Famous names

Anyone mentioning the Canal Ring probably thinks of the three canals which are so easily listed in alphabetical and topographical sequence: Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht (gracht is the Dutch world for canal). But in fact the area also includes the Nieuwe Herengracht, Nieuwe Keizersgracht and Nieuwe Prinsengracht (all three to the east of the Amstel), the Singel and the seven transverse canals. The whole area covers some 160 hectares. The total length of these canals is 14 kilometres, crossed by no fewer than 80 bridges.

Construction and grandeur

The first phase was realised from 1610, and the second after 1660. The city was experiencing its Golden Age in economic, political and cultural terms. The city authorities thus decided to accord the new area an appearance suitable for a rich and powerful trading city. The stately naming of the three main canals was also part of this.

The grandeur could be found mainly along the Herengracht and Keizersgracht. These unusually wide canals with fashionable homes were intended mainly for the prosperous merchants. Industriousness, by contrast, could be found in the transverse streets where shopkeepers were based, as well as on the Singel and Prinsengracht. The two canals had a direct lock interconnecting with the IJ. This is where the busy goods and people traffic on the water took place. Here too were the warehouses and markets.