3 Unusual Places to Visit in Amsterdam’s Canal Ring

Heather Tucker, donderdag 11 april 2013

Most people visiting Amsterdam become aware of the canals in the city during their visit. It’s pretty hard not to. Those canals that you use to keep your bearings as you navigate the city or that feature as a backdrop to your “wish you were here” photo are marking their 400th anniversary this year.

The canal belt was accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010, and in addition to their historical importance, the canals have plenty to do on, next to or above them. But rather than give you a list of places you probably already know about, I went searching for some of the more unusual things to be found along the canals.

KattenKabinet - Herengracht 497

The KattenKabinet (Cat Cabinet) is part historical building, part art gallery and part cat crazyness. The museum was founded in commemoration of the museum founder’s ginger cat, John Pierpont Morgan (1966-1983). Inside the canal side building, the first floor, which is open to visitors, is filled with, amongst other things, cat statutes, posters featuring cats and paintings/drawings of cats.

Amongst all this catness, you’re bound to start wondering if the cats are coming to life. I know I had my doubts about a curled up grey one on one of the sofas. As it turns out, there are three cats that live with the owner’s family upstairs and they can frequently be found wandering through or sleeping in the museum.

Even if cats aren’t to your liking, the KattenKabinet has something of value for you too. The rooms that the museum is housed in are visit worthy in themselves - high ceilings, decadent fixtures and large windows that look out onto the “Golden Bend”. Whatever your reason for visiting, don’t miss the shrine to John Pierpont Morgan. After all, he’s the whole reason the museum exists.

Open Times: Monday to Friday - 10am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 12-5pm

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder - Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40

If you stepped into the 17th century canal house located at Ouderzijds Voorburgwal 40 without knowing anything about it, you would easily think that it was just an old house. But what sets it apart is the secret in the attic.

350 years ago, this was the home of John Hartman, a wealthy Catholic merchant. During the time of Protestant Amsterdam, Catholics were prohibited from practising their religion in public. What happened behind closed doors, however, was often overlooked with a blind eye, especially if you were a merchant bringing money into the city. Hartman therefore decided to turn the top three floors of his house into a secret Catholic church.

A visit to Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic) is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, you get to see many of the public and private rooms that made up the Hartman’s family home. Secondly, the free audio guide provides you with more information than you would get from just walking around but not too much to overwhelm (or bore!) you. And third, of course, is to see the church.
It is easy to spend a couple of hours here. Although, do be fair warned that there are plenty of stairs, some of which are rather steep.

Opening Times: Monday to Saturday - 10am-5pm, Sundays and Public Holidays - 1-5pm

De Poezenboot - Singel 38G

They say that most cats hate water but on the Poezenboot (Cat Boat) water is literally keeping the cats afloat. The Poezenboot is the only floating animal sanctuary in the Netherlands.

It all started in 1966 with a woman named Henriette and the feline family she found sheltering under a tree. As more and more strays joined Henriette, she became known as the Cat Lady. It also became clear that she was going to need some more space! So she bought a houseboat.

You can visit the cats on the boat from 1-3pm (except Wednesdays and Sundays) but don’t be surprised if they aren’t all that impressed with you. The boat can be easy to miss so keep an eye out for the sign on top and then just board the boat and head in the door. It’s a unique experience, that’s for sure!

Opening Times: Daily - 1-3pm, except Wednesdays and Sundays