The Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal is a former canal (filled in in 1884) which runs from Spui to Martelaarsgracht, more or less in a north-south direction, with on its east side a number of small alleys towards the Nieuwendijk and the Kalverstraat. Because of its undulating form it has been suggested that it may have started as a natural waterway, later dug out out to become a man-made canal.
Water from the polders
From the 11th century on the Amstelland polders to the south were made habitable. The water from the southern polders was collected in the Boerenwetering canal, which ended somewhere near the Singelgracht. When the drainage through the Spui (Rokin and Damrak were still water) proved insufficient, the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal was used to direct the water towards the IJ, through the Nieuwezijds Kolk at the northern end.
Old Side & New Side, In Front Of & Behind
Before 1385 Amsterdam was neatly split into two equal halves by the river Amstel: the old side in the east (with the Old Church) and the new side in the west (with the New Church) — each side had a rampart which formed the outer border. When after 1385 new ramparts were created further out on each side, the old rampart canal was named the In-Front-Of-The-Wall (Voorburgwal) and the new rampart and canal were named the Behind-The-Wall (Achterburgwal).
Before the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal was filled in around 1884, parts of the street were named Pipe Market (Pijpenmarkt), Tree Market (Boommarkt) and Flower Market (Bloemmarkt). The Nieuwezijds Achterburgwal is now called Spuistraat and was filled in 1867. The mansions on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal all had large back gardens originally, but these have been completely filled with buildings.
- Backside of the Royal Palace (from 1648) on Dam square
- Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), built from 1380 and finished in 1408
- Former entrance of the Amsterdam Museum at number 367 (orphanage from 1523)
- Makelaers Comptoir (from 1634) at number 75
- Magna Plaza (former Head Post Office, built 1895-1899) at the corner of the Raadhuisstraat
- Die Port van Cleve, formerly an old brewery from 1592, at number 176
- Building ‘t Einde van de Wereld (the End of the World) (from 1875) at number 4-10
- Candida building (from 1932) at number 120-126
- Building Handelsvereniging Amsterdam (from 1888) at number 162-170
- Around number 280 a small square called Postzegelmarkt (postage stamp market)
- At number 282 the Betty Asfalt Complex (building from 1727)
- Many newspaper headquarters were here from the 19th century on; they left between 1967 and 1976
- Journalists café Scheltema (from 1908) at number 242
Renovations in 2021
The Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal will undergo maintenance and redevelopment as part of Amsterdam’s project Oranje Loper (Orange Carpet), which includes the renewal of all bridges between Raadhuisstraat and Mercatorplein. The southern part of the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal (from Paleisstraat to Koningsplein) will be tackled first, from January 2021. The Postzegelmarkt will become a small public garden.
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