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Architecture in Amsterdam

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Dam Square
Dam Square is Amsterdam’s beating heart. Nowadays Dam Square in contrast with the old days it is now a very peaceful square which is home to scores of pigeons and street performers. Dam Square has had a turbulent history. Around 1270 a damn was constructed in this spot in the river Amstel. Dam Square was once the central marketplace of Amsterdam where literally everything under the moon was sold. The Royal Palace and the Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam are also situated at Dam Square. Other nearby highlights are the red light district, the narrowest house in Amsterdam at Singel 7 and the shopping mall Magna Plaza.
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Jordaan
The Jordaan is possibly the most famous neighbourhood in the Netherlands. Akin to the reputation enjoyed by London’s Cockneys, this once working-class bastion was renowned for tight community bonds, radical politics and a love for drink and over-the-top sing-a-longs. Gentrification of decades past has attracted more galleries, restaurants, specialty shops and upwardly-mobile residents to its scenic streets but there’s undeniably still a distinct atmosphere to be enjoyed here. The Jordaan begins at Brouwersgracht, just west of the Amsterdam Central Station and arches around the western side of Canal Ring between Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgracht before ending at Leidsegracht. The area north of Rozengracht is a more ‘touristy’ and commercial section, although the quieter area to the south is no less scenic.
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The Hermitage
The biggest branch of the world-famous Hermitage in Saint Petersburg can be found in Amsterdam. Discover top works from the Russian collection in changing exhibitions. The museum was established in the Amstelhof, a monumental building on the Amstel river, in 2009. The art collection of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg had become so extensive that the museum decided to put a range of works on display in branches. The biggest of these can be found in Amsterdam. The Russian art was initially on display in a small building but the Hermitage in the Amstelhof opened its doors in 2009. Just a year later, the museum welcomed its one millionth visitor. The Hermitage is one of the top attractions in Amsterdam.
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Kijk-Kubus
The Cube Houses (or Pole Houses or Tree Houses) designed by architect Piet Blom are part of the Blaakse Bos development which borders on the Laurenskwartier district and the Waterfront area.
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Laurenskerk
The Laurenskerk, or Church of St. Lawrence, originally arose on the banks of the River Rotte and its location can truly be called the very birthplace of Rotterdam. It is an imposing church built between 1449 and 1525, and it is Rotterdam's only surviving late Gothic building.
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De Markthal
You'll find an indoor market hall in various world-class cities, but the combination with luxury housing makes Rotterdam's Markthal the first of its kind. The apartments are draped over the food market in a horseshoe configuration.
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Zypendaal House
Zypendaal House (Huis Zypendaal) is an old-style country house dating from 1762. The ground floor is open to the public. The costly furnishings and many souvenirs of the Brantsen family, the house's former residents, give the house a very intimate feel.
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Brother Church
The Broederenkerk has a long and rich history from around 1300, when a monastery was established here, where a church was built from around 1335. The Broederen Church, also known as the St. Lebuïnus Church, is a church in Deventer, built between 1335 and 1338 by order of Eleonora of England, then Duchess of Gelre. Before the church was built, a monastery was founded at that place around 1300 by the Franciscan Friars Minor. The name of the church is derived from these brothers. Anyone who takes a look at the Broederenkerk will notice how special this building is in the center of Deventer, both outside and inside.
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Frisian Castle
The first buildings to be built in Friesland using natural stone or bricks were stone refuge towers, known in Friesland as ‘stinzen’. ‘Stins’ means stone. These squat towers with rounded peaks served as a refuge for their owners, the farming gentry. These people were the rural aristocracy in Friesland, which had no earls or counts before 1500.
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Museum aan de Stroom
Visitors to Antwerp have been flocking to the hip Eilandje district, an old dockside neighbourhood, to visit the MAS | Museum aan de Stroom, which opened in 2011. This is where the city and the port – the second largest port in Europe even – converge. The stunning architecture and the museum collection are perfect examples of this. The MAS has a phenomenally large collection, which to date comprises about 500,000 items, including artworks and utensils. New objects are constantly being added to the collection. The museum uses its entire collection to weave a new narrative, based on five universal themes, on just as many floors. The MAS takes a closer look at power politics and world ports. At how food shaped and will shape today’s metropolises in the past, present and future. And at life and death, of people and gods, in the upper and under world. Moreover, the third floor and the walking boulevard host some fascinating and highly diverse temporary exhibitions.
