Forming a horseshoe around the Old Centre, the Canal Ring is made up of the city’s original moat, the Singel, and the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht. It begins its loop west of Centraal Station along Brouwersgracht, until it meets the River Amstel. In a way, the Canal Ring forms a crossover from the more bustling Centre to the gentler outer neighbourhoods of Jordaan, Museum District and De Pijp.
At the height of its Golden Age in the 17th century, Amsterdam embarked on one of the most ambitious urban renewal schemes of its time, which quadrupled the city in size. Herengracht was named after the ‘gentlemen’ who invested in the project. Keizersgracht was named after the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I who had given the Amsterdam his ‘XXX’ coat of arms which evolved into the city’s trademark. And Prinsengracht was named after William, Prince of Orange, who had helped establish the Dutch Republic.
Without a doubt the most coveted place to live in Amsterdam, the Canal Ring pretty much has everything ‘just around the corner’. While higher priced homes, businesses, banks and hotels take up the gabled canal-side properties, it’s the intersecting streets where real life plays out among the boutiques, cafés and restaurants. History bleeds from such markers as Westerkerk with its iconic tower, the Anne Frank House and the Amsterdam City Archives.
The Canal Ring is on a balancing rope between being a tourist attraction that requires drinking and eating facilities and a major residential area that needs quiet. Residents take full advantage of the terraces and the scenic Amstelveld. If your home doesn’t enjoy the views over the canals and its houseboats, it likely overlooks the green inner courtyards.
Eating, drinking etc
The Canal Ring includes the city’s two main nightlife and culture squares. Leidseplein is home to the city theatre Stadsschouwburg and features such legendary concert halls as Paradiso and Melkweg along with the cultural centre De Balie. Rembrandtplein has several bars which cater to tourists (both international and from the rest of Holland), two large nightclubs (Escape and Air), and ‘old world’ evocative treasures such as De Kroon and Café Schiller. The whole area is dotted with Amsterdam's beloved neighbourhood ‘brown cafes’.