Dutch Quirk #71: Have impossible narrow and steep stairs in their houses

HomeLiving in the NetherlandsDutch Quirk #71: Have impossible narrow and steep stairs in their houses

Anyone who’s visited a Dutch house before will recognise a few distinct traits: open curtains for everyone to see, birthday calendars in the toilets, and possibly the steepest, narrowest stairs in the world.

The Dutch are known for their engineering feats especially with anything relating to the water but did they really have to build stairs that felt like climbing Everest?

What is it?

Most people learn how to climb and descend stairs by the time they’re four or five years old but seeing these bad boys will make you rethink anything you’ve ever known about stair safety.

Just looking at these stairs make me dizzy. Image: alessiapenny/Depositphotos

These stairs are steep and narrow enough to get fully grown people to cling to the bannister in fear.

Why do they do it?

These notorious stairs have their history in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Most residential areas in the Netherlands are built upon softer soil and needed very strong foundational structures to keep the buildings upright. 🏘

On top of that (literally), was the fact that the Dutch authorities started taxing people for the width of their home’s facade! The result? Very narrow houses.

READ MORE | The Amsterdam canal houses: why are they so wonderfully weird?

This didn’t just come down to taxes either. There also wasn’t much space for residential areas, a lot of the land being reclaimed from the sea and all. So, if Dutchies couldn’t build out, they would build up.

Combine these two things together and you have narrow and somewhat crooked houses overall and even more narrow and crooked stairs inside.

Why is it quirky? 

Most people don’t realise it until they move into one of these houses but there are actually quite a few drawbacks to this Dutch architectural phenomenon.

It’s practically impossible to bring any big pieces of furniture up or down the stairs unless they’re flat-packed IKEA furniture. Otherwise, almost every Dutch house has a hoisting hook:

A simpler version, many moving companies use machines to deliver large pieces of furniture to the upper floors.

These hooks seem equally as dangerous as trying to bring furniture up the stairs. 😬

But speaking of dangerous, steep stairs are the enemy to a big night out — they’re likely to have you tumbling down to the first floor if you don’t watch your step.

Should you join in? 

We suggest you at least get the chance to experience climbing up such a set of stairs, just to see how quickly you can get the chills. We recommend not attempting to climb while intoxicated if it is your first time, however.

If you’re moving to the Netherlands, you might not really have a chance to choose what kind of stairs you get but you’ll get the hang of it eventually. 😁

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image: DutchReview/Supplied

Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Third culture kid Katrien is a Philippine native living in the Netherlands to finish her master's degree in political communication. You can usually find her trying to organize everything on Notion and the sticky notes app, otherwise, she’s nose-deep in a good book or obsessing over film soundtracks and video games.


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