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Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The streets of Amsterdam are like a smorgasbord for those looking for history, architecture of depravity.
Step through doorways or look from outside – every block presents opportunities for exploration, study or escape. But it’s between the streets, in the canals that divide them, that the true wonder of the city flows.
The canals of Amsterdam were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2010 as an example of town planning that influenced the world for centuries. But when they were first built in the 17th century, they weren’t meant for inspiration – they were critical to the survival of the city.
They were in part necessary for the expansion of the urban area. The canals were used to drain away the swamps that once dominated the land and, in the spaces between the new waterways, the building began.
The canal system provided another important benefit, though. It gave protection to the city at a time when the Dutch were becoming an important power in the world and making enemies and attracting jealousies.
The relative peace and security that Amsterdam enjoyed saw it continue to grow and at one point the average income of a resident was four times that of someone in Paris.
At the time, this was the largest urban extension in the world. It was an impressive system to reclaim the land, it created a beautiful residential environment, and it allowed the country to grow economically and politically.
It’s easy for us to go to Amsterdam today and think the canals are cute. But they are not there as a simple tourist attraction – they are there because of ingenuity hundreds of years ago which enabled a city to grow and become a leading light in Europe.
Much of what you can see now is as history created it. The canal system – complete with embankments and facades – has survived in entirety.
Many of the old hydraulic systems have been rebuilt but most of the houses built in the 17th and 18th centuries are originals and are protected by heritage listing.
As part of my week of World Heritage Sites in Europe, I would now like to share some photos of what is officially called the ‘Seventeenth-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht’.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here. You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS?
To help you plan your trip to the Netherlands:
- What to expect in the historic centre of Amsterdam
- The best art museums in Amsterdam
- Explore the countryside of Van Gogh
- The incredible factory that’s now a World Heritage Site
- See the engineering genius of the Dutch firsthand
- How the Dutch protected their capital by controlling water
- For architecture fans, this house will blow your mind!
- How a simple rabbit took over the world
- Visit the best windmills in the Netherlands
- How you can stay the night on a boat in Rotterdam’s port.
Let someone else do the work for you:
You may also want to consider taking a tour of the Netherlands, rather than organising everything on your own. It’s also a nice way to have company if you are travelling solo.
I am a ‘Wanderer’ with G Adventures and they have great tours of the Netherlands.
You could consider:
When I travel internationally, I always get insurance. It’s not worth the risk, in case there’s a medical emergency or another serious incident. I recommend you should use World Nomads for your trip.