Old Side Walking Tour, Amsterdam (Self Guided)

Amsterdam's Old Side or Oude Zijde in Dutch is a neighborhood of true contrast. On one side we have centuries old medieval buildings, churches and landmarks, and on the other hand we have the Red Light District, which is not in fact a district, but an area within the Oude Zijde of Amsterdam.
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Old Side Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Side Walking Tour
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam (See other walking tours in Amsterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Author: clare
St. Nicolaaskerk

1) St. Nicolaaskerk

One of the most inspiring structures in Amsterdam is the St Nicolaaskerk or the St Nicolas Church. A unique amalgamation of Neo- Baroque, neo-Renaissance and traditional Dutch architecture, the Church of Saint Nicolas is one of the most splendid structures in Amsterdam.

Built in the late 19th century, the Church is known as one of the best designed churches in modern day Amsterdam.

This overpowering structure 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 Church of Saint Nicholas is still one of the main churches in the city that practice Roman Catholicism and services are held regularly even today. Along with masses, the church is also known for its choir and musical recitals. People from all over visit the church to listen to the 19th century organ which is still played during service.

The overwhelming presence of the ornate octagonal dome with the identical towers by it side and the stained glass window that separate them are truly a feat of sheer architectural brilliance. Not only is St. Nicholaaskerk magnificent on the outside, the interiors too are 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

2) Schreierstoren

The Schreierstoren that literally translates to ‘sharp angles’, was once a part of the medieval wall built around the city of Amsterdam. The structure was named so, because of the sharp angles it makes with the Geldersekade and the Oudezijds Kolk. Constructed with the sole purpose of protecting the city in the 15th century, the Schreierstoren stood as a tower of defense.

The Schreierstoren has been associated with many tales and myths in the past. According to popular belief, the Schreierstoren is also nick named the Weeping Tower. It was named so, because it was believed that the wives of sailors and travellers said their goodbyes at this tower and it was here that they anxiously waited for their return. A gable stone with an etched picture of a crying lady is some proof for this legend.

Although the story of the weeping wives does sound plausible, the etched picture is hugely misunderstood. The woman depicted on the stone is actually a virgin, the symbol for the city of Amsterdam.

Apart from the tall tales associated with the Schreierstoren tower, there are many interesting facts about it as well. The Tower has also bid adieu to many voyages that made history. The Schreierstoren was the port from where Henry Hudson set sails for his trip to North America.
Museum Our Lord in the Attic

3) Museum Our Lord in the Attic

Amsterdam is a city full of surprises and sticking to its reputation is the Museum Our Lord in the Attic. It is exactly how it sounds! The lord is indeed in the attic.

The second oldest museum in Amsterdam, the Museum Our Lord in the Attic was built in the 17th century by a merchant, Jan Hartman. During those times of Reformation when practicing Catholicism was considered against the law, Jan Hartman built a secret Catholic church in the attic of the house he had just purchased. Although not completely hidden from the radar of the Protestant Authorities, the Church still managed to function and flourished unharmed. With a plain, modest exterior, it is very difficult to locate which building actually houses this beautiful church. However, the interiors of the church are quite remarkable.

Hidden in the attic of the mansion, the Church is accessed by a creaky and rather steep wooden staircase. The church interiors are filled with incredible paintings and sculptures which make you forget the simple and austere exterior. With a narrow nave, the Church has a capacity of seating almost 150 people. One of the most remarkable features of the Church of Our Lord in the Attic is the organ which is as old as the Church itself and is played to this date.

A perfect example of architecture and interiors of the Dutch Golden era, the Museum Lord in the Attic must not be missed.
Greenhouse Effect

4) Greenhouse Effect

Since opening in the vibrant heart of Amsterdam’s Red Light District this bar has been the city’s premier venue for the best modern Drum and Bass, reggae, dance, funk and rare grooves with electronic music. Very often Greenhouse Effect is visited by local top DJs.
Prostitution Information Center

5) Prostitution Information Center

One of the key attractions of Amsterdam is its ostentatious and very legal prostitution. The Red Light District or the De Wallen, as the locals call it, is the largest red light area in the world. Although this aspect of the city may seem very exotic, appealing and adventurous, assistance may be needed to ensure you are well informed and familiarized.

