7 bridges? 15 bridges? More? Fewer?
Amsterdam is sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North.” That’s because the city is criss-crossed by 165 canals, creating hundreds of small ‘islands’ that are connected by well over 1900 bridges.
Many tourist guides and travel websites claim there is even a spot in the center of Amsterdam from which you can see 15 bridges at once!
However, that is an urban legend of sorts. Or rather, it’s a half-truth at best.
Mind you, it is a great spot to visit, and you do get to see many bridges. It’s just that there is a catch most websites and guidebooks don’t mention. More about that in a moment.
Map: 15 Bridges viewpoint
How to get to the ’15 Bridges Spot’
The easiest way to get here is to head for Rembrandtplein.
Yes, there’s a statue of Rembrandt, and yes, he is surrounded by a collection of more-or-less gaudy statues meant to depict the Night Watch. These statues are in turn surrounded by hordes of tourists. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to try and take a photo of Rembrandt and the other statues without including any tourists.
Now walk to Thorbeckeplein. When you face Rembrandt — and the Booking.com logo in the distance — Thorbeckeplein is behind you and to the right.
By the way: Drinks at any of the pubs lining these squares are consistently among the most expensive in the Netherlands. Keep your money in your pocket for when you encounter neighborhood cafés and restaurants — such as the ones at nearby Amstelveld.
Thorbecke — and why you want to take a photo of his statue
At Thorbeckeplein head for the statue, at the far end.
Johan Rudolf Thorbecke ( Dutch Statesman, January 14, 1789 — June 4, 2872) had a liberal bent. As Wikipedia explains, he was “one of the most important Dutch politicians of the 19th century. In 1848, he virtually single-handedly drafted the revision of the Constitution of the Netherlands, giving less power to the king and more to the States General, and guaranteeing more religious, personal and political freedom to the people.”
So it’s quite fitting that a statue of Thorbecke is located in the center of liberal, tolerant Amsterdam. Do take a photo. It will impress the folks back home.
That said, the story goes that the statue once had Thorbecke staring across the square — as you’d expect. However, when the square became home to an increasing number of more-or-less ‘salacious’ night entertainment spots, the city turned the statue around so the Statesman would be staring across the canals instead.
As far as we can determine that’s an urban legend as well.
Seven Bridges Amsterdam
Anyway, now turn your back to the statue. Look across the Herengracht canal straight down the Reguliersgracht.
That canal is crossed by seven bridges. The claim goes that you can see these bridges lined up. They would then make up 7 of the 15 bridges in total you’re supposed to be able to see at this point.
Here’s the catch: In order to see the bridges of Reguliersgracht line up, you’d have to be on stilts (or perhaps, like the statue behind you, on a pedestal).
But notice the steady parade of tour boats sailing by. They all slow down here, because from their vantage point just above the water, their passengers do see the 7 bridges all lined up. 1
It helps if the weather is clear. By the way, at night the bridges are illuminated — a magical, romantic sight. Understandably, this is one of Amsterdam’s most photographed spots.
Video: Seven Bridges of Reguliersgracht
The other bridges
Next, looking down the Herengracht to the left, where you can supposedly see another 6 bridges. That makes 13.
Finally, to your right, two more bridges are said to be visible for a total of 15 bridges.
That’s the official story, anyway. Or one of the stories, because there are several versions and inconsistencies. Read on below the photo:
‘Bridge of 15 Bridges’?
As mentioned, you can only see all seven bridges of Reguliersgracht lined up under specific circumstances.
When you stand in that spot, there is a bridge to your immediate left. (Incidentally, most Amsterdammers won’t be able to tell you the name or number of that bridge. Bridge number 32 is called ‘Kaassluis‘ — literally, ‘cheese lock.’ Earlier it was known as Kaasmarktsluis, in reference to the cheese market that used to be held at the square behind you. A butter market was held at the square adjacent to it. In 1876 both squares were renamed, as Thorbeckeplein and Rembrandtplein respectively).
Some travel guides and tourist information websites refer to this bridge as the ‘Bridge of 15 bridges.’ And some say that bridge, Kaassluis, is itself the 15th bridge.
Thing is, if you stand on Kaassluis, you will still not be able to see all seven bridges across Reguliersgracht. The line of sight just does not allow for it. Even if it would have, the trees along the canal line up in such as way as to block your view.
And here’s something odd: a number of guides claim Reguliersgracht only has 6 bridges. Clearly, that is not the case. 3
So why should I visit this place?
It’s a nice place from which to start a walk down Reguliersgracht to Amstelveld — for brunch, lunch, or the flower- and plant market. You’ve to plenty of choices from there on out.
Face it: you’re in a historic area, surrounded by 17th, 18th, and 19th century monuments — buildings with a rich history. The canal belt is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There’s plenty to see and do. You won’t be bored.
Gracht is canal. This canal is named after the Reguliers monastery that from 1394 through 1592 stood just outside the city limits. The Reguliersklooster was approximately at the current intersection of Keizersgracht and Utrechtsestraat.
This monastery was home to ‘canons regular’ (Dutch: reguliere kanunnik) — a canon being a type of priest in the Catholic Church. Canons live in community under a rule (Latin: regula).
Many street names in the neighborhood remind us of the reguliers. And Rembrandtplein started life as Reguliersplein. But even most Amsterdammers don’t know that the nearby Munttoren was once part of the Regulierspoort (gate), in its time one of the three major gates in the city’s medieval city wall.
Where to go next
Regardless of exactly how many bridges you can spot from here, you can walk in any direction to serendipitously discover more of Amsterdam.
Reguliersgracht and Amstelveld
Our suggestion is that you walk along the picturesque Reguliersgracht. Stop over at the huge Amstelveld square, where you can enjoy food and drink (and one of Amsterdam’s best terraces) at Brasserie Nel (€€) or at Café Marcella (€).
The brasserie is located in a pinewood building that was erected in 1668 as a makeshift church, the Amstelkerk. Want more history? During the French occupation Napoleon used the building as a stable for his horses. On Sunday June 3, 1877 Vincent van Gogh heard his uncle Johannes Paulus Stricker deliver a sermon at the Amstelkerk.
Every Monday from March through October there is a flower- and plant market at the square — 9:00 – 15:00 (9 AM – 3 PM). It is 100% more enjoyable than the floating flower market tourist trap on the Singel canal.
After brunch or lunch, continue down Reguliersgracht till the final bridge. Turn right onto Lijnbaansgracht. At the end you’ll find Metro Station Vijzelgracht, from which you can further explore the city.
Alternatively, check out the houseboats on Prinsengracht, which borders Amstelveld. Walk East along the Prinsengracht to the river Amstel, or to Utrechtsestraat, where you’ll find many shops and eateries.
Museum of Bags and Purses
Just a few houses east of the 15 bridges spot you’ll find the Museum of Bags and Purses. It is one of the eight most important fashion museums in the world. Not only will you get to see the world’s largest collection of handbags, but the museum is housed in a 17th century former mayor’s canalside residence.
A visit takes only about an hour, but there’s also a nice café offering sandwiches, soups, salads and delicious cakes.
- You’ll often see private and commercial vessels jockeying for the best position. During peak hours in the busy summer months July and August some 120 boats a day pass this spot. According to Nota Varen Deel 1 2019 — a report by the municipality of Amsterdam detailing the effects of growing tourism on the city’s canals — during those months 8-10 (near) collisions a day occur here. ↩
- Also, cruise boats come in many versions. If possible, make sure you sit next to a window that opens, or select a boat with an open area. ↩
- You can count the number of bridges on OpenStreetMap, starting at Tante Saarbrug in the middle of the screen. ↩
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