House On Three Canals, Amsterdam

The House on Three Canals

Near the entrance of the former Binnen­gast­huis (until 1981 the biggest inner city hospital, now part of the University of Amsterdam), you can find the famous “Huis aan de Drie Grachten” (House on Three Canals). Located on the Oudezijds Voor­burg­wal 249, Oudezijds Achter­burg­wal and the Grimburg­wal, it is a 17th-century canal house in Dutch Renaissance style, with stepped gable crowns on each of the three façades.

House On Three Canals, Amsterdam, seen from the water of the Grimburgwal

The House On Three Canals, seen from the water of the Grimburg­wal (June 2020).


The current house is from around 1609, but the oldest elements of the building stem from the 16th century. It has been home to many rich patrician families over the centuries. In the Middle Ages (14th century) there was an inn on this spot. The famous house was restored in 1909 to its original 17th-century state and renovated again in 2005. The house is a national monument, but, being a residential building, it cannot be visited.

House On Three Canals, Amsterdam, seen from the Grimburgwal

The building as seen from the Grimburg­wal — this side is more of a blind wall.

The Velvet Rampart

On the Oude­zijds Voor­burg­wal side of the building is an old stone streetname sign, which reads “Fluweelen Burgwal” (Velvet Rampart), the nickname for this part of the Oude­zijds Voor­burg­wal, south of the the Dam­straat. That name can be found in news­papers and notary documents from the 18th century, but it was last seen used around 1810.

Old streetname sign Fluweelen Burgwal, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Amsterdam

The old streetname sign which reads “Fluweelen Burgwal” or “Velvet Rampart” (June 2020).

Not So Rich After 1620

The name Velvet Rampart is usually explained by stating that the people who lived in this area were rich enough to dress in velvet clothing. This was true from after 1578 (the Protestant Alteration) until roughly around 1620. Tax documents from 1742 show that the Fluweelen Burg­wal, while mostly housing wine merchants, linen merchants, gold­smiths and pensioners, had a median income by that time not much higher than else­where. The real rich had already moved on to the Heren­gracht and Keizers­gracht by then.

Model of the House on Three Canals, Amsterdam

When architect Jan de Meyer renovated the building in 1909, he probably used this model to illustrate the process. A painting from 1675 by Gerrit Berkheyde (1638-1668) was used as an inspiration to restore the building to its original state.
The model is part of the collection of the Amsterdam Museum.

House on Three Canals, Amsterdam, postcard from 1900

The House on Three Canals on a postcard from 1900.

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