Having an information center for the world largest prostitution area seems like a logical idea, and Miss Mariska Majoor, a onetime professional herself, did exactly that. Started in 1994, the Prostitution Information Center helps educate newcomers, tourists and visitors about this thriving industry of Amsterdam. Right from well reputed places to what to expect behind the curtain, you can find assistance at the PIC.

The PIC is a non-governmental organization and helps keep the prostitution business as clean and professional as possible. Protecting both the customer and the professional, the PIC is the best place to get the right information about the Red light District of Amsterdam. A fun tour is organized by the PIC around the De Wallen and noted Red Light Areas that lasts for one hour and takes visitors around some pretty interesting places. A must when in Amsterdam!
Sight description based on wikipedia
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

6) Oude Kerk (Old Church) (must see)

In the midst of De Wallen, the largest and best known Red Light District in Amsterdam is the oldest parish of the city, the Oude Kerk or Old Church. St. Nicholas is the main patron of this stunning Roman Catholic Church. Not only is the structure one of the oldest, but the Church is also home to the city’s oldest church bells that date back to 1450.

This stunning Church dates back to the early 14th century which started off as a modest wooden Chapel. The Church later took the form of this magnificent late Gothic structure that it is today. It was constructed on an old cemetery and even today one can see that the floor of the Oude Kerk contains gravestones. Beneath the floors of the Church lie at rest more than 10,000 Amsterdam denizens, some of whom were quite famous personalities. The Church is the resting place of Jacob van Heemskerck, a naval hero, Frans Banning Cocq, a central character of Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck.

The splendor of the Oude Kerk is contained not only in its exterior -- the inside is equally breathtaking. This three-nave Church manages to transport its visitors back to the past with its grandeur and elegance. The Church from the inside is surprisingly spacious, with a ceiling made of wood and covered with some magnificent paintings depicting saints and events in the Bible.

Why You Should Visit:
While Niewe Kerk is bigger and more ornate, Oude Kerk is very old and has a real sense of history about it.

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

Opening Hours:
Sun: 1pm-5:30pm; Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Erotic Museum

7) Erotic Museum

There are a lot of things Amsterdam is famous for; it may be history, art, architecture or science. However, one thing about the city you just cannot ignore is its bold and candid expression of eroticism. Whether it is taking a walk down the Red Light District or visiting the Erotic Museum, people of Amsterdam are not shy.

Bringing forth eroticism with a hint of art is what the Erotic Museum strives to do. Collecting art, paintings, photography, sketches, sculptures and prints from artists all over the world who have a common denominator, eroticism and its artistic expression is what the Erotic Museum works towards all around the year.

At the entrance of the Museum, one is greeted with an orgasmic mannequin of a maid riding a power paddled dildo. The museum is filled with new age erotic art, wax models, equipment and toys as well as vintage, turn of the century erotic art and photographs. It may not be the place you can take an innocent minded, but it is definitely a place worth the visit in Amsterdam for rarely does one come across a museum displaying erotica. The most ironic part however, is the gable stone on this building that reads ‘God is myn burgh’ (God is my citadel).

8) Zeedijk

The Zeedijk is one place that is beaming with fun and activity. Not only is its present lively, the Zeedijk has a dynamic and vibrant past as well. A perfect, in fact lethal combination of history, glamour, fun and entertainment, the Zeedijk is all wrapped in one.

The Chinese neighborhood of any city invariably makes it to the list of attraction of a city and Amsterdam is no exception. The Zeedijk, roughly translated- the ‘sea dikes’ is in the heart of the China town in Amsterdam. As with many mini Chinas in other cities, there are loads of fun stuff to explore in and around the neighborhood, whether it be related to sight, sound, smell or taste.

Sieve through numerous arrays of tokos, small Chinese stores, restaurants and herbal shops. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the only remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam, located exclusively in Zeedijk. Also worth seeing are some vintage structures that now house some of the most famous pubs and bars, a Buddhist temple and some high street fashion stores. The Zeedijk has long served Amsterdam as one of the most significant harbors, from disembarking voyage ships in the 15th and 16th century to drug vessels and traffic in the 20th century. Zeedijk also marks the boundary of the Red Light District of the city.
Weigh House

9) Weigh House

Built in 1488, the Weighing House or the De Waag in Dutch was once a part of the city gates built to overlook the city. Later, in the 17th century, this monumental building was converted to a weighing house.

