The city's finest concert hall and home of the highly respected Concertgebouw orchestra. If you are going to a concert, go by public transport or taxi if you can bear it. You've a choice of trams 2, 3, 5, 12, 16 and 24 and bus 170. There is a taxi rank outside.
The history bit
In 1881, worried that Amsterdam did not have a proper concert hall, six prominent citizens got togther with the aim of building one. The architect Petrus Cuypers, who advised the committee, told them to buy a piece of land which at first sight seemed rather bizzare. It was outside the city, surrounded by meadows, ditches and smallholdings but Cuypers was a man of foresight. He predicted the city would expand south westerly and after an open competition, A. Gendt was chosen to design the new building.
Gendt's neo-renaissance building has a large and small concert hall, the small one being an exact copy of that in the Felix Meritis building. The excellent accoustics in the main hall are more of a lucky coincidence, because accoustic science at the turn of the century was only just beginning.
The Concertgebouw was completed in 1886, but as the area was still very rural, even the horse tram did not reach that far. On April 11 1888 the opening concert was held, using an orchestra of 120 musicians and a choir of 600. The Concertgebouworkest was founded in November, and the first conductor, W. Kes had a hard job educating the audience how to behave -- used as they were to eating, drinking and talking during a performance. Poorer citizens could also enjoy the music by gathering in the garden behind the building until it was sold in 1924.
Despite being primarily designed for concerts, the Concertgebouw is a multi-functional building. It has hosted exhibitions, conferences, political meetings (in 1904 the Socialist International met there with Rosa Luxembourg), boxing matches, church services, plays, ballet, fashion shows and beauty pagents.
The building has been renovated several times over the years, the last one being in 1983 when an alarming report said there was such serious subsidence the entire foundation of the building was threatened.
An ingenious plan was drawn up and the whole structure was literally lifted, and the orginal poles (which rested on sand 13 metres under the ground) were replaced by concrete ones hammered in to 18 metres. A new basement was dug and an extension with a new entrance was added outside. This glass structure, which preserves the orginial building behind, allowed the audience to wait out of the rain and get coffee during the intervals. The original entrance is now only used by royalty.