The 10 Most Striking Buildings in Amsterdam

Celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam
Celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano designed the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam | © Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Tom Coggins

From the exuberant civic structures of the Dutch Golden Age to sleek contemporary masterpieces by internationally acclaimed architects, Amsterdam has always been a hotbed of architectural gems. Here are 10 bold examples you won’t want to miss on your trip.

1. Royal Palace Amsterdam


Despite its name, the palace on Dam Square wasn’t always owned by the Dutch royal family. The building was originally constructed as a city hall during the height of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century – a time when Amsterdam was one of the most powerful cities in the world. The palace was designed to symbolise the city’s international influence, paying homage to classical Roman and Greek architecture.

2. EYE Filmmuseum

Building, Cinema, Library

Exterior facade of Eye Film Institute, Amsterdam, Overhoeks, Netherlands,
© Arcaid Images / Alamy Stock Photo
It’s hard to miss the sloping silhouette of the EYE Filmmuseum as it juts out dramatically over the harbour. Offering some of the best views in the city, this monolithic shell is located on the north side of Amsterdam Central Station and contains several state-of-the-art cinemas and the largest film archives in the Netherlands. There’s an entrance fee for most exhibitions, but the permanent collection is free to visit.

3. Scheepvaarthuis (Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam)


Scheepvaarthuis is considered to be the first complete example of the Amsterdamse School of architecture and embodies the dynamic, expressive style that has become synonymous with the movement, from its ornate metalwork to the imposing spires and turrets. The century-old building was designed to house the shipping companies involved in global trade and its maritime associations are reflected in the intricate carvings and relief sculptures dotted around the exterior. In 1998, it was turned into a five-star hotel called Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam.

4. NEMO Science Museum


Science Center Nemo is a science center - located at the Oosterdok in Amsterdam-Centrum
© Ivan Nesterov / Alamy Stock Photo
Like an enormous ship due to set sail from the eastern docklands, Renzo Piano’s copper-green building has become one of Amsterdam’s most iconic pieces of contemporary architecture. The cutting-edge museum boasts Amsterdam’s highest piazza at 22 metres above sea level; the slanted terrace faces the heart of Amsterdam, offering great panoramic views of the city. It can be accessed via a large staircase on the south side of the building.

5. Het Schip

Building, Museum

Het Schip, Amsterdam
© frans lemmens / Alamy Stock Photo

Like Scheepvaarthuis, Het Schip was designed according to Amsterdamse School standards and features many beautiful, curved brick motifs. The residential building was constructed by a socialist housing firm in 1919 and accommodated lower-income families for almost a century. The former estate post office has now been turned into a dedicated museum to the movement’s history, with tickets also providing admission to an original Amsterdamse School apartment, plus Het Schip’s famous decorative tower designed by the estate’s architect, Michel de Klerk.

6. Rijksmuseum


© Culture Trip
In the late 19th century, many architects across the Netherlands adapted their work around Neoclassicism, leading to the construction of several historically important buildings that resemble much older examples of Dutch structural design. The Rijksmuseum’s handsome symmetrical facade references the grandeur of the older Dutch Golden Age architecture in the city, while the inside is equally impressive – more than 900,000 objects have been collected since it opened in 1800. The jewel in the museum’s crown is undoubtedly its collection of works by the Dutch masters, including Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn.

7. Stedelijk Museum


© Adam Szuly / Shutterstock

Although the Stedelijk’s main base dates back to the late 19th century (and shares a striking resemblance to the Rijksmuseum), a substantial wing was added to the museum in 2012. This streamlined, ultra-modern section designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects has often been compared to a giant bathtub due to its unique shape.

8. Pathé Tuschinski

Building, Cinema, Movie Theater

© Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock
Pathé Tuschinski is regularly credited as the most beautiful cinema in the world due to its astounding external and interior design. The entire cinema is a visual feast, adorned with a spectacular pastiche of Art Deco and Art Nouveau flourishes, designed by Hijman Louis de Jong. Alongside the broad selection of regular movie screenings, Tuschinski also hosts a number of international film festivals.

9. Westerkerk


The Netherlands, Amsterdam, Aerial view from building called Toren Overhoeks. City center. Church called Westerkerk.
© frans lemmens / Alamy Stock Photo
Westerkerk is the largest protestant cathedral in the Netherlands and was constructed after the Reformation in order to accommodate Amsterdam’s newly converted Calvinist population. The church, which is situated on the 17th-century canal belt, was completed in 1631 and is among the most famous examples of Dutch Renaissance architecture. Its towering 86-metre steeple contains 51 gigantic bells that can be heard playing throughout the Jordaan district.

10. Beurs van Berlage

Building, Art Gallery

© Aleksei Kazachok/Shutterstock

Beurs van Berlage is possibly the most famous building ever designed by influential city planner Hendrik Petrus Berlage. In fact, this former stock exchange features many of Berlage’s iconic touches, such as expressive, red-brick arrangements and sober, boxed turrets.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Luxford.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article