The Rokin, between Dam and Muntplein, is part of the original Amstel river bank, first simply called Amstel. Near Dam square a dam had been built in the river around 1265-1275. The houses here were directly on the water. In the 16th century they had to be partly demolished and moved back for the construction of a quay. It was thus named Ruck-in in 1559 (meaning scram, move back, retreat). Around 1563 this became Rock-Inne and finally Rock-in and Rokin.
In 1933 and 1936 the water of the Amstel river between Spui and Dam square was partly filled in, so the Rokin is now two-thirds street. Amsterdamers distinguish between the Wet and the Dry Rokin since then.
Amsterdam’s First Exchange
Amsterdam’s first Exchange by architect Hendrick de Keyser) stood on arches over the water of the Rokin, just south of Dam square, from 1609 until it was demolished in 1835.
This was once a very picturesque part of Amsterdam — during the 18th century the street was bustling with trade, boats loading and unloading, the water smelly and dirty. There were more than 20 bookstores and a few hardware stores. In front of the Nieuwezijds Kapel, passengers boarded tow barges to other cities. There were many coffee houses and beer taverns as well.
In the 19th century the city wanted to make Rokin a boulevard with luxury shops, offices and restaurants, art dealers, tobacco merchants and financial firms. Perceived stains were removed, like a luxury brothel (demolished in 1903) and a floating bath house (where people could bathe in water from the IJ or from the North sea, demolished in 1914). Despite the many tacky shops and tourist traps here these days and the changes because of the subway construction, the street still has interesting historic buildings. In this post we will do the uneven numbers — let’s start at the east side of the Rokin and work our way towards the Muntplein.
This street, next to Rokin 9, between the Industria building and Scheltema, was named after a house from 1600 called De Heremyt (The Hermit), which stood at the corner of Rokin. In 1912 the alley was widened and renamed to street.
Rokin 9-15 – Scheltema Bookstore
The five story building De Roos from 1911 was created by architect F.A. Bodde for art auctioneers C.F. Roos. Auctioneers Mak used it from 1919 until 1933. Bookstore Scheltema (founded 1853) moved here in 2015. They had already been on Rokin before (1885-1975), later moved to Spui 10A (1975-1985), then to Koningsplein (1985-2015).
Rokin 17-19, former Blikman & Sartorius
Number 17 and 19 were designed by architect A. Salm in 1875 and 1891 for office supplies store Blikman & Sartorius, who also had a print store on Nes side. Around 1900 they expanded to the Nadorststeeg, the buildings united by an air bridge. In 1912 they moved to a factory on Haarlemmervaart and the buildings on Rokin were renovated by architect G.A. van Arkel. Until 1934 these buildings were directly on the water.
Canadian warehouse Hudson’s Bay was here from 2017-2019. Today the ground and first floor are retail space, the top floors apartments.
The Nadorststeeg (Nadorst Alley) is located between Rokin 17 and 19. Nadorst is a Dutch word for the thirst you feel after drinking to excess. Some say it was named after an inn at the corner of Nadorststeeg and Nes in 1577, others maintain it was a humorous corruption of Naardersteeg (Naarden Alley), named after the barges to Naarden which moored here. On the side wall of Rokin 17, in the Nadorststeeg, a restored gable stone from 1707 with money flowing out of a an iron pot with the words “In the Reversed Pot”.
Rokin 21 & 49 – Adyen
Banks Fortis and MeesPierson had been in huge pink bank building from 1989 at Rokin 55, until they were bankrupted during the 2008 financial crisis. The large building was demolished in 2013-2014 and replaced by the two current ones on Rokin 21 and 49 in 2016. Now they house Adyen, a payment facilitator (for a.o. Uber, Spotify, McDonald’s, H&M and KLM). Adyen uses the buildings from here up to the NRC/Green Palace building — they even have their own metro entrance.
Rokin 65 – NRC building (Green Palace)
Until 1903 there was an expensive luxury brothel here at the corner of Wijde Lombardsteeg, called Green Palace. The current transparent building from 1987 was designed by architect Cees Dam, originally built for the Options Exchange, which moved to Beursplein in 1995. Since 2012 the newspaper NRC Handelsblad is housed here, their official entrance at Nes 76 (back of the building). Bar Restaurant Het Groene Paleis (The Green Palace) is on the ground floor.
