Theme Week Amsterdam – Canals of Amsterdam

Saturday, 27 July 2013 - 01:09 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage

© Dohduhdah

© Dohduhdah

Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands, has been called the “Venice of the North” for its more than one hundred kilometres of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht, dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.

Much of the Amsterdam canal system is the successful outcome of city planning. In the early part of the 17th century, with immigration rising, a comprehensive plan was put together, calling for four main, concentric half-circles of canals with their ends resting on the IJ Bay. Known as the “grachtengordel”, three of the canals are mostly for residential development (Herengracht or ‘’Patricians’ Canal’’; Keizersgracht or ‘’Emperor’s Canal’’; and Prinsengracht or ‘’Prince’s Canal’’), and a fourth, outer canal, Singelgracht, for purposes of defense and water management. The plan also envisaged interconnecting canals along radii; a set of parallel canals in the Jordaan quarter (primarily for the transportation of goods, for example, beer); the conversion of an existing, inner perimeter canal (Singel) from a defensive purpose to residential and commercial development; and more than one hundred bridges.

© Labé/cc-by-sa-3.0 Kattensloot © Jacob Catskade Aerial view of Amsterdam's historic center © Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites © flickr.com - Michal Osmenda/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Steve Collis/cc-by-2.0 © Dohduhdah
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Aerial view of Amsterdam's historic center © Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites
Construction proceeded from west to east, across the breadth of the layout, like a gigantic windshield wiper as the historian Geert Mak calls it – not from the center outwards as a popular myth has it. Construction of the north-western sector was started in 1613 and was finished around 1625. After 1664, building in the southern sector was started, although slowly because of an economic depression. The eastern part of the concentric canal plan, covering the area between the Amstel river and the IJ Bay, was not implemented for a long time. In the following centuries, the land went mostly for park, the Botanical garden, old age homes, theaters and other public facilities – and for waterways without much plan. Several parts of the city and of the urban area are polders, recognisable by their postfix -meer meaning ‘lake’, such as Aalsmeer, Bijlmermeer, Haarlemmermeer, and Watergraafsmeer.

Since the construction of the canals, there have been plans to connect the north of Amsterdam (Amsterdam-Noord) to the city center. In 1999, a plan was made to complete the existing canal circle in the North, but the plan has not yet been incorporated.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Panorama of Amsterdam’s canals, Museum of the Canals, Wikipedia Grachtengordel and Wikipedia Canals of Amsterdam (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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