Ever wonder where to take those classic pictures of Amsterdam canal houses?
I just came back from a 6 week stint in Europe, most of which was spent in The Netherlands where my family is. I did manage to get in a few good days in Amsterdam. Being a photographer, I spend most of my time taking pictures there. However, I wasted a lot of time trying to find the places where all the pictures from the postcards were taken. You know the ones, the row houses with a beautiful reflection, the canals with the church steeple at the end, The Fault In Our Stars bench from the movies. Check back for a “Where to take good pictures in Monaco.”
Mapping Out Famous Picture Locations In Amsterdam
Now that I’ve found all of these classic picture locations throughout Amsterdam, I’m going to share them with you. I have numbered all the pictures that I took 1-22, and put them on a map below. Now you can look like an expert photographer while still spending the majority of your vacation actually experiencing Amsterdam instead of searching for photo ops. Below is a preview gallery to give you an idea of what to expect in the pictures that I mapped out. I describe each picture and location by number further below.
Time of Year and Day Matter
Your pictures will vary quite a bit depending on what time of year you are visiting Amsterdam. The pictures in this blog were mostly taken in the fall. If it’s summer time, you may have a hard time seeing the houses through the trees, but you’re more likely to have sunny weather. Each season brings new and interesting perspectives to the city of Amsterdam.
My pictures of the Damrak canal houses were all taken on a cloudy day, so the sky looks like a plain white background. I can only imagine what it looks like on a clear sunny day with no wind. I’m sure the reflections are spectacular.
Walking Amsterdam for Photography
I have numbered the pictures in an order which you can logically walk. It will take you in a big circle around Amsterdam. I was able to walk around to the Staalmeesters bridge and back around to Amsterdam Centraal in about 5 hours, taking my time and stopping for coffee. It ended up being about 5 miles.
1. Amsterdam Centraal
The central train station, is a spectacular building. Someday I’d like to get it all in one shot. It seems to sprawl on forever.
Damrak is the area just past the train station which houses the tour boats. This is the quintessential Amsterdam postcard picture of canal houses, or “Grachtenpanden” as they’re called in Dutch. It’s one of the few places where the houses go straight into the water without a road in front. It’s unfortunate that the Canal Boat Tours boats are all in the way. You will have to find a place where there is a gap to get a good picture. But even then, you won’t get the whole row. I found that disappointing.
3. Dam Square
No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to Dam Square. It is where the Royal Palace is, which in my opinion looks like a dark prison. But it is quite imposing and makes for a striking photograph.
4. Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets)
Now we get into my favorite area, the Negen Straatjes or “Nine Streets.” This is the area that people think of when they hear about Amsterdam. It’s street after street of stunning Dutch canal houses with beautiful detail surrounded by cobblestone streets lined with large trees. Pictures 4 and 5 were taken on Prinsengracht.
I was lucky enough to get a clear, still morning after the fog lifted and got some beautiful pictures of the canals. The decorated bicycle is one of many around Amsterdam. They are put there by a guy who is called “The Flower Bike Man.” They move around, but you can usually find them on a bridge in the Nine Streets area or near the Rijksmuseum. If you post one of his pictures on Instagram and tag him, he will usually repost them. Just make sure you ask him to tag you back.
6. Egstorf Bakery
Egstorf Bakery or “Croissanterie Egstorf” is an adorable building off of the Singel Canal. They are open early and I got some beautiful pictures in the fog of the warm glow of lights from the inside. They are the sweetest people and their prices are the most reasonable of any place in the old district that I visited. He also serves larger coffees.
7. Singel Canal
These pictures were all taken on the Singel Canal. Again, I got lucky with the still conditions and got some beautiful reflections. I turned one of the reflection pictures upside down and it looks like warped houses, and it takes people a few minutes to realize that something is “wrong” with the image. It made for good Instagram-worthy posts.
