Amsterdam is one of the best cities in the world for photography. The combination of the unique architecture, canals, beautiful bridges and even the bicycles all combine to create wonderful travel photos. The great thing about Amsterdam is that it is so easily accessible that in just a few days you can come back with hundreds of great photos. So here is a simple guide to photographing Amsterdam.
If there is one thing that is synonymous with Amsterdam, then it is its canals. Built during the Golden Age of the 17th century, Amsterdam’s canal ring was originally built for practical reasons. It allowed the city to grow beyond its fortified boundaries and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013. The canals in Amsterdam are an integral part of the city and naturally should be one of the first things that you add to your shot list.
There are plenty of places to capture those post-card shots. But here is a list of a few of the best spots:
The intersection of Leidsegracht and Keizersgracht – This is one of the most iconic spots in Amsterdam for photography. The two bridges and the houses in the background provide a wonderful composition. You can also combine these with slow exposure motion blur and light trails from the boats that go under the bridges
View of Westerkerk Church from Leliegracht and Prinsengracht intersection – This is a great spot to capture photographs of the church and river. Head out during the blue hour and the lights on the canal will act as a leading line to the church.
An alternative view of Westerkerk from Reestraat and Prinsengracht intersection – To get a view of the church from the other side head to this intersection which is a good spot in the late afternoon light. If you are patient and wait around you can capture a boat in the canal to give you a point of interest.
Stadhouderskade road – Not visited as much by photographers as some of the spots above, along the bank of this road, also provides great photo opportunities of the beautiful houses along the river.
Basilica of Saint Nicholas – Near the train station, across the body of water from the Basilica is a great place to capture blue hour shots of the Basilica with its reflection in the water.
Damrak – This is probably the most famous spot in Amsterdam for photos. The unique and quirky building across the canal are incredibly photogenic and will reflect in the water. The best time to photograph these is during the blue hour.
These are just some of the places that you can capture great photos of the canals in Amsterdam. The reality is that you can walk around any neighbourhood and capture great photos.
The museum itself is stunning and you should take some time to explore and photograph the inside (yes, photography is allowed inside). Make sure you visit the library which is very photogenic. But the outside of the Rijksmuseum is a great place to photograph during the blue hour. Position yourself at the back of the long fountain and you’ll capture beautiful shots leading the eyes to the museum.
Whilst there make sure you turn around and photograph the Van Gogh museum as well that will be directly behind you. You can try to include some people walking across the path in your composition for added interest.
The world’s only floating flower market shouldn’t be missed off from your shot list for Amsterdam. Whilst it may not seem as photogenic as the beautiful canals, this will offer a different view of this city. Be sure to capture photos of people looking inside the stalls and close-ups of the flowers, seeds and other goods on sale.
Albert Cuyp Market
This market in the De Pijp area of Amsterdam is a great place to practice some market photography. There is everything from clothing to food on sale. This makes it a wonderful place for photography. Make sure you cover off shots of the food, vendors and other products on sale. But also make sure you photograph the people who visit the market too as they are as integral to it as the vendors.
This park near the Museumplein in the Amsterdam-Zuid borough offers a welcome relief from the hectic and busy city. It is also a great place to capture photographs of the locals relaxing, enjoying a picnic and cycling. There are also sculpture and plenty of flora and fauna to keep any type of photographer busy for a few hours.
The Royal Palace in Dam Square
You won’t be able to miss this incredible building in the heart of the city. But being where it also makes it difficult to photograph without hoards of people in your way. So the best way to capture great photos of this building is in the evening when you can use a slow shutter speed. Look to set your shutter speed to 30 seconds and you should be able to blur out most of the people in the shot for a cleaner image.
The Begijnhof is one of the oldest squares in Amsterdam. It is a group of houses that provided homes for a group of unmarried religious women who lived together in this community under vows of chastity (Beguines). This secluded courtyard provides a nice alternative to the busy parts of the city. On the green, in the courtyard, you’ll see a statue of a Beguine and another of Jesus Christ which makes for a nice photo with the houses providing a background.
View from Westerkerk Church Tower
Somewhere that is often overlooked by photographers is the view from the top of Westerkerk Church Tower. At 40 meters high this gives a wonderful overhead view of Amsterdam. There is an entrance fee and you can only walk to the top of the tower with a guided tour that runs every 30 minutes. The climb is steep with ladder-like steps in some parts. Try to walk up in the late afternoon where your reward will be stunning picture opportunities in golden light.
Other photography opportunities
There is so much to photograph in Amsterdam that you could easily spend months there. Other notable things to add to your shot list are street-side cafes and bars as well as the beautiful historic houses. Some of which you will be allowed to go into and take photos. There is also the NEMO Science Museum that offers a modern alternative to the older parts of the city. Another interesting place to capture some unique photos are the bicycle parks that are used like multi-storey car parks. There is one near the main train station.
Red Light District
Whilst you can photograph pretty much all of Amsterdam without any issues or problems, one area that you should definitely avoid taking photos in is the Red Light district, especially at night. If you try to, you could find yourself in trouble and your camera ending up in the canal. So don’t take the risk, it isn’t worth it.
Amsterdam is one of the world’s great cities for photography. Whilst this list gives you some of the locations that you should photograph, this is a place that you just need to explore by walking around. You’ll probably find hundreds of more locations that are not on this list. But one thing is for sure, you’ll come back with fantastic photos and amazing memories.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.