Western Europe #08 Amsterdam part 2

August 06, 2019  •  1 Comment


Western Europe #08 Amsterdam Part 2

This is installment 8 of a trip we took through Northwestern Europe in August of 2018.  This edition is part 2 for the city of Amsterdam. 

Full Trip Map
01 Map Full Combined01 Map Full Combined

Where we wandered in Amsterdam
02 Map Blog #7 Amsterdam02 Map Blog #7 Amsterdam


Our hotel was on the block right next to the Museum Plein park where the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum museums are as well as one of the more popular “I Amsterdam” signs is located.  It is also just a few blocks from the large Vondelpark which is a 120 acre city park with lakes and ponds and meandering pathways. 

So, let’s start with the Vondelpark.  Like Central Park in New York and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Vondelpark is a large city park great for meandering, biking or to have a picnic.  Among other attractions is an open-air theatre, a playground and several food service facilities. It’s also a wonderful people watching location.  It was opened in 1865 and originally named Nieuwe Park (meaning “New Park” in English) but later, when it was no longer “new”, it was renamed to Vondelpark, after the 17th-century playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel.

People enjoying a day in the park
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The second park that was nearby was the Museum Plein Park, a block from our hotel.  The area of the park was originally a wax candle factory and marshy meadows.  After the completion of the Rijksmuseum museum in 1885 they started construction on the park adjoining the museum property but before that, in 1883 the area hosted the International Colonial and Export Exhibition.   In 1999 the park was redone and now includes underground parking and an underground supermarket. In the winter, the pond becomes ice skating rink. 

But, most famously the park hosts the most photographed iteration of the "I Amsterdam" sculpture/sign which was erected in 2004 in support of a major “visit Amsterdam” campaign.  This marketing campaign was immensely successful.  In fact it was too successful as Amsterdam became overrun with tourists.  Due to the onslaught of tourists the City Council shut down the campaign in an effort to actually discourage visitors from coming and had the “I Amsterdam” sign removed in December 2018 to reduce overcrowding from the “selfie” crowd and as the sign seemed contrary to the image the city was trying to convey.  I don’t have a photo of the sign, but I am sure you seen it before.

We had many occasions to walk through this park on our way to various attractions and on one of those times we encountered the “bubble man” entertaining throngs of kids.  He had a couple of sticks connected with 2 cords and each cord had loops tied on so that with one dip he could produce a prodigious number of bubbles to everyone’s delight.

That’s a lot of bubbles
Amsterdam Bubble ManAmsterdam Bubble Man

Kids and bubbles
Attacked by BubblesAttacked by Bubbles

Another park we visited (this one for a fee) was the Amsterdam Botanical Gardens (Hortus Botanicus).  This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world established in 1638 as an herb garden with medical plants for local doctors and pharmacists.  One impetus for creating a medicinal herb garden was that a Plague epidemic was rampant in other nearby cities and they needed a place to grow the herbs thought to help victims.  By the second half of the 17th century the garden had a rich collection of plants completely unknown in Europe. They were brought here from all over the world by the traders of the Dutch East India Company.

Today, it has more than 6 000 different plants. Some of the plants are quite unique like a 2000 year old agave cactus and a 300-year-old Eastern Kape Giant Cycad.  The recent addition of a big new hothouse creates conditions for three different tropical climates.  The garden is a quiet and relaxing place to visit on a warm afternoon and is typically not overrun by tourists.

Amsterdam Botanical Garden
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Victoria Waterlily
Victoria Water LilyVictoria Water Lily

Flower Market

On one of our days in Amsterdam, we decided to head over to the Portuguese Synagogue in what had been the Jewish section of town.  But rather than just head straight there on a bus or tram we decided to wander through the flower market on the way so took the tram by our hotel down to the canal where the flower market is.  In August, the tulips are not blooming so the market was not as colorful as it is in the spring.  But we wandered through some stalls selling every conceivable color and variety of tulip bulb.  So, of course we purchased some.  One has to be a bit careful though.  Only certain ones are packaged for entry to the USA and without that packaging your bulbs will not make it through customs.

Bulbs for sale in the flower market
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Munttoren Tower

As we continued we encountered the Munttoren (mint tower).  It was once part of the Regulierspoort which consisted of a gate with a tower on each side and was built between 1480 and 1487 as part of the medieval city wall. Back in the 17th century, the tower was used to mint coins.  However, after a fire in 1618, only the guard house and part of the western tower remained. The Munttoren was rebuilt in Amsterdam Renaissance style around 1620. The carillon consists of 38 bells that chime every 15 minutes.

