If you’ve been to Amsterdam before, you already know that it’s got its fair share of weird buildings. Ranging from masterpieces of the avant-garde to houses whose very existence seem to contradict the laws of gravity, there’s no shortage of eye-catching architecture in the Dutch capital. When you’re in town, be sure to keep an eye out for these especially strange specimens.
1. ING House
As the story goes, “there once was an old lady who lived in a shoe…” Well, it’s not hard to tell what Amsterdam’s Meyer and Van Schooten Architects’ favorite bedtime story was. Now, a more contemporary version could go something like “There was once a multinational banking and financial services corporation that was headquartered in a shoe.” To be fair it’s a very big shoe, with around 5,600 square meters of foot space, held aloft as if ready for a sprint by sixteen steel legs (their word, not mine). You can spot this aluminum/glass slipper in Amsterdam-Zuid at the northeast corner of the Nieuwe Meer.
2. Wozoco Apartments
From straight on the Wozoco building is a benign apartment block, but change your angle slightly and the true structure reveals itself as more akin to Escher’s impossible objects. Full apartments jut out of the main frame at unsettling distances, somehow staying aloft without capsizing the building. Originally, the design wasn’t intended to be a virtuosic architectural defiance of the laws of physics, but the necessity of adding new units and maintaining both natural lighting and common green space led to the zany design that we see today. Check out Wozoco Apartments in Amsterdam-Osdorp, west of the city proper, at the corner of Dokmeerweg and Reimerswaalstraat.
3. NEMO Science Center
This ship-like structure looks right at home amid central Amsterdam’s maze of canals and waterways. For better or
worse, NEMO is a land-locked science museum with rooftop views of the city (often hosting concerts and events) and holding five floors of hands-on science madness that could make the jockiest of jocks go geek. The museum is also on the top 5 list of the country’s most-visited museums, so be sure to climb aboard while you’re in town. You’ll find the building’s portside moored to Oosterdok at the entrance to the IJ Tunnel. Click here to read our article on the NEMO Science Center.
4. Vrankrijk Squat
Squatting in Amsterdam has seen happier days, but some of the mainstays from the abandoned-building-free-for-all f the 80s and early 90s are still in business (or rather anti-business, since they’re not exactly allied with capitalist thought). Squats are often identifiable by their eccentric façades and political graffiti, and Vrankrijk is no exception with its massive, blue pop art “Boom!” mural, the reachable parts of the wall devoted to unsubtle written suggestions as to where the police should go. On a good day, the place is still a functional café, bar, dance club and concert venue. You can’t miss the place, on Spuistraat just around the corner from Dam Square.
This floating feline metropolis is certainly not alone in its wet foundations—hundreds of houseboats, museumboats and restaurantboats litter Amsterdam’s waterways, competing with overboard bicycles and canal cruises. What really sets Poezenboot apart from the other boots (and earns it the coveted last spot on this list) is it’s meowing, caterwauling tenants. Not without some semblance of irony, since cats are afraid of water, the boat was purchased in 1968 and set up as a shelter for the city’s abandoned and stray cats. You can stop by and take home a kitten or two on the Singel Canal right across from Ronde Lutherse Kerk.