Prinseneiland, Amsterdam


Prinsen­eiland (Princes Island) is the smallest of Amster­dam’s three Western Islands, created between 1610 and 1624. Origi­nally called Midden­eiland (Middle Island), it was probably named after the first three princes of the House of Orange — Willem I, Maurits and Frederik Hendrik — who were important during the Eighty Year War against Spain (1568-1648). There was also an important house called De Drie Prinsen here in the 17th century. The island is surrounded by 4 canals: Prinsen­eilands­gracht, Realen­gracht, Bickers­gracht and Eilands­gracht.

Warehouses on Prinseneiland, Amsterdam

Warehouses on Prinsen­eiland (June 2022).

After 10 years of legal issues because of land specu­lation, finally in 1623 lots were being sold on Prinsen­eiland, initially meant for storage of mostly wood and tar. There were at the time some 900 ware­houses in Amsterdam — more than 100 were on Prinsen­eiland and most dated from the second half of the 17th century. Prinsen­eiland was also one of the designated areas in town used as a wood storage for building ships and houses. In the 20th century most ware­houses were trans­formed into apartments, making the island an attractive resi­dential area.

Two cadastral drawings from 1623 and 1622 with measured and numbered lots on Prinseneiland, Amsterdam

Left: measured and numbered lots on Prinsen­eiland, by Cornelis Dankerts de Rij around 1623-1624. Right: Western part of the Haar­lemmer­straat and the Western Islands, by Lucas Jansz Sinck. The city owned lots are in green, the other lots were bought in 1622 from their private owners, most notably from Frans Hendricksz Oetgens (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

Breitner on Prinseneiland

Around 1881 Dutch painter and photo­grapher George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923) quite frequently went on drawing expeditions with Vincent van Gogh in Den Haag (The Hague). Like Van Gogh he saw himself as “painter of the people”. Although they went on expeditions together, Breitner and Van Gogh despised each other’s painting styles.

Damrak, Amsterdam, by George Hendrik Breitner, 1903

Damrak by George Hendrik Breitner, 1903 (Rijks­museum).

Breitner had two artist studios built on Prinsen­eiland to his own specifi­cations by contractor C.J. Maks in 1898 in Eclectic style — he used the larger one himself. The other studio was used by painter Kees Maks (1876-1967), son of the contractor (his father, contractor C.J. Maks, had also built a large part of the Rijks­museum). After returning from Paris in 1886, Breitner lived at many Amsterdam adresses. He worked in this studio at Prinsen­eiland 24B until he left in 1914. Kees Maks continued to work there after Breitner left. The studios are a national monument.

Prinseneiland 24A & B, Amsterdam, studios of George Breitner and Kees Maks

Prinseneiland 24A & 24B. The entrance on the left is Breitner’s studio, the one on the right was used by Kees Maks (June 2022).

Best known for his (somewhat dark toned) paintings of city life, Breitner was also quite fascinated by city expansions and demolitions. He frequently used his photographs as a kind of sketch­book or note­book, to serve as the basis for the paintings he finished later in his studio. This was mostly born out of necessity, because painting in the streets was forbidden without previous special permission from the mayor. Breitner was a member of the artists association Arti et Amicitiae on Rokin.

Prinseneiland 87-103, Amsterdam, stonemason and storage of poles and beams, by Jacob Olie, 1893

Prinseneiland 87-103, seen across the water of the Eilands­gracht, with stonemason and storage of poles and beams. The Galgen­straat (Gallows Street) is in the center. Photograph by Jacob Olie from 1893 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

Streets & Bridges on Prinsen­eiland

There are only two streets on Prinsen­eiland:

  • Prinsen­eiland – same name as the island itself, runs around the peri­meter.
  • Galgen­straat – Gallows Street, in the middle of the island.

