With its well-preserved 17th century architecture and intricate system of canals, Amsterdam is an artist’s dream, especially among landscape artists. On a sunny day in the spring or summer, it is typical to find inspired artists covered in paint and with an easel set up near the railing on one of the many historic bridges and pathways. Holland might have notoriously brutal winters, but when the seasons change, the city comes to life with blue skies and sunny afternoons, the perfect backdrop for creating lovely landscapes.
10. Dam Square
For centuries, Dam Square has been the center of Amsterdam and a famous, cherished relic dating back to medieval times. Originally built in the 13th century, the square near the train station still retains its old world glory. The only difference is the mopeds and cars zipping around. Over the years, the square has gone through a series of interesting changes, making it layered in a rich history, particularly with artists. During Holland’s Golden Age in the 16th century, Amsterdam flourished, especially among landscape artists like Gerrit Adriaenz and his famous painting, “Dam Square Amsterdam.” Find a comfortable spot at one of outdoor cafes for a glorious view of the New Church, an impressive Gothic structure with ornate detailing, and the Beurs van Berlage, a former stock exchange building established in 1903. Another inspiring structure for artists to capture is the Royal Palace nearby, the grand crown jewel of Holland.
With seven bridges crossing this tranquil canal, the scene at Reguliersgracht is quintessentially Amsterdam, which is perfect for Dutch-inspired landscapes, photographs, or sketches. Set up your easel and paints on one of the bridges to capture the old 16th and 17th century town homes, cafes, and the historic Seven Bridges Hotel lining the river Amstel. Artists can revel in the beautiful, ancient surroundings like the Gothic cathedral towering over the neighborhood and the famous Carre theatre façade. For traditional Dutch street scenes, Reguliersgracht is a favorite among artists, especially on a sunny day when the big skies, bright sunlight, and blooming flowers are at their peak. Artists have the chance to capture the reflections off the water, the ancient drawbridges, and quaint sidewalk cafes of one of Amsterdam’s loveliest streets. Dutch artist George Hendrick Breitner, a notable impressionist painter, often came here for inspiration.
8. Rijksmuseum Building
For artists interested in depicting the impressive Victorian Gothic style architecture, head to Rijksmuseum located on Museumplein at Stadhouderskade. Before setting up your art supplies on the lawn outside of the building, it’s worth a trip inside the museum to see up close the famous Dutch artists from the 16th century as well as the 19th century impressionists. A must-see for any serious artist is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch,” plus several paintings by Vermeer, a notable Dutch artist who was known for paintings portraying domestic interior scenes of the wealthy merchant class. After studying the artists that revolutionized art and fostering your imagination, you’ll be ready to paint or sketch to your heart’s delight. The building looks dazzling at night with the hundreds of lights reflecting off the beautiful garden pond. One of the oldest depictions of the building was an engraving by Isaac de Moucheron that dates back to 1697.
For landscape artists, a painting or sketching session is a must at Bloemgracht, the Flower Canal. Lined with old-fashioned houseboats, 16th and 17th century town homes, and vintage bikes leaning against historic bridges, you’ll have the chance to bring a canvas or sketch pad to life with the vibrant colors of a typical Amsterdam street on a sunny day when the flowers are in full bloom. The canal is named after the red geraniums that hang from wrought iron railings on the bridges. The canal is the perfect spot to depict the light reflection off the water and bright colors of a city at the height of spring. Situated in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam, the neighborhood was home to Rembrandt, who moved here for the low rents. Just around the corner is Rozengracht (Rose Canal) and the same path that the famous Dutch painter took daily to his studio.
6. Torensluis Bridge
Another lovely bridge for city street scenes is the Torensluis Bridge, the oldest bridge still in its original state. Built in 1648 at the peak of Holland’s Golden Age, the bridge was once part of a moat circling Amsterdam. If you look closely, you’ll find barred windows under the bridge, which are relics from the former prison once housed underneath. From the bridge, artists can get a view of the old town homes, sidewalk cafes, and the Gothic cathedral overlooking the Singel Canal. Amsterdam is filled with old bridges, but Torensluis is a particular favorite with its striking ancient white stone and wrought iron railing. As a city full of impressive remnants from Holland’s glory days, Amsterdam is a unique place for artists to depict a distinctively Dutch style street scene. For centuries, the city has inspired a rich tradition of landscape artists, impressionists, and photographers that continues today.
