Herengracht Life

Before the weekend just past I was last in Amsterdam in the late 1960s when it was all hippy and flower power and full of people sleeping rough and doing I don’t know what. I was on a cycling holiday and staying in a Youth Hostel outside the city by the Zuyderzee. I was not impressed by Amsterdam and couldn’t wait to get back to Broek in Waterland.

My previous impression of the city has been totally overturned. I love it! And I especially love the area where I stayed with my 2 Swiss friends. Our Dutch friend has a lovely flat nearby too. Of course, this Amsterdam canal ring is now, not surprisingly, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our B&B was at 21 Herengracht in one of those so picturesque 17th century canalside houses of which Amsterdam is famous but which I didn’t even notice on my previous visit. Loes, our host, explained about the plan of the house – the narrow canal frontage was because the houses were taxed according to their width, the house is really 2 buildings linked by a covered passage (some houses still retain this tiny courtyard) – our duplex apartment on the second and third floors was reached by a very very narrow spiral staircase and situated in the ‘servants’ house at the rear of the building.

Courtyard within the house links the front with the rear building.

Rooftops of Amsterdam from our rear window.

Entrance lobby with obligatory bike!

Within 5 minutes walk of the Centraal Station, past the multi-storey bike park, the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht in this part of town are an oasis of calm and seemed totally tourist-free and almost totally car free. The bikes however could have proved hazardous – but we soon learned to look out behind us and step back onto the narrow pavement as we heard a tinkling bell approach.

Houseboat garden with sculptures!

Of course, the folk of Amsterdam don’t just live in these picturesque houses by the canals, they also live in houseboats on the canals. Due to housing shortages in the 1960s and 1970s living in houseboats here was positively encouraged by the city council.

I’ve written about whaling here before. My friend’s flat on the Keizersgracht is situated on the ground floor of a 17th century whaling house [Walvissenhuis]. That is why the shutters have ‘Groenland’ written on them.

It was so relaxing to meet up at the Cafe Papeneiland at 2 Prinsengracht (right in the middle of the picture). It is a typical Bruin Cafe whose walls have turned brown from generations of cigarette smoke of the local regulars who meet here at all hours.

I can’t wait for another taste of Herengracht life!


8 comments on “Herengracht Life

  1. Barbara Los says:

    Oh, what a lovely report of a few really enjoyable days in Amsterdam! I think it’s very funny because it seems so familiar to me as if I had been there as well…
    Ba from Switzerland

  2. Bregtje says:

    My dear lady, as I am writing about toerism in my village in the sixties and later, I would-be love to read about your stay in Broek. Could you share some memories maybe? I live in broek in waterland, it is now more beautifull than ever and has a superb B&B named Inn on the Lake. I can offer you a private tour in Broek, in Amsterdam and in the Rijksmuseum where I work. Hope to hear from you, Bregtje Viergever.

    • Thank you so much, Bregtje, for adding this comment to my post. I really hope one day to repeat my visit to Broek and I’ll look you up. In the meantime my memories of the trip so long ago are fairly rusty but if I come across some pictures or notes from my trip – which may happen as I slowly clear boxes in my loft – I will certainly make contact again. Best wishes to you, Barbara

  3. […] time there and have met up over the years ever since in Boscastle, Italy, London, Grindelwald and Amsterdam. Later this year Tenerife is on the […]

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