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Published: June 29th 2022
The 17th-century Amsterdam canals are a world renowned location of cultural and historical significance with a rich history spanning 400 years of development, expansion, innovation and engineering. The city’s canal ring and its design is an early example of large-scale, coordinated urban planning and forward thinking.
Amsterdam has a vast array of water canals over 100km in length, around 60 miles. These 165 canals divide the city into a series of small islands connected by over 1200 bridges, with the oldest completed in 1648; the Torensluis. The majority of canals can be accessed by private boats, group tours, or rental boats with many moored on the canal edges next to houseboats. The city’s bridges were built to withstand horse and cart weight of the time, which have since been affected by the trucks and small amount of cars that pass through the canal ring. Complex maintenance work is underway to strengthen certain canal walls and bridges throughout the city.
Since 2010, Amsterdam’s ring of canals were awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. A recognition for its unique urban development, innovative engineering and incredible water management, it joins famous
sites like the Historic Center of Rome. Due to the efforts of the city and private owners, this area and the initial city plan remains very well preserved to this day.
During the 17th century Amsterdam experienced a massive economic boom, which led to the creation of its concentric canal belt. Four massive ditches were dug around the Dam with each connecting the currents flowing between Amsterdam’s main sources of water; the river Ij and Amstel. These new constructions were designed to encourage water traffic and meant that goods could be rapidly transported around the city.
As money poured into the city, many wealthy traders decided to relocate to central Amsterdam, consequently leading to an enormous spike in population. Due to Amsterdam’s cramped layout housing quickly became an issue, and to solve this problem the municipality started handing out plots of land to affluent citizens. Although these parcels were relatively generous, they were unusably narrow, allowing the government to cram as many houses as possible onto the banks of the canal rings.
Prostitution in Amsterdam is nearly as old as the city itself. As early as the 15th century and possibly
earlier, the first prostitutes arrived to earn a living in the harbor of Amsterdam. The Red Light District is still located in the oldest part of the city. The women initially plied their trade in the streets. In the sixties, the police made it illegal to solicit from doorways. Sitting behind the window was tolerated if the curtains were almost closed. By burning a red light behind the chink, it was clear to men that they could come here for a prostitute. Today it is allowed to keep the curtains open but the red lights are still used.
There are more than 881,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That’s four times the number of cars. The total length of bike paths in Amsterdam is about 400 kilometers.
Between 12,000 and 15,000 bicycles are pulled out of Amsterdam’s canals each year.
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