When you’re wandering through Amsterdam’s charming Jordaan area or the nearby grachtengordel (canal belt), be sure to stop by Westerkerk. This iconic church, with its striking clock tower – the Westertoren – is a true city landmark.

A Church with a Story

Built in the early 1600s for the well-to-do residents of the grachtengordel, Westerkerk was once the biggest Protestant church in the world. It’s also one of Amsterdam’s oldest churches built specifically for a Protestant congregation.

But Westerkerk isn’t just known for its size and age. It’s also the final resting place of two Dutch giants: the renowned painter Rembrandt van Rijn and the VOC shareholder and spirits distiller Lucas Bols. While the exact location of Rembrandt’s grave is a mystery, you’ll find a symbolic marker on the wall inside.

A Simple, Striking Interior

Step inside Westerkerk and you’ll be struck by its understated elegance. The walls are whitewashed and the décor is minimal, allowing the church’s few adornments to shine:

  • Sparkling chandeliers suspended from the ceiling
  • A grand organ perched above the entrance, adorned with carved angels
  • Intricate stone tomb markers set into the floor (watch your step – the reliefs are high and the impressions deep)

The Towering Westertoren

The Westertoren, affectionately called “Ouwe Wester” by locals, is a true Amsterdam icon. At 85 meters (about 279 feet) tall, it’s the city’s highest church tower. And it’s topped by a eye-catching blue keizerskroon – a nod to the Imperial Crown of Austria, which features in Amsterdam’s coat of arms.

The tower’s clock keeps the city on time, with the carillon bells chiming every 15 minutes. In fact, Anne Frank wrote about the clock in her famous diary: “Daddy, Mummy, and Margot can’t get used to the sound of the Westertoren clock yet, which tells us the time every quarter of an hour. I can. I loved it from the start, and especially in the night it’s like a faithful friend.”

For a bird’s-eye view of the Jordaan and Prinsengracht, consider climbing the Westertoren. The panoramic vistas are well worth the effort.

Visitor Info

You’ll find Westerkerk and Westertoren at Prinsengracht 281, just steps from the Anne Frank House.

Entrance to the church is free, but there’s a fee to climb the tower.

More to Explore Nearby

While you’re in the area, be sure to check out these other local gems:

  • Anne Frank House: Learn about the life and legacy of this remarkable young writer
  • 9 Straatjes: Browse the quirky boutiques and cafes in this charming micro-neighborhood
  • Houseboat Museum: Get a taste of life on the canals in this restored 1914 houseboat
  • Noordermarkt: Shop for vintage finds and local produce at this lively square turned market (Mondays and Saturdays only)
  • Winkel 43: Taste the city’s best apple pie at this cozy café on Noordermarkt square

And if you’re looking to explore more of Amsterdam’s rich religious history, consider visiting these other notable churches:

  • Oude Kerk: The city’s oldest building, located in the heart of the Red Light District
  • Nieuwe Kerk: A 15th-century church turned exhibition space on Dam Square
  • Zuiderkerk: Amsterdam’s first Protestant church, now home to a cultural center and café

No matter where your Amsterdam adventures take you, a stop at Westerkerk and a climb up the Westertoren are sure to be highlights. So take a break from the hustle and bustle, step inside this historic church, and soak up the timeless beauty of this Amsterdam icon.

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