Rembrandt and Saskia

With class differences, personal hardships and a tragic ending, Rembrandt’s relationship with his wife, Saskia, has all the makings of a Hollywood romance. Saskia van Uylenburgh met Rembrandt during a visit to her uncle’s house, an art dealer in Amsterdam. Her wealthy family considered Rembrandt an unworthy match but the pair let nothing stand in the way of true love and married in 1634. The two were inseparable, with Saskia posing for many of his famous paintings. Sadly, three of their children died shortly after birth. Their fourth child Titus was the only one to survive and Saskia herself died the year after he was born. Rembrandt’s luck went from bad to worse as he encountered financial trouble and sold his paintings, possessions, house and even Saskia’s grave to pay off creditors. Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these star-crossed lovers.

Vermeer and Catharina

While modern films like ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ (2003) cast Johannes Vermeer’s wife, Catharina, in an unflattering light, there’s much evidence to suggest that their relationship was a loving one. He was a Protestant, she was a Catholic and they married despite disapproval from both families. Many art historians believe that Catharina’s likeness appeared in several of his paintings, most noticeably in ‘Girl reading a letter at an open window’ and ‘A lady writing’. The couple had 15 children during their 22 years of marriage (!?) and 11 survived into adulthood.

Amsterdam wives and the Schreierstoren

VOC Cafe Schreierstoren Amsterdam Edwin van Eis

An Amsterdam monument with a fascinating history, the Schreierstoren is part of a romantic local legend. The 15th-century defense tower was part of Amsterdam’s original city wall, facing the sea. From here, sailors set off on long voyages, including Henry Hudson’s 1609 discovery of New York, which was originally called ‘New Amsterdam’. According to the myth, the tower’s name translated as ‘weeper’s tower’, as wives would tearfully bid farewell to their husbands and anxiously await their return.

Anne-Marie Thus and Hélène Faasen

AnneMarie Thus en Helene Faasen first gay marriage Amsterdam

On 1 April 2001, the Netherlands made global history by legalising same-sex marriage. That day, Anne-Marie Thus and Hélène Faasen, along with three male couples, tied the knot at Amsterdam’s City Hall, becoming the world’s first same-sex married couples. The ceremonies were officiated by then mayor Job Cohen. “We love each other; we wanted to commit and take care of each other. We weren’t the first to do all the work, but we were the lucky ones. It made us want to pay it forward,” said Thus. Since then, more than 15,000 same-sex couples have exchanged vows in the Netherlands, cementing the country as a leader in LGBTI equality and inspiring many more countries to follow suit.

Facts about love in the Dutch capital

  • Many Dutch couples delay marriage until after having children and owning a home
  • Dutch women increasingly keep their own surnames after marriage
  • The first major anniversary is celebrated after 12.5 years
  • You can get married for free at a ‘no frills’ ceremony on a Tuesday

Looking for your own slice of Amsterdam romance? Check out our roundup of things to do on Valentine's Day for date-night inspiration.