Central Station, our proud city gate

The main railway station was completed in 1889. This closed off Amsterdam’s wide open waterfront. That view was definitely gone. At the same time, the station was the rescue of the inner city. Shopping streets with grandeur developed from the station.

With the De Entree project, the station area is now being redesigned.

1869. Jetties for the steamboats at the former Nieuwe Stads-Herberg. So quiet, now the Central Station is here.

5 kilometers waterfront

IJ was always a large open water; a kind of inland sea of ​​the Zuiderzee, now the IJsselmeer. In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, this was a world port 5 kilometers wide. Here lay the great sailing ships, the huge merchant fleet. But IJ became quieter, sludge and the modern steamships had greater draft. Nieuwe Stads-Herberg lay still in the water.

On the south side of the city lay the ramparts of the canal semicircle for centuries. With the world port on the north side, Amsterdam was perhaps the most beautiful city in the world.

1867. Design Staats-Spoorwegen Lijn K. Design of Central Passenger Station and Central Goods and Coal Station in Amsterdam. The Hague is now taking a stand on Amsterdam.

The Hague decided

Around 1865, the Liberal Prime Minister Thorbecke (1798-1872) decided that Amsterdam Central Station should be built on IJ. An island was built in IJ in the period 1860-1870 for this purpose. The Prime Minister now decided what happened in Amsterdam. The time when Amsterdam was a kind of free city-state was definitely over. The city turned out to be an ordinary congregation in the kingdom. The ‘Republic of Amsterdam’ bowed to the government.

1860. Profile of Amsterdam from IJ. The 2 parts are here below each other, but belong together.

Prosperous Holland

Amsterdam became a village instead of a water city. Railways became more important than shipping. The station was a symbol of modern Holland: the railways were built, education improved, industry flourished. Until 1860, the Netherlands was a miserable developing country for the majority of the population, a ‘slum kingdom’. In the period from 1870 to 1900, the foundations were laid for the modern prosperous Netherlands. And Central Station was a strong symbol of that.

1888. Central station seen in a northeasterly direction from Prins Hendrikkade. The roof is still under construction. Note the many handcarts.

1890. Three-part panorama from Central Station, Stationsplein 1, to Sint Nicolaaskerk, Prins Hendrikkade 74-77. It is still quiet on the street, but the modern age will break out. There are no cars yet.

1929. With about 80 taxis in front of the station. There are already many cars in the city.

1950. Street musician and woman with pram.

1950. Aerial photo of Station Lake. You can clearly see how the island is located in IJ.

1955. Policewoman on Stationsplein in action.

1964. The station square on the east side. Traffic jams during rush hour. The traffic chaos in the city center will be less when Ringvejen is completed in 1990. Before that time, there was insanely much through traffic right through the city. In 1992, residents chose a car-free city center through a referendum.

1966. Tram on line 2. Central Station is also the terminus for many tram lines. At the back of the trams are mailboxes that are emptied at the station. Mail is distributed worldwide via the main post office.


The station, designed by architect Cuypers (1827-1921), is a permanent hub for human flows. It can be seen as the gate between Center and North, just as the Rijksmuseum at the same Cuypers forms the gate between Center and South. Pierre Cuypers came from Roermond and was inspired by Catholic architecture. Many people were annoyed that Cuypers was building such huge ‘Catholic cathedrals’ in Protestant Amsterdam.

Around 1954. To the left Damrak with Victoria Hotel. In the foreground tram on line 24. The Victoria Hotel was opened in 1890 as a hotel for train passengers.

1956. In the background the Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas, Prins Hendrikkade number 73-77. In the foreground a tram on line 9.

1955. The entrance to the former underpass tunnel to the Central Station’s hall.

1984. ‘Corps of Tram Supervisors’ joins. On the left part of the Central Station. With the experiments with the ‘non-authoritarian’ or ‘discreet’ society in the 1960s and 1970s, the tram’s steering manager also disappears. The price evasion, of course, assumes astonishing proportions. In its idealism, the city council has counted outside human nature. In the 1980s, inspectors were forced to return to the tram.

The space as it will be delivered when the De Entree project is completed. Probably next year.


Despite the enormous growth and capacity of Schiphol and aviation, the Central Station remains the most important city gate to the city center. Station Zuid is also on the rise and connects Zuidas’ business center directly with Schiphol. But for the center of the beautiful and now very touristy city center, the Central Station is still the main entrance to the city. Like the port of IJ was 6 centuries before.

To know more

Photo: Amsterdam City Archives

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