Picture perfect Amsterdam

Amstel river

Amsterdam, with its rings of canals and many historic monuments, is arguably one of the most picturesque cities in the world. I’ve listed below eight beautiful spots in Amsterdam for visitors and photography enthusiasts. The city centre is very compact, making it very easy to explore by foot.

1. The Amstel River
There are many photo opportunities along the banks of the Amstel river, both in the city centre and south of Amsterdam (outside the city limits). In the city centre, one of my favourite spots is on the Blauwbrug (Blue Bridge) near the City Hall. Both sides of the bridge offer beautiful views – the northern side has views of the City Hall and some of the beautiful historic houses which line the Binnen Amstel; while the southern side offers a sweeping view of the river, the Hermitage and the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), Amsterdam’s most famous bridge. You can also opt for the Hoge Brug (Sarphatistraat) from which you can capture views of the river, the Amsterdam sluice gates, the Magere Brug, and the Zuiderkerk (Southern church) tower in the background.

2. Groenburgwal
One of the most picture perfect spots in Amsterdam. Walk along the Staalstraat (between the City hall and the Kloverniersburgwal) and you’ll cross a drawbridge over the Groenburgwal canal. Stop on the bridge and capture the serenity of the tree-lined canal against the backdrop of the Zuiderkerk (Southern church).


Groenburgwal – one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals



3. Begijnhof
One of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam, the beguinage (convent) is a very special place where silence is required (if you really have to talk, whisper!). The Begijnhof is located in the heart of the city, just off the hustle and bustle of the Kalverstraat (main shopping street). Once you enter the inner court, you will be struck by the beauty and tranquility of this place. Many photo opportunities here.

4. The Jordaan neighbourhood
One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, the Jordaan boasts a multitude of interesting shops, art galleries, markets, restaurants and national monuments, amongst which the Anne Frank House. Stand on the Berenstraat bridge that crosses the Prinsengracht (canal) for a lovely view of the canal and the Westerkerk (Western church) which has Amsterdam’s highest church tower – is the church tower leaning? The tower is topped by the crown of Maximilian I of Hapsburg, the Holy Roman Emperor in the 16th century. Another good spot for a picture of the Westerkerk is at the Eerste Leliedwarsstraat (where the street ends at the Bloemgracht, a charming canal).

Another picturesque location is the area where the three ring canals (Heren-, Keizers- and Prinsengracht) meet the Brouwersgracht.



5. Keizersgracht
My favorite spot on this canal, especially in the evenings when the arcs of the bridges are lit, is the intersection of the Keizersgracht and the Leidsegracht. Stand on the bridge that crosses the Leidsegracht (on the ‘Pastini’ side) and you have several striking photo opportunities, for instance, the two bridges and the monumental houses facing the Keizersgracht (the scene on some postcards), or the length of the Leidsegracht with church spires in the background.

The intersection of the Keizersgracht and Leidsegracht.

The intersection of the Keizersgracht and Leidsegracht.

6. Seven Bridges, Reguliersgracht
Join a canal cruise for a photo opportunity of this gorgeous scene because you can only see the seven bridges that cross the Reguliersgracht from a boat. The best place to capture this scene is at the intersection of the Herengracht / Thorbeckeplein and the Reguliersgracht.


Walk along the Reguliersgracht and try to find this house with the stork above the front door.

7. Nieuwmarkt and surroundings
This neighbourhood is definitely one of the most intriguing in Amsterdam. There’s the Waag (the medieval weighing house; a mini-castle-like building), the Wallen (red-light district), the Zeedijk (the heart of Chinatown), and a myriad of restaurants and bars, including several microbreweries. The Waag is definitely worth a few snapshots.


The castle-like Waag at Nieuwmarkt.

If you’re venturing into the red light districht, do not take pictures of the women in the windows (or risk getting a good yelling at)! A good spot to capture the neon scenes of the district is from the Stoofsteeg bridge that crosses the narrow Ouderzijds Achterburgwal canal. Walk along this street to the next canal, the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. From the bridge that crosses this canal, you’ll have a gorgeous view of the Oude Kerk (Old church) and the Sint Nicolaas Kerk (St. Nicholas church).


The Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal seen from the Spooksteeg bridge.

8. Dam Square
The heart of the historic city centre, the Dam Square houses the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and the National Monument. Don’t miss the tour of the Royal Palace – the interior is stunning! The central hall is especially breathtaking.


The palace on the Dam.

Behind the Royal Palace is one of my favourite buildings in Amsterdam, the Magna Plaza. It used to be the General Post Office and is now a (very unique) shopping mall. In neo-Gothic style, the building boasts striking towers, arches, the odd gargoyle and some magnificent spires. The interior is dominated by the dazzling central hall with its rows of arches and columns. Don’t miss this wonderful photo opportunity.

For more photos, check out my Instagram photos of the Amsterdam canals through the seasons.

Read more about Amsterdam on Velvet Escape.

Search hotels in Amsterdam.

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24 Responses to “Picture perfect Amsterdam”

  1. Keith Jenkins 14/09/2015 12:18 pm

    Have a great time in Amsterdam! 🙂

  2. Tawana 11/09/2015 10:25 pm

    Thank you I have 6 hours layover I can’t wait..

  3. Keith Jenkins 30/07/2013 11:33 am

    Yes, if you would like to visit the city, even if it’s a layover, that means you’ll have to leave the airport and you’ll have to pass through immigrations. Please check if you need a visa for the European Union.


  4. Jacob 30/07/2013 11:29 am

    So if its a connecting flight, do I have to go through immigration in order to enter the city? If so, is a 6 hour layover enough time?

  5. Keith Jenkins 15/03/2013 12:46 am

    Hi Rushell,
    Have a great stay in Amsterdam. If you’re here for an 8-hour layover, you might want to check out this post: https://velvetescape.com/2011/10/things-to-do-on-transit-amsterdam-airport-schiphol/ I’ve described things to do/see specifically for layovers.


  6. Rushell 14/03/2013 7:27 pm

    HI!! This was soooo helpful! I will be in Amsterdam for a long 8 hr layover and this was so helpful. I wish you were around to help 4 girls around your country! lol

  7. velvet 31/01/2012 4:44 pm

    Hi Clark,
    Great to have you following! 🙂 Let me know when you’re in Amsterdam.


  8. Clark Vandeventer 28/01/2012 8:17 am

    Can’t wait to visit Amsterdam for myself! Emiel from Act of Traveling told me to check out your blog (and this post in particular). Look forward to following you.

  9. velvet 22/08/2011 9:17 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’ll be in town in the later part of the week. Send me a tweet when you’re in town.


  10. my. 22/08/2011 7:26 pm

    Hi Keith,

    What a helpful post! I’ll be there next week, so I’ll try to hit all these spots. Will you be around? Would love to meet and talk travel! 🙂 — Michelle

  11. Jamie 18/01/2010 1:19 pm

    Great post; I’m heading to Amsterdam in a few weeks and your tips are greatly appreciated. How good does Groenburgwal look?!


  12. velvet 29/12/2009 10:24 pm

    Thank you for your comment Caroline. I’ve never been to Philly so hopefully I’ll make it there some day. Get in touch with me if you’re visiting Amsterdam – I’ll be more than happy to show you around.

    Best regards,

  13. Caroline - Philadelphia Tourism 29/12/2009 9:02 pm

    I can’t wait to come to Amsterdam (again) and see where my grandparents lived. Hope you can visit Philadelphia sometime.

  14. velvet 15/12/2009 11:29 pm

    Hi Nancy,
    Thank you for your comment. Hope this post helps your daughter discover some great spots in my city. 🙂


  15. Nancy Aiello 15/12/2009 6:19 pm

    Ciao Keith,

    Lovely post with great info & tips!
    My daughter will be visiting Amsterdam in Feb. and I already shared this useful post with her!




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