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Kuiperspoort
As the name suggests, the Kuipers Guild used to be located in the Kuiperspoort. It is a beautiful courtyard that you pass if you don't pay attention. The Kuiperspoort can be found between the Dam and the Rouaanse Kaai. The houses there are mainly from the second half of the sixteenth century. In the first half of the seventeenth century, the courtyard was bought by the Kuipersgilde. Several companies are now located in the former Kuiper houses, including the Walcheren art education foundation, where various painting and drawing lessons can be taken.
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Zeeuws Museum
The Zeeuws Museum, a special museum focusing on the history of Zeeland, is located in the beautiful old abbey in the city center of Middelburg. Admire historic wall tapestries, beautiful regional costumes, and special finds from Zeeland. The collection of wall tapestries of the Provincial-Executive of Zeeland is the pride of the Zeeuws Museum. The provincial government of Zeeland commissioned a wall tapestry depicting the battle of Bergen op Zoom in 1591. When the tapestry was completed four years later, the Provincial-Executive of the province of Zeeland decided to commission more tapestries depicting naval battles in Zeeland. After a number of relocations during and after WWII, the tapestries have now been reunited at the Abbey of Middelburg.
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Abbey Tower of Long John
You can't miss it, right in the beautiful historic center of Middelburg. Here, the imposing Abbey Tower de Lange Jan rises proudly above the many monuments in Middelburg. You should not miss the climb. It takes a bit of climbing, 207 steps to be precise, but the view is worth this effort. The tower of the Lange Jan is 90.5 meters long (belongs to the top 10 tallest towers in the Netherlands). On clear days you can even see the surrounding Zeeland islands from the Lange Jan.
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Saint James's Church
St James‘ Church is the starting point for pilgrims journeying to the burial place of St James the Greater in Santiago de Compostela. The church is also known for the resting place of Rubens. This church, which is within short walking distance from Antwerp’s main shopping street Meir, is one of the largest churches in Antwerp. Like so many other European cities Antwerp also has a sanctuary for St. James. In the early fifteenth century there was a hospice here, which welcomed Northern European pilgrims travelling to the tomb of the apostle James in Santiago de Compostela. In 1413 a chapel, dedicated to St. James, was added to the hospice. Soon the chapel proved too small. As a consequence construction started on the current church in Brabant Gothic style in 1491. It would take no less than 175 years to complete the church. St. James’s Church served as parish church for several smaller crafts and guilds and religious brotherhoods. The choir was completed during the Baroque period with the tombs and chapels of wealthy families. The most famous memorial chapel is that of the Antwerp Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. He painted the altarpiece Madonna Surrounded by Saints in the chapel. Elsewhere in the church you can admire a masterpiece by Jacob Jordaens. St. James’s Church has one of the oldest working tower clocks.
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Grote Markt
Grote Markt originally was a forum or square just outside the medieval residential quarter. In 1220 Duke Henry I of Brabant (1165-1235) donated this community land to the city. The name Merckt was used for the first time in 1310. Around this time the first annual markets or foren van Brabant (Brabant fairs) were organised. Here English merchants would do business with Italians, Spaniards and merchants from the Northern German Hanseatic cities as well as from Southern Germany and Flemings of course. At the end of the fifteenth century Antwerp overtook Bruges as the most prominent city of the Low Countries.
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The Antwerp Canals (Ruien)
Visit The Ruien, a truly unique attraction, and walk through Antwerp's former canals and sewers. During this adventurous and astonishing underground walk you'll discover some of Antwerp's exciting and rich history. Sewers, streams and ramparts have criss-crossed the city since the Middle Ages. This network of waterways provided Antwerp with drinking water and an inland port. Later, the waterways served as sewers. They were eventually covered with vaulted ceilings. This unique piece of heritage disappeared from view. Now you can rediscover this hidden patrimony. A visit to The Ruien is a walk along old vaulted ceilings, narrow canals, bridges, sewers and sluices. You'll get a peak at the underbelly of the city and hear secretive anecdotes and fascinating facts from the distant and recent past.