Originally, the building was much taller than it presently is. In the early 16th century, plans of expanding the city limits brought down the wall that once surrounded it. After razing the walls, all that remained was the gate that was no longer useful. The defensive canal and the area surrounding the gate were later transformed into the market square. The ground level was raised stunting the structure further.

De Waag housed many guilds and associations, one of which also included the painter’s guild. It is in this building that Rembrandt van Rijn, the famous Dutch artist, was inspired to make his painting, ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp’ which earned him his worldwide reputation. Post the 17th century, the Weighing house served home to many associations; it also housed two museums and even a fire brigade. It was only in 1996 that the building was taken over by the Waag society which carefully preserved the structure for generations to see.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum

10) Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum

The Hash, Marijuana and Hemp museum situated in Amsterdam, at Oudezijds Achterburgwal, a canal of the Red Light District, are attractions within a walking distance from one another. These were established in 1985, 1987 and 2008 respectively, and were expanded into two venues due to the increased number of displays. The museum takes you through the past, present and the future of hemp and marijuana (also known as Cannabis). It provides insight into the use of hemp with an emphasis on its medicinal, cultural and religious aspects, its uses in production of paper and textile, as well as its potential for benefiting the environment and agriculture. This museum is operated and owned by one of the oldest and biggest seed companies in Amsterdam, the Sensi Seed Bank (which is located next to the museum).

There are two main exhibition venues, namely: the Museum itself and the Hemp gallery. The Museum shows various recreational uses of hemp, such as the oil extracted from hemp and suitable for human consumption, impregnate textiles, paints and soaps. Hemp is also a close alternative to cotton, since its cultivation is easy and the plant is undemanding and versatile. The Hemp gallery shows the history of hemp in the form of paintings, photographs and short films.

There is a facility through which visitors can observe cultivation of varieties of marijuana from behind a glass wall. Adult visitors can enjoy the effects of vapors in a special vaporizing room located right there on the museum premises.
Sight description based on wikipedia

11) Spinhuis

Built in 1596, with the purpose of rectifying and correcting its minor citizens, the Spinhuis did everything in its right to see to it that adolescent and young children could be corrected for the crime they committed.

As the story goes, the court once received a 16 year old well-bred boy by the name of Evert Jansz for theft. Although convicted, the judges found themselves in a huge conundrum when it came to finding an appropriate punishment for the teenager. An adult who had committed a crime would either by lashed, killed, mutilated or humiliated. Being a minor they did not know if it was appropriate to punish a minor in the same order. And this very though led to the establishment of the House of Corrections in 1596. Juvenile law offenders and notorious minors were brought to the House of Correction where they were taught to lead more civilized and honest lives.

Later even young girls who committed crimes or were prostitutes were also brought in, in order to improve. The facility soon got renamed as Spinhuis, because the girls were made to spin. The house soon turned into a live example for younger children outside of the Spinhuis. Parent brought in their children on Sunday to show them what happened to Children who don’t listen to their parents.
Zuiderkerk (South Church)

12) Zuiderkerk (South Church)

One of the prettiest towers in Amsterdam that even inspired 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

13) Montelbaanstoren

One of the last remaining pieces of Medieval Amsterdam, Montelbaanstoren stands as a proud monument to the city’s early wealth and power. The original tower was built in 1516 for the purpose of defending the city. The top half, designed by Hendrick de Keyser, was extended to its current, decorative form in 1606.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Create Your Own Walk in Amsterdam

Creating your own self-guided walk in Amsterdam is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Plantage Walking Tour

Plantage Walking Tour

Plantage is a neighborhood of Amsterdam, located in the Centrum district. It dates back to the 1600s and has been throughout the centuries a place of rest and entertainment. It is one of the greenest neighborhoods in Amsterdam, in part thanks to the fact that is home to the Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, and the Artis Zoo.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Canal Belt Nightlife