Nybttoren Tower
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Zuiderkerk church

Not too much further on our walk we spied another wonderful tower planted right at the end of a minor canal but it was on the opposite side of a major canal.  So, we had to first find our way across the major canal, then across a minor canal and then find a bridge over the target canal to photograph from.  It turned out to be well worth the effort.  The tower turned out to belong to the Zuiderkerk church built in the 17th-century. The church played an important part in the life of Rembrandt and was the subject of a painting by Claude Monet.  The Zuiderkerk was the city's first church built specifically for Protestant services.

Zuiderkerk church
Zuiderkerk church AmsterdamZuiderkerk church Amsterdam

Portuguese Synagogue

So, on we went crossing canals, admiring old buildings, wondering about the purpose of various moored canal boats and dodging bicycles.  But eventually we arrived that the Portuguese Synagogue. 

The Portuguese Synagogue which is also known as the Esnoga, or (wait for it) Snoge (isn’t that a great word?).  It is a late 17th-century Sephardic synagogue completed in 1675.  Esnoga is the word for synagogue in Ladino, the traditional Judaeo-Spanish language of Sephardic Jews.  The Amsterdam Sephardic community was one of the largest and richest Jewish communities in Europe during the Dutch Golden Age, and their very large synagogue reflected this. The synagogue remains an active place of worship and of course is also a popular tourist attraction.

Many Jews came to Amsterdam after escaping persecution and execution in the periods leading up to and including the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions.  This group was known as the "first modern Jews" because they were the first to distinguish between religious and secular spheres of their individual and collective lives. 

The building is quite interesting.  It was built in 1671-1675 and has an outer wall to shield it from the city and then has a massive temple just inside these walls.  It is still in use today and has kept the old ways.  No electricity, women seated upstairs separate from the men, etc.  The main room is lit by 1,000 candles during services, most of which are placed in 3 massive chandeliers.  It takes a crew many hours just to light all those candles

Portuguese Synagogue
Portugese synagoge, Amsterdam, NetherlandsPortugese synagoge, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Portuguese Synagogue
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Portuguese Synagogue lighting system
Candle, Portugese Synagoge, AmsterdamCandle, Portugese Synagoge, Amsterdam

Around town

In our wanderings around town we happened upon many other interesting things in this beautiful city.  In addition to a few whose photos I’m including below, we visited:

  • Joods Historisch Museum  across the street from the Portuguese Synagogue which presents the history of Jews in Amsterdam
  • Cruised by the old market square on our city canal tour
  • Visited the Van Loon Museum which was the family home of the fellow who founded the Dutch East India Company in 1602,
  • A stroll through a corner of the mobbed Red Light District

Below are some other sights we encountered on our excursions through the city

Modest Hotel by a canal
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Typical Street Scene
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Quite interesting facade
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Rare case where buildings are right at the edge of a canal
Amsterdam canal and buildingsAmsterdam canal and buildings

Pub near Red Light District
The Grasshopper RestaurantThe Grasshopper Restaurant


I hope you enjoyed reading about the Amsterdam leg of our NW Europe trip, Please check out my other travel blogs under the “Blogs” menu item at www.DanHartfordPhoto.com .


This blog is posted at: 


Or, this whole series at:


These and other Images of this trip are posted in a Gallery on my website. 

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/nw-europe-2018-08  (all images)

          https://www.danhartfordphoto.com/nw-europe-favs-2018-08  (subset of images)

Thanks for reading – Dan


(All images by Dan Hartford.  Info from Wikipedia, other web sources, and pamphlets gathered at various locations along the way).


I’d like to thank Chris Page of Amsterdam Photo Tours who provided a private dusk-night custom photo tour of Amsterdam for us.  Many of the dusk and night shots from my 2 Amsterdam blogs were shot from places Chris led us to and that we might not have found on our own.  You can find info about his tours here http://www.amsterdamphotosafari.com/



Bonnie Pache(non-registered)
Hi Dan and Ellen.....Really enjoyed seeing your pictures from Amsterdam, especially since my granddaughter Elizabeth, loved that city on her recent visit. She had many similar pictures, and her favorite site was the Van Gogh museum. As always, your pictures are beautiful, and your commentary is very helpful. It almost makes you feel as if you are right there enjoying it with you.
We really enjoyed our recent visit with you two while you were visiting Denver. Hope your time here was much fun with your two little grandsons in tow. Fun times for Grandma and Grandpa.! Thanks again for the great pictures.....Great to see you!
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