As you exit the central station in Amsterdam and step into this magical city, it will take you less than 100 meters to cross your first bridge (although you may not realise it). Known for its labyrinthine system of canals, equally important are the bridges that cross them. The city proper has roughly 2500 bridges ranging from ancient stone structures to modern solutions to crossing the canals. Trying to pick the most beautiful bridges in Amsterdam is a fools' errand. My top five might not even make another person list. However, just because it is difficult (maybe even impossible), it does not mean we should not try. What follows is my list of the top 5 most photographic bridges in Amsterdam.
Bridge #1 - Torensluis Brug
Our list starts with likely the most famous bridge in Amsterdam, as well as one of the oldest and widest. Torensluis bridge, or Tower Bridge, is named for the watch tower which once stood at the centre of the bridge. The tower is long gone however the bridge has remained a popular gathering point and a great spot to sit and have a drink on a beautiful summer day. The arches that give the bridge its strength are about as typically Amsterdam as you could expect (well except that it’s wider than three regular bridges combined). However, this width also had a darker side. Underneath the bridge is several cells, once used to hold some of the criminals of Amsterdam.
Bridge #2 - Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge)
From Amsterdam’s widest bridge we move to Amsterdam’s slimmest bridge, albeit in name only. Magere Brug, literally translating to Skinny Bridge is another one of Amsterdam’s most famous bridges, but also one of the most beautiful. Likely the most famous way to cross the Amstel, the riving running through the city, Magere Brug is a bascule bridge (a type of draw bridge), and although this type of bridge is relatively common in Amsterdam (and not the only one on our list), the Magere Brug is unique for having two spans which can rise to allow boat traffic to pass through. The bridge has been built, torn down and rebuilt several times over its 300+ year life span, but the name has remained.
Bridge #3 - Blauwbrug
Our journey of Amsterdam’s bridges continues up the Amstel, only one bridge away from the Magere Brug. Another bridge which stands out from the rest in Amsterdam, Blauwbrug is designed in a style not typical to the more modest and straightforward bridges frequently seen in Amsterdam. Blauwsbrug, or Blue bridge (an odd name as this bridge has never been blue), is designed not to resemble the Dutch sensibilities, but instead the French. Taking inspiration from the many bridges crossing the river Seine in Paris, Blauwsbrug is an ornately detailed structure unique in Amsterdam.
Bridge #4 - Lekkeresluis Brug
Another one of the classic bridges of Amsterdam, Lekkeresluis Brug is a beautiful 18th century stone bridge that has stood the test of time. However, it is not the stone arches of this classic bridge which has made it famous; it’s the view. Standing just behind the bridge when looking west are some of the most striking examples of Dutch architecture in the city. When one thinks of the cliche of an Amsterdam Townhouse, they need look no further than Lekkeresluis Brug.
Bridge #5 - Drieharingenbrug
The last bridge is a personal favourite of mine. Located in the Haarlemmerbuurt neighbourhood, a fast 10-minute walk from the central station, but where you will feel like you are on the outskirts of the city. The neighbourhood is a quiet, residential area filled with families, small studios and a relaxing reprise from the hustle of the centrum district on Amsterdam. This very narrow, wooden draw bridge can accommodate two people walking side by side, and not comfortably. The bridge is terrifically well maintained, and the quaintness of this bridge is reflected in the neighbourhood.
Narrowing down the bridges of Amsterdam to a top 5 hardly seems fair, and honestly, it is not at all! With 800 bridges in the city centre alone, any list is inherently unfair…but I don’t care! These are mine…but with that said, I do need to cheat. The following are my honourable mentions and necessary addition to any list of bridges and canals in Amsterdam.
Honourable mention #1 - Aluminiumbrug
It was a difficult choice to leave off Aluminiumbrug, named for the aluminium deck installed in the 1950s; it’s a beautiful draw bridge located in the centre of the city. Classic Dutch architecture surrounds it and the large gears to make the drawbridge function are iconic. But the drawbridge no longer works and other beautiful examples populated this list, so we had to let this class bridge go.
Honourable mention #2 - Waalseilandbrug
The Waalseilandbrug is another of the classic Amsterdam bridges that did not make the list proper. Its shape is strange, rather elegant curves you see on most bridges in the city or Wallseilandbrug is a massive, blocky shaped structure carved into the landscape. Someone will read this blog, and this will be their favourite bridge, and for that I’m sorry, it’s a good bridge, but it just barely misses the list.
Honourable Mention #3 - View of 15 Bridges
Our final honourable mention is the biggest cheat of them all! Amsterdam’s Bridge of 15 Bridges is not so much a bridge (which is the reason it rests as an honourable mention) but instead a great view! Stand at the canal near the intersection of Herengracht & Reguliersgracht on the north side of the canal and on a clear day and with a keen eye you can see 15 bridges at one time. Or look a bit wider and see one of the most beautiful intersections in the city.
Like we said at the beginning, narrowing the list of bridges to just five was a task too complicated to be done correctly, maybe we should have pushed the list to 10 or 15, 20… really any number would have felt unfair. There are very few “ugly” bridges in Amsterdam, and with over 150 canals and 1000 bridges, it would be near impossible to see them all. Did we leave off your favourite bridge in Amsterdam? Let us know, and we’ll have another beautiful Amsterdam crossing to visit.
Author : William Lounsbury
William is a photographer in Amsterdam and Paris with Aperture Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. A professional photographer specialising in photojournalism, William enjoys to get off the beaten track and shoot spontaneous moments as they are presented to him.