An aerial view of Museumplein today, Source: Depositphotos

This Amsterdam landmark used to be the shortest highway in the Netherlands

This Amsterdam landmark used to be the shortest highway in the Netherlands

It’s an urban space that has undergone several large-scale transformations throughout its existence

One of the most open areas in Amsterdam is Museumplein, an urban space well-known to residents and visitors alike due to it being surrounded by some of the Netherlands’ most famous museums – the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, plus the Concertgebouw concert hall.

Initially, the area was just marshlands until the creation of the Rijksmuseum forced a landscaping impetus to take over and begin a process of continuous redesigning of the urban space, including another one that is coming up in the near future.

Nowadays, it looks like a large well-kept green lawn featuring tree-lined borders. It’s a family-friendly spot where people like to go picnic, kids can run around, or couples can sunbathe (weather permitting). But perhaps not everyone realizes that the place they are now lounging about was jokingly known as the shortest highway in the Netherlands – and not even that long ago.

An urban space in constant reinvention

Since the end of the 19th century, Museumplein was designed as a large, open, lawn-like space, much like it looks today. But this was before the age of the automobile had descended upon humankind.

With the increasing spread and affordability of private cars, cities began adapting to welcome the new droves of motorized “residents” and these changes did not pass green spaces like Museumplein.

During World War II, the occupying German forces constructed bunkers in the space, which were eventually blown up in 1953. After the war, the space had become derelict and abandoned, so the city authorities decided to redesign it with a road running straight to it in order to revitalize it.

That cobblestone stretch had no speed limit, which made it popular for drivers to speed up and thus earning it the moniker “the shortest highway in the Netherlands”. That odd state of affairs continued all the way until the mid-1990s when the road was finally removed and the green space was restored.



Growing City


Smart City


Green City


Social City


New European Bauhaus




ECP 2021 Winner TheMayorEU