Sign Up
Newsletter Signup
Free Fodor's Newsletter

Subscribe today for weekly travel inspiration, tips, and special offers.

Passport: Your weekly travel wrap-up
Today's Departure: Your daily dose of travel inspiration

Amsterdam Travel Guide

Canal Rings

Forming an area of unparalleled historical beauty, the famous Grachtengordel, or Canal Ring, is located to the west and south of the city center. Call it a "belt" or a "girdle," the Golden Age landmark actually exists of three main encircling canals: Prinsengracht (Princes' Canal), Keizersgracht (Emperors' Canal), and Herengracht (Gentlemen's Canal). They became the premier addresses—the

Fifth Avenues, the Avenue Fochs, the Park Lanes—of historic Amsterdam when wealthy bankers and famous merchants ordered homes built in the latest fashionable styles, ranging from Baroque to Neoclassical.

The Grachtengordel is quintessential Amsterdam. As you explore, keep in mind that when these impressive canal houses were built for the movers and shakers of the 17th-century Golden Age, home owners were taxed on their houses' width, not height. A double frontage and staircase (two adjacent lots) displayed wealth and prestige, as did the number of windows facing the canal, and ornate gables and decorative features (such as finely wrought railings). While there's considerable scrolling variation from one house to the next, creating that attractive higgledy-piggledy, gabled skyline for which Amsterdam is famous, it's very harmonious, and from a historic point of view, remarkably intact. Sixteen hundred buildings in these canals have protected heritage status, and as of July 2010 the Canal Belt is officially on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Read More



Trip Finder

Fodor's Amsterdam 25 Best

View Details