Bridges of Amsterdam
With its network of more than 100km of canals, it’s no surprise that Amsterdam has become renowned as the City of Bridges. Linking the city’s distinct neighbourhoods through an intricate, slowly evolving web, these structures – some of which date back more than 350 years – help bicycles, scooters, locals, tourists, cars, horses, cats and dogs across its roads and over its waters.
This website is a celebration of the hundreds of bridges that help define street-level Amsterdam. It’s intended to be a useful source of information that relates not only to the bridges themselves, but also one that shows how a simple bridge can be inseparably tied to a city’s past, present and future.
Mapping the bridges
In our effort to create an accurate and comprehensive guide to the Bridges of Amsterdam, a decision had to be made on which bridges to include. According to the local tourist board, Amsterdam has more than 1,200 bridges crossing the city’s many roads, canals and waterways.
Agreeing that most people’s interest would be focused on the Amsterdam’s historic centre and its immediate outskirts, we decided that the catchment area would be roughly 8.5km². The long Singelgracht canal, which traces a line around the old 17th century city wall, acts as the western and southern border.
To the east and north, the cut-off point is marked by Amsterdam’s primary train line as it sweeps around to the Ij and Centraal Station. The Westelijke Eilanden development marks the northwestern boundary.
In total, the area selected for our ongoing study features more than 270 bridges – from the Nine Streets to the Nassaukade.
Aside from a handful of minor structures, culverts and walkways, each one of Amsterdam’s bridges carries an official number. Many are operated by the Department of Infrastructure and a handful are privately owned. Some are classed as city monuments.
If you take a trip across Amsterdam (best by boat), it soon becomes apparent that many of the city’s bridges bear their official number. This is typically in white paint but – and this is often the case with Amsterdam’s more modern bridges – sometimes their numbers are integrated into the facade itself.
The local authority’s diligent demarcation of Amsterdam’s bridges makes it easy to identify the structures. But as useful as this labelling might be, the same cannot be said for the spread of bridge numbers across the city’s profile.
Things start off simple: Bridge 1 (Muntsluis) is pinned to the central point in Amsterdam’s web-like canal network, and from here the bridge numbers increase consecutively as we swoop up Singel, around Herengracht and back up Keizersgracht, before finishing with a loop around Prinsengraght.
However, from this point, on the banks of the River Amstel at Bridge 77, the bridge numbers explode across the city in a seemingly arbitrary, haphazard way.
The illogical scattering of bridge numbers across Amsterdam – which can be clearly seen on our Map – prompted our decision to take a nonconsecutive approach to this project and slowly build up a working database of bridge profiles over time.
Amsterdam is perhaps most famous for its historic bridges, paricularly those around the Nine Streets, the Jordaan, Reguliersgracht and other central districts, but the city is also home to dozens of interesting modern bridges, many of which are higher up the number list.
In taking this scattergun approach and studying the Bridges of Amsterdam in nonconsecutive order, it is hoped that we will be able to more effectively compare and contrast the city’s many different bridge styles, from the 15th century to present day…