Gouden Bocht

Gouden Bocht (26)

The mere name of this zone on the Herengracht canal, the Golden Bend, might suggest it does not exactly refer to lowly Amsterdam, to badly cobbled streets or peeling walls. Of course not. This is one of the most luxurious areas of the city. 

In 1685, this zone of the canal, which lies between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat, had recently been completed. The Herengracht canal, which is also known as the “Gentlemen’s Canal”, had been financed by the wealthiest and most powerful bourgeoisie. In exchange for their investment they had been offered plots for larger constructions than in other districts of the city. 

These members of the bourgeoisie wished to show off their wealth to the world and thus quickly acquired the plots. The Herengracht filled up with large and magnificent palatial residences that were reflected, proudly, in the canal.  

The Gouden Bocht or Golden Bend was therefore home to Amsterdam’s richest merchants, who belonged to the India Companies, imported and exported products and transformed all their wealth into the luxury and opulence of their residences. 

The interior of these palaces flaunt tapestries, hides embossed in gold and silver, marble columns and alabaster balustrades, or gold inserts in the floors. This opulence was more seeming of a royal family than of merchants.

This zone is no longer the home of the powerful dynasties of yesteryear, but is occupied by banks, insurance companies, museums and other national and international institutions. 

Some of the houses, however, can still be visited as they have become house-museums. This is the case of the Kattenkabinet or Cat Cabinet Museum, at number 497, which features a flamboyant collection of paintings, drawings and objects that pay homage to cats. Indeed, the last inhabitant of the house, a wealthy financier, loved his cat. In memory of the animal, which died in 1984, the site has since accommodated this museum.

If you are not amazed by this house, then move on to number 475, site of the mansion called Neufville or “House on the Bend”, which has a globe on its cornice. The house is richly decorated with flowers, leaves, spirals, and children. If that is not enough, take a look at the fourteen-metre facade of number 412.

Your walk will lead you, house by house, to some pleasant surprises.

If, furthermore, you want a picture of one of Amsterdam’s most beautiful architectural monuments, head for numbers 362 and 394 of Herengracht, and take a look particularly at the four facades between numbers 364 and 370.

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