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  • The cream front cover of Amsterdam features two photographs and a painting.
  • A double-page spread from Amsterdam by Jan den Hengst and Jacques Constant illustrates the Commodities Exchange and the Stock Exchange.
  • On this double-page spread from Amsterdam by Jan den Hengst and Jacques Constant are some of Amsterdam’s most historic hotels.
  • A double-page spread on the Rijksuseum includes works by Dutch, including Rembrandt, who altered the western canon with works like Night Watch.
  • Images of the ING Bank HQ in Amsterdam by Jan den Hengst and Jacques Constant.


Portrait of a City


With more than 150 photographs, this guide provides both a literal and figurative portrait of Amsterdam. The pictures show the sights. The text paints in the background and captures the spirit of the city. Use the book as a preview and, when you have decided what to see, turn to the Trip Planner on the inside covers to find out how to get there.

  • RRP: £9.95
  • Format: 220 mm x 220 mm (8 2/3 x 8 2/3 in)
  • Pages: 96
  • Weight: 0.4 kg (0.9 lb)
  • Pictures: 150 colour
  • Binding: Paperback with gatefolds
  • ISBN: 978 1 873329 29 0
  • Publication: 1998

Rummaging around in the Waterlooplein flea market, you can find an unexpected side of Amsterdam, a souvenir of another city half-hidden in the interstices between history and tourism and screened by the famous 17th-century façades of gabled canal-side houses. You may catch glimpses of it, too, along the battle-scarred route of the Metro where demonstrators fought developers in the 1970s, and on the moving canvas of trams leased out to artists by a playful city council. This is the city that Jan den Hengst and Jacques Constant have captured in a wide-screen preview: a living community with its own alternative lifestyles. Amsterdam is very much a contemporary portrait. All 150 photographs have been specially taken for the book, many of them panoramics stretching across two pages. They show not just the Rembrandts and the Vermeers of the Rijskmuseum, Van Gogh’s sunflowers, the church spires and gun towers, the brown cafés darkened with age and the polychrome excesses of the Gothic Revival, though all of these are here, but also the achievements of the Amsterdam School and the most inventive modern buildings, including the new glass and steel Sloterdijk station. It is a fresh, invigorating and informative insider’s view of one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.

When you have decided what you would like to see, you can find out how to get there, where to stay, eat, drink or be entertained by turning to the Trip Planner on the inside covers. Here you will find all the practical information you need to plan a visit to Amsterdam, organized under convenient headings with a comprehensive index.


Central Station

Exchange and Finance

Dam and Palace

From Post Office to Shopping Centre

The Smell of Tar and Ropes

Montelbaanstoren and Surrounds

Life in the 17th Century

Housing in the ’Twenties

Life After the ’Eighties

Living On and Near Water

The University of Amsterdam

Hotels on Historic Sites

A Sea of Flowers

The Magere Brug Area

Art and Administration Under One Roof

Rummaging in the Waterlooplein Market

Jewish History Museum

Anne Frank House

Renzo Piano’s ‘Shipwreck’

Sail Amsterdam

Nature in Miniature

The Piety of the Merchant

The Oasis of the Pious Women

History of a City

Eating and Drinking

Temple to Lady Fortune

Musical Extremes

The Rijksmuseum

The Past for Sale

Advertising from Centuries Ago

Markets of Amsterdam

Vincent van Gogh in Amsterdam

Modern Art Behind Old Walls

Amsterdam and Water

Public Transport

Bank as Fairy-Tale Palace

Spaceship for Ajax Amsterdam



Jan den Hengst, born in 1934, went to horticultural college in Boskoop and later emigrated to Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia. There he got into arable farming and landscape architecture. He returned to Europe in the 1960s and took up photography in Cologne. He has been working as a freelancer ever since. As well as providing photography for several publications, Hengst has written and illustrated his own book, The Dodo, the Bird That Drew the Short Straw.

Jacques Constant started his career as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Holland and the Dutch West Indies. He now devotes most of his time to writing and editing books. He has had work published under the names Jac G. Constant and Jacques G. Constant.


In the distant past, travellers from abroad compared Amsterdam to Venice, in part because it was a centre of foreign trade, but primarily because it was dissected in every direction by canals. Even now, many Amsterdammers live on or next to the water. Canal-side houses are among the most expensive in the city. Houseboats are moored stem to stern, sometimes in double rows, on almost every canal. Some are hardly different, in terms of comfort or price, from the houses they look out on. Unlike Venice, however, Amsterdam is not restricted to water traffic. Even if the canals freeze over – which does happen in harsh winters – it causes few problems. The city council simply closes off a large number of canals to round-trip boats and other shipping and gives Amsterdammers a chance to cross the city on skates.

The Netherlands has been famous for its flowers ever since the tulip mania of the early 17th century, when fortunes were made and lost as speculators bid up the price of the rarest bulbs to unsustainable peaks. Later, the growing of tulips, hyacinths and other blooms which flourish in the sandy soils around Haarlem settled down and became a serious industry. Today the country is the largest flower exporter in the world. There are even plans to build a tunnel between Amsterdam airport and the huge flower auction at Aalsmeer to make the exporting of flowers easier. In Amsterdam, the main place to find flowers is the famous flower market on the Singel, behind the Munttoren. Even in winter, the market is a sea of cut flowers and flowering plants. Some overflow into the street, others can be found in covered stalls on boats in the canal. The market on the Singel is not the only flower market in the city, but it is the best known. Foreign visitors cluster to buy bulbs there as a memento of the vibrant colours with which the Amsterdammers like to brighten their northern skies.

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