Amsterdam, one of the world's famous canal cities, has its share of canal-side architecture, some of which is open to the public as museums and other cultural institutions. Het Grachtenhuis, Dutch for "The Canal House", is another addition to Amsterdam's list of canal house museums - but this one has a more self-referential theme than its counterparts, as a museum dedicated to the history of the local canals.
The 17th-century canal house is the product of Philips Vingboons, a prolific Dutch Classicist architect responsible for a number of other Amsterdam canal houses - such as the Cromhouthuizen, in which the Bible Museum is now situated - and the Chapel of St. John and Ursula in the Begijnhof. Vingboons was much in demand both in the Netherlands and abroad, thanks to the enthusiastic international reception of his architecture book. He built Het Grachtenhuis, at one of the ritziest addresses in 17th-century Amsterdam, for the merchant Karel Gerards; the house would later be inhabited by a succession of affluent businessmen.
In addition to the period furniture and other interior decor, which the monumental canal house presents in a meticulously preserved state, Het Grachtenhuis uses a multimedia exhibition to educate visitors about the history of Amsterdam's iconic canals. Construction of the world-famous Canal Belt was a technically complicated endeavor that marked an immense achievement in the city's development; visitors to Het Grachtenhuis leave with a fuller sense of the scope of this accomplishment, all in the short space of about an hour's visit.
After Het Grachtenhuis, tourists are better equipped to appreciate the city's canals and other canal-side attractions. To complete your education in the history of the Canal Belt, check out some of these central Amsterdam museums:<
- Amsterdam Tulip Museum - This museum of tulips and bulb flowers is a perennial attraction, one that even visitors outside Keukenhof season can enjoy.
- Anne Frank Huis - Amsterdam's most famous museum is an ordinary canal house with an extraordinary past, as the site where diarist Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.
- Huis Marseille - The Netherlands' first photography museum is set amid the 18th-century interior of this canal house, the former abode of a Marseille-born merchant.
- Museum van Loon - One of the most opulent canal-side mansions has been in the hands of the Van Loon family since the late 19th century, who have opened it to the public as a canal house museum.
- Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder - A canal house with a secret: a schuilkerk, or clandestine church, where Catholic Amsterdammers conducted their masses at a time when all non-Protestant forms of worship were prohibited.
- Tassenmuseum Hendrikje - Delve into the history of social taste from the perspective of purses at this fashionable canal house museum.
Het Grachtenhuis Visitor Information:
Het Grachtenhuis Location
1016 CJ Amsterdam
- Tues - Sun, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Online tickets cost € 8 for Tues - Fri admission, € 10 for Sat - Sun. Admission is € 12 (Tues - Sun) at the ticket desk.
- Children 6 to 17 receive a 50% discount on the above prices (free admission for children up to 5).
- "I amsterdam" card holders: Free
- By tram - Take tram 1, 2 or 5 to the Koningsplein stop.
Visit the Grachtenhuis web site.