South Central Area, Amsterdam
The South Central Area extends south and west to the Singel, north to the National Monument and east to the Oude zijds Voorburg wal.
Amsterdams Historical Museum has been housed in the former municipal orphanage on the St Luciensteeg since 1975, when Amsterdam celebrated its 700th anniversary. The name Luciensteeg harks back to the monastery of St Lucia founded in 1414 which, besides a chapel, also had a farm (today restaurant and museum). After the dissolution of the monastery this was the municipal orphanage from 1578 to 1960. Today the restored buildings 1963-1975 surrounding spacious courtyards are set out as a museum which uses modern methods to illustrate the past. The visitor can learn about the constantly changing position of Amsterdam in the country and in the world, the growth of the city and the port and the life of its citizens on its streets and in the home. The exhibits range from prehistoric finds and the town's original charter, to items from the present day. Reclamation of the land from the sea is explained by means of slides. Special exhibitions illustrate particular aspects of Amsterdam's varied history. There is easy access to the inner courtyards, the shooting gallery, the audio-visual programs (in English and Dutch) on the history of the building and the restaurant during museum opening hours. The library possesses a rich collection of literature on the history of the city. In addition graphics, drawings and the Fodor Bequest can be inspected by arrangement.
Address: Kalverstraat 92, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1001, Netherlands
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 11am-5pm; Sat: 11am-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25)
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €10.00, Senior over 65 €7.50, Child 6-18 €5.00
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Tram: 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 16, 24, 25.
The Begijnhof is a tiny idyllic spot in the center of the city where nowadays elderly ladies without families and young women students live for a very low rent. The green lawn of the courtyard is surrounded by houses which include some of the oldest in Amsterdam, among them the only remaining wooden house in the city. In 1346 the buildings, which at that time still lay outside the city boundaries, were endowed for pious Catholic girls (begijnen) who wanted to live in a religious community but not in the seclusion of a convent. They devoted themselves to the care of the poor and sick. In a "Begijnhof" they were not called upon to abandon their personal freedom and could leave whenever they wished. They had their own accommodation and were not required to renounce personal possessions. When Amsterdam went over to Protestantism the "begijnen" had to make their church over to the English Presbyterian community and hold their services in secret in a small chapel opposite the church. The Begijnhof was turned into almshouses but the "begijnen" retained the right to be buried in their "old" church. The last "begijn" died in 1971.
Besides the Leidseplein the Rembrandtsplein is the most important leisure center in the city, albeit different in character. There are cafes and eating places here, too, but the Rembrandtsplein is predominantly the quarter for night clubs and striptease establishments. The square, in which the butter market used to be held, has always been a center of social life. When fairs were held here it swarmed with people in search of the abundance of entertainments to be found in the booths and at the many stalls. When the butter market was discontinued in the mid-19th C. the square retained its atmosphere as somewhere to stroll and find amusement. It was then that it acquired its present name when the little park was laid out with its statue of Rembrandt.
Much of the former Waterlooplein is today taken up with a modern building which houses both Amsterdam's town hall, the "Stadhuis", and its Opera House, "Het Muziektheater" - hence the name "Stopera". Although the Muziektheater was opened in 1986 the Stadhuis wasn't occupied until 1988. Wilhelm Holzbauer, an Austrian, was responsible for the original plans for this massive building. The L-shaped town hall wraps round the opera house which bulges out, crescent-shaped, towards the river and which, with its unusually wide stage (22 m/72ft) and correspondingly large arena-type auditorium, is the venue for the Dutch national ballet and opera companies, plus guest performances.
Transit: Metro: Waterlooplein.
Normaal Amsterdams Peil
In the arcade between the town hall and opera house in Amsterdam, and against the background of a 25 m/82ft. long sectional view of the Netherlands there is a replica of the "Normaal Amsterdams Peil", the NAP. This shows the average water level of the North Sea. The genuine article is actually below the paving in front of the Royal Palace, the Koninklijk Paleis.
Amsterdam Municipal University
The Amsterdam Municipal University, endowed in 1877 and therefore comparatively young, was the first university in the Netherlands after the war to set up a faculty of social and political sciences. It has the reputation of being progressive, and distinguished itself at the time of the student unrest and the "Provo" period in the mid-1960s by its political activities. One of the main university buildings is the former old people's home on the Oudemanhuispoor. The "Vrije Universiteit", opened in 1880, is a Christian-oriented university in which teaching is based on the Reformed faith.
The Lieverdje on the Spui (an Amsterdam street-urchin) was originally a plaster figure made by the sculptor Carel Kneulman for a local festival. A manufacturer found the lad so appealing that he had it cast in bronze and presented it to the city. It was unveiled on the Spui on 10 September 1960 and has since proved a favorite rallying point for political action because of its central position near the university, and as an anti-Establishment symbol. In the mid-sixties it was here that the "Provos", the spontaneous young people's movement of that time, mounted `happenings' and handed out their first manifestos.
Allard Pierson Museum
The archaeological collection of Amsterdam University, the Allard Pierson Museum, is one of the biggest university museums of this kind in the world. Ancient Egypt is represented by mummies, sarcophagi, figures of gods and animals, plus collections from the Near East, Mesopotamia, Cyprus and Iran. Ancient Greece and Rome are also well represented.
Address: Oude Turfmarkt 127, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland 1012 CG, Netherlands
Opening hours: 10am-5pm; Sun: 1pm-5pm; Sat: 1pm-5pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Dutch National Day (Apr 30), New Year's Eve (Dec 31), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Pentecost Sunday (Whit Sunday) - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €6.50, Group discounts €5.00, Child 16 & under €3.25, Senior over 65 €3.25, Child 3 & under FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
The main shopping streets, Rokin, Kalverstraat and Reguliersbreestraat, start from the Muntplein. In the 15th C. this square on the Amstel next to the city wall, known at the time as Sheep Square, was where the sheep market was held. Its present name dates from 1672 when money was coined in the Mint (the former guardroom next to the Mint tower).
Transit: Tram: 4, 9, 16, 24, 25.
Originally begun in the late 14th C, the Kalverstraat is now Amsterdam's busiest shopping district.
The name "Mint tower" dates from 1672 when, for two years, Amsterdam was the site of the mint while the French occupied Utrecht where coins were usually minted. The Munttoren is part of the medieval city walls which were almost completely destroyed in the great fire of 1818. The lower part of the tower was left standing. On the remaining stones the city architect Henrick de Keyser placed a wooden structure (with a carillon by Hemony) and a gilded weathervane in the shape of an ox, as a reminder of the calf market which had been held on the nearby Dam. When this weathervane fell from the top of the tower during a storm in 1840 it was replaced by the usual weathercock.
Historische Verzameling van de Universiteit van Amsterdam O.Z.
The Historic Collection of posters, books, documents, paintings, etc. illustrates the history of the university since 1632. The Agnetien Chapel, in which it is housed, has been part of the university since 1470 and was restored in 1921.