A newspaper poll asked people to vote on their favourite street in this most beautiful of cities. The results are out, and it was a good excuse for me to spend a sunny day going round on the bike, with the camera.
The top 10 were:
1. Brouwersgracht. Oh, we did want to live here! The old brewers canal features houseboats, bridges, markets, trees and 17th century warehouses converted to apartment blocks. Unfortunately inside the apartments are usually dark, small, low-ceilinged, structurally dodgy and far too bloody expensive! But they do look great from the outside.
2. Nieuwendammerdijk. Some would consider the “new dam dyke” to be outside Amsterdam, but it is just across the water from Centraal Station, then a ride along the North Holland Canal. Old wooden cottages and very little car traffic give it a village feel, and make it a perfect place for a bike ride.
3. Amstel. It’s hardly fair to call this a street. It’s the wide river on which old Amsterdam was built. Features the Hermitage Museum, the State Opera building (Stopera), the Waterlooplein flea market, the Carre Theater, the posh Amstel Hotel, elaborate bridges and lots of glass-topped tour boats!
4. The Begijnhof. Begijnhofjes were originally built as housing for the Beguines, devout single women who didn’t want to take vows – sort of plain clothes nuns. Now the hofjes are attractive complexes built around lovely communal gardens. They’re usually open to the public during the week, but close at weekends to give the residents a break from the stream of visitors.
5. Prinseneiland. Another place we could easily live. Amsterdam’s western islands, not far from the centre of town, are a quiet backwater of bridges and canals, converted warehouses, boatyards and artists’ studios. If you’re not an artist here, try to dress like one. Shame about the train line running right across in front of the island, but it makes it feel more like a real artist’s garret when you have noise.
6. Kromboomssloot One of many quiet little places no visitor knows about but locals love.
7. Groenburgwal Any street which ends with a view of the beautiful Zuiderkerk (southern church) tower is going to be a strong contender for Amsterdam’s Most Beautiful. Of the ten streets others voted in, this could be my favourite.
8. Noordermarkt. Dominated by the 17th century Noorderkerk (Northern Church), this is where the popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday, and a clothing and material market happens every Monday in the adjoining Westerstraat. Cafe Winkel on the corner regularly wins the award for serving the best ‘appeltaart’ in the city. It’s perhaps not particularly beautiful to look at, but it is very lively and interesting, especially on a market day.
9. Henri Polaklaan Right by Artis, the Amsterdam zoo, this is a street of handsome gentlemen’s residences. A little too grand for me – maybe I’m not enough of a gentleman.
10. Reguliersgracht. One of the classic canals of the city. You could make a case for many of them, but this is as good as any. All the tourist boats stop here so visitors can admire the seven or nine (depending on who you listen to) bridges in a row.
Riding around all ten of these streets took about four hours, including camera adjustment and coffee and appeltaart stops.
Next time I’ll go looking for my own personal street list…and if you have suggestions as to other beauty spots, let me know and I’ll try to cover them in the sequel to this post.