When you are walking around Amsterdam, look up! See those little signs or plaques on the facades of the buildings? Learn more about gevelstenen and see our favorites here.
I thought I was the only one obsessed with these lovely things, but a basic Google search turned up a bunch of people who love to inventory and research gevelstenen.
GEVELSTENEN IN AMSTERDAM
Some gevelstenen are fanciful like unicorns, mermaids and pegasus, and many are religious in nature. Often the stones are descriptive of the business located there, like a dentist with his hand in the mouth of a patient or an animal representing a butchershop. Street numbering was introduced in the Netherlands around 1875, and before that these stones could be used to denote a certain address, or simply used as decoration.
Some of the gevelstenen that look ancient are quite new, like the hippo in the canal that can be seen on Brouwersgracht. Others show their signs of age but are still absolutely charming. This ostrich with a horseshoe in her mouth symbolizes “strength through resistance”.
Both old and new gevelstenen often have interesting stories behind them, whether from a well-known fable or facts about the family that lived in the house.
My favorite gevelstenen include:
The Fox and the crab at Noordermarkt – from the Aesop fable that reminds us to be happy with what we have. (seen above)
The owl in the tower on Uilenburgerstraat.
The fish in the tree, a newer stone by Hans ‘t Mannetje. The story behind it is that in an “inverted world” fish would build their nests in trees. It refers to the Lindengracht canal being filled in. You’ll notice the year and the word at the bottom are written backwards. So cool!
This eagle feeding her chicks is in honor of a mayor of Amsterdam. Notice the Hebrew lettering on the corner of the stone.
Of course the many symbols of Amsterdam are interesting to spot. Here is one of my favorites from 1596. You can find it near the Rapenbrug.
Do you have a favorite gevelsteen in the city? Take a walk, look up and admire the details!