Magna Plaza, Amsterdam

Magna Plaza

The Magna Plaza shopping center is located on the Nieuwe­zijds Voor­burg­wal across from the Konink­lijk Paleis (Royal Palace) and the Nieuwe Kerk, behind the Dam square. It was built from 1895 to 1899 as the Main Post Office, initially nick­named Peren­burg (Pear Castle) because of the pear-shaped towers and the ornate Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance style mix (nicknamed Post Office Gothic) which was used by architect C.H. Peters. The building has been a national monument since 1974.

Magna Plaza shopping centre on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, Amsterdam

Magna Plaza shopping centre, the former Main Post Office, on the Nieuwe­zijds Voor­burg­wal (May 2021).

Mail, Telegraph & Telephone

The government decided in 1851 that the growing mail and telegraph services ought to be housed in a big new building in Amsterdam. This led to the build of the Royal Mail Office, opened in 1856. That building served as a gallery shortly before being taken down in 1897. In 1867 the Nieuwe­zijds Achter­burg­wal canal was filled in (now called Spui­straat), in 1884 the Nieuwe­zijds Voor­burg­wal. When the Huis­zitten­steeg was then widened to become the Raad­huis­straat in 1894, many surrounding buildings were demolished and a plan was hatched to build an even bigger Main Post Office on the empty lot.

Former Head Post Office, Amsterdam, during the build of the towers in 1897

The former Head Post Office during the build of the towers in 1897, photographed by Jacob Olie.
Building site safety was viewed very differently in those days…

In 1881 the first telephones were introduced in Amsterdam by the private Bell Company. In 1897 the State took over the exploitation of the phone services — and in 1929 the PTT became officially the national Post, Telegraph & Telephone Company (now KPN). This was a big building, intended both as a public post office and as and admini­strative head­quarters for the PTT.

Magna Plaza

In 1987 the PTT announced it would vacate the building — thus in 1988 it was bought by Swedish real-estate investor Lars Magnusson for 7.5 million guilders (around 3.5 million Euro). After a long, costly an difficult renovation (including unforeseen foundation replacement) the shopping center Magna Plaza opened in 1992, conserving the spacious concept of the original building. Two existing skylights were enlarged and a third one created, two escalators were added. The previous service entrance on the corner of the Raad­huis­straat and Spui­straat was enlarged to serve as a second access point.

Trends & Renewal

The mall has many luxury shops. The advent of costly brand clothes initially spiked customer numbers, but soon occupance was becoming a problem. After music store Virgin left the Magna Plaza became more of a tourist destination. In 1999, after big losses on his Russian investments, Magnusson had to sell all his Dutch buildings, including the Magna Plaza. In 2005 the building was sold to a group of foreign investors. A big renovation followed in 2014 and 2015. In 2019 the second floor of the building was made into a food hall to revive the number of visitors. The long COVID lockdowns have caused a major loss of visitors and revenue.

Website Magna Plaza:

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