Far from being just an outdoor attraction, with blossoming parks and charming canals, Amsterdam is also known for its indoor must-sees, which include a host of famous museums and galleries, bars and cafés. But the city also boasts a great variety of houses: some attract visitors for their beauty or novelty, others for their cultural significance as the homes to important characters in the history of the Netherlands and the world.
Here is a selection of five you won’t regret stopping by, whether during your next visit to the city or, once a local, next weekend.
1. Anne Frank House
This Unesco world heritage site receives one million visitors every year and is definitely worthy its popularity. At Prinsengracht 265, teenage Anne went into hiding with her family and four other Jews for over two years, from July 1942 to August 1944. There, she kept a diary, later published in English as “The Diary of a Young Girl”, in which she described the everyday details of life in the Secret Annex, the set of rooms where 8 people lived in hiding. Visitors can access the Secret Annex and have a glimpse of what life for Jews in hiding would have been like during this horrific period in history. The Anne house opened its doors to the public in 1960 and since then, through Anne’s diary and ideals, it has been spreading knowledge of freedom, equal rights and democracy.
2. The Houseboat
Amsterdam is well known for its houseboats and living in one of them has been acknowledged by locals as a unique experience. After all, not many cities in the world offer this particular lifestyle. Since 1997, boat resident Vincent Van Loon, realising how curious most people are about life onboard, has welcomed visitors to take a closer look at the insides of his houseboat Hendrika Maria. Just like Anne Frank House, the houseboat is located on Prinsengracht, the longest of Amsterdam’s central canals. Reserve a day to see both and experience two completely different ways of living.
3. Rembrandt House
You don’t have to be an art lover to love this place. The building, dating from 1606, and the interior, which has been restored to look exactly how it did when Rembrandt lived there from 1639 to 1658, give you an idea of what life was like (for the privileged) during the Dutch Golden Age. If you’re, however, a fan of this extraordinary artist, you will be pleased to know that it was here that he painted most of his masterpieces, stored his magnificent collection of rare objects and taught more than 40 pupils how to paint like a master. Keep an eye out for the etching and paint preparation demonstrations offered by the Rembrandt House museum. They are free of charge and happen daily inside Rembrandt’s studios, demonstrating the techniques he used to paint his memorable pieces of art.
4. Willet-Holthuysen House
If an insight to the houseboat life wasn’t enough for you, you might also want to visit this luxurious canal house built in the 17th century and occupied, two centuries later, by one of the wealthiest families in Amsterdam. Louisa Holthuysen inherited the house from her father and later married Abraham Willet, who was a passionate collector. As well as visiting elegant rooms decorated in a Louis XVI style (giving you a Downton Abbey feeling), you can also have a wander through the Collection Room, where Abraham kept his paintings, glassware, ceramics, photographs and other valuable objects. This charming and lavish house will take you back to the life in a canal house during the 19th century.
5. 3D Print Canal House
This is no ordinary canal house: instead of bricks and cement, this house is made of plastic and foam, making it a singular high-tech site in Amsterdam. Although its construction is yet to be concluded, it is well worth paying a visit to this cutting-edge, revolutionary 3D printing architecture spot, which also hosts an exhibition on the printing process. But how does it work? Basically a group of architects, together with construction companies, are fabricating each piece of the house at a time and attaching them together (does it remind you of building Lego houses in your childhood?). The first piece for the 3D Print Canal House weighed 180 kilos and was printed by the 6-meter-tall printer, which can also be seen by visitors.