Walking Tour: Western Canal Ring

  • Start Singel, Torensluis
  • End Negen Straatjes
  • Length 3km; 1¼ hours

Get to know the Western Canal Ring's 17th-century waterways during this walk.

Originally a moat that defended Amsterdam's outer limits, the Singel is the first canal west of the centre. Torensluis, Amsterdam's oldest bridge (built in the mid-1600s), crosses it. Before you do too, stop to admire the statue of novelist Eduard Douwes Dekker (better known by his pen name, Multatuli); the Dutch literary giant's museum is a few blocks north.

Next up is the Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal), named for the rich merchants and powerful regents who clustered here to build their manors. Nearly 400 years later, it's still some of Amsterdam's choicest real estate.

The Herengracht soon intersects with the pretty Brouwersgracht (Brewer's Canal), which took its name from the many suds makers located here in the 16th and 17th centuries. To the north is Herenmarkt, home to the 17th-century West-Indisch Huis, where the Dutch West India Company's governors authorised the establishment of New Amsterdam (now New York City).

Turning south, cross the Brouwersgracht into the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal). You'll soon spot the imposing, red-shuttered Greenland Warehouses, which used to store whale oil. Further on is the Dutch Renaissance Huis Met de Hoofden ('House with the Heads'), with its carvings of Apollo, Ceres and Diana; the work of noted architect Hendrick de Keyser and his son Pieter, the building is undergoing renovations to house the Ritman Library, a collection of philosophical works.

Turn west at peaceful Leliegracht and then south onto Prinsengracht. You'll pass the Anne Frank Huis and the soaring towers of the Westerkerk. Back on Keizersgracht, head south a few blocks, past Berenstraat; you won't be able to miss the quirky Felix Meritis, a one-time Enlightenment society venue that's now an alternative theatre (it was undergoing renovations when we visited and was due to reopen in late 2018); the building's colonnaded facade served as a model for Amsterdam's renowned Concertgebouw.

Since you're probably hungry, thirsty or both by this point, head to one of the fetching little cafes lining the nearby Negen Straatjes.