Amsterdam is famous for its 17th-century canal houses. As a resident, I still get a little thrill riding by the Grachtengordel (Canal Belt) on the way to a Saturday night movie or lunch with friends. Plus, since we’ve started house-hunting, I’ve managed to peek (online) into canalside apartments, partially satisfying my never-ending curiosity about them.
But unless you have deeply lined pockets (or a fat expat package), canal houses are mostly off limits to regular folk—particularly those on the Herengracht, or Lords’ Canal. The Herengracht has been ultra-prime real estate since the 1700s—a fact documented in a now-famous study called the Herengracht Index, a 400-year overview of property prices by Dutch professor Piet Echholtz from the University of Maastricht.
Herengracht houses are proper mansions, so large and highly priced that individuals can rarely afford them; most of their owners today are law firms, banks or cultural foundations.
That’s why Open Monumentendag (Heritage Days) is so fantastic. It’s a weekend in September when the Netherlands opens over 4,000 designated monuments (54 in Amsterdam alone) to the public. Since it’s highly unlikely that I would ever own, rent or work in a Herengracht house, this was the perfect (and only!) opportunity for me to finally see inside these 17th-century mansions.
Share my voyeuristic pleasure. Please.