In 1275, Count Floris V, count of Holland and Zeeland, decided to grant toll freedom to people living on a dam on the river Amstel, in what was a small village in a swampy area – and voilà! Amsterdam was born. The first street, the Warmoesstraat (which translates as ‘Kitchen Garden Street’), is situated in what is now known as the Red Light district.

Text: Daphne Riabokon  |  Translation: Kate Kuut

During the 17th Century, known as the Golden Age of the Netherlands, the real planning of the city developed. Stately canals were built in semicircles around that first street. The water volume had to match the space taken up by the building to make it possible to build at all. In fact, this is still a requirement – if you want to build underground you have to create a pond with the same capacity for water…

To the West of the canals, lies an area built for workers called the Jordaan, also built in the 17th century. With its narrow cosy streets and cafés, it is a very popular neighbourhood to live in. Take a stroll there and hide in a ‘brown café‘ before setting off to the other parts of the city where cafés and restaurants are modern, hip, light and spacious.

If you have little time I recommend you to skip Rembrandt’s Nightwatch…

The Rijksmuseum, the country’s national museum, once marked the gate of the city. Besides Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen and a thorough overview of Dutch history and art from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century you can enjoy a hidden treasure: the Asian Pavilion. It houses a rich collection of Asian art brought together from China, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Thailand, dating from 2000 BC to 2000 AD. If you have little time I recommend you skip Rembrandt’s Nightwatch (sshh, don’t tell anyone..)  and just slip into the pavilion, take three left turns after you have entered the museum and no one will notice.

Walking from the Rijksmuseum, away from the centre, you will pass the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum both of which house 20th century and contemporary Art. 

At the end of the 19th century, when the area in front of the Rijksmuseum was still green pasture outside the city gates, the national concert hall, the Concertgebouw, was built. At the opening in 1888, the ladies had to hold up their skirts to prevent muddying their festive outfits. Around the same time, a small group of individuals bought 47 hectares of pasture and swamp to plan a park, the Vondel Park. The streets and houses of Amsterdam South are built around it.

So, dear shiatsu lovers, you will be commuting between the 17th century, where the venues De Duif and Amstelkerk hail from, and the 19th century, home of the Vondelkerk and De Roos. But do not forget to breathe in some of Amsterdam’s culture along the way!