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 fascinating 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 (below). Others show their signs of age but are still absolutely charming. This ostrich with a horseshoe in her mouth symbolizes “strength through resistance”. My photo is from 2013, you can see here that the stone has since been restored and painted. Which version do you prefer?
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 Amsterdam 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.
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Here’s a new one I found a few weeks back, I’ll have to do a bit more research but I’m guessing it is from 2017 and it has something to do with money not growing on trees. In case you can’t see it too clearly it has little piggybanks in a tree.
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!
I recommend wandering around and being surprised by the mysterious artworks. But you can also view collections of facade stones:
- at Sint Luciensteeg at the Amsterdam Museum
- inside the Begijnhof
- on the wall at Sint Olofssteeg 11 in the Red Light District
- in the Rijksmuseum gardens
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- Top 10 museums in Amsterdam
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- Things to do on a rainy day in Amsterdam
- Haarlem: day trip from Amsterdam
- 25 top coffee spots in Amsterdam
- Best garden cafes in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam street art
- 40+ breakfast and brunch spots in Amsterdam
- Vegetarian restaurants in Amsterdam
Here are a few more gevelstenen I have spotted around town. Hope you enjoy!
These radishes are on the front of a hofje with the same name.
The occupant of this house in the Jordaan was born in Malang, Indonesia.