This May I had to travel to Amsterdam for work for a full week. Having only seen the airport previously, I took the chance to stay over the weekend and spend some time exploring the city. It’s definitely an interesting place with a lot of photo opportunities. I spent 2,5 days exploring the city, largely by foot (I walked almost 70 kilometres). Unfortunately I caught a bad cold early during my stay, so I spent most evenings in bed after work. If I were to compare it to other cities, I’d probably characterise it as a mix between London, Paris and Venezia, although I think it takes more time to truly understand the lifestyle of a place.
Below is a collection of photos from the trip. I’ll point out a few spots that are specifically interesting from a photography perspective, hopefully this may be valuable for others looking for some inspiration before a trip to Amsterdam.
This was taken on the Rembrandtplein, which is full of restaurants and cafes that allow for nice street photography.
Chess is just one of the many activities you can spot people engaged in on one of the public spots in the city. This was taken on the Max Euweplein.
Many of the houses in the city sport beautiful brick facades.
There are various shops selling questionable items in Amsterdam, some with more obvious names than others.
Canals and Bikes
Bringing together the two most distinct aspects of the city.
The canals are frequented by boats of various sizes and purposes, some for tourists, some you can have dinner on and others for transport and and logistics. There are also a few thousand house boats anchored to the sides of the canals.
Walking Along the Canals
There are probably hundreds of waterfront walkways along the canals, which all spot slightly different scenery.
Lock it Down
I've heard from a few people that you cannot leave your bikes unattended for even a minute. Looks like the same is true for tables.
I have the impression I've seen and heard this guy singing more than once - but I cannot recall where it may have been.
Parking your bikes can be difficult when the city has more bikes than people. This person got creative.
Canals at Night
Some of the canal bridges have decorative lights on them - those make for great photography and I spent a lot of time on the corner of Keizersgracht and Reguliersgracht canals, which is probably one of the best spots. You can also see some of the crooked houses on the corner, stemming from the shifting sand foundations.
I stumped upon a small market, were many of the things the Netherlands are famous for were on sale. This fellow proudly displayed an award for his cheese on his stand - it did taste amazing.
The I amsterdam sign in front of the Reijksmuseum is a popular photo spot. Unfortunately I didn't manage to go there early morning when it's not crowded.
The Reijksmuseum underpass
The tunnel below the Reijksmuseum for pedestrians and bikes is perfect to spend a few hours to catch the combination of architecture, people and bikes.
The acoustics in the underpass make some performances even more compelling - this musician was very into his violin.
The Reijksmuseum against the sun.
In Germany, Dutch people are notorious for clogging up the Autobahn with their caravans. This one at least comes with some nostalgic flair.
The Apple Store
It's often worthwhile visiting the Apple Store as they are usually set in beautiful buildings. Amsterdam's is no exception.
Definitely a place I enjoyed.
Van Gogh's words
I heard the van Gogh museum is worth to see, but unfortunately it was incredibly busy, so I skipped it.
On the weekend, some of Amsterdam's streets feel quite busy and crowded, with a mix of cars, bikes, trams and pedestrians all getting along quite well.
A strange encounter in front of the Palais op de Dam
People seem to enjoy feeding birds.
One of the nicest photo spots of the houses along the canal is from the bridge near the Central Station.
The Central Station. The most interesting part for me was that this is where the coast used to be - now the landscape looks quite different.
Bikes and Bikes
There is a huge bike parking building near the Central station. I'd imagine it holds thousands of bikes.
The Central Station from further away.
A Common Sight
Bachelor & Bachelorette parties are a common sight in the city, especially the closer you get to nightlife district.
Someone enjoyed putting up this creepy mask outside their window, overlooking the bustling tourists below.
Canal & Church
This spot on the Groenburgwal is probably one of the nicest bridges to take photos from. I think the best time may be in the morning - this was taken on a late afternoon.
Another view from the same spot, showing a part of the suspension bridge with the love locks as well. Apparently a local has decided to paint the locks green to cover them up. Ultimately, it may face the same fate as some of the famous bridges in Paris, which had to be closed down and renovated since they could no longer take the weight of the locks.