Prinsen­eiland has three bridges:

  • Sloter­dijker­brug – Sloterdijk Bridge, from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen to Prinsen­eiland.
  • Drie­haringen­brug – Three Herring Bridge, from Prinsen­eiland to Realen­eiland.
  • Galgen­brug – Gallows Bridge, from Prinsen­eiland to Bickers­eiland.
View across Prinseneilandsgracht from Nieuwe Teertuinen towards Prinseneiland, Amsterdam

View across Prinsen­eilands­gracht, seen from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen towards Prinsen­eiland. On the left a part of the Sloter­dijker­brug, on the right the cover of the last Amster­dam wind­lass, once used to haul the heavy tar barrels in and out of the boats. Both sides of the canal had tar and tan cookeries. Note the (street art) statue of a floating gnome in the water (June 2020).

Galgenstraat (Gallows Street)

Before the creation of the Wester­doks­dijk and Wester­doks­eiland, from this street there was a clear view across the IJ of the Gallows Field (Galgen­veld) in the northern part of town, where corpses of criminals were left hanging in the open air (after being executed on Dam square), from around 1409 until 1795. It was located on a small head­land called Volewijck, more or less where the A’DAM Tower is now.

In 1662 the city attempted to rename the street to Prinsen­dwars­straat (Princes Traverse Street), but that never stuck, so the old name was kept. The Galgen­straat ends on the Galgen­brug across the Bickers­gracht. The once open view towards the Volewijck in Amsterdam-Noord has completely been blocked by the large new blocks on Bickers­eiland.

Prinseneiland, Amsterdam, mural of Nelson Mandela’s kitchen garden at Pollsmoor

Prinseneiland 50-52, corner Galgen­straat, mural depicting Nelson Mandela’s kitchen garden at Pollsmoor prison (May 2021).

Galgenbrug (Gallows Bridge)

The Galgen­brug across the Bickers­gracht (Bickers Canal) is a fixed bridge from 1923, from Prinsen­eiland to Bickers­eiland. There were earlier bridges here between 1625 and 1737. In 1881 a new wooden version was built, which lasted for 40 years. It was replaced by a fixed iron bridge in 1923. The bridge leads to Kleine Bickers­straat on Bickers­eiland.

Galgenbrug, Amsterdam, looking down Galgenstraat towards Sloterdijkerbrug

Galgenbrug, looking down Galgen­straat towards Sloter­dijker­brug. On the left a ware­house from 1888, until 1909 Ten Cate coffee bean peeling. Later it belonged to the Amster­damsche Veem, who used it for coffee peeling and sorting until 1940 (June 2022).


This double wooden draw bridge across Prinsen­eilands­gracht, between Nieuwe Teer­tuinen and Prinsen­eiland, has been a municipal monument since 1995. Earlier versions of this bridge existed between 1625 and 1737. In 1862 the bridge needed restoration, and in 1881 it was renewed. In 1952 the bridge was replaced with a new version replica — the counter­weight was replaced in 1974 and 1983.

Sloterdijkerbrug, Amsterdam, seen from Nieuwe Teertuinen towards Prinseneiland

Sloter­dijker­brug, seen from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen towards Prinsen­eiland (June 2020).

When the neigh­bor­hood was renovated in 2005, the bridge was badly damaged by the heavy traffic, but it was reno­vated and restored in 2006. The name of the bridge probably came from the old village of Sloter­dijk, which — before­1900 — could be seen from here (the view now blocked by the elevated railroad track). It is the only double wooden draw­bridge in the neigh­bor­hood still in its original state.


The Drie­haringen­brug (Three Herring Bridge) is a beauti­ful white double wooden draw­bridge, only for pedestrians and cyclists, rebuilt in 1983 like the original from 1625. It spans Realen­gracht, from Prinsen­eiland to Realen­eiland. There had been a wooden draw­bridge here since 1625 — in 1859 that draw­bridge was replaced by a pontoon bridge, which was soon nick­named Kippen­brug (Chicken Bridge). That one was replaced by fixed bridge in 1894 — low across the water, with steep sides — but the name Kippen­brug stuck.

