as a railway station on the muddy soil, it took precisely 8687 wooden piles to support the structure. The entire project seemed like a huge blunder and was promptly condemned by many experts, but in the end, the architects managed to pull it off and proved the skeptics wrong.

Today, the Neo-Gothic building stately rises over the banks of the river IJ delighting the numerous beholders, much as the commuters using it daily to get to/from Amsterdam, with its colossal presence and the engineering genius behind its creation.

Why You Should Visit:
A mass transit and cosmopolitan fever hotspot, harmoniously blending neo-Renaissance architecture and modern technology.

There are several (free) ferry trips through the canals running from here every 5 or 15 minutes which are very worthwhile. You can cruise right back to the station on the boat if you want to.
St. Nicolaaskerk

2) St. Nicolaaskerk

One of the most inspiring structures in Amsterdam is the St Nicolaaskerk (St Nicolas Church). A unique amalgamation of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Renaissance and traditional Dutch architecture, the Church of Saint Nicolas, built in the late 19th century, is one of the most splendid structures and best designed churches in modern day Amsterdam.

This overpowering temple was designed by architect A.C. Bleijs, who built it with a vision of reviving different styles of architecture. The chief patron of the Church – St. Nicolas, commonly known as Santa Claus, is also Amsterdam’s patron saint. The St Nicolaaskerk is still one of the main churches in the city that practice Roman Catholicism and services here are held regularly even today. Along with masses, the church is also known for its choir and musical recitals. People from all over visit here to listen to the 19th century organ played during the service.

The overwhelming presence of the ornate octagonal dome with the identical towers by its side and the stained glass window that separate them are truly a feat of sheer architectural brilliance. Not only is the St. Nicholaaskerk magnificent on the outside, the interiors are also spellbinding. Decorated by one of the most gifted artists of the 19th century, Jan Dunselman, the church in its full right is a true delight to visit.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

3) Oude Kerk (Old Church)

The Oude Kerk (“Old Church”) is the oldest parish in Amsterdam and is surprisingly located amid the area of vice – the vastly popular Red Light District of De Wallen. Old itself, the church is also home to the city’s oldest bells, dating back as far as 1450. The Oude Kerk is a Roman Catholic temple and its patron is St Nicholas.

Built in the early 14th century, it was originally a modest wooden cemetery chapel, attesting to which fact are a number of gravestones found on the floor. Beneath laid to rest are more than 10,000 Amsterdam denizens, some of whom are quite famous personalities, including Jacob van Heemskerck – a naval hero, Frans Banning Cocq – the central character of Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” painting, as well as the Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck. Eventually, the Oude Kerk took up the Gothic appearance visible today.

Matching the exterior is the equally elegant and surprisingly spacious interior, featuring three naves with a ceiling made of wood and covered in magnificent paintings depicting saints and Biblical scenes – a sort of “time portal” capable of transporting visitors centuries back.

Why You Should Visit:
Unlike the Niewe Kerk which is bigger and more ornate, the Oude Kerk is very old and has a great sense of history to it.

Wonderful views from the tower (note the fee payable with credit/debit cards only); coffee and snacks in a charming garden.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 1pm-5:30pm; Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Zuiderkerk (South Church)

4) Zuiderkerk (South Church)

One of the prettiest towers in Amsterdam that even inspired a few of Monet’s paintings is at the South Church or the Zuiderkerk. Built during the years of 1603 to 1614, the Zuiderkerk was the first protestant or Reformist Church in Amsterdam. This magnificent structure was designed by renowned Dutch architect Hendrick de Keyser.

The Church was built with respect to the Renaissance style of architecture. There are claims that the design of Zuiderkerk even inspired the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren, the builder of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The Zuiderkerk may have acted as inspiration, model and trophy for a few but there was a time when the structure also served as a morgue for the city. During the final years of the Second World War, there was a fierce scarcity of food and people were dying faster than they could be buried. Famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt is also connected to this Church in several ways. Three of Rembrandt’s children were buried at the Zuiderkerk. Because of the proximity of his house to the church, there is also speculation that he finished some of his most famous works at the church rather than his studio. Today, the Church serves as Municipal Exhibition Center, displaying Amsterdam’s future building plans.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Begijnhof Chapel

