Zeedijk, Amsterdam

About the Zeedijk

The Zeedijk (Sea Dike) is one the oldest streets in Amsterdam. It was constructed in the early 13th century as an actual dike to protect Amsterdam from the quite disastrous flooding caused by the often stormy waters of the IJ waterway and the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea), which at that time had a shallow but large open connection in the north to the North Sea, through which ships could reach Amsterdam. 

The location of the Zeedijk in Amsterdam's city center

The location of the Zeedijk in Amsterdam’s city center

Of course Amsterdam was much smaller then, as you can see on the map below (top of the map is South, as was custom in those days).

Detail of a map from 1544 by Cornelis Anthonisz, with the Zeedijk center left, running alongside the city wall

Detail of a map from 1544 by Cornelis Anthonisz, with the Zeedijk center left, running alongside the city wall

Ships to the Amsterdam port

Below is a map of the current sea situation, with the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) closed off from the North Sea by the Afsluitdijk (Enclosure Dam), which was finished in 1932, thereby transforming the Zuiderzee into a freshwater lake called IJsselmeer (Lake IJssel). Large portions of the lake are now reclaimed land.

IJsselmeer with Afsluitdijk — 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, 90 metres (300 ft) wide, 7.25 metres (23.8 ft) above the sea level (ESA)

IJsselmeer with Afsluitdijk — 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, 90 metres (300 ft) wide, 7.25 metres (23.8 ft) above the sea level (ESA)

An alternative route for seafaring vessels to reach the port of Amsterdam was created first via the Noordhollands Kanaal (North Holland Channel), completed in 1825, and later by the Noordzeekanaal (North Sea Channel), officially opened in 1876.

Zeedijk street history, ups and downs and ups

The Zeedijk is part of Amsterdam’s Chinese district. With many historic buildings, including one of the two remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam (at Zeedijk 1, dating back to 1550), it has a wealth of pubs, stores, eateries and restaurants. During the 17th century the Zeedijk was quite a prestigious area, mostly for rich merchants to live and meet. After these merchants left for houses on the main canals, the area slowly transformed itself into a center for all kinds of “nightlife”.

Zeedijk near Stormsteeg, Amsterdam

During the 1970s and well into the 80s the area was infamous as a hotbed for drug dealers, junkies and criminals. From 1985 on the neighbourhood was regularly swept clean by police and an organization was formed which slowly clawed the area back from decay with buybacks and extensive restorations. These days the street is again a bustling hotspot for tourists and locals alike. An open spot left after the 1944 demolition of some derelict wartime plundered houses has now become the location of the largest European Buddhist temple, the He Hua temple, which was opened in September 2000. It is located on the very spot where in the Middle Ages (1475) a convent of the Cellitine sisters (Alexians) stood.

Fo Guang Shan He Hua Buddhist temple, Zeedijk 108-116, Amsterdam

Fo Guang Shan He Hua Buddhist temple, Zeedijk 108-116, Amsterdam

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