Amsterdam Travel Guide
With a history as venerable as Holland's, it's no surprise that many of the country's straten, or streets, take their names from its famous sons and daughters. In Amsterdam, for one example, Hugo de Grootstraat honors Delft's noted lawyer-philosopher (straat is "street"). In addition, you get all the variations: Hugo de Grootkade (kade is a street running parallel to a canal), Hugo de Grootplein (plein is "square"), ad infinitum. In Amsterdam, there's even an Eerste, Tweede, and Derde (first, second, and third) Hugo de Grootstraat. Of course, kings and queens feature too: Wilhelminastraat is named after Queen Wilhelmina, the grandmother of the current queen, Beatrix.
Other geographical terms to keep in mind are a dwarsstraat, which runs perpendicular to another street or canal, such as Leidsestraat and Leidsedwarsstraat. A straatje is a small street; a weg is a road; a gracht a canal; a steeg a very small street; a laan is a lane or avenue. Baan is another name for a road, not quite a highway, but busier than an average street. Note that in the Netherlands, the house number always comes after the street name on addresses.
The Dutch also have an infinite range of names for bodies of water, from gracht to singel to kanaal (all meaning "canal"). The difference between a singel and a gracht is hard to define, even for a Dutch person. In fact, the names can be doubly confusing because sometimes there is no water at all—many grachten have been filled in by developers to make room for houses, roads, and so on. Near harbor areas you'll notice havens (harbors), named after the goods that ships used to bring in, like Wijnhaven (Wine Harbor) and Vishaven (Fish Harbor) in Rotterdam.
Amsterdam streets radiate outward from Centraal Station; in general, street numbers go up as you move away from the station. Don't let common address abbreviations confuse you. BG stands for Begane Grond (ground floor); SOUT for Soutterrain (basement); HS for Huis (a ground-floor apartment or main entry). Common geographical abbreviations include str. for straat (street); gr. for gracht (canal); and pl. for plein (square). For example: Leidsestr. or Koningspl.