Western Canal Belt Walking Tour, Amsterdam

Western Canal Belt Walking Tour (Self Guided), Amsterdam

Western Canal Belt is a historic neighborhood in Amsterdam that forms part of the larger Canal Ring, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which comprises a web of concentric canals. The three main canals making up the Western Belt are Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. They are lined with beautiful and somewhat bizarre gabled houses that were built by prosperous merchants in the 17th century, whose immense wealth accumulated during the Dutch Golden Age gave rise to the expression "Rich as a merchant in the Golden Age".

One of the most famous attractions in the Western Canal Belt is the Anne Frank House. Located on Prinsengracht, it now serves as a museum, offering insights into the lives of Jews during World War II and the Holocaust. The neighborhood also has several other notable landmarks, such as the Westerkerk (Western Church), one of Amsterdam's most recognizable temples, and the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), a beautiful testament to Amsterdam's religious history.

Just to the east of the area, you will find Dam Square, a bustling public spot and a central hub for events and celebrations. Not far away from it is the prominent Torensluis, the widest and one of the oldest bridges in town, spanning the Singel canal.

Food enthusiasts will surely appreciate De Kaaskamer, a local specialty cheese store, while beer lovers should make sure to stop by the renowned De Bierkoning shop. For those interested in the history of Amsterdam's canals, the Museum of the Canals (Museum Het Grachtenhuis) is a must-visit.

The canals are a defining feature of Amsterdam and contribute to the city's unique character. Exploring the Western Canal Belt by foot is a popular activity for locals and tourists alike, as it allows you to immerse in the "Venice of the North"'s rich cultural heritage and appreciate the area's architectural beauty and historical significance.
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Western Canal Belt Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Western Canal Belt 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: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Dam Square
  • Torensluis
  • Puccini Bomboni
  • Anne Frank House
  • Westerkerk (West Church)
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady)
  • De Kaaskamer
  • Museum of the Canals
  • De Bierkoning
Dam Square

1) Dam Square (must see)

Dam Square lies in the historical center of Amsterdam. The surrounding architecture and frequent public events taking place here make it one of the most important locations in the city. The word “dam” in the name derives from the place's original function – damming the Amstel river. As the matter of fact, it also relates to the name of the city itself – Amstelredamme. Built around 1270, the dam formed the first connection between settlements on the banks of the river.

Gradually, the dam grew wide enough to accommodate a town square, which proved a core of the town's further development. Dam Square, as it's seen today, evolved out of what was originally two squares: the actual dam, called Middeldam; and Plaetse, the adjacent plaza to the west. A large fish market appeared near the spot where ships moored at the dam to upload and download their cargoes. The area eventually became the center of not only the commercial but also the administrative activity (Amsterdam's Town Hall).

Traditionally busy and crowded, Dam Square is grand in terms of shopping. Here, among numerous boutiques, one will easily spot the famous Dutch department store De Bijenkorf.

Why You Should Visit:
A perfect place to feel the pulse of the city, explore different cuisines, shops, enjoy music or sit by the fountain...
As it is well linked to other parts of the city, you'll have a wealth of choices getting to your next destination after strolling through the square.

Free, clean toilets available at the De Buenkork shop, 5th floor.

2) Torensluis

Completed in the mid-17th century and measuring around 42 meters in width, the Torensluis (tower lock) is the city's widest bridge – and one of its oldest. The vast size – and the name – is down to the tower that originally stood on the site until its demolition in the mid 19th century, the foundations of which are still visible both in the paving of the bridge itself and in the dungeon below. Look out for the barred windows and arched entrance to the prison cells nestled under the bridge, now open to the public and used to host events and exhibitions. The edges of the tower foundations can still be seen in the bridge's pavement.

Apart from the beautiful and panoramic views, the main attractions on this bridge are a statue of Dutch writer Multatuli (one of the most important people of letters in the Netherlands, and an anti-colonialist), as well as the large, sunny terraces of Villa Zeezicht and Café van Zuylen.
Puccini Bomboni

3) Puccini Bomboni

Amsterdam chocolatier Puccini Bomboni creates handmade bonbons in delectable flavors such as lavender, drambuie, vanilla poppyseed, and as far-reaching as marzipan currant to black pepper. Entering the elegant shop, the visitor is struck by the deep cocoa scent permeating the air and the beautiful, large truffles arranged artfully on the table, lauded as some of the best in the world.

The chocolate delights are handmade on-site and do not contain added preservatives. Each bonbon is made using sustainable chocolate (an important buzz-phrase these days) and only the finest natural ingredients. Choose a selection of bonbons to be packaged in a cellophane bag or pretty purple box. A perfect gift for those chocoholics!

Be sure to purchase the chocolates shortly before you return home as they only keep for 7 days. That is, if they even make it to the recipient before you devour them yourself.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 9am–7pm, Sun, Mon: 11am–7pm
Image Courtesy of Shoshannah Hausmann.
Anne Frank House

4) Anne Frank House (must see)

The name Anne Frank rings bell to many across the Netherlands and is that of a 13-year-old Jewish girl who, together with her family, fled their native Germany after the Nazis took over, seeking refuge in the Netherlands. Little did they expect that the Nazi terror would soon spread into the neighboring countries as well.

The Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht Canal is the place where the Franks spent over two years in hiding along with the Van Pel family. The house was built in 1635 and, throughout its existence, had served many purposes, including a residence, warehouse, stable, and office. In 1940, Otto Frank, Anne’s father bought it as an office for his spice business. Soon the office became a hideout from the German troops who were rounding up Jewish families and sending them to concentration camps. The Anne Frank House is a haunting, tragic and overwhelming experience that gives you a glimpse of how the inmates tried to live their lives in the midst of horror.

Today the premise has become a museum, which gives the viewer a peek into the lives of those in hiding. A definite recommendation whether or not you have read Anne Frank's diary.

Why You Should Visit:
Does a great job preserving Anne's and her family's memory, while also teaching about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Make sure you book early; also, be aware that there are lots of stairs and no pictures allowed in the house.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-10pm
Westerkerk (West Church)

5) 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
Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady)

6) 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
De Kaaskamer

7) De Kaaskamer

These days, when most of the cheeses are bought at supermarkets, quite a few of them, especially in cities like Amsterdam, are sold at street markets, farmers' markets, and specialty stores. One such store is found in the Nine Little Streets ("De Negen Straatjes") area and is called De Kaaskamer. This shop carries a fantastic variety of authentic, high-quality cheeses from all over the globe and is a great place to chow down on both imported and local specialties.

Unlike the array of tourist-trap cheese stores popped up in Amsterdam in recent years, which the locals avoid like the plague — with their 'souvenir packaged', overpriced wares, – De Kaaskamer is authentic and even artisan in nature, serving the locals and visitors alike. Understandably, this place is busy. But the friendly staff is helpful and efficient, and quite generous with their samples, too.

If you don’t quite know what you’re looking for, ask for their recommendations. Otherwise, try their Gouda. Truffled Gouda is a true heaven in a cheese form and the old Gouda with cumin seeds combined with the fig and nut loaf is totally out of this world!!

Opening Hours:
Mon: 12–6pm; Tue-Fri: 9am–6pm; Sat: 9am–5pm; Sun: 12–5pm
Museum of the Canals

8) Museum of the Canals

Even though it's only a 45-minute experience, the Museum of the Canals provides tremendous insight into the physical building it occupies, as well as the construction techniques required to build in Amsterdam as its population grew. Housed in a four-story former luxury home on the Herengracht, it also provides an inside look at how the city's upper crust lived.

Delightfully informative, the exhibits explain why some houses lean sideways or forward, the city planning and associated negotiations, and the funding of America's revolution. Miniature models of the canal houses are of interest, but even better are the "voyeur" peepholes in the walls where visitors can peek into canal house interiors from different periods. A lot of thought had been put into this museum to make it interactive and fun.

Last but not least, since most of the canal houses in Amsterdam have beautiful gardens behind them that you cannot see from the road, it is quite a treat to get a view of the lovely garden behind this museum; a great example of hidden Amsterdam.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am–5pm
De Bierkoning

9) De Bierkoning

Mention Dutch beer and most people think of Heineken, a huge brand that is ubiquitous worldwide. As tasty as Heineken is, there are many other beers brewed in the Netherlands that are even more delicious!

A one-stop-shop for local and specialty beers, De Bierkoning is a charming beer shop/kingdom located in the center of the city that has been in place for many, many years. Spread over three floors, the shop carries a mindblowing selection of more than 1,000 Dutch and international brews and is nearly guaranteed to have whatever you may be looking for, as well as things you aren't likely to find again (cocoa beer, perhaps?).

The choice and selection of beer glasses and other accessories (mats, openers and the like) is outstanding, too. Prices are reasonable and the friendly staff can give some good advice on up-and-coming beers and those to look out for.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11am–7pm; Sun: 12–7pm
Image Courtesy of Shoshannah Hausmann.

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.
City Center Walking Tour

City Center Walking Tour

The inner-most borough and historic heart of Amsterdam, known locally as Centrum, is a tightly woven network of canals and overlapping micro-neighborhoods, each bursting with their own unique vibe and history. Formerly a working-class area, this district is reputed for its traditional community spirit, radical politics and historic brown bars.

Here, all within an easy walking distance you will...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

The Jodenbuurt (Jewish Quarter) of Amsterdam had been the center of the Dutch Jewish community from the 16th century up until the Second World War. The neighborhood is best known as the birthplace of Baruch Spinoza, the home of Rembrandt, and the Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Once crowded with open-air stalls, smoking factories and tenement buildings, the Old...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour

Amsterdam's Historical Churches Walking Tour

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.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Jordaan Walking Tour

Jordaan Walking Tour

The Jordaan district of Amsterdam is a popular neighborhood renowned for its charming, narrow streets, quaint courtyards, and picturesque canals. Replete with beautiful historic houses, many of which have been converted into cozy cafés, trendy boutiques, and art galleries, this district has a distinctive atmosphere that sets it apart from other areas in the city.

The Jordaan was originally...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour

Amsterdam Introduction Walking Tour

“Dancing to its own beat,” the Dutch capital Amsterdam is famous for its unusual life rhythm that is manifested in the air of canals, coffee shops, and the Red Light District, as well as many other things that altogether draw annually over five million visitors to the city.

A place where “hipness meets history”, Amsterdam emerged in the late 12th century as a small fishing village...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 Km or 3.2 Miles
Southern Canal Belt Walking Tour

Southern Canal Belt Walking Tour

Grachtengordel (Dutch for the Canal District) is an international icon of urban planning and architecture in Amsterdam. Still very much intact after four centuries, the area is known for its small bridges, crossing canals, and 17th-century homes. Forming a horseshoe around the Old City Centre, the Canal Ring comprises Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht canals, built during...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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