Fun with Bubbles
A group of kids were making huge soap bubbles in front of the Reijksmuseum. Of course I could not miss out on that.
I'd never pass on a good cat shot.
Teslas and more Teslas
I've never seen so many Teslas and generally electric cars in one city. I've been told it's due to very high government subsidies, combined with plenty of charging stations all over the city.
The only natural canal in Amsterdam is actually a river - the Amstel. Here is a few looking west from one of the bridges. You can see the house boats to the left and right.
A Late Afternoon
While I didn't get a really good sunset, there were a few moments with nice light. This is one of them. It's been great to be back in Europe during the summer, where the sun doesn't set before 9pm.
Parking in Amsterdam brings a whole lot more risk with it than just scratching your rims on the curb.
Probably my favourite shot of the visit. The gloomy light combined with the long exposure and the colourful streaks of the ship do it for me.
Canals at Night with Ship
Another shot of the same bridge, with a ship just passing through during dusk. Long exposures with an ND filter and closed Aperture work well here.
Churches are usually a favourite subject of mine. I wasn't particularly lucky on this trip though. Of the 3 churches I wanted to visit, one was closed and two under renovation.
Exhibition in a Church
Luckily though, one of the cathedrals under renovation, the Nieuwe Kerk, was repurposed for the 2015 World Press Photo exhibition, which I gladly attended.
World Press Photo
The exhibition wasn't particularly stunning though, but of course it did trigger some photographic inspiration.
Saxophone on the Bridge
I usually make sure I have a couple of coins with me to so that whenever I find interesting musicians or other street artists I'd like to photograph I have a way to entice them to pose.
While this looks like out of a history museum, it seems to be an actual office in the Oude Kerk.
Another church under renovation when I was there, but still fairly stunning, is the Oude Kerk. It's Amsterdam's oldest church at over 800 years and literally in the middle of the red light district.
Oude Kerk Roof
The combination of wood, glass and stone makes this church particularly interesting and somewhat unique.
Coffe Place in the Oude Kerk
On the way out of the church you walk through an interesting coffee place, which uses one of the old private rooms.
Of course there was no way around a boat tour. I chose not to take the big tourist ships, but a smaller boat with only 6 other people. Our guide Albert was very informative and had a lot of knowledge to share.
A different kind of balcony. While you might feel a bit exposed sitting here, I've been told Amsterdam's people are fairly liberal in keeping their curtains open.
It follows you everywhere.
According to our captain, a lot of people still use the canals for transportation, although most of the traffic is now recreational.
The 7 Bridges
There is a particular spot on the Herengracht canal where you can see 7 bridges in a row from the right angle. I only managed 6 of them, but it's still fairly neat.
The Victoria Hotel
Legend has it (so our captain says) that the small building squeezed in between the walls of the Victoria Hotel is owned by locals who were under the impression their property's value would rise astronomically when plans to build a hotel on the plots around them were announced. Hence, they asked an unreasonable sum from the hotel investors, who decided to simple construct around the existing building instead of giving in to the owner's demands.
The Crooked Houses
Apparently this row of houses is the most crooked in Amsterdam. The foundations - while very deep - are built in sand which shifts over the years, resulting in buildings starting to lean.
Hooks on the Roof
Most buildings along the canal have hooks at the top. Since the use of space was very important, hallways and staircases in the houses are very narrow. To be able to equip their homes with large pieces of furniture, owners started to build hooks at the top so that anything oversized could be lifted up through the window.
The Tram Rushes by
While not particularly cheap, Amsterdam's tram system is extensive and a very good way to explore the city.
Tram At Night
Most of the trains are quite modern and move at reasonable speed.
There are beautiful spots to take photos of the canals all around the city.
Nightly Canals again
Did I mention the canals make for gorgeous photo scenery?
It's not just the small bridges with their semi-circles that make the canals pleasant to look at. The Amstel also has a number of larger suspension bridges which are illuminated at night.