The streets of Amsterdam: now and in 1922

It’s safe to say that we are living in truly historic times.  The coronavirus has brought Europe to a standstill and with it, we also gain a new perspective over the places we live in.

Anyone going down the streets of Amsterdam nowadays (which they probably shouldn’t) will find the normally bustling city almost completely empty. Landmarks like the main squares of the city devoid of human activity, all the shops are closed, life has come to a standstill.

An empty Amsterdam

Some might find this desolate or even post-apocalyptic. Or perhaps we are finally getting a perspective on a city without millions of drunk tourists peeing in canals, you pick.


Either way, there’s no denying that there is something eerily beautiful about the empty city. Without all the crowds down on the streets, it’s also a great opportunity to quietly appreciate the unique architecture of the city. Besides, it’s also a moment of appreciating a little gift from nature. Spring is here! So sit by your balconies, breathe in the flower-scented streets and listen to the birds singing in the trees. This too shall pass.

Some historic perspective

While now the streets are empty, it’s a great time to peek back in history to some busier times. 98 years ago, to be exact. A remastered video from 1922 in Amsterdam was recently released, all in colour and presenting an intimate look at Dutch life back in the day.

There’s so much to unpack in this video. First of all, seeing the streets filled with Dutchies instead of tourists is certainly a sight to see. The fashion is also striking. These were the days before people wore leggings in public (not that there is anything wrong with that). The men dressed elegantly and with head caps straight out of Peaky Blinders. It’s interesting to note the traditional dresses the women were wearing, now only reserved for special events.

It’s fascinating to see people’s curiosity with the video camera. No one bats an eye if you are filming something today on the streets. Back then, however, cameras were huge and clumsy devices and so many of the people in this video stop and stare at this curious machine. The fact that some of them choose to be playful and quirky in front of the camera makes it an even more heartwarming and intimate portrait of the Dutch people in a bygone area.

The streets are filled with commerce and activity, people are hanging out in what seems like Dutch social circles of death (as we affectionately like to call them) and yes, the bikes are also here! Sure, this was in the day before endless bike paths, but it didn’t take long for the Dutch to realize that their country is fit for bike-riding.

We’ll let you discover the rest of the hidden gems in this video. Spot anyone with wooden clogs?

What do you prefer, the empty and quiet Amsterdam of today or the bustling and chaotic Amsterdam of almost a century ago? Let us know in the comments!

Feature Image: Library of Congress/picryl

Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.


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