The Ultimate Guide to Canal Cruise in Amsterdam


The Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) – Everything you need to know!

The Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) - Everything you need to know!

The skinny bridge is more than crumpled postcards and tourist selfies. Read on about the Magere Brug's hidden history weaving centuries of Dutch heritage and passion beneath iron rails frozen in time over Amsterdam's pulsing Amstel heartbeat.

The skinny bridge is far more than a picturesque backdrop for tourist photos and postcards capturing Amsterdam at a glance. Beyond the crumpled selfies and poses lies a rich untold narrative woven through the Magere Brug’s graceful arches spanning the shimmering Amstel River. 

Read on to discover the secrets laid for over 300 years within its iron rails frozen in time. This is the story of how a humble wooden crossing transformed into an artistic and engineering marvel eternally bridging old Amsterdam’s Golden Age canals to the vibrant cultural renaissance thriving along houseboat galleries today. 

Beneath twenty swaying tulips overhanging each sloped walkway sits a heritage as intricate as the bridge’s angled counterweights allowing its narrow frame to pivot open for passing ships, carefully preserving and reshaping the city’s passion throughout the ages.

A Storied Past: The Origins of the Skinny Bridge

The elegant Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), did not begin as the postcard-perfect landmark seen today spanning the Amstel River in Amsterdam. First constructed hastily in 1670 to connect the Kerkstraat and Nassaukade districts, the original crossing was a simple wooden drawbridge intended solely for function over form. At just over 6 meters wide, the locals took to calling it the “Skinny Bridge” for the way its slender shape stretched over the water.

In the ensuing decades, the rough-hewn Skinny Bridge bore the brunt of relentless foot traffic and river congestion. Rotting wood, corrosion, and damage forced it to be rebuilt in 1703 and again in 1870. Each iteration tried to balance the growing demands of commerce and transportation across the Amstel with the quaint integrity of the old bridge.

After over 200 years of temporary fixes, the Skinny Bridge finally received a sweeping redesign in 1871 that established the foundations of the current structure celebrated worldwide today. The unused stubs of the previous drawbridge towers were removed, and a new form was constructed from iron and wood rather than only wood. Intricate mechanical elements were introduced allowing the bridge to pivot open for passing boats, preserving its critical role spanning the Amstel for direct access between bustling local neighborhoods.

The Skinny Bridge as it Stands Today: A Marvel of Engineering and Beauty

The incarnation of the Skinny Bridge standing today dates back to crucial renovations in 1871 when the existing bridge was reimagined in a moveable bascule style still seen now over 150 years later. The iconic sloped shape incorporated new counterweights allowing the bridge to swing open when triggered, creating easy passage along the verdant Amstel River for commercial and passenger ships gliding by.

Previously opened manually with ropes and pulleys by nearby bridge tenders when boats approached, the Skinny Bridge saw upgrades to electrical motors in 2003 that preserved its vintage look while automating the raising process. Signal horns sound announcing the raising sequence as the bridge’s leaves begin pivoting upwards from the central tower until perpendicular to the river below. Sturdy steel rods support the span firmly open as boats navigate calmly underneath according to their captain’s practiced experience. Once fully cleared, the bridge returns gently into place, realigning the iconic white rails and sloped passageways seamlessly to restore the idyllic river crossing.

Beyond impeccable Dutch engineering, the Skinny Bridge entrances locals and visitors with its delicate beauty. The slender white bridge towers proudly over the water, flanked by charming 17th century brick canal houses along the Kerkstraat and bobbing houseboats draped in overflowing flower boxes, spilling vibrant red and yellow hues over the shimmering river below.

Skinny Bridge - Where to Eat and Sleep?

Standing as one of Amsterdam’s most quintessential landmarks, the Skinny Bridge offers far more than functionality. The pedestrian footpaths introduce visitors to an authentic blend of culture, dining, scenery and romance that epitomizes the Dutch capital.

The culinary choices surrounding the Skinny Bridge area rival any in Amsterdam. Visitors can indulge in Dutch specialties like pancakes or poffertjes in the cozy, tin-decorated Café Papeneiland dating to 1642. Lovers may enjoy the 3-course Sweet Amoris menu in sight of the bridge at restaurant Greetje, savoring goose liver & apple and crème brûlée from an elegantly converted 17th century canal house nearby. Or one can simply revel like the locals do in nothing more than a hot paper cone of Belgian-style frites, dunking crisp salty batons into artisan mayonnaise and curry ketchup with the Amstel river breezes nearby.

When finished, visitors will find no shortage of boutique shops, markets and galleries to browse nearby along the charming Kerkstraat streets and Nieuwe Herengracht canals. Once called home by wealthy merchants and Amsterdam mayors of the Golden Age, many ornately gabled canal houses have been converted to inviting cafés, restaurants and specialty bookstores where English novels and Dutch literature now sit stacked against Delft blue porcelain backdrops inside.

Pausing atop the peaked rooftops, one takes in the quintessence of Skinny Bridge from above, timeless canal reflections rippling gently below its graceful white arches. Enamored couples and artists alike have flocked here through the centuries, snapshots of their joy memorialized forever after in countless photographs all while new stories continue unfolding every day in the shadows of Amsterdam’s most charming bridge.