Between Rokin 65 and 69 is the Wijde Lombardsteeg (Wide Pawnshop Alley). From 1446 until 1578 there was a convent of the Alexians here (up to Cellebroerssteeg at the southern edge of the city), who devoted themselves to caring for the sick, even during bubonic plague pandemics. The street crosses the Nes and then continues as Enge Lombardsteeg (Narrow Pawnshop Alley) to the Stadsbank van Lening (City Pawn Bank) on Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
Rokin 69 – Marine Insurance Company
This building, on the corner of the Wijde Lombardsteeg, dates from 1901 and was designed by architect Gerrit van Arkel (he also did the Astoria and Helios buildings). It housed the Marine Insurance Company Ltd. until 1919, after that another stock broker and insurance firm.
Rokin 71-73 – Hotel Rokin
Rokin 71 is from around 1700. Rokin 73 is called De Blaeuwe Arent (the Blue Eagle) and dates from around 1775. Both buildings are in use by Hotel Rokin.
A home, warehouse and beer tavern were demolished here in 1913, when an office was built, designed by architect Gerrit van Arkel for tobacco merchant Manus. In 1962 two additonal stories were added by architect Piet Zanstra.
Located between Rokin 81 and 83, the Cellebroerssteeg is named after the convent of the Alexians, who treated sick males. They were on a terrain between Nes and Rokin from before 1440 until 1578. After 1475 a convent of Alexian sisters (between Zeedijk 106 and 120, where the He Hua temple is now) took care of sick women in the city.
The Old Irish Pub is located in two houses at Rokin 85-89. Number 85 dates from 1803, while the houses at number 87-89 date from 1748, united under one straight gable around 1920. Barent Momma (1811-1871) was director of plumbing company De Oude Loodmijn and member of the city council. From 1890-1891 this was a cardboard factory called Deutz & Raulino.
Rokin 91 – House with the Eagles
Building from 1664 in Dutch Classicist style with eagles on the top of the façade. Originally constructed in for Koert Sievertsen Adelaer, a Dutch-Norwegian gentleman appointed as General Admiral of Denmark. The house was restored in 1934 and 1963.
The Kalfsvelsteeg (Calf Hide Alley), between numbers 91 and 93, is an alley from Rokin to Nes. The name probably came from a sign — before that it was called Stijfselsteegje (Starch Alley). This is one of the oldest parts of the city, from before 1342. On the right hand corner was a house created from the chapel of the St. Maria convent (a Franciscan women’s convent from 1415). The convent burned down in 1541 and was demolished in 1585. The nuns once owned terrain from here to Langebrugsteeg to the south, but today nothing of that old convent remains.
This building from 1896 was created for a tobacco broker by architects Scholl & Haverkamp, expanded in 1905-1906. Brusse & Gransberg from 1865 merged with tobacco firm Nienhuys & Hesterman and was located here until 1985. An earlier home created from the chapel of the St. Maria convent was demolished in 1896.
Rokin 95 – Satchmo Restaurant
This building from 1646 in Dutch Classicist style was designed by architect Philips Vingboons and later remodeled (the neck gable removed) with an Empire-style entrance. Now it is home to Satchmo (named after Louis Armstrong), a NYC style bistro restaurant and cocktailbar on two floors, with old style jazz music.
Built in 1898 as home and office for dentist Wolf Son, who used it until 1910.
Rokin 99 – Oudhof
Postmodernist building from 1990, designed by architect Mart van Schijndel (1943-1999) as an office for securities trading company Oudhof, who left in 1998. Now it’s used by the buyers of supermarket Spar International. The colors on the gable and door are taken from the iconic Fiat Tipo. The door handle has two intertwined snakes, representing the Roman god of trade Mercury. Despite being controversial, the building is now the city’s youngest municipal monument.
Rokin 101 – Spar
Office building from 1915 for a tobacco company, after 1935 a banker and securities trader. Since 1962 it houses the buyers of supermarket Spar International.
This building from 1884 is Cha Cha bar & restaurant and small hotel.
House in Louis XIV style from the 17th century, changed around 1725. Grapes on the pediment.
Rokin 109-111 – De Tabaksplant
This building from 1923, called De Tabaksplant (Tobacco Plant) was designed by J. London as an office for a tobacco company. It goes all the way to Nes 122-126. On top of the façade a barrel surrounded by tobacco leaves. The company went bankrupt in 1922 and the building was sold in auction. A factory for ladies clothing and a company selling silver cutlery followed. Ophen, a Dutch financial technology company, has been here since 2019.