8. Krijberg Church
This is Krijtberg Church whose steeples can be seen over the rooftops throughout the Nine Streets. The front of the church faces the Singel canal, so there are many good photo ops there.
This area of Herengracht is really beautiful. There are so many angles to get good pictures. Just turn in a circle and you will get them all. I got some in the fog which were surreal. The picture of the narrow short canal is just a few paces away from the 3 arch bridge, so I put them under the same number.
Also Herengracht, this picture is of the other side of the canal. You never know when the best picture is behind you. So best to look all around for the perfect shot. Also, I found that sometimes there are boats heading down the canal which you might miss if you’re only looking in one direction.
11. “Fault in Our Stars” Bridge on Leidsegracht
These two pictures are on Leidsegracht. It’s one of my favorite streets because it’s quiet and the canal is small. This is where the bench is from the movie “The Fault in Our Stars.” Just walk up and down this street and you can’t go wrong with good opportunities for pictures, for instance, you can go back multiple times throughout the day and your pictures will look very different.
12. Leidsegracht Canal
This is on the bridge looking down the Leidsegracht canal.
13. Vier Heemskinderensluis on Keizersgracht
These two pictures were taken on Keizersgracht where there is a beautiful intersection of arched bridges. They’re beautifully lit up at night.
If you walk further down Leidsegracht, you’ll see some unique houses with decorative shutters.
This is Leidsestraat, not to be confused with Leidsegracht. At the intersection of Leidsestraat and Keizersgracht, there are some very unusual buildings.
16. Bloemen Markt (Flower Market)
Standing on the bridge you can face the Bloemen Markt (floating flower market) in one direction, and the Krijtberg Church in the other. Both of which make beautiful pictures depending on which direction the sun is facing.
17. Bloemen Markt (Flower Market)
Walking across the bridge, you’ll see the Flower Market from the other side. It’s interesting to see all the floating stalls, with the backdrop of beautiful canal houses. There is also a sea of bicycles in front of the canal which I thought made an interesting foreground.
18. Munttoren in Muntplein
Munttoren and Delft Blauwe shop at the end of the Bloemen Markt is really lovely. The shop has all kinds of really nice official Delft Blue gifts and items, and the tower clock sounds beautiful when it chimes on the hour.
19. Rokin in Muntplein
The houses on the other side of the canal when standing on Rokin are really nice when the sun is shining on them. It’s a very busy area, so watch for bikes and cars there.
When you stand on the far side of the river, you can see all the way to the Munttoren and the bridge in between. I took this on a telephoto setting.
Unfortunately, the sun was behind these houses at the time I was there, but I took the picture anyway because these houses were so interesting. They are crooked and lean into each other, which you can really see from across the canal. If you’re there at a different time of year and later in the day, I’m sure it would be quite spectacular. I took this at about 10am in early November.
Staalsmeesterbrug is one of my favorites and really a must-see. Not only is the bridge a beautiful old drawbridge, the view from the bridge is stunning. The fall colors made it extra special. I’m sure it’s pretty crowded in the summer. Even in November, when I was there, there were tour groups coming through taking pictures of the church.
So that wraps up my favorite places to take pictures in Amsterdam. You may have noticed that I didn’t include places like the Anne Frank House or the Rijksmuseum, because I assume that you already know about these and my goal was to show you the hidden areas of Amsterdam.
I came with a goal of taking some of the classic pictures of the old city of Amsterdam including the Nine Streets (Negen Straatjes), however I had a heck of time trying to figure out where they were all taken. I spent a lot of time hunting down the best locations to take pictures, instead of visiting the sites like the museums and pubs. Although the surroundings are beautiful I thoroughly enjoyed my adventures, I could have experienced a lot more had I known where to go to take these classic pictures.
If you are lucky enough to spend a few days in Amsterdam, you might try going back to some of the same spots to see how different the pictures look in changing weather and lighting. The evening pictures and morning fog pictures were some of my favorites. So enjoy the breathtaking city of Amsterdam and good luck taking the best pictures ever!