Amsterdam's canals now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (NL)

The Amsterdam canal district has been added to the prestigious United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Heritage List.

Amsterdam canals

The UNESCO World Heritage Site will take in the area around Amsterdam's three main canals: the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, and the Prinsengracht.

The decision was announced at the 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Brasilia, Brazil, making the canal district the ninth World Heritage Site in the Netherlands. The canal district is regarded as an international icon of urban planning and architecture.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site will take in the area around Amsterdam's three main canals: the Herengracht or Patricians' Canal, the Keizersgracht or Emperor's Canal, and the Prinsengracht or Prince's Canal. The three waterways run parallel to each other in a crescent shape, giving the city center its characteristic semi-circular shape when viewed from the air. Many of the canal houses were built in the Golden Age, a period of great progress and prosperity in 17th-century Amsterdam.

According to UNESCO, who awarded the title of World Heritage Site to the 17th-century canal ring area inside the Singelgracht, the historic urban ensemble of the canal district of Amsterdam was a project for a new 'port city' built at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries.

It comprises a network of canals to the west and south of the historic old town and the medieval port that encircled the old town and was accompanied by the repositioning inland of the city's fortified boundaries, the Singelgracht. This was a long-term program that involved extending the city by draining the swampland, using a system of canals in concentric arcs and filling in the intermediate spaces. These spaces allowed the development of a homogeneous urban ensemble including gabled houses and numerous monuments. This urban extension was the largest and most homogeneous of its time. It was a model of large-scale town planning, and served as a reference throughout the world until the 19th century.

Amsterdam has been working to win world heritage status for its 17th century center since 2006. Locations on the list can obtain UNESCO funding for maintenance or to restore damage. But more significantly for Amsterdam, the World Heritage tag is a source of prestige, and boosts the location's status as a tourist destination.

Amsterdam city center will be the ninth Dutch site to make the World Heritage list, which also includes the modernist Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht, the windmills of Kinderdijk-Elshout and, on the other side of the Atlantic, the old town of Willemstad, on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles.

Source: UNESCO/Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions

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