Discover the most unique houses in Amsterdam
Amsterdam’s cityscape is shaped by the famous merchant houses on the canals as well as a variety of house boats. When walking through the history city centre, you’ll quickly notice many unique, tiled and narrow houses that give the Dutch capital it’s charming character - it almost seems like the houses are tipsy, leaning into every direction possible. Keep on reading to learn more about all the weird and wonderful houses in Amsterdam!
When strolling across Westerstraat, you might notice that some house numbers between no. 54 and 70 are missing. To find them, take a close look at the left side of the building! Tucked away inside a crack next to Westerstraat 54, you’ll find seven miniatures houses stacked on top of each other, fitting neatly into the 4 inch space between the houses.
The tiny houses refer to a courtyard over which the missing numbers were once accessible. Since the courtyard was closed down, the houses were no longer accessible and with them the house numbers disappeared from the street. The original comical miniatures were then installed by a Dutch advertising company. In 2021, they had to be replaced by a wooden plank with painted miniature houses but they are still well worth a look!
The black, wooden house in Begijnhof 34 is known as Houten Huys and it is the oldest house in Amsterdam. It was built around 1528 and is one of the two only houses in Amsterdam remaining that have a wooden façade. The house is located on the Begijnhof.
The Beguinage is the only courtyard in Amsterdam that was founded during medieval times. It was no ordinary courtyard though but served as a monastery. Hence, this house has been traditionally inhabited by beguines who had more freedom than nuns, as they took a vow of chastity but were allowed to leave the court at any time to get married.
Zevenlandenhuizen translates to Houses of Seven Countries and is a one-of-a-kind architectural project in the heart of Amsterdam. The houses stand in one row and stem from the time when this district was especially wealthy back from 1894, inspired by faraway destinations and created by architect Tjeerd Kuipers.
Each house represents one country, including France, Spain, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy as well as the Netherlands. The designs of each house show the traditional influences of each architectural style. The Russian house, for example, is topped with a dome. The English house may remind you of a historic cottage and is the only one of them open to public as it inhabits a charming hotel.
Oude Hoogstraat 22
The Oude Hoogstraat 22 is located next to the Oost-Indisch Huis and the entrance gate to the Waalse Kerk and while it is not the narrowest house in the city, with its only 2,02 meter width and 5 meters depth it is officially the smallest house in Amsterdam.
The cottage’s characteristic spout façade makes it look like a miniature version of the characteristic canal houses. It dates back as far as 1738 and was inhabited by watchmaker Jan Tenking for some time.
Did you know that the houses’ fronts in Amsterdam are so narrow because they were taxed according to the width of their façade in the 17th century, the Netherlands’ Golden Age? This resulted in the many narrow but also long houses all over the city. The small house in Singel 7 is barely one meter wide, leaving not much space for anything else than the door.
This makes Singel 7 one of the narrowest houses in the Dutch capital. However, the first impression can be deceiving. While the building is very narrow on the canal side, this is only the house’s backdoor - the front of the house is really a lot wider.
The Nieuwendammerdijk is an unique late-medieval area on the Waterlandse Zeedijk. Nieuwendam was created after a dike breach in the year of 1514. A new dike was constructed to offer better protection. Fishermen, ferrymen, shipwrights and merchants built their houses, wharehouses and wharves here.
In the 'Waterland Golden Age' from the mid 15th to the 16th century, ships sailed from Nieuwendam overseas to trade in grain and peat. Large parts of this dyke run straight through the built-up area of Amsterdam-North.
The so called Trippenhuis catches the eye through its monumental rear façade, as it is one of the last examples of architectural Dutch classicism in Amsterdam. The Trippenhuis was built in the years 1660-1662 by order of the extremely wealthy brothers Louys and Hendrick Trip, dealers in ammunition and weapons.
They had the prestigious house designed by one of the star architects of the Golden Age, Justus Vingbooms. The building also stood out at that time for its monumental facade and very rich interior decorations, which have been largely preserved to this day. Since 1812 it has been used by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Amsterdam’s cityscape is not only characterized by the many merchant houses on the canals but also by plenty of houseboats. They come in all shapes and sizes and are either cargo ships transformed into houseboats or modern, floating houses, known as woonark (house ark), that are built on a floating concrete platform. Originally, retired captains continued living in their moored ships.
However, after World War II there was a major housing shortage in the Dutch capital, leading to house boats becoming an integral solution to create more living space. Nowadays, you can find around 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam and the permits for anchoring house boats in the city centre are in high demand.
This corner house on Prinsengracht is especially famous for its sharp corner. Due to the unique and narrow corner of the house, it is a good representation of how the people found creative solutions for the lack of space. The city of Amsterdam has declared it a rijksmonument, a national heritage site of the Netherlands, in 1970.
The Prinseneiland is one of three neighbourhoods on the Westelijke Eilanden, the Western Islands, which were first drafted in 1610. The island were primarily meant for shipyards, herring fishing and tar production plants. One of the most important owners of the island Realeneiland was Reynier Jansz Reael.
Against the interests of the city of Amsterdam, he also built residential buildings in the area. Later on pakhuizen, warehouses for herring, wine, salt, tobacco and wheat, were added. Since 2011, the islands are only used as residential districts. The former warehouses, some of them with brightly coloured window shutters, give the area a distinct look and make it the perfect neighbourhood for a relaxed walk.