Canal Belt   Grachtengordel

network of canals dug around the old city

The ring of canals is a system of streets, quays, bridges and houses on fairly identical plots of equal length and width with closed inner gardens. Many canal houses are testimony to the prosperity of the Golden Age, but in most cases of the 18th century.


Keizersgracht - one of the main canals in the Canal Belt of Amsterdam

Golden Age

Amsterdam grew rapidly in the 17th century. The city quickly became prosperous and the number of residents increased. Canals were dug for the affluent elite, and many 'city palaces' were erected for rich merchants, bankers and city officials.

The Herengracht and Keizersgracht were the most attractive areas to live: close to the centre and with large plots of land.

The crescent-shaped rings of manmade waterways, called the Grachtengordel in Dutch, were built around the old heart of town at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century.

Its vista of elegant, gabled mansions fronting long, tree-lined canals forms the image most often associated with Amsterdam. This zone includes the 16th-century Singel canal, hotels of all sizes, restaurants, antiques shops, and attractions like the canal museums and Anne Frank House.

The main canals - Herengracht, Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Singel - form concentric belts around the old city.


Patricians' Canal

the first of the 3 major canals in the city centre of Amsterdam. The most fashionable part is called the Golden Bend, with many double wide mansions, inner gardens and coach houses on Keizersgracht.


Emperor's Canal

the 2nd and widest of the 3 major canals, between Herengracht and Prinsengracht, named after Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.


Prince's Canal

the 4th and the longest of the main canals in Amsterdam, named after the Prince of Orange who was the main leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish Habsburgs and ancestor of the monarchy of the Netherlands.


the oldest and inner-most canal in Amsterdam's semicircular ring of canals that served as a moat around the medieval city from 1480 until 1585. It runs from the IJ to Muntplein, where it meets the Amstel river.

The Golden Age

For the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, the 17th century was a flourishing age better known as the Golden Age. Trade in spices with the Far East, now Indonesia, brought wealth to the city.

On Herengracht and Keizersgracht huge houses were erected. Many of these houses on the canals were richly decorated and beautifully laid out.

Canal house hotels

One of the most charming places to stay for tourists and to really experience Amsterdam is at a canalside hotel, usually established in 300-year-old buildings!


UNESCO World Heritage Site

In 2010, Amsterdam's 17th century canal ring area inside the Singelgracht - the 3 main canals including Singel and Jordaan - became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Amsterdam canal district comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircles the old town.

Notable buildings in the Canal Belt

Alongside the 3 main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht) are 1550 monumental buildings.

Felix Meritis 1788

House of the Citizen

European centre for art, culture and science

Huis met de Hoofden 1622

Large canal house with beautiful facade with the heads of 6 Gods: Apollo, Ceres, Mercury, Minerva, Bacchus and Diana.

Bartolotti House 1617

17th century canal house built in a curve for the rich Amsterdammer Willem van den Heuvel who adopted an Italian name.

Ronde Lutherse Kerk 1671

Built by Golden Age architect Adriaan Dortsman in neo-classical style with a chacteristic copper dome

Westerkerk 1620-31

17th-century Protestant church in which Rembrandt was burried

Noorderkerk 1620-23

17th-century Protestant church built by Hendrick de Keyser and his son Pieter

Anne Frank House 1635

hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her diary during World War II

nearby accommodation and restaurants
more impressions



Prinsengracht in winter


Huis Willet-Holthuysen

Herengracht 605


The gable of a slave trader

de graeff

Built in 1669 for one of the wealthiest men of the Dutch Golden Age, Andries de Graeff, in the 'Golden Bend' of Amsterdam's Herengracht at number 446

Sold in 2020 for €14,000,000

de graeff

17th-century interior of Herengracht 446


The 'Gouden Bocht' (Golden Bend) at the Herengracht


Stately canal mansions at the Herengracht

Canal, canals & canals

Amsterdam's charming canals
in pictures (10)


House with the Heads

Keizersgracht 123


Oldest part of Herengracht near Brouwersgracht



Stylishly decorated bar, lounge and restaurant with classic Northern-Italian dishes and good service


Bartolotti House

Herengracht 170

Amsterdam Districts Explained

More Neighbourhoods

History & Culture

A Short History of Amsterdam