Amsterdam is truly a beauty in north Europe with its unique architecture, canals, bridges and the open-minded culture. Millions of tourists visit this stylish city every year from all over the world. The old town is well-preserved, and each building is like a monument. The churches are well-protected historic monuments, each a fascinating example of medieval and renaissance architecture. Those beautiful buildings add variety to the city’s facade with their outstanding domes and towers.
Amsterdam’s churches are at least 100-year-old and the oldest was built 800 years ago. Thus, the city became a metropol back in the old times and grew enormously in between 13th to 16th century. Those were the times when religion had an important role in daily life, and it was an obligation for Christian citizens to attend church. The churches were powerful and independent with their own laws and taxes.
The churches are still open in service, and you can join the religious services. The churches are also popular places to visit with beautiful artworks inside which are well-preserved despite the wars. The time is frozen inside, so they give an idea about how life was back in those times. Whenever I visit the city, I pass by the churches, which made me curious about their story.
I devoted my last visit to the churches. I used GPSMYCITY app to plan the tour. The app provided me a route and informed me about how long it takes to visit all the attractions. It took approximately 2 hours to visit the churches, as GPSMYCITY estimated. Thanks to GPSMYCITY, I had all what I need to make the church tour happen.
1- St. Nicolaaskerk (St. Nicholas Church):
St. Nicolaaskerk is the first church that you would see when you arrive to central station. It is one of the recently built churches in the centre (ring). St. Nicolaaskerk has traditional Dutch components, with a combination of neo-barroque and neo-renaissance. It is the second church dedicated to St. Nicholas after Oudekerk (see below).
The best way to photograph the building is from the other side of the canal, towards the side of the central station. The opening times of St. Nicolaaskerk are 12:00 – 15:00 (Monday to Saturday) and 11:00 to 16:00 (Tuesday to Friday). On Sunday’s church is open only for the religious service. See their website for more information.
2- Oude Kerk (Old Church):
Oudekerk is the oldest church of Amsterdam. It was built in the 13th century and dedicated to St. Nicholas. The church had its final form in the 15th century, when the north and south transepts were constructed. The oldest church bell of Amsterdam is in Ouderkerk.
Rembrandt was a regular visitor of the church, and he must have many memories in Oudekerk. With his Madam Saskia van Uylenberg wife they baptize their children in this church. Oudekerk is built on an old cemetery, and the floor is completely covered with graves. One of those graves belongs to Rembrandt’s late wife (number 29).
Today, Oudekerk is a centre for many cultural and religious activities. As a tourist, you can visit Oudekerk, and also climb to the tower. Click here for entrance price list. Opening times of Oudekerk are from 10:00 to 18:00 from Monday to Saturday and 10:00 to 17:30 on Sunday. The streets are narrow, and it is difficult to photograph the church from the sides. I would recommend photographing the building from the other side of the canal, from the southern side of the church.
3- Zuiderkerk (South Church):
Zuiderkerk is built in 1603 as a Roman-Catholic Church. The architect is Hendrick de Keyser I. It was one of the earliest examples of reformed Renaissance style. Keyser himself was influenced from the British Architect Sir Christopher Bren, who was the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Zuiderkerk has always been a popular attraction of Amsterdam and its architectural style attracted many artists throughout the centuries. There is one of the most popular buildings in Amsterdam and attractive place for the artists. The famous French painter Monet inspired by the church and painted over Zuiderkerk in 1874. The original copy of this painting is open for exhibition in Philadelphia Art Museum. Rembrandt was a regular visitor of Zuiderkerk and his three children are buried here.
During World War II (in 1945 and 1946), Zuiderkerk was used as morgue for a while because the death rates were increased due to hunger winter. Today, Zuiderkerk is not used for religious services anymore. The building is a tourist attraction that it is open for municipal exhibition center and social events (concerts, weddings). Tower of Zuiderkerk is open for the visitors during summer, from April to September. A free tour guide is also offered, every half hour.
