Nieuwmarkt

At the bottom of the Zeedijk and bordering the Red Light District lies Nieuwmarkt square and the brooding Waag, or weigh house, the ex-gatehouse to the city. The area has been a marketplace since the 17th century, selling cheese, herbs, cloth, and fish, as well as spices brought back from the ships of the Dutch East India Company. Public executions and other gruesome punishments took place here as well, supplying cadavers to the Surgeon's Guild for dissection. This is where Rembrandt came to watch Professor Tulp in action before painting The Anatomy Lesson. During WWII, the Nieuwmarkt was known for a flourishing black market and as a collection place where Jews were held before being shipped off to concentration camps. Today it's an upscale local gathering place, ringed by restaurants, cafés, and jazz clubs. There's a farmers' market every Saturday and occasional antiques and curiosities sales. After the hustle (literally) of the Red Light District, this square and the neighborhood around it are a refreshing break. Due east is a cluster of less-touristy, canal-lined streets (the Rechtboomsloot is especially scenic). Directly south, straight up the Kloveniersburgwal, is the University of Amsterdam, in a myriad of lovely old buildings along and between the canals.

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