Amsterdam's unique ring of canals was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2010. Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House) is a multimedia museum which highlights the development and importance of the city's canals and charts some 400 years of history.
The museum is located in a double-fronted grand merchant house on the Herengracht canal in the centre of the city.
The Grachtenhuis was built between 1663 and 1665 for Dutch merchant Karel Gerards. It was designed by the renowned architect Philips Vingboons (1607-1678). Over the years it was home to a series of other Dutch merchants including Jan Willink who helped finance both the development of New York and the American government during the War of Independence. Today this listed building is run by a foundation having been restored and opened as a museum.
A visit to the museum comprises of a lively audio-visual presentation (which lasts about 30 minutes) through 5 darkened exhibition rooms on the upper first floor.
The first 2 rooms on the tour give an insight into the initial development of the canals and city walls, how the canals were subsequently expanded into the horseshoe shape as the city grew and how the garden areas between houses on adjacent canals were kept free from industrialisation. Room 2 is themed as a city planning meeting room and there is a fascinating collection of old Amsterdam maps on view.
Stepping into Room 3 you will find the floor made of sand - which is what much of Amsterdam is built on. The model displays show how wooden piles are used in the construction of the city's buildings. Room 4 has a large scale model of the canal house itself - peer through the windows for some striking video effects inside. The room is also surrounded by an illustration of notable houses located on the 3 main canals of the city - Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht.
Room 5 has a large model of how the Amsterdam canal belt looks today. Accompanying video screens show some notable canal moments - such as the Beatles visit, the Euro 88 football celebrations and various cars being pulled out of the canals.
A member of staff is on hand during the tour to answer any questions. You then continue the tour by heading downstairs to the period rooms. Here you will find some further exhibits and background on the architect Vingboons and the merchant Willink including 2 animated films.
credits: Thijs Wolzak (inside museum) and Roger Cremers (garden)
used with permission from het Grachtenhuis
If the weather is good you are free to go out to the house garden which has a large central block of flowers. There is also a museum shop on site.
The hand held audio set is currently available in 8 different languages - Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.
The canal house museum presents the history of the canal belt in a modern, unique way and is a welcome addition to the Amsterdam museum scene.
Het Grachtenhuis Amsterdam Essential Info
Opening Times: 1000-1700 (Tue-Sun, closed Mon).
Admission Prices (2016): Tickets at the counter cost €12, children 6-17 pay €6. Free entry for children 0-5 and Iamsterdam City Card holders. Museumcard is NOT valid. Note, online purchase at hetgrachtenhuis.nl is €10 (adults) and €5 (children 6-17). Payments are possible by iDeal (Dutch bank transfer), credit cards or Paypal.
Getting There: The museum is short distance from Koningsplein in the heart of Amsterdam, served by trams 1,2 and 5. Just walk west along the Herengracht canal (south side).
Grachtenhuis Amsterdam, Herengracht 386, Amsterdam
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