5) Begijnhof Chapel

The Begijnhof Chapel, dedicated to Saint John and Saint Ursula, is a Roman Catholic chapel run by the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, in the St Nicholas Parish of Amsterdam. Here the commemoration of the Miracle of Amsterdam is maintained. The first steps in the construction of the present chapel were taken as early as 1665, after joining two houses bought for that purpose at the initiative of parish priest Van der Mije (1665-1700); his nephew laid the foundation stone on 2 July 1671. The municipality approved the building plans on condition that the building did not look like a church from the outside. The chapel was designed by the Catholic architect in Amsterdam, Philips Vingboons (1607-78), and was dedicated to St John the Evangelist and St Ursula. In its present form, it has a gallery with a left and a right section, resting on six wooden columns. The front with its leaded ogive windows dates only from the 19th century.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place to see a different side of Amsterdam; very quiet and peaceful even though you are in the middle of the city.
Can be easily combined with a visit to Amsterdam Museum.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

6) Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

The Nieuwe Kerk or “New Church” is a 14th century temple located on Dam square in Amsterdam, next to the Royal Palace. This church was built to accommodate the growing number of parishioners after the Oude Kerk (Old Church) was no longer able to cope with the task. Repeatedly damaged by fire in 1645, it was rebuilt and assumed Gothic style.

With time, the building acquired some early Renaissance features, while remaining tower-less. The beautifully decorated stained glass windows depict historic events associated with the church, such as the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina. The interior's highlights include admirable altar, great pipe organ, sepulchral monuments with the tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, a Dutch naval hero, and more. In 1578 the church became Protestant, upon which many of its treasures were removed and frescoes painted over.

After being declared the National Church in 1815, it has been the site of royal weddings and inaugurations. Dutch Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima married here in 2002.

Although still used for recitals, the Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for services and instead represents a popular exhibition space. The themes of exhibitions held here are varied and include some rather peculiar ones, like the Buddhist art of ancient Bactria. Postcards, books and gifts are sold at a museum store within the church. A popular cafe adjoining the building, called the Nieuwe Café, has a large outer terrace.

Why You Should Visit:
Worth seeing if you like old buildings and history in general, but don’t expect a religious experience.

Feel free to step inside the lobby to marvel at the beautiful giant stained glass panes.
Exhibitions can be a little overpriced but good value with the I Amsterdam card.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady)

7) Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady)

The beautiful and evocative Neogothic Style of this Roman Catholic church, dating to 1854, is certainly pleasing to the eye and easily dominates the immediate area, making for some great photographic opportunities.

The beauty of the church is not limited to its huge brick facade but extends to the interior, which has huge paintings and poignant carvings. Literally every nook and cranny and pillar is painted, and the stained glass windows only add to the grandeur.

For those seeking Sunday Mass, they are used to welcoming tourists and hold masses in English as well.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Wed: 11:45am–2pm / 7–8PM; Thu: 10:45am–10pm; Fri: 10:45am–8pm; Sat: 6:30–8pm: Sun: 10:45am–1pm
Westerkerk (West Church)

8) Westerkerk (West Church)

Located near the Jordaan district, in Prinsengracht canal, is Amsterdam's largest church in the Netherlands that was built for Protestants – the Westerkerk. Designed in Dutch Renaissance style along with a hint of Gothic, it stands out impressively with a tower replicating the crown of Habsburg emperor Maximilian I in blue, red and golden colors.

Besides its architecture, Westerkerk church is renowned for its organ concerts and its carillon - the latter either operated by a carillonneur (on Tuesdays between noon and 1pm) or automated, with different songs tinkling out on the quarter-hour, day and night (it drives some locals nuts). Anne Frank described the tunes in her diary. Rembrandt, who lived nearby during his poverty-stricken last years, and his son, Titus, are buried (somewhere) here.

If you don't mind a cardio workout, the tower climb (open from April to October) is spectacular, both for the close-up view of the bells and also for the amazing view from the platform near the top over much of Amsterdam. The stairs at the top are fairly steep, but not too arduous.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11am–3pm
Noorderkerk (North Church)

9) Noorderkerk (North Church)

On the Noordermarkt Square in Amsterdam, reflecting the ideals of Renaissance Protestantism, is a beautiful cross-shaped church; the Noorderkerk. The name Noorderkerk means the “northern church” and is called so since it is located in the northern part of the Jordaan neighbourhood. The architect of this church was Hendrick de Keyser, who also built the Westerkerk. This Church has a unique octagonal floor. The structure resembles a Greek cross which has four arms of equal length and each corner of this cross is occupied by annex buildings. At the centre of the cross is a small tower. Four triangular houses tucked into the cross’s angles were built in 1621 by Hendrick Staets, who wanted to make use of the available space. There is evident domination of large Tuscan pillars in the interiors of the church and on the exterior a plaque reminds us of the protests against Nazi deportation of city’s Jews in 1941. Between 1993 and 1998, the Church was restored while the organ was reinstated in 2005.

Along with being a place of worship, the Noorderkerk is also a place for classical music recitals. The Church also displays archeological artifacts in its southern annex. It is now used for Dutch Reformed Church services.

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