7 Must Locations to Photograph in Amsterdam
Updated: Sep 11, 2018
Amsterdam, the beautiful capital of the Netherlands, offers visitors a variety of attractions: a long list of museums, parks and gardens, bars and clubs, markets and colorful people. The beauty of Amsterdam is not in grandeur and splendor like in other European capitals, but in the little and intimate details. The city is a perfect destination for photography enthusiasts who are into street and urban photography. It offers an interesting mix of classic and modern architecture, canals and picturesque bridges, narrow romantic streets as well as a distinguished light that makes the colors so rich and special when the sun is out, and dark and mysterious on gray days. Photography enthusiasts who are always looking for a unique angle will fall in love with the city and will find great pleasure in photographing it.
Amsterdam is a perfect destination for photography enthusiasts who are into street and urban photography.
Let me share with you some of my favorite photography spots in this magical city that became my home.
Amsterdam is beautiful from all angles but nothing beats looking at it from above. There are only a few spots in the city center offering that angle. Amsterdam Lookout, which opened its doors to the public on May 2016, is the only tower in the city that gives the public access to such a high lookout. The observation deck is almost 100 meters (about 328 feet) above ground level and provides an unrivalled 360° panoramic view of Amsterdam. From there you can see the city’s historical center, its pulsating port, the unique Dutch polder landscape and the famous canals which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Dam Square is the heart of the city, and that’s where it all began. The Royal Palace, the New Church, and the National Monument are all located on the square, though it is hard to say that it is a beautiful spot. Nevertheless, street photography enthusiasts will find Dam Square very interesting due to the pigeons walking or flying around waiting for the people to feed them, the street artists, and the weird people hanging around.
If you like street art, be sure to visit Spuistraat which is located two streets away, just behind the Royal Palace. From the late 1960s some of the residents of this street were squatters, artist communities, social activists and alternative lifestyle kind of people. In 2010 the Dutch government passed a law that made squatting a criminal offence, and since then many occupied buildings have been evicted on Spuistraat, as elsewhere. There were demonstrations against the evictions, but now all that remains is some street art.
Amsterdam has a population of about 850,000 within the city proper, but the number of bicycles is more than 3 million! The locals ride their bicycles to work, to run errands, and when they go out in the evening, and they do that in all weather conditions, so photographing the locals riding their bicycles is a must. Good location to do so is Spui and in order to show that the people on the bicycles are actually moving, try not to freeze their image but smear the cyclist or smear the background.
In order to photograph the Amstel Church from a more interesting angle, I recommend you stand on the west bank of the Reguliersgracht, north of the church. You will stand lower than the bridge and the church, and if you are lucky the lady that feeds the seagulls will be there and you’ll be able to photograph her in action. Try to find different perspectives on a regular object to create a more intriguing image.
Another spot which is a must for photographers is the I amsterdam sign, located in Museum Square. The slogan was invented for a marketing project that aimed to promote businesses and organizations located in Amsterdam, and actually to create a motto that to brand the city. Pretty quickly the slogan got a life of its own and was adopted by the locals, regardless of their origins and who they were, and I amsterdam became the city’s logo. The sign is a ‘pilgrimage’ spot for tourists and they all want to be photographed with, on, or in between the letters, as proof of their visit to Amsterdam. The contrast between the modern bright letters and the neo-gothic Rijksmuseum building or the green plane trees in Museum Square during spring and summer offers plenty of photography ideas. If you would prefer to take a photo of the sign without strangers in your frame, be sure to be there before 8 o’clock in the morning!
There are 1,281 bridges in Amsterdam crossing 165 man-made canals. It’s beautiful to photograph the bridges and canals during daytime, but at night they have a special charm with the yellowy-orange lights creating sparkling stars in the photo.
Note: If you choose to walk through the Red Light District, please bear in mind that it is forbidden to photograph the windows and their vicinity. This is about respecting the privacy of the sex workers as well as their clients. If someone involved in the sex industry suspects that you are photographing the windows and their vicinity, your camera might find itself deep in the canal water, and something even uglier might happen…
Amsterdam is one of the most photogenic cities in the world, any time of day, any time of year, whatever the weather. Each part of the day, season and weather have their special charms as well as their photographic challenges. And you will find diverse photography locations here: the old city, markets, gardens, old industrial areas and modern architecture. And don’t forget that there are nice shopping areas in Amsterdam where you can “deposit” your travel partner if they are not into photography ;-)