Rokin 113 – Spar Supermarket
On the ground floor of Rokin 113 is a small Spar supermarket. The building in Louis XIV style dates from around 1725. The top floors of 113 and 115 are used as offices.
Rokin 115 – Station Rokin
Trade building and office from 1929, by architect H.A.J. Baanders in Rationalist style, for life insurance company Algemeene Friesche Levensverzekering Maatschappij. Above the entrance the Amsterdam seal and Frisian seal and four sculptures by Hildo Krop (Prosperity, Labor, Care and Rest). The building was extensively restored inside and out in 1967. After the insurance company left around 1950, it became a securities trader. When metro line 52 had been finished, the building was given the name Station Rokin, confusing tourists who think it’s the metro entrance. Since 2019 it is in use by bank-tech company Ohpen, together with number 109-111.
House from between 1775 and 1800, called Hardenberg. Around 1900 this was Eisendrath’s bookstore and reading library.
House from the 17th century, remodeled around 1725-1750. Together with corner house Rokin 121b (from around 1775), this started out as a hairdresser, then became an espresso bar and a sandwich shop, for the last 20 years it has been Brasserie Meuwese.
Between Rokin 121 and 123 is the Langebrugsteeg (Long Bridge Alley), which runs from Rokin to Nes along the Grimburgwal. It was named after the Langebrug (Long Bridge), then a wooden drawbridge, which crossed the Rokin water here once. The Langebrug was one of the oldest bridges across the Amstel, dating from around 1350 (back then the Amstel river was quite wide here), nicknamed Donderbrug (Thunder Bridge) because of the noise carriages made on it. Around 1860 the old bridge was renewed and in 1875 it was replaced with an iron fixed bridge. The bridge was demolished and became a quay when in 1937 this part of Rokin was filled in.
At the corner of Rokin and Langebrugsteeg a statue of Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962) on horseback by sculptor Theresia R. van der Pant, placed here in 1972, replacing the statue Fortuna by Hildo Krop, which was then moved to the Muntsluis bridge.
The house from the 17th century at the right hand corner of Langebrugsteeg was once Instrument factory A.J. Schokking since 1873, providing barometers, thermometers, spectacles, binoculars and mathematical, scientific and nautical instruments. In 1923 they moved to Kalverstraat. Now it’s jeweller The Mill Diamonds.
The bridge which carries from Langebrugsteeg to Oude Turfmarkt, across the Grimburgwal, is called Grimnessesluis. Predecessors of that bridge existed here before 1538.
From Langebrugsteeg up to Doelensluis bridge (Hotel De L’Europe) is the so-called Wet Rokin. The quay on the eastern side is called Oude Turfmarkt (Old Peat Market). This was an actual peat market from 1564 until 1642. The name was changed to Rokin in 1913, but in 1947 it was officially named Oude Turfmarkt again, since Amsterdammers stubbornly continued to use that old name. In the water in front of Oude Turfmarkt are the tour boats of Rederij P. Kooij, in Amsterdam since 1922.
In 1403 a convent was built here, called Nieuwe Nonnenklooster (New Nuns Convent), with an added guesthouse in 1504. When Amsterdam officially became a Protestant city in 1578, both the Old Nuns Convent and New Nuns Convent were taken over by the city and transformed into an inner city hospital, the Binnengasthuis. This terrain is now one of the main locations of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).
The Turfdraagsterpad (Female Peat Carrier Path) was named after the women in this area who worked filling peat baskets, which young men would then transport. So it’s actually a misnomer, since the women filled the baskets but did not actually carry them. The path lies between the former maternity ward of the Binnengasthuis hospital and the Allard Pierson Museum. It was property of the hospital (from 1868-1870, Oude Turfmarkt 125) and became publicly accesssible only in 1986.
Allard Pierson Museum
The Allard Pierson archeological museum is located here in a building from 1868, until 1968 the Dutch National Bank. Already discussed in another blog post.
At Oude Turfmarkt 145 is a house from 1643 designed by architect Philips Vingboons, inventor of the neck gable.
The Other Side of Rokin
I will cover the west side of Rokin (even numbers) later in a separate post.
If you see this after your page is loaded completely, leafletJS files are missing.