Canal Belt Nightlife

A major cosmopolitan city with an absolutely electrifying nightlife scene, Amsterdam offers a variety of entertainment, from live music to underground house music, including ultra-chic to casual hangouts. Amsterdam is also home to variety of bars and clubs located inside historic buildings, allowing some of these former establishments to live on thematically, including the industrial chic of a...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Old Center Gay Nightlife

Old Center Gay Nightlife

Amsterdam is second to none when it comes to tolerance and respect for individual uniqueness. This intimate city is an iconic gay destination and offers a wide range of gay bars and clubs. Follow this tour to visit some of the best rated gay venues in Amsterdam's Old Center.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 km
Jordaan Walking Tour

Jordaan Walking Tour

The Jordaan is a district of the city of Amsterdam. It was originally a working class neighborhood, but in recent years it has become quite upscale and home to many museums and art galleries, particularly those focused on modern art. The district is also dotted with specialty shops, markets and restaurants. This tour is a perfect opportunity to see the main attractions of the district of Jordaan.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Souvenir Shopping Part 2

Souvenir Shopping Part 2

It would be a pity to leave Amsterdam without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Amsterdam, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.4 km
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Amsterdam is the capital and the largest city of the Netherlands. It is famous for its unusual life rhythm manifested in the air of cannabis, coffee shops, the Red Light District and many other elements that keep drawing in people from the whole world all year round. Here are some suggestions on the top-rated tourist attractions of this extraordinary city.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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Dutch Sweets and Pastries

Dutch Sweets and Pastries

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The Oldest and Historic Pubs of Amsterdam

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Souvenir Shopping in Amsterdam: 20 Dutch Things To Buy

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Amsterdam for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Amsterdam has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Amsterdam's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the I Amsterdam City Card, Amsterdam City Pass, Amsterdam City Pass Plus, or Amsterdam Pass (by Stromma).

A city pass combines all or multiple Amsterdam' top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Amsterdam hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Hotel TwentySeven, Swissôtel Amsterdam.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Amsterdam, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Amsterdam typically costs from around US$25 up to US$40 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat calling at all of Amsterdam's major attractions, museums and shopping centers. En route, you can listen in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages and get on and off at any of the stops along the way as often as you like.

- Discover Amsterdam with the taste of beer on a relaxing 75-minute canal cruise gliding past beautiful bridges, buildings and houseboats, calling at the former Heineken brewery for an ultimate cultural experience and a free pint to enjoy.

- Pedal your way around Amsterdam's quirky quarters and picturesque waterways on a guided city bike tour. In the course of 3 hours you will visit the city's eclectic sights stopping at the most notable of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Take a morning walk around Amsterdam with a knowledgeable guide for an insider view of Holland's most fascinating city. This tour will take you along Amsterdam's enchanting canals to its must-see attractions away from tourist crowds. A complete overview of Amsterdam from the ground up!

- Treat yourself to some of the best Dutch and international delicacies Amsterdam has to offer on a 3-hour food journey across the city visiting, among other locations, a typical local market, beer garden, and a family-run restaurant.

- Step back in time to the dark years of the German occupation of Holland during World War II on a 2-hour historical walking tour of Amsterdam. Feel what it was like, learn the story of Anne Frank, visit the Jewish Quarter and other memorable places.

- Visit the infamous Red Light District, once the most dangerous part of Amsterdam, now synonymous with the city itself. See how the area has transformed, over the years, from the dark “gutter” with shady dens of vice to the lively district with welcoming pubs and restaurants.

Day Trips

If you have a day to spare whilst in Amsterdam, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Giethoorn, Bruges, Zaanse Schans, Keukenhof, and Holland’s countryside. For as little as US$50+ to US$180+ per person you will get a chance to discover “Venice of The Netherlands” and the Garden of Europe, visit one of the most captivating cities in Belgium, explore the charming Dutch villages with eye-catching windmills and picturesque canals, acquaint yourself with the traditional Dutch crafts (clog- and cheese making), taste the local pancakes and cheeses, and so much more! For any of these tours you may be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Amsterdam, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan to the destination of your choice and back again.