With its intricate, charming system of canals and bridges, plus the historic buildings and massive cathedrals, Amsterdam has no shortage of places for portraying Dutch street scenes. The rich colors of Prinsengracht come alive in a dazzling spectacle under the sunny blue sky of Holland in the spring or summer. Artists flock here for the inspiring view of the Prince’s Canal, which was named after William I, Prince of Orange. As the longest of the three canals in the area, Prinsengracht is also one of the liveliest with its old-fashioned houseboats, sidewalks cafes, and flower markets on every corner. Like most canals and lanes of this Old World city, the scene still evokes the splendor of Holland at their peak of wealth and innovation in art, architecture, and trade. Every August, musical festival-goers flood the streets as pontoon boats with live music float pass in a massive party, Dutch style.
For a change of pace from the lively street scenes, canals, and town squares, head to Oosterpark to capture a more natural, serene setting. On sunny days, the parks of Amsterdam are a place where locals and tourists soak in the precious sun that’s been hiding during the infamously cold winter months. With huge lime trees, tranquil ponds filled with water lilies and ducks, and large green spaces, there are many spots for artists to find their inspiration. Modeled after a typical 18th century English garden, the park was laid out and designed by Leonard Antonij Springer in 1891. You’ll find the park in the Oost/Watergraafsmeer neighborhood on the east side of Amsterdam. The park also contains several important monuments, including The National Monument, a sculpture by Erwin Jules de Vries that commemorates the end of slavery in the Netherlands in 1861.
3. Magere Brug
Situated across the Amstel river is the Magere Bridge, a striking, freshly painted drawbridge. It’s also one of the most famous bridges in Amsterdam because of its enchanting fairytale quality, especially at night when it sparkles with 1,800 lights. For a street scene filled with dramatic dark shadows, the light dancing on the water reflection, and the dazzling lights on the bridge, head there in the evening to capture the striking Dutch street scene. Built is 1934, the “Skinny Bridge” connects the river at Kerkstraat (Church Street) and is sandwiched between Keizertsgracht, the Emerors’ Canal, and Prinsengracht (Princes’ Canal). Even better for artists, since 2003 the bridge is now restricted to pedestrians and bicyclists, so you don’t have to worry about getting disturbed by pesky traffic. The canal was also featured in a scene in the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever, which came out in 1971.
2. Waterland Nature Preserve
For tranquil scenes of serene dykes lined with quaint cottages, little boats tied to the shore, and a white cathedral in the distance, pack up your art supplies and head to the Waterland nature reserve, a short distance north of Amsterdam in the village of Holysloot. To get there, it’s a short bicycle ride through the villages of Durgerdam and Randsdorp, a great way to get inspired by the traditional Dutch countryside on your way to the nature preserve. And if you get peckish after a painting or sketching session, stop in at Schoolhuis, a restaurant housed in an old school house, for some savory Dutch pancakes. Following in the tradition of the 16th century Dutch landscape artists, you’ll have the chance to capture the big skies filled with sunlight breaking through the clouds and dramatic shadows and reflections off the water, a hallmark of the uniquely Dutch “skyscapes.”
The Dutch might be known for their engineering ingenuity and work ethic, but they also are experts on the art of relaxing. In fact, it’s a way of life, which is why hanging out in Vondelpark is one of the favorite activities of locals. In the Dutch tradition of lingering over a picnic, the urban park is a verdant haven filled with big trees, ponds, and rose gardens. In the centuries-old tradition of landscape artists like Rembrandt and Anthonie van Burssom, artists have the opportunity to capture the vast cloudy skies, the reflections off the water, and sunlight breaking through the clouds. Back in 1867, shortly after the park was laid out, the vegetation was sparse, but by the late 19th century, Vondelpark was one of Holland’s most cherished public parks. Designed by Louis Paul Zocher, it is considered by many to be Amsterdam’s most impressive examples of an English-style garden.