Step aside Paris, Amsterdam is the new city of love. Countless stories full of wonder, love and intrigue are hidden behind every stone of the city’s most famous buildings. On this tour, Rocco - our guide for the day, says that he won’t be satisfied until the romance of Amsterdam gets under your skin.
Start your tour at the Anne Frank House, Westermarkt 20.
1. The Anne Frank HouseYou are probably familiar with the story of the little girl who lived here and wrote a diary, but did you also know that Anne was in love while she was in hiding? In 1942, not long after Anne Frank and her family had moved into the secret annexe, they were joined by the Van Pel family. Anne looked forward to the arrival of the son Peter, who was only two years older than her.
At first, she found him to be boring, withdrawn and hard to talk to. But after a while, she realised that he might just be feeling as alone as she did. Anne started to visit Peter in his room where they would look through the window together. Dreaming about being free again. One night as they heard bombs falling across the city, Anne was frightened and pulled Peter close to her. His arms made her feel safe. She couldn't sleep that night - had she fallen in love with him? A few weeks later, alone in the attic room again, they kissed. It was Anne's very first kiss.
Only a few months after Anne and Peter had fallen in love, their families were betrayed. To this day, we do not know by whom. After their arrest, the families ended up in a transit camp at Westerbork. According to a fellow prisoner, Peter and Anne spent a lot of time together there. On September 3rd, Peter and his parents were forced to board a transit wagon to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He saw Anne for the last time on the platform.
Walk up the Keizersgracht, past Westerkerk (Point 2 on your map), towards the Homomonument.
3. HomomonumentLet’s remember that being able to express love publically has not always been possible for everyone. Not so long ago, being openly in love with someone of the same sex was forbidden and even punishable. During World War II, every homosexual prisoner in the concentration camps was required to wear a pink triangle as an identity patch.
After World War II, the Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum (Centre for Culture and Leisure) or COC was founded. The organisation used this cover name and adopted the triangle as their symbol whilst they actively campaigned for the end to the persecution of homosexual people. In 1987 the Homomonument was unveiled. Memorials are held here to commemorate the LGBTQ people who suffered violence during the war and elsewhere in the world.
Want to know more about LGBTQ history in Amsterdam? Check out city guide Henk de Vries' LGBTQ history walking route.
Walk back along Keizersgracht, then turn right onto Leliegracht. Continue walking straight, cross the Torensluis Bridge, and you will see the Nieuwe Kerk at Dam Square ahead of you.
4. Nieuwe Kerk
The Nieuwe Kerk dates back to the fourteenth century. Many people have got married here, including the current King and Queen of The Netherlands, Willem-Alexander and Maxima who tied the knot in 2002. They met whilst Maxima was working in New York. Because Willem-Alexander was not a well-known face in America, he was able to get to know her without being recognised. Even though his mother, Princess Beatrix, was often very critical of her eldest son's girlfriends, Maxima was received into the family with open arms.
Likewise, the Dutch people have also embraced her, especially as she provides a warm and friendly counterbalance to the somewhat stiff king. Arguably the most romantic moment of the royal couple's wedding ceremony was the tango played on a bandoneon (a type of concertina) by Carel Kraayenhof. Maxima famously became very emotional and she even shed a tear.
Walk across Dam Square past the National Monument, then turn left onto Warmoesstraat. Turn right at Wijde Kerksteeg.
5. Oude Kerk
The Oude Kerk, completed in 1308, is the oldest building in Amsterdam. Many important people are buried here, the most famous of which being Rembrandt’s wife, Saskia van Uilenberg. Once a year, the sun shines through a window and illuminates her tomb. This happens on March 9th at precisely 8:39 am. Some people believe this to be the exact day and time that Saskia and Rembrandt first met.
Cross the canal and walk via Oudekennissteeg and Molensteeg to Zeedijk. Turn right towards Nieuwmarkt.
6. De Waag
In the middle of the Nieuwmarkt, De Waag is the closest you’ll get to a fairytale in the city of Amsterdam. The building dates back to 1450 when it was used as an access point through the city walls over an old drawbridge. In the 1600s the walls were torn down so the city could expand and this entrance gate was converted into a Waaghuis (weigh house). All ships had to pass under here so the goods they were carrying could be weighed and taxes paid.
