Spui (Amsterdam)

The Spui (pronounced Spouw) is a square in the centre of Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. The Spui was originally a body of water that formed the southern limit of the city until the 1420s, when the Singel canal was dug as an outer moat around the city. In 1882 the Spui was filled in and became the square that we know today.

In 1996 the square was renovated and is now largely car-free. Tram lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 14, 16, 24 and 25 stop at or near the Spui.

The Spui is a popular destination for book-lovers, with a weekly book market on Fridays and a variety of bookstores[1] on or near the square, including two shops dedicated to English-language literature (the American Book Center relocated to the Spui in October 2006). There is also a weekly art market on the Spui, every Sunday.

The Spui provides entry to the Begijnhof, a Medieval courtyard.[1]

Works of art

A small statue, Het Lieverdje ("The Little Darling"), stands on the square.[1] The statue represents the youth of Amsterdam, always playing pranks yet with a heart of gold. He was a gift to the city from a cigarette company in 1960. In the 1960s, the Provo counterculture movement held weekly gatherings around the statue.[1]

Also located at the Spui is the work of Lawrence Weiner, Een vertaling van de ene taal in de andere (A Translation from one language to another), three pairs of two stones placed against each other, located at different places of the square. Each pair presents the sentence in Dutch on one side, and on the other side in English, Arabic and Surinaams respectively.[2]

Notable buildings

  • The Maagdenhuis (1780), the headquarters of the University of Amsterdam.
  • Arti et Amicitiae (1841), an artists' society and art gallery at the corner of Rokin and Spui, designed in part by Berlage.
  • Gebouw Helios (1895–96) at Spui 15-19, in Art Nouveau style. The design by Gerrit van Arkel won third prize in the architects' competition at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris.
  • The Oude Lutherse Kerk (1632–1633), the Old Lutheran Church, across the Singel canal.


  1. Martin Dunford (2010). The Rough Guide to The Netherlands. Penguin. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-84836-882-8.
  2. "Lawrence Weiner's Challenge to Object Status of Painting and Sculpture". Retrieved 1 April 2012.

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