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Spectacular panoramic views of Amsterdam

If you’re visiting Amsterdam right now — or at least any time before September 6, 2015 — you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to bring home some unique, panoramis photos of the city.

But in order to do so you will have to ascend a challenging set of stairs to a temporary terrace on top of the Old Church in the Red Light District.

It’s quite a climb, but you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views across the entire city.

bids' eye view of amsterdam

A view across the rooftops of Amsterdam — from the former stock market on the left to the Basilica of St. Nicholas across from Central Station.

The platform is an art installation.

Officially titled, “The Garden Which is Nearest to God,” the project is the work of Japanese artist Taturo Atzu (formerly known as Tatzu Nishi, Tatsuro Bashin, Tazro Niscino, and TatzuOozu).

He specializes in ‘art’ that allows people to access areas normally closed to the public — in this case to one of the largest roof surfaces in Europe, which graces the oldest building in Amsterdam.

panorama deck

Taturo Atzu’s panorama terrace atop the Old Church in Amsterdam

Needless to say, Atzu’s projects are controversial.

Defacing a beautiful, 800-year old building like the Oude Kerk with construction scaffolding and a rather minimalist (dare I say ugly? yes!) observation platform isn’t my idea of art either.

In fact, this is the kind of surrealistic art I dislike with a passion.

But there I was, on a beautiful summer day. I had just discovered that my favorite chocolate supplier, Puccini Bomboni, had closed its shop in a lean-to at the Old Church.1

So I had a fantastic espresso at Quartier Putain, just around the corner. (If you know French, you’ll appreciate just how appropriate the name is for a business located in this area).

Quartier Putain coffee

Looking down at Quartier Putain, which serves ‘Top Notch’ coffee in Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Looking up at the church, I could see the ugly terrace, and on a whim I decided to go and take a look.

The scaffolding stairs are at the corner closest to the bridge across the Oudezijds voorbugwal canal, but the tickets — at €10 per person — must be bought at the entrance to the church, about 30 meters further.

“Do you know where to start climbing?” the lady at the register asked while handing me my ticket.

“Sure,” I said, “At the bottom.”

scaffolding Taturo Atzu

You’re in for quite a climb, but the views are worth the effort

panoramic view of downtown Amsterdam

Looking across the Red Light District to Amsterdam Central Station

Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal

A rooftop view of Oudezijds Voorburgwal.

rosse buurt Amsterdam

Looking East across the Red Light District.

By the way, I lived and worked in this neighborhood for five years back in the Seventies — at a Christian Youth Hostel, by the way.

At that time, the Red Light District was still very much controlled by all manner of small- and big time crooks. Police did not really have a grip on the situation.

There were lots of fights, and a lot of crime — not to mention the fact that the area was overrun by drug dealers and junkies.

Nowadays the district is the focus of an intensive clean-up plan titled Project 1012, after the postal code for the center of Amsterdam.

The project is controversial for reasons I won’t go into right now.

But I will mention this: compared to the mid-Seventies, this famous/infamous district currently looks and ‘feels’ more like Disneyland than like the ‘seedy’ area some travel writers like to describe.

How to get to Oude Kerk (Old Church)

Oude Kerk
Oudekerksplein 23



This map show walking routes to Oude Kerk from Central Station, Dam Square or Nieuwmarkt.

Looking for something to do before or after your visit to the Oude Kerk? Check out nearby Nieuwmarkt!


  1. Puccini Bomboni has two other locations in town, so not all is lost.
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This post was last updated: Jan. 2, 2017