The old heart of Amsterdam runs from the throbbing Dam Square – home of the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) – south down to the great cobbled public square of Nieuwmarkt. Once bordering a canal that was filled in around 1601, Nieuwmarkt is today packed with bars and cafés and is the gateway to both Chinatown and the Red Light District, which lies a couple of streets west between the parallel canals of Oudezijds Voorburgwaal and Oudezijds Achterburgwaal. The central focus of Nieuwmarkt is the city’s last surviving fortified gate; constructed around 1425, the spiky-spired De Waag sits in the middle of the plaza and was originally one of three entrance gates into the city through the fortified walls. After the walls were demolished to allow the city to expand, De Waag was used as a weigh house for goods coming in to Amsterdam by sea before becoming the lodgings of the Surgeon’s Guild, immortalized in Rembrandt’s gory painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp of 1632. Following World War II it housed the Jewish Historical Museum; its present-day incarnation is as a restaurant opened in 1996.
Currently under renovation (penned to finish before summer 2015), the upper stories of De Waag are only occasionally open for special exhibitions but its lower floors are occupied by the Restaurant-Café in de Waag, which serves drink and food all day long; in summer punters spill out on to Nieuwmarkt to watch the world go by. Many well-known Amsterdam sights are nearby, including the somber Oude Kerk (Old Church), the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Museum of Our Lord in the Attic) and the Zeedijk Temple, Europe’s largest Buddhist place of worship.
Metro to Nieuwmarkt or a 10-minute walk from Centraal Station.