Amsterdam, Netherlands

Canal houses of Amsterdam. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

For many who have never visited Amsterdam, the Dutch city might be best known for its permissive laws related to sex and drugs. Yet regulated prostitution and marijuana-distributing "coffeeshops" are only a small part of the canal city of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam also has a strong religious heritage, particularly with respect to Calvinism and Judaism. Though religion is on the decline in Amsterdam, like much of Europe, the city's rich religious heritage is reflected in the many churches and synagogues that are well worth a visit. Amsterdam also boasts an abundance of excellent religious art and an entire museum dedicated to the Bible.

Today, this vibrant Dutch city is a fascinating melting pot of Old World traditions, modern prosperity and youthfulness, and remnants of its hippie heyday. Only in Amsterdam can you visit a Bible Museum, a Jewish Museum, an Erotic Museum, and a Marijuana Museum in the same day!

Museum Amstelkring
This Catholic church in a canal house of the Red Light District is the only surviving schuilkerken(clandestine church) that dates from the Reformation, when open Catholic worship was outlawed.
Oude Kerk
Located alongside a canal in the Red Light District, the Oude Kerk is the oldest monument in Amsterdam, dating from 1250. Inside it has painted wooden ceilings, box pews and choir stalls with misericords.
Jewish Historical Museum
Housed in the 17th-century Great Synagogue of Amsterdam, this excellent museum displays Jewish art, religious objects, historical artifacts, and multimedia presentations.
Portuguese Synagogue
This grand Ionic-style synagogue was built in 1665 by Sephardic Jews who had fled Spain and Portugal for tolerant Amsterdam. Still in active use, it is lit by large, low-hanging brass chandeliers with 1,000 candles.
The Renaissance-style Westerkerk (West Church) shelters the remains of Rembrandt and his son, Titus, and is where in 1966 Princess (now Queen) Beatrix and Prince Claus said their marriage vows.
Dating from the early 14th century, this picturesque enclosed courtyard contains a Reformed Church and hidden Catholic chapel. It provides a serene oasis in the center of the city.
Nieuwe Kerk
The New Church is a 14th century Gothic church located next to the royal palace. It functions as the national church of the Netherlands, hosting inaugurations and special exhibitions.
Anne Frank House
During WW II, eight people from three families lived together in this house in near total silence for more than two years. Visiting the rooms where Anne Frank hid is a moving experience that brings her familiar words to life.