Drieharingenbrug, Amsterdam, seen from Prinseneiland towards Realeneiland

Drieharingenbrug, seen from Prinsen­eiland towards Realen­eiland (June 2022).

In 1922 it was replaced again by a normal steel bridge. Finally in 1983 it was rebuilt to match the original draw bridge. The Drie­haringen­brug was named after a brandy distillery which was torn down in the 1700s. On Vier­winden­dwars­straat 1 (on Realen­eiland) you can see a gable stone on a house from the 18th century (a national monument) which gave the bridge its name. To the south­east of the bridge is the studio and exposition space of painter Ans Markus.


The Eilands­gracht (Island Canal) runs to the south­west of Prinsen­eiland, between the island and the city. Origi­nally it ran along both Prinsen­eiland and Bickers­eiland, but in 1872 it was partly filled in. In 1918 the railroad tracks were doubled on the viaduct, built half on the Haar­lemmer Hout­tuinen and half on the Eilands­gracht, leaving very little water there. In 1928 the stretch of the canal along Bickers­eiland was filled in completely.

Eilandsgracht, Amsterdam, in 1899, photo by Jacob Olie

Eilandsgracht in 1899, photo­graphed by Jacob Olie, the part near Bickers­eiland not yet filled in. Top right you can see the tower (removed in 1910) of the Eilands­kerk (Island Church, demolished in 1950) (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

Palmentuin Prinsen­eiland

At Prinsen­eiland 40 (the side facing Bickers­eiland) you can find a lovely palm garden, one of the public gardens in this area created by the inhabitants, this one on a former scrapyard terrain. A nice green quiet spot with cactuses, palms and figs in the middle of a 17th century decor. Despite the colder Dutch weather, the palms flower and spread.

Ans Markus

Since 1995 Dutch painter Ans Markus, who paints in realist and magic realist style, lives at Prinsen­eiland 49, in a renovated double ware­house from 1629. The house is decorated with three modern gable stones. She also has an expo and studio at Prinsen­eiland 14.

Prinseneiland 49-51, Amsterdam, renovated warehouses from 1629 with three modern gable stones

Prinseneiland 49-51, reno­vated ware­houses from 1629 with three modern gable stones (June 2020).

The Insulinde ware­house from 1629 was one of the first ware­houses on Prinsen­eiland. The gable stone with the motor­boat points to Mark 4:14: “The sower sows the word”, referring to Wiebe Tuinstra, partner of Ans Markus, who was a publisher before he retired. The text reads (translated from Dutch): “Let many prosper”. The stones were created by sculptor Hans ’t Mannetje (1944-2016), who restored many gable stones in the city. Website Ans Markus:

Warehouses & Ware­house Companies (Vemen)

Already in the 17th century people stopped building tradi­tional ware­houses, which were combined with a home for the owner on the ground floor. Most ware­houses were built by rich citizens as an investment — even merchants only used a part of each them­selves, renting out a part or the entire building. They left the super­vision and rent collection to a trustee, called a “factor” (“doer” in Latin).

Warehouses on Prinseneiland 65-69, Amsterdam (Mars, Broek in Waterland, D'Gouden Kop)

Warehouses on Prinsen­eiland 65-69 (Mars, Broek in Water­land, D’Gouden Kop) (February 2021).

Middle men searched for storage space, then rented parts of ware­houses, which they then sublet under their own name. The old weigh house carriers, organised in a guild, were famed as trustees because of their very tight regu­lations. From that guild the “vemen” emerged — singular “veem” — initially meaning “ware­house company”. Later the word was also used for the groups of ware­houses them­selves.

These vemen or warehouse companies could be the owners of the ware­houses, but ini­tially they mostly rented them from other owners. Being a partner in one of these ware­house companies was so lucrative that new members paid ever bigger entrance fees in order to be able to partake (up to ƒ 10,000, $ 126,500 in today’s money).

View from Nieuwe Teertuinen towards Prinseneiland, Amsterdam

View from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen towards Prinsen­eiland, across Prinsen­eilands­gracht (June 2020).

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