This is one of the most scenic areas of Amsterdam, where the web of historic canals is most tranquil, where the tiny boutiques offer one-theme surprises, and where you will still occasionally hear the distinct accent of the Jordaan, a neighboring, now gentrified district that was once a working-class enclave.
Start at the (1) Westerkerk (Western Church; Prinsengracht 281; www.westerkerk.nl) a 17th-century Protestant church that is one of the city’s most recognized landmarks. “There is something funny about this gorgeous, monumental building sitting in between all the small canal houses, and the crown that tops the church tower, like a Christmas bauble, is pure frivolity,” says Tracy Metz, arts and architecture writer, NRC Handelsblad.
Turn right after leaving the church and you will see the lines of people waiting to enter the (2) Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 267; www.annefrank.nl). Anne wrote in her diary of hearing the Westerkerk’s bells, a small sign of life outside her hiding place.
Continue walking north on the Prinsengracht and then stop for a classic Dutch lunch at (3) The Pancake Bakery (Prinsengracht 191; www.pancake.nl), where the scrolling list of the local signature dish includes everything from a curried ham rendition to simpler versions. Turn left upon exiting and walk back south along the Prinsengracht. After you pass the Westerkerk and cross the Rozengracht you come to the (4) Nine Streets area (www.ninestreets.com)—the series of narrow streets, linking the western canals, that are jammed with quirky specialty shops, boutiques, galleries, and cafés. Continue walking two blocks south and then turn left onto Wolvenstraat. Pop into (5) Laura dols (Wolvenstraat 6-7), a characteristic Nine Streets shop that sells vintage clothes for the bohemian Jordaan locals, along with hand-embroidered Dutch farmhouse tablecloths and linens. Turn left on leaving, walk up to the Herengracht, and turn right and then, one block south, right again, at the Huidenstraat. Try some homemade praline chocolates or signature fruit tarts at the (6) Pompadour patisserie (Huidenstraat 12).
Turn right after leaving, walk down to the Keizersgracht, and turn left. Walk half a block until you come to (7) Huis Marseille (Keizersgracht 401; www.huismarseille.nl). “This was the first photography museum in Amsterdam, and they show some of the world’s most interesting, often lesser known photographers,” says Inge Yspeert, photographer. An added bonus: the beautifully restored interior offers a glimpse of life in a 17th-century canal house, complete with leafy garden in back.
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