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Cathedral of Our Lady
The Cathedral is an iconic treasury, with an impressive collection of major art works, including a series of paintings by Rubens. Now, after twenty years, the seven-naved church has been restored to its former architectural glory. Fascinating features include Rubens’ ‘Elevation of the Cross’ and his ‘Descent from the Cross’. After 169 years of construction the cathedral of Antwerp finally dominated Antwerp's skyline in 1521 with a height of 123 metres. It's the highest Gothic building in the Low Countries. Any visit to Antwerp starts with a visit of the Cathedral of Our Lady!
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Vlaeykensgang
The secret Vlaeykensgang alley dates from 1591 and connects Hoogstraat, Oude Koornmarkt Pelgrimstraat with one another. Walk through the gate at Oude Koornmarkt 16 and you feel as if you have journeyed back in time. In the past this alley was where the shoemakers and the poorest people in the city lived. The shoemakers were also in charge of sounding the alarm bell of the cathedral. These days you can find antiques stores and art galleries here as well as the exclusive restaurant Sir Anthony Van Dyck. The atmosphere is very intimate which is why many people also like to come here to listen to the carillon concerts during the summertime.
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Der Aa church
It may be hard to imagine because the Vismarkt is currently one of the busiest locations in Groningen, but it is believed that during the Middle Ages the Drentse Aa was an inland harbour here, with a wooden church. In 1226, the church received its official name: Kerk van Onze Lieve Vrouwe ter A, currently Der Aa church. Today it is used as a location for receptions, concerts, symposia and exhibitions.
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Kazerne Dossin
Kazerne Dossin is a very special place of remembrance for Belgium. As 'SS Sammellager Mecheln', the Dossin barracks was a waitingroom for death for more than 25,000 Jews and gypsies from Belgium and Northern France during the Second World War. A brand-new museum has been built to record the historical significance of this place for present and future generations and to illustrate themes like racism, exclusion and human rights. The combination of the human rights theme and the historical story of the Holocaust in Belgium makes Kazerne Dossin a project of European interest. The new museum was designed by leading architect and former Flemish Government Architect bOb Van Reeth.
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St Rumbolds Cathedral
St Rumbold's Cathedral was built in the thirteenth century. From the outset it was larger and more impressive than all the other parish churches and later on it became 'the church of the archbishops'. Originally there was a triple-nave cruciform church on the site of the vast cathedral. Only after a series of building campaigns did the church become a city's star attraction. The inside of the cathedral is breathtaking. You can admire Anthony van Dyck's painting 'Christ on the Cross', along with works by (among others) Michel Coxcie, Gaspard de Crayer and Abraham Janssens. The real showpiece, however, has to be the high altar by Lucas Faydherbe which dates from 1665.
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Saint Peter's Church
Saint Peter’s stands in the very centre of Leuven. It was built as a Romanesque church in 986, and it is therefore the oldest church in the city. In 1176, the building was ravaged by fire (probably for the first time), and two centuries later, part of the church again burned to the ground. In the 15th century, the Romanesque building was gradually taken down to make way for the Gothic church you see today. This process took more than a century. Over the last century, Saint Peter’s Church has undergone several extensive renovations, returning it to its full glory. That is why Saint Peter’s Church is now generally recognized as one of the finest examples of 15th-century Brabantine High Gothic architecture, and it is an unmissable tourist attraction in the city of Leuven.
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M-Museum Leuven
The museum displays old and new art inspired by Leuven’s versatility. The collection is mainly focused on the art production in Leuven and Brabant from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. It includes Constantin Meunier, Jef Lambeaux and Georges Minne. In addition to the permanent collection, M also presents temporary exhibitions of both old masters and contemporary artists. Discover the personalised offer for groups and families. The impressive architecture deserves special attention. Designed by Belgian top architect Stéphane Beel, the complex integrates historical buildings and contemporary architecture. Don’t miss the enclosed garden and roof terrace.
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Leuven Town Hall
The town hall is Leuven's pride and joy. Moreover, it's one of the best-known Gothic town halls worldwide. It took three architects and thirty years to build it. Leuven's 'Hall of Fame' features 236 statues, which were only added to the façade after 1850. These days the town hall merely has a ceremonial function after the city's administrative services moved in 2009. The tourist information center is situated on the side of the town hall. Also daily guided tours are available. The guide will tell you about the construction history of this Gothic gem. You will discover the story behind the 236 sculptures on the façade. Afterwards, you can visit the foyer, the reception rooms, the large and small Gothic Hall, the wedding hall and the council hall. Every third Saturday of the month you can visit the cellars under the town hall. These cellars have housed the ‘Jaartallen’ collection since the very first edition in 1890. The entrance is located at Grote Markt square next to the town hall’s flight of step.
