Leidesplein, Amsterdam


Most people know the Leidse­plein and the adjacent area only as a spot for pubs, restaurants, theaters and night­life, but it has an inter­esting history as well. The square and the Kleine-Gartman plantsoen have been remodeled many times over the years, in fact in the second quarter of 2021 the city is at last finishing the construction of an under­ground bicycle parking under the small area in front of the cinema.

Leidseplein in livelier days, pre-COVID (2019)

The north side of the Leidse­plein with bars in livelier days, pre-COVID (2019).

In the 1950s and 1960s the Leidse­plein was a favorite gathering spot for young artistics, who were called “Pleiners” (squarers). Their watering holes were mostly café Eijlders and café Reynders. They had regular fights with the “Dijkers” (dikers) who gathered around the Nieuwen­dijk area. Pleiners had a preference for stylish clothes and French existentialism, Dijkers for jeans, leather and rock ‘n roll.


The Kleine-Gartmanplantsoen, connecting the Leidse­plein and the Wetering­schans, is a small square with a (very small) public garden, which was formed when in 1914 the Lijnbaans­gracht was covered (the canal ran beneath the road) to make room for trams. Contrary to what most people think, it is not a part of the Leidse­plein.

Seventeenth Century

The Leidse­plein itself dates from 1660, around the time of Amsterdam’s Vierde Uitleg (Fourth Expansion), comprising the Eastern Canal Belt and Eastern Islands (from 1655-1663). The area around the square is called Leidse­buurt (Leiden neighbour­hood).

Leidseplein on a map from 1737 by Gerrit de Broen

Under the lens the Leidse­plein with the Leidse­poort in 1737, detail of a map by Gerrit de Broen.

The square was named after the road to the city of Leiden which started here, from the Leidse­poort (Leiden Gate). It was meant to be a cart square (like the Haarlemmer­poort or Haarlem Gate was), where people arriving from outside could park their carts, carriages and horses before they proceded into the city. There were many businesses situated around the square, like carpenters, blacksmiths and inns.

Leidsepoort and first Stadsschouwburg, painting by Eduard Alexander Hilverdink

The Leidse­poort (Leiden Gate) in the center, on the right the first (wooden) Stads­schouwburg (Municipal Theater).
Painting by Eduard Alexander Hilverdink.

Built in 1664, the Leidse­poort was one of eight gates into the city. It was situated on the south side of the Leidse­plein, more or less where now the Marnix­straat starts. The Leidse­poort was demolished in 1862.

The Leidse­poort replaced the Heilige­wegs­poort (Sacred Road Gate), which stood where the Konings­plein is now, at the other end of the Leidse­straat, by then well inside the city walls. The Heilige­wegs­poort and road had been built to cope with the increase in religious tourism c.q. pilgrimage regarding the so-called Miracle of Amsterdam in the Middle Ages.

Stadsschouwburg (Municipal Theatre)

On the Leidse­plein the first Stads­schouwburg (Municipal Theater) was constructed in 1774. That wooden building got a brick façade and adornments in 1874. Since the bells of the gate were rung every 15 minutes, the space between the wooden inner and brick outer wall had to be filled with sawdust to dampen the sound at least a bit.

Leidseplein between 1874 and 1890, seen towards the Stadhouderskade

Leidseplein between 1874 and 1890, seen towards the Stadhouders­kade, with the horse-drawn tram line. On the right the wooden first Stads­schouwburg from 1774, with the brick façade and adornments added in 1874. In the background the Elfde Koepel­kerk (11th Domed Church) from 1884 near the Leidse­bosje, demolished in 1972.

That first Stads­schouwburg went up in flames in 1890 and was completely destroyed. The current (brick) Stads­schouwburg opened in 1894 and has been a national monument since 1982.

Stadsschouwburg from 1894 on the Leidseplein (July 2020)

Stads­schouwburg (Municipal Theater) from 1894 on the Leidse­plein (July 2020).


In 1875 the Leidse­plein got the first horse-drawn tram line, from the Leidse­plein to the Plantage district, followed in 1900 by the first electric tramway from here to the Haar­lemmer­plein. Since 1971 cars have been banned from the Leidse­straat and the northern part of the square and in 2017 this was extended to the rest of the Leidse­plein.

Leidseplein between 1890 and 1920, with newspaper stand

Leidse­plein between 1890 and 1920, with news­paper stand.

Leidseplein in 1934, with Stadsschouwburg from 1894

Traffic on the Leidse­plein in 1934, on the left the second Stads­schouwburg from 1894.

The building on the corner of the Leidse­plein and Leidse­straat was built for fashion house Maison De Vries in 1921, which closed in 1936. In 1939 KLM opened a passage office on the ground floor.

On and around the Leidseplein

  • Hard Rock Hotel (American Hotel) from 1902
  • Hirsch building from 1912
  • Leidseplein Theater from 1933 at Leidse­plein 12
  • Stads­schouwburg (Municipal Theater) from 1894
  • Former police station from 1900 at Leidse­plein 17, since 1985 coffee­shop The Bulldog
  • Leidse Brug from 1925
  • Leidsebosje, remnants of a small strip of green along the city wall from 1737
  • Kleine-Gartman plantsoen from 1909 over the covered Lijn­baans­gracht
  • Theater De Balie at Kleine-Gartman­plantsoen 10 (former court­house from 1891)
  • Entrance to the Max Euwe­plein (former city prison from 1852)
  • Cinema City Theater from 1935
North side of the Leidseplein, Amsterdam, deserted in COVID-times (February 2021)

The north side of the Leidse­plein with bars, deserted in COVID-times (February 2021).

From below the arcade of the Stadsschouwburg, the old police station on Leidseplein, Amsterdam

Photo taken from below the arcade of the Stads­schouwburg, towards the old police station (now the Bulldog coffee­shop).

On the right the Heineken Hoek café, soon to be re­modeled to become a “modernized” bar with hotel, higher and with a glass façade, approved after various court cases since 2008 against it failed (February 2021). The iconic neon Heineken beer glassed have already been removed in March 2021. For the new Heineken Hoek hotel two adjacent buildings will be demolished.

From below the arcade of the Stadsschouwburg, towards the City Theater, Amsterdam (February 2021)

Photo taken from below the arcade of the Stads­schouwburg, towards the City Theater cinema and the Kleine-Gartman Plantsoen, remodeling of the square and the garden still ongoing (February 2021).

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