Begijnhof Chapel is a hidden Catholic Church, constructed by combining two houses. It was planned by Philips Vingboons, constructed in 1671 and opened to service in 1682. The chapel is dedicated to St. John.
What is remarkable about Begijnhof Chapel is that it creates a peaceful and quiet atmosphere on a busy and quiet district of Amsterdam, probably the most tranquil environment of this district. Click here to read more about the chapel.
5- Nieuwe Kerk (New Church):
Nieuwe Kerk is in Dam square next to Royal Palace (also City Hall), the mail plaza of Amsterdam. The church was built in the 14th century and has the style of Early Renaissance. The architect is C.B. Posthumus Meyes. The church is called New Church because in those times (around 600 years ago), Amsterdam’s population was constantly increasing and churches were not enough to serve the crowded population and Nieuwe Kerk was the second church constructed after Oude Kerk. The history of the church is turbulent. In 1421 and 1452 two big fires took off in Amsterdam and Nieuwe Kerk was damaged from these fires. It was then rebuilt after those fires.
A surprising fact about Nieuwe Kerk is that it does not have a bell tower of its own. This is because it stands next to the royal palace, and it was not seen necessary to construct the bell tower.
Today, Nieuwe Church stands with all its glory and welcoming its visitors. There was the royal church of Amsterdam for all the coronation and monarchy weddings. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima who are the current king and queen of Amsterdam got married in Nieuwe Kerk in 2002.
Today, Nieuwe Kerk is not used for religious services anymore. The building is used for art exhibitions. Inside the church there is a great organ from 1645, tomb of Dutch Admiral Michiel De Ruyter (1607-1676) and coronation of Queen Wilhelmina. Click here for the opening times, and here for some tips for the visitors.
6-Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Church of our lady):
Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk is a Syriac Orthodox Church that was built in 1852-1854 with a style of Classic Gothic Construction. It was planned by Theo Molkenboer which the church is known to be his main master peace. Today the church is used for the service of Syriac Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church and Surinamese Roman Catholic Church.
Click here to learn more about Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk.
7-Westerkerk (West Church):
Westerkerk is a protestant church which was built between 1620 and 1631. It was actually the first biggest protestant church of the world when it was constructed. The architect of Westerkerk is Hendrick de Keyser who planned the church in Dutch Renaissance style in a mixture of Gothic style. Westerkerk has a gorgeous church tower, which is the highest church tower in Amsterdam (85 meters tall). The church tower also has an imperial crown on the top which is Part of Amsterdam’s Coat of Arms, the official symbol of Amsterdam.
Westerkerk witnessed important events in history such as Rembrandt’s funeral (1669), Anne Frank’s expulsion (4 August 1944) and the Royal Wedding of Prince Claus and Princess Beatrix (1966).
Anne Frank was a Jewish-German teenage girl who lived during the Second World War times. She and her family were hiding from the Nazi’s in a building on Prinsengracht which is very close to Westerkerk. Sad but true, she witnessed all the cruelty during this time and reported it on her diary, which then became one of the most famous books of the world.
About Westerkerk, Anne Frank mentioned the chimes in her diary, which she could clearly hear from her hiding place. She wrote that the noise that chimes produced were soothing for her. Unfortunately, in 1943 the chime sound was stopped because all the church bells of Amsterdam were collected to be used for the weapon industry.
8-Noorderkerk (North Church):
Nooderkerk is located in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, among the Prinsengracht Canal and Noordermarkt Square. It is a renaissance protestant church built between 1620 and 1623. The church was planned by Hendrick de Keyser, however he died soon after when the construction started and then his son Pieter de Keyser took over his work. Noorderkerk has a Greek Cross shape, which is a symbol of Renaissance Protestantism.
Jordan neighborhood is popular for its riots which happened a couple of times in the history. Some of the reason of these riots are unemployment and inequality of people’s right.
In history, Riots were popular in the streets of Jordan neighborhood because of unemployment and people’s right and deportation of Jews (1941). A sculpture in the entrance of Noorderkerk commemorates the 1934 riot. In the front of the sculpture, it is inscribed as “Unity of Strength”.