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Dr Guislain Museum
The oldest mental asylum in Belgium, which dates back to 1857 is in Jozef Guislainstraat. Today it houses an absolutely fascinating museum. It was the visionary Dr Guislain who was one of the first to think of mentally ill people as patients with a right to humane treatment. The shame that was felt at the way psychiatric patients had been treated in the past was the impetus for founding the Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent in 1986. Dr Guislain Museum in Ghent aims to break down the many prejudices that still define what is ‘mentally ill’ and what is ‘normal’. Discover the permanent collection and find out about the history of psychiatry, as well as an international collection of outsider art or art brut. The temporary exhibitions are always great too.
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House of Alijn
The House of Alijn museum in Ghent puts the ordinary daily life of 20th-century people in the spotlight. This was once the ‘Children of Alijn hospice’. It is the only almshouse—a charitable institution where the old and sick were cared for—to have been preserved in Ghent. Traditions and rituals belong to the past and present. Daily routines and special events determine the rhythm of your life. During your weekend trip to Ghent, enjoy the customs, traditions and rituals at the House of Alijn museum that recall a recent or more distant past. Go ‘Back to the future’: rediscover your very first baby photos, marbles in the playground, your first love, the excitement of the summer holidays... The way we approach ‘occasions and emotions’ changes over time: it is both personal and universal. Find out that everyday life is anything but ordinary. Enjoy these collective memories in the lovely courtyard garden and a typical working-class pub. We recommend it!
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Castle of the Counts
A weekend trip to Ghent is simply not complete without a visit to the mysterious ‘Castle of the Counts’. This important sight in Ghent is a castle with a very turbulent past, closely intertwined with the complex—often stormy—political and social history of the city. It is the only remaining mediaeval castle with a moat and largely intact defence system in Flanders. Your visit to the Castle of the Counts will give you a complete picture of heraldic culture in the 12th century. The gatehouse, ramparts, keep, count’s residence and stables are open to visitors. The Castle of the Counts boasts a unique collection of torture equipment. What used to be the pantry now features the torture equipment, which is displayed in a suggestive executioner's cabinet. The former courtroom features the collection of judicial objects. The Castle of the Counts also hosts all kinds of cultural activities, events and activities, for example during the Ghent Festivities. It is also a popular place to get married for Ghent’s locals. Let’s not forget the time the Castle of the Counts was occupied by protesting students in 1949! Explore the castle during your weekend trip in Ghent and find out all about the ‘Battle of the Castle of the Counts’.
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Design Museum Gent
Wild about design? Be sure to visit the Design Museum Gent. A modern, open building lurks behind a magnificent 18th-century façade. This impressive city residence in Rococo style was bought by the City of Ghent in 1922 and used it to house the Design Museum. The temporary exhibitions complement the magnificent permanent collection, from art nouveau to trends in contemporary design. Even if you don’t need to go, the toilet enclosure at the museum is well worth a visit. The bathroom wing was built in defiance after Design Museum Gent kept being refused the funds for expansion by Ghent City Council. When it did get a permit for a huge monumental work of art, a huge toilet roll with toilets hidden inside it, a message was added with a double meaning: ‘de pot op’. Literally it means “go to the loo” but what the expression really means colloquially is “go to hell”, giving the figurative finger to Ghent City Council.
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St Bavos Cathedral
This magnificent sight on Sint-Baafsplein in Ghent is a proud old lady: don’t just walk past her on your city trip. St Bavo’s Cathedral is the oldest parish church in the lively heart of Ghent. It stands on the site of a 10th century church and a 12th century Romanesque church. The latter was dedicated to St John the Baptist. In the Middle Ages, Ghent was a rich and powerful city that had the means to commission ever-larger and more opulent churches. So the Church of St John the Baptist was converted during the 15th and 16th centuries into the imposing Gothic St Bavo’s Cathedral. St Bavo’s Cathedral has a rich history and it is also filled with art treasures that make many an art-lover’s mouth water: from the baroque high altar in white, black and red flamed marble, the Rococo pulpit in oak, gilded wood and marble, to a masterpiece by Rubens: Saint Bavo enters the Convent at Ghent, and the Calvary Triptych by Justus van Gent, the Gothic chandelier/sanctuary lamp, the opulent tombs of the Bishops of Ghent – and of course the world-famous Mystic Lamb.
