The multi-turreted Waag was built as a gate in the city walls in 1488. In 1601 the walls were destroyed to allow the city to expand, and the building was turned into Amsterdam's main weigh house, and later a spot for public executions. A bar-restaurant occupies it today. Out the front, Nieuwmarkt hosts a variety of events, including a Saturday farmers market and a Sunday antiques market.

In its early days the Waag looked more like a castle, fronted by a moat-like canal. By the 17th century it was home to various guilds. The surgeons' guild, which occupied the upper floor, commissioned Rembrandt's famous The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp (displayed in the Mauritshuis museum in Den Haag). The masons' guild was based in the tower facing the Zeedijk; note the superfine brickwork.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Amsterdam attractions

1. Kuan Yin Shrine

0.07 MILES

Europe's largest Chinese Imperial–style Buddhist temple, built in 2000, is dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. Enter through the side…

2. Red Light Secrets

0.08 MILES

Inside a former brothel in a 17th-century canal house, this museum fills a gap by showing curious visitors what a Red Light room looks like and answering…

3. Kleine Trippenhuis

0.11 MILES

The creamy confection of the Kleine Trippenhuis, just 2.44m wide, looks as if the builders made the most of the infill between two normal-sized canal…

4. Trompettersteeg

0.12 MILES

An intriguing place to view the Red Light action is Trompettersteeg, a teeny alley where the women in the windows charge some of the highest prices…

5. Trippenhuis

0.12 MILES

Built from the lucrative profits of arms dealing, this elaborate grey stone mansion was designed by young Dutch architect Justus Vingboons in 1660 for the…

6. Cannabis College

0.13 MILES

This nonprofit centre offers visitors tips and tricks for having a positive smoking experience and provides the low-down on local cannabis laws. There are…

7. Hemp Gallery

0.13 MILES

Part of the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum, the Hemp Gallery has displays on hemp art and history.

8. Oude Kerk

0.14 MILES

Dating from 1306, the Oude Kerk is Amsterdam's oldest surviving building. It's also an intriguing moral contradiction: a church surrounded by active Red…