Visiting the Damrak, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: water and land juxtaposed

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Damrak, and the rear of Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam
Damrak, and the rear of Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam | Source

Fluid concepts

If a visitor to The Netherlands has been to Amsterdam — especially to Downtown Amsterdam — chances are that he or she has seen the Damrak.

So what is the Damrak?

Well, this is a good question. Some local citizens may respond that it is a street. Others will assert that it is a canal, or a sort of canal, which, although it does not particularly seem to lead anywhere, is a prominent expanse of water in the Downtown area.

Both these assertions would be accurate.

As a canal, or rather, a former canal (since it has been partially filled in) it is a sight, facing picturesque gables tall buildings, with which generations of visitors by rail to Amsterdam are familiar, given its proximity to the Amsterdam's Central Station (Dutch: Station Amsterdam-Centraal). Interestingly, the familiar buildings (see main photo, above) overlooking the Damrak are actually the rear side of a row of buildings on Warmoesstraat, but they are an example of structures which are possibly more well known for their rear sides than their frontages. (Also visible in the main photo, above, is a famous landmark of the city, the Oude Kerk.)

And then the Damrak is also a street which basically connects the Central Station with Amsterdam's famous Dam, with its National Monument and Royal Palace. (I have included a photo, below, of bicycle taxi drivers on the Damrak, near Dam Square, with the Central Station visible in the far background.)

So it's a street, but not only a street; a canal also, but maybe not really a canal; more accurately a former canal, but still famous enough for canal boats to take visitors there and to make the rear of local buildings more famous than their frontages.

Such is the power of the juxtaposition of water and land. What the Damrak is, may be subject to nuances and debate; what the Damrak represents is arguably an intriguing and fluid (pardon the pun) expression of this quintessentially Dutch juxtaposition.

August 8, 2013

Map location of Amsterdam municipality
Map location of Amsterdam municipality | Source

Also worth seeing

In Amsterdam itself, the Royal Palace on the Dam and the nearby Nieuwe Kerk, are major landmarks, as is the Munt tower. The poignant Anne Frank House attracts many visitors.

Utrecht (distance: 44 kilometres) is especially famus for its tall Cathedral tower.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam-Schipol Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services between Amsterdam-Schipol and the Central Railroad Station in Downtown Amsterdam . There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

 Amsterdam bicycle taxi drivers on the Damrak, near Dam Square
Amsterdam bicycle taxi drivers on the Damrak, near Dam Square | Source

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