Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Amsterdam is the semicircular Grachtengordel, or ‘canal belt’, which carves its path through the city, starting in the west and flowing east where it meets the River Amstel.
The canal belt contains some of the most famous attractions and shopping areas such as the Anne Frank House Museum, Leidseplein, and the canal belt itself (which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List). It’s actually a very organised affair, but the way the belt curves around the city can make for a disorientating trip. Meanwhile, the many similar-looking canals which dissect it add extra complexity for way-finding.
The canal belt cradles the historic centre of Amsterdam; a higgledy-piggledy medieval ‘core’ of streets, canals and squares in which you’ll find other well-known locations such as Centraal Station, the Red Light District, Nieuwemarkt and Dam Square. On the outside of the canal belt to the west, you’ll discover the area called Jordaan; the final piece of the central Amsterdam jigsaw puzzle. The historic centre, canal belt and Jordaan areas are collectively known as Centrum.