After spending a couple of days in Amsterdam as reported HERE and HERE, today we are exploring the medieval city centre and it’s main attractions: Koninklijk Paleis (King’s Palace) and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) off Dam Square.
De Nieuwe Kerk and the is located on Dam Square, Amsterdam. It is a 10-minute walk south-west from Centraal Station. On the map above, look for Centraal Station at the top. From there, there are two parallel main roads leading to New Church and Royal Palace on the southwest corner: Spuistraat (Spui Street) and Damrak.
Most of the 15 tram lines to and from Central Station stop at Dam Square if you prefer not to walk. Trams 1, 2 and 5 use Spuistraat and Trams 4, 9, 16 and 24 use Damrak to get to Dam Square.
Dam Square is where Amsterdam was founded in 1270 A.D. It’s the place to gather for national events and political demonstrations. Hence the large police presence these days.
New Church (Da Nieuwe Kerk)
Entry Ticket €11.00 if older than 11 years.
Children below 11 years have Free entry.
There are professional tour guides available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Turkish Moroccan/Arabic, Russian and Dutch. There are also tours about the architecture and history of the building. Cost: € 90 per tour (excluding the cost of entry). Maximum of 15 people per tour guide.
The church started in the Middle Ages (1409 A.D.) so it is only “new” in relation to the Oude Kerk (Old Church) still standing in the 13th century part of town. As Amsterdam grew with prosperity and foreign conquests, the old church becamse too small for the increased population. A prominent citizen, Willem Eggert, offered his orchard for the new building and the church was consecrated in 1409 to St. Catherine.
It was not only a church and cemetery, as the ever resourceful Dutch used it also as a musical venue, commercial exchange, auditorium and ceremonial space. It’s been owned by the Catholic and then Protestant Church before a national foundation took charge in 1979.
It has also been the site of devastation from three fires, especially the big one of 1645, that consumed the roof. Each time, the people rebuilt with typical Dutch resolve. Today’s highlights for visitors include the largest historic organ in the Nederlands, ornate brass choir screen, impressive pulpit and decorated funerary monuments.
For decades, De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam has also hosted high-profile exhibitions about art, photography, inspiring individuals and cultures. With 220,000 visitors a year, the church is one of the most popular exhibition venues in the Netherlands. It also plays a role of national significance, hosting royal ceremonies, official gatherings, and cultural events.
Royal Palace Amsterdam (Koninklijk Paleis)
Prices includes audiotour (also for children)
Under 18 years Free
Tip: Pick up the audio-tour handset that you already rented with the price of your ticket. At each exhibit, scan the QR barcode and a commentary in your selected language will play.
Officially, the Royal family reside in De Haag but for State occasions and visiting dignitaries, the Royal Palace on Dam Square is still used.
The building was not a palace to start with. In the 17th century, Amsterdam grew into the most important city in Europe. Trading on the high seas made the city incredibly rich and, in just 50 years, the city population grew by 500%. A grand town hall was needed to underline the power of this metropolis.
Later it was converted into a Royal Palace but many of the rooms were originally built for city government administrative or judicial functions.
You can see this clearly on the ground floor in the Tribunal room, which was the original magistrates court where death sentences were meted out. Sinister sculptures of weeping, skulls and snakes attest to this original function.
On 28 October 1648, the first stone of the new town hall was laid. The Munster Treaty had just been signed, ending the 80 Years War between the Dutch Republic and Spain. The town hall was designed by architect Jacob van Campen partly as a monument to this treaty, hence the bronze statue of Peace on top of the building façade. Peace is presented as a woman holding an olive branch and a staff of Mercury in her hands. The message is clear: in Amsterdam, peace and trade go hand in hand. (Photo above in Dam Square section)
For two centuries, the Town Hall of Amsterdam was the largest secular building in Europe. The façade is 79 metres wide and 55 metres high to the top of the tower. Sandstone and marble was imported from abroad to cover the façades and interior.
Records show that 13,659 wooden poles, made from Norwegian spruce, were driven into Amsterdam’s soft ground to support the weight of the building.
For nearly four centuries, the Amsterdam Maiden held sway over the world, which lay at her feet on the floor of the Citizen’s Hall. From Amsterdam, ships voyaged out to sea, acquiring valuable goods from across the globe. It made the city the economic centre of the world.
The Amsterdam Maiden achieved this with the help of Strength (left, the woman with the lionskin) and Wisdom (right, the woman with the helmet).
In 1808, King Louis Bonaparte first transformed the building into a palace. His tenure is still visible today in his magnificent Empire furniture—one of the most beautiful collections in the world—still used during royal receptions.
For around 200 years, the building has been used as the official reception palace of the Royal House, where world leaders and heads of state are received.
The Palace is where the throne is passed from one monarch to the next and royal weddings take place; where history is written.
It is also a palace of chandeliers with no fewer than 51 opulent examples. The 1,000 pieces of King Louis Bonaparte’s legacy includes furniture, rich damasks, paintings and ornate clocks.
The current King ascended to the throne after his mother Queen Beatrix abdicated in 2013 and has started his contribution to the royal artefacts with a new tableware design.
His grandmother Queen Juliana also abdicated in 1980 as did his great-grandmother Queen Wilhelmina in 1948.
The new tableware – dinner service and glassware – was first used in 2017 at the gala dinner for the Corps Diplomatique in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
It is used during large-scale official dinners, such as state banquets, dinners for important foreign guests during official visits or receptions for foreign ambassadors.
The Royal Palace is worth a visit for it’s compact summary of Dutch history and excellent audio-tour technology. It is small enough to skim round in about 90 minutes but be prepared to double that time if you want to listen to all the details.
A note about “discount cards” and sightseeing passes in Amsterdam. There are a number of sightseeing passes e.g. ‘I amsterdam Card’ and ‘Amsterdam HOLLANDPASS’, that offer “discounts and Skip-the-Line fast-track entry tickets” to attractions in Amsterdam, that also include transport cards for the trams and buses. They do offer fast-track entries and even save money on tickets if you are prepared to be a “frenzied tourist”.
The passes are for fixed durations of 3 to 5-days but you need to visit a large number of attractions to get your money’s worth. Even in summer, there are only 8 – 10 hours of opening time so it may be cheaper to only pay for the attractions you actually visit and the public transport passes separately. You can buy transport passes for 1 to 7 days at automated machines in Centraal Station. To avoid the queues for tickets, use online bookings with credit cards before you arrive for electronic tickets and simply glide into the fast tracks at each attraction.
Other Amsterdam Reports
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).