Canal district

Canal district

‚ÄčThe Amsterdam Canal district was an extraordinary feat in urban planning and architecture.

During the Dutch Golden Age (1600-1700) the town was bursting at the seams with a great influx of religious refugees and economic immigrants looking to live and work in what was then the most important centre of trade in Europe. It was decided to expand in a south-westerly and later south-easterly direction, in concentric arcs. A new defensive moat and bulwarks were created and the old defensive moat was turned into an inner-city harbour. 

A network of waterways was necessary for the draining and reclamation of land prior to building brick structures. Rich financiers from the world of commerce invested in the construction of houses and warehouses along the canals. The Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht were born. They were home to merchants, bankers and other elite (adjacent new Jordaan district was intended for the working classes). 

For the most part, the canal district has survived intact, perhaps because dangerous, polluting and fire-hazardous professions were banned here. Although the canal area was initially built for practical purposes, its harmonious beauty was considered exemplary in its day and has withstood the test of time. 

For four centuries the fame of the canal district has extended far beyond the city limits where proud “Amsterdammers” sing its praises. It is only right that the horse-shoe-shaped canal belt was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage in the summer of 2010. It is international recognition for the special character of this part of the old town.