Oude Kerk

Oude Kerk (“Old Church” in English) is the oldest surviving building in Amsterdam. In one form or another, a church has stood where Oude Kerk stands today since the second decade of the thirteenth century, while Oude Kerk itself was consecrated in 1306. Visitors to Oude Kerk will find breathtaking medieval architectural details throughout the historic church, as well as multiple contemporary art installations that keep the attraction as relevant as ever.

Money Saving Tip! Oude Kerk is included on the I Amsterdam City Pass. If you are sightseeing in Amsterdam, then you can save a lot of money with the pass.

History of Oude Kerk

The story of Oude Kerk is almost as old as the city of Amsterdam itself. Shortly after the word Amsterdam begins to appear in the history books—around 1275, as the name of a collection of residents living together near a dam on the River Amstel—a church was built where Oude Kerk stands today. This church was consecrated as Saint Nicholas’ in September of 1306, in honor of the patron saint of sailors. When a new church was built in the city during the first decade of the fifteenth century, Saint Nicholas’ became known as the “Old Church,” or Oude Kerk.

This facility would be expanded in 1552, when a Lady’s Chapel was built, and it has been renovated many times throughout the ensuing centuries. Oude Kerk is also notable as an example of a church that was once Catholic, but in the wake of the Reformation became a Protestant place of worship. In the past decade, Oude Kerk has become recognized as a notable space for contemporary art shows.

Oude Kerk Church (14th Century) bathed in warm early sunlight, residing in the heart of the city and neighbour to Amsterdam’s red light district.

Oude Kerk Highlights

There’s perhaps no bigger highlight of a visit to Oude Kerk than the chance to explore the historic building itself. This 36,000 square foot structure is an architectural marvel, one of the most important and impressive in all of Amsterdam. Oude Kerk’s medieval wooden vault ceiling is considered the largest of its kind anywhere in Europe, and the church’s Vater-Müller Organ (which dates to 1724) is rated among the finest Baroque-era organs in existence.

It is believed that some 60,000 people are buried within Oude Kerk, and many tourists enjoy searching among the approximately 2,000 tombstones, monuments, and memorials for a glimpse of the tributes honoring some of Amsterdam’s long-deceased citizens of note. Oude Kerk’s many side rooms are also worth seeing for yourself: these striking spaces include the Lady’s Chapel and its beautiful stained-glass windows, as well as a recently restored Mirror Room that is adorned in colorful wallpaper dating to the eighteenth century.

In the past decade, Oude Kerk has reinvented itself as a go-to destination for contemporary art. Every year Oude Kerk sponsors two site-specific art installations that see cutting-edge contemporary arts create something new and innovative specifically for the interior of this historic attraction. These site-specific exhibits are temporary—they change out each year—so you never quite know what you’ll encounter when you visit. All the same, these annual shows typically make for a moving, thought-provoking experience.

More to See and Do at Oude Kerk

Oude Kerk today is a fascinating mix of old and new, and there’s a lot to see and do in and around the attraction. Keep reading for a few more items of note.

•Arguably the most famous grave found within Oude Kerk is that of Rembrandt’s beloved wife of thirty years, Saskia van Uylenburgh. Visitors hoping to locate this famous memorial should look for it near the middle of the left nave’s floor.

•Visitors to Oude Kerk in need of a pick-me-up can grab a caffeinated beverage and quick snack at De Koffieschenkerij, a charming café that specializes in coffee and cakes. Operating out of what was once the church’s sacristy, this cozy spot has delightful patio seating in a lovely garden courtyard.

•In addition to its permanent exhibits and annual site-specific installations, Oude Kerk also routinely sponsors live performances, concerts, lectures, and more. For details on what type of special programming might be taking place when you’re planning on visiting the attraction, check out Oude Kerk’s official website.

•Since 2007, a prominent piece of public art has stood in front of Oude Kerk. Entitled Belle, this bronze sculpture is the work of Dutch artist Els Rijerse. The statue’s caption reads “Respect Sexworkers All Over The World,” and the work is dedicated to the many sexworkers plying their trade in Amsterdam and beyond.

•Located a comfortable ten-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station, Oude Kerk is found squarely in the midst of the city’s legendary Red Light District. If you’re interested in exploring this iconic neighborhood during your visit to Amsterdam, you’ll definitely want to make a stop at Oude Kerk part of your sightseeing excursion through this famed district.

Why Oude Kerk Should Be on Your Must-See List

Oude Kerk is the oldest building still standing in Amsterdam, and well worth visiting by anyone with an interest in the history of this wonderful city. The fascinating mixture of old and new, traditional and cutting-edge, that defines contemporary Amsterdam is in full effect here at Oude Kerk, where you can glimpse fourteenth-century architectural flourishes right alongside compelling installations created in the past year by modern-day artists. Plus, Rembrandt’s wife Saskia van Uylenburgh is buried here, and the fabled artist was a frequent visitor to Oude Kerk in his day, making it a popular pilgrimage destination for fans of the acclaimed painter.