The origins of the Herengracht go back to the year 1612, when a plan to create a girdle of canals (Heren- Keizers- and Prinzengracht) was made. The project was completed in 1658. In Amsterdam's heyday (second half of 17th C.) the Herengracht was the most elegant residential district. To live here was so popular that the magistrate had to confine the width of the aristocrats' houses to 8 m, but of course there were exceptions, such as the "House for a Prince" (No. 54). Behind the aristocratic houses with their magnificent facade (no fewer than 400 houses in the Herengracht are protected monuments), beautiful gardens were concealed, each of them exactly 51·5 m (169ft.) long. The layout of these gardens represented unbelievable luxury for a town which was on piles. A law declared that they could not be built on, an exception, however, was made for summer-houses and coach-houses. The "golden bocht", the golden arc of the Herengracht, with houses numbered 464-436 (between Vijzelstraat an Leidestraat) is especially noteworthy for its magnificently decorated houses. No. 527 Herengracht, built in 1667, has an interesting history; Tsar Peter the Great of Russia lived here during a visit to Holland. Today the patrician houses are mostly occupied by banks and offices or are used as museum buildings; they have become too large and too expensive to be used as dwellings. Here can be found the Theatrical Museum and the Willet Holthuysen Museum and also, at No. 470, the Goethe Institute.
The collection at the Bible Museum in Amsterdam, which gives background information on the Bible, is in two fine 18th C. canal mansions. It includes finds from Egypt and Palestine, priceless antique Bibles, and Jewish ritual artifacts. Special exhibitions.
Address: Herengracht 366, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001 AK, Netherlands
The Museum Willet-Holthuysen in Amsterdam is a typical canal house that features a kitchen of 18th C. design and furnishings, paintings and porcelain from the 18th C. and 19th C.
Address: Herengracht 605, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1017 CE, Netherlands
Kattennkabinet is perhaps the only museum in the world that holds a collection on the art of the cat, the cat through the ages.
Address: Herengracht 497, Netherlands