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Ghent Belfry
Look up at the magical city skyline for a moment during your weekend trip in Ghent: you can’t miss it. The Belfry is the middle tower in the famous row of three, between St Bavo’s Cathedral and St Nicholas’ Church. A fiery dragon, the proud symbol and mascot of Ghent, guards the historic heart of the city. The Ghent Belfry symbolises the city’s prosperity and independence. The Cloth Hall, built onto the Belfry, was completed in 1907. The flamboyant Brabant Gothic style of the Cloth Hall is an ode to the industry to which Ghent owes so much. On the corner of the Cloth Hall is an old jailer’s house. Every Sunday morning you can hear the carillonneur at work between 11 am and 12 noon. And you can enjoy a carillon concert on the first Friday of each month from 8 to 9 pm. In the summer months, the concert takes place every Saturday night!
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St Nicholas' Church
This church in Tournai bluestone is one of the most beautiful examples of the Scheldt Gothic style. One of its unique elements is that the tower is not above the entrance but above the crossing of the nave and transepts. It functions as a sort of natural lantern as the light shines into the transept from the tower.
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Museum of Fine Arts Ghent
The strength of the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) in Ghent, one of the oldest museums in Belgium, lies in the varied nature of its collection, which is nothing short of remarkable. Never before have old masters and modernists hung side-by-side so perfectly as in this iconic museum building. At the end of the 18th century, Ghent was under French rule and many of the city’s art treasures were seized. Some of them can still be seen in the Louvre in Paris today. Rebellious Ghent wasn’t having any of it and slowly began to establish a wide-ranging art collection, searching for years to find an appropriate building. The ideal location was found in the building designed by the architect Van Rysselberghe in the Citadelpark, a museum with a fantastic feeling of spaciousness and a lot of light. The collection, which ranges from Hieronymus Bosch to Rubens and Magritte, has never been shown more attractively than it is today. It covers an enormous variety of paintings, statues, drawings, etchings and tapestries, from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. An auditorium, a library, a children’s workshop and a brasserie turn the MSK into a contemporary, multipurpose complex where you can spend many a pleasant hour surrounded by beauty during your weekend trip to Ghent. Why not take a virtual peek inside the MSK now?
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SMAK Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art
Lovers of contemporary art absolutely can’t afford to miss a visit to the S.M.A.K. during their weekend in Ghent. The Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, or S.M.A.K. for short (in Dutch), was founded in 1999 and is located opposite the MSK in a former casino building. The city of Ghent is known for its rebelliousness, and its contemporary art museum is every bit as dynamic and unconventional as Ghent itself. The collection is considered to be the most important collection of contemporary art in Flanders, with world-famous works of art from Belgium and abroad. Every four months, the museum exhibits a selection of these works in alternation with original, often daring exhibitions. Recover at leisure from the assault on your senses in the museum café. Under the inspiring leadership of the controversial curator and ‘art pope’ Jan Hoet, the former ‘contemporary art wing’ of the MSK was given its own museum, the S.M.A.K. The permanent collection at this museum for contemporary art includes top Belgian and international works of art by Cobra, pop art, minimal art, conceptual art and arte povera artists, who are now among the most famous artists in the world.
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Rheydt House
A trip to Mönchengladbach would not be complete without a visit to Rheydt House, the beautifully preserved Renaissance palace.
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Wickrath Palace
The Wickrath Palace, which is surrounded by a lake and romantic parklands close to the river Niers.
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Windmills of Bruges
One of the best thing you can do in Bruges is to take a beautiful short walk along the ramparts with its windmills. It is nearby the city center, so after discovering shopping places, beers and coffees, this is a great opportunity to escape from the busy city life for a moment. Belgium has a rich mill history. If you check a map of Bruges from the 16th century, you can see there were no less than 23 windmills here! They were part of the town walls since the end of 13th century. Nowadays, there are four remaining mills between the Dampoort and the Kruispoort: Koeleweimill, Nieuwe Papegaai, Sint-Janshuismill and Bonne Chiere.