The building was later used as a clubhouse for the doctor’s guild who each year organized a unique spectacle: a public autopsy. Everyone with a ticket could watch as a body was cut open - a true theatrical experience. Can you spot the gable stone depicting a bearded man and the words: Theatrum Anatomica (anatomical theatre)? Nowadays, De Waag is home to a restaurant where, in normal times, 300 candles are lit every evening so that it feels as if you are in a medieval castle. It hardly gets more romantic than that!
Enter Recht Boomssloot and follow the water along Krom Boomsloot. Continue straight onto Snoekjesgracht. Walk across the Pike Bridge and turn left. Turn left again onto Jodenbreestraat until you get to the former house of Rembrandt van Rijn.
7. Rembrandt's House
The story of Rembrandt’s life is laced with drama and suffering, but it all started so beautifully. The son of a miller, Rembrandt moved from Leiden to Amsterdam to pursue his artistic ambitions. He soon met Saskia van Uilenberg who he asked to model for his paintings. Sparks began to fly as she posed for him in the studio and Saskia became Rembrandt’s muse and lover.
Everything seemed like a fairytale - they got married, bought this big mansion and fell pregnant - but, things went downhill after the loss of their first three children. Following the birth of their son Titus - who survived, Saskia became ill herself and died whilst Rembrandt was at the peak of his career. He decided to paint Saskia one last time and we can see her forever memorialised in one of his greatest masterpieces, 'The Night Watch'. He depicts his wife like an angel illuminated by a beam of light.
Walk back along Zwanenburgwal, then take an immediate right to cross the canal and the Staalmeesterbrug (point 8 on your map). Cross the bridge to the left, then follow the canal to the left to cross the Halvemaansbrug. Go to the right and then turn left onto Regulierssteeg. You are now standing directly opposite the Pathé Tuschinski Cinema.
There is nothing more romantic than a night at the cinema and the Tuschinski is easily one of the most beautiful movie theatres in the world. The cinema was commissioned by Abraham Icek Tuschinski - a Jewish man who acquired his wealth by building a successful cinema empire in Rotterdam. His business expanded to Amsterdam and the Tuschinski Cinema was opened in 1921. You can see influences from Amsterdamse School, Jugendstil and Art Deco architectural styles.
Whilst four of his cinemas in Rotterdam were destroyed during World War II bombings, the cinema in Amsterdam remained intact. Tuschinski, however, was arrested and deported to Auschwitz where he died. Today, many Dutch film premieres take place at the Tuschinski. A romantic date night is guaranteed especially because there are old-school love seats that you can cuddle up together on. For now, we have to make do with the beautiful façade of the building, but reserve those tickets for as soon as possible!
Walk via Reguliersbreestraat and Rembrandtplein to Paardenstraat. Turn left there and then walk via the Amstel to the Blauwbrug. From the bridge, you should have a good view of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet and City Hall.
10. City Hall
You are now looking at Amsterdam City Hall, the site of a ceremony that, until 2001, had never been performed before. It was March 31st and four couples arrived in front of the building with photographers from around the world jostling each other to capture their photos. At the stroke of noon, four gay couples were legally married here by Mayor Job Cohen. The Netherlands was proud to host a same-sex marriage for the first time in history.
Walk back to the river and continue along the Amstel. In the distance, you’ll be able to see the Magere Brug.
12. Magere Brug
This bridge is probably one of the most romantic and iconic locations in Amsterdam. If you have the chance, come back in the evening to see the bridge illuminated by 1200 lights each reflecting the water as night falls. Nobody knows where it came from, but there is a legend circulating that if you pass under this bridge and kiss your loved one, you will stay together forever. In some versions, it is also enough just to kiss on the bridge. Combine this story with sweeping views of the city and this might just be the most romantic spot in town!
"I started my career as a professional dancer and choreographer. I have danced all over the world, with international companies. When I returned to Amsterdam, the city recaptured my heart. I decided to give shape to this passion in my work as a city guide. Love and art are central themes in my tours and I believe that Amsterdam is a playground for everyone who loves beauty. Centuries of rich culture have dispersed creative energy into every corner of the city. This energy sets everyone in motion, but to experience it in its full force, you need a guide who appeals to your imagination and knows the city inside-out. The most beautiful places are sometimes the hardest to find, even for locals. I hope that my tours will make your heart beat a little faster."
Want more romantic insights from Rocco? Head to romantictouramsterdam.nl
The route map was drawn by illustrator Monique Wijbrands. View her work at moniquewijbrands.nl