If you are walking down the Leidsestraat and come to the corner of the Herengracht, it is quite hard to miss the gigantic flying flag of Amsterdam, flapping away high up in the air in front of a large waterfront house down along the canal towards the west. This flag is signaling the arrival of a brand new museum to the city of Amsterdam, and one that you really don’t want to miss.
Only open since March 30th, Museum Het Grachtenhuis (The Museum of the Amsterdam Canals in English) boasts “400 Years of History in 40 Minutes”. As lovers of Amsterdam ourselves, we were curious to see what Het Grachtenhuis could show us that we didn’t already know (and love) about our city.
What we didn’t realize is that we were in for a lovely multi-media surprise set in a beautifully preserved and converted canal house- a perfect blend of old history and modern technique.
Spread over two floors, Het Grachtenhuis gives visitors the chance to explore the ground floor where the official welcoming rooms have been conserved to exactly how they would have looked in the 17th century when the owners of the house were welcoming special visitors. Donning headphones, we were left to wander the three rooms on the ground floor (the ‘bel-etage’) while learning about the history of the building’s previous owners, who were heavy hitters in the Amsterdam financial and cultural scene throughout the ages.
Then we were ready to head upstairs, where the audio tour guides you through six rooms and 400 years of Amsterdam history, focusing specifically on the canals themselves- why they were built, how they were built, and what life was like on the canals during Amsterdam’s Golden Age, when we were once the wealthiest city in the world.
This is where the multi-media part of the museum really shows its worth. Using light, sound, video, music, 3D imaging, miniatures and even claymation you are shown the history of the canals in a way that really has never been done before.
To tell too much would give away some really charming surprises, so I am going to be really annoying here and say: go see it for yourself. If you, like us, are in love with our little village and want to learn a bit more about the foundation of this splendid city, then this museum will give you what you are looking for in under an hour. It’s the perfect place to stop in between shopping and going for a meal, and you will leave feeling like you scratched more of the surface than just an ordinary weekend visitor.
And for those of us who live here, well then Het Grachtenhuis is a must-do, make no mistake. If you spend your waking life walking, biking and traversing these beauitiful canals, then you should definitely know the how’s and why’s that went into building them so that one day you could live and love here.
Stichting Het Grachtenhuis
Tuesday till Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00.
Tram: 1, 2 and 5 (alight at Koningsplein).