Amsterdam’s canals now officially World Heritage, so go buy a boat!

Aug 3, 2010 |  by  |  Art
About the author
Ridz, advertises, produces indie/electronic music, performs throughout the Netherlands but ultimately always ends up at an Amsterdam based ensemble... then he blogs about all these things.

Last weekend the World Heritage Committee inscribed a selection of new cultural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The most important inclusion was of course our local grachtengordel (canal ring) in Amsterdam, also known as the “Venice of the North“. It was about time we received recognition for the cultural and historical value of the canals after all the legendary events that happen there throughout the years, such as:

Queen’s Day & major celebrations of our (national) football teams


and upcoming weekend’s Gay Pride parade

My personal favourite spot between the canals
To escape the noise and traffic of the touristic squares of Amsterdam I tend to wander off to the canals. The canals provide the eyes with more eventful things and a more laid back setting, both in the summer and winter. After spending a day on the water I enjoy ending up at Festina Lente. In 1998 two young lads bought this cafe with the idea to create an outside living room for the general public. Previously, Festina Lente was known as Bohemia; the place to be for jazz-lovers, and that jazzy ambiance still remains today. Today, Festina Lente provides a platform for poets to perform their cherished poetry and a enormous amount of board games to keep you and your friends entertained whilst having a cold one. For Dutch speaking readers, a more detailed presentation by UCee can be found here.

So, why cultural heritage again?
According to UNESCO: The historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new ‘port city’ built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city’s fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term programme that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.

This is why any resident of Amsterdam should buy a boat before a car.

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