Skinny Bridge FAQ

When was the Skinny Bridge built? 

The original Magere Brug was built in 1670 as a fixed wooden drawbridge connecting districts over the Amstel River. The current bridge structure dates back to extensive renovations made in 1871.

Why is it called the “Skinny Bridge”? 

The bridge was nicknamed the “Skinny Bridge” because of its very narrow width – just over 6 meters across.

What is special about the Skinny Bridge’s design? 

The Magere Brug is distinct for its steep angled counterweights that allow the bridge to pivot open into a “V” shape when boats need to pass along the river below.

What material is the Skinny Bridge made from? 

The current Magere Brug is constructed from iron and wood, which replaced the all-wood design from 1670.

How often does the bridge open for boats? 

The leafs of the bridge pivot open approximately 1,200 times per week on average to accommodate boats sailing along the Amstel River.

When did the bridge mechanisms modernize? 

The bridge received mechanical upgrades in 2003 from manual pulleys to electrical motors, automating the opening while preserving its vintage look.

Which districts does the bridge connect? 

The Skinny Bridge connects the vibrant Kerkstraat neighborhood and the peaceful area along the Nassaukade lining the Amstel River.

Where can you get the best view of the bridge? 

Some of the best places to view the bridge are from passenger boats on the canal, nearby restaurants like Greetje, or Amstelpark along the riverbanks.

Why do houseboats anchor around the bridge? 

The Magere Brug area is known for its beautiful rows of houseboats, some converted into galleries, shops, cafes, and residences drawn by the scenic waterside location.

What food and drink specialties are served near the bridge? 

Visitors can find poffertjes, Dutch pancakes, seasonal fare, wine, coffee and Belgian-style frites along with a variety of international cuisines.

What is the best time of day to photograph the bridge? 

Golden hour light right before sunset casts the bridge in a perfect glow, but it also looks lovely at all times of day.

Do boats ever get stuck under the bridge when it lowers? 

Thanks to skilled boat captains knowing the timing patterns, boats clearing under the bridge before it lowers again rarely poses issues.

How many times has the bridge been rebuilt? 

The original 1670 bridge underwent major reconstructions in 1703, 1870, and 1934 before achieving its current iconic design.

What inspired the steep arch shape? 

The bridge architecture mimics the sloped rooflines and gables of the surrounding historical Dutch canal houses.

Why is the Magere Brug so famous? 

The elegance, history, functionality, beauty and atmosphere make this bridge one of Amsterdam’s top photography spots and a “must-see” landmark.

Is it free to walk along the bridge? 

Yes, unlike some other tourist icons, the pedestrian paths stretching over the Amstel River remain freely accessible without tickets.

Where do bridge tenders who operate it live? 

Bridge tenders occupy houses along the nearby streets so they can quickly maintain and open the Skinny Bridge when boat traffic approaches below.

Can you dine on the bridge? 

No, but visitors can enjoy food and drink from the many excellent cafés and restaurants lining the streets just steps away on both sides of the water.

Is the Magere Brug the “Most Beautiful Bridge” in Amsterdam? 

While other bridges like the Herengracht have their own appeal, many consider the elegant Skinny Bridge Amsterdam’s prettiest and most iconic span.

What do Travelers Think About the Skinny Bridge?

The Magere Brug, or “Skinny Bridge,” draws admiration and delight from travelers visiting Amsterdam. Many tourists consider a jaunt over the slender walkways rising steeply over the calm waters of the Amstel River a quintessential Dutch experience.

Visitors frequently marvel at the Magere Brug’s beauty, calling it the most picturesque and romantic bridge setting in the city. Travelers photograph its distinctive shape and graceful white arches extensively, charmed by the cascading flowers overflowing from the houseboats docked nearby. Watching the coordinated bridge opening is also a highlight as its angled leafs sound warning bells before pivoting smoothly upward.

Yet the Magere Brug’s enduring popularity stems from more than postcard aesthetics alone. Travelers feel transported by the rich heritage embodied in its neoclassical structures mingling with vibrant modern scenes of passing bicyclists, artists, and cozy canal-perched cafés. The bridge’s intricate movements serve as living history, having connected locals across the pulsing Amstel for over 300 years.

Beyond outstanding architectural craftsmanship, what visitors sense in the Skinny Bridge is the very soul of Amsterdam – its resilience and passion, its balance of old world charm and vision for the future, symbolized beautifully by a 17th century crossing still meeting 21st century demands. Enamored travelers intuit the Magere Brug is not simply stone and iron, but instead Amsterdams’ open arms flung across the waters, linking its colorful past and present.

More useful information about Amsterdam Canal Cruises

We are a group of travelers who love to explore and write about Amsterdam. Over the years, we have gained extensive experience with cruising over the Canals in Amsterdam. Here, you could find all the essential information you need to know about Amsterdam Canal Cruises, including the different types of cruise, prices, tickets, operating hours, departure points, and many more.


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