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The Amsterdam Dungeon

Also see: Amsterdam - 31-page city guide


ABOVE: Skeletons set the scene for a grisly but entertaining trip through medieval Amsterdam. INSET BELOW: The Amsterdam Dungeon's entrance, and a face-to-face encounter between actors and visitors.

History and horror go hand in hand at Amsterdam's creepiest tourist attraction.

by Jade Frank

photoThe city of Amsterdam has historically experienced some unique forms of torture and horror. During the 16th Century, the Spanish Inquisition ruled the Netherlands, implementing gruesome methods and instruments of torture. The religious Council of Blood sentenced torturous executions to those who acted against the norm or offended the Catholic Church. Common treasons included witchcraft, Anabaptist practice and general heretical behavior, condemning over 16,000 people to their death by burning at the stake, beheading, hanging or the unimaginably worse.

In the 17th century, the wealthy of Amsterdam enjoyed its Golden Age with the foundation of the VOC (Dutch East Indian Company). The world’s first and richest multinational company brought many riches to Amsterdam, but also many deaths. Thousands of sailors were employed by the VOC, leaving the docks of Amsterdam, never to return. Conditions onboard were extremely savage, unsanitary and fatal.

The VOC also brought the gruesome plague to Amsterdam through infected rats and fleas aboard their ships. The retched disease wiped out one-sixth the population of Amsterdam in the 17th Century by a horrific death of vomiting blood and bleeding through the skin.

photoThe Amsterdam Dungeon is a tourist attraction that takes visitors on a virtual journey through its gruesome past. On arrival, the sight of skeletons and the sounds of dark, Gregorian chanting makes for an eerie welcoming to the horrors of medieval Amsterdam.

Live actors guide you through this exhibition of torture and suffering, with plenty of audience participation and laughs. As you travel underground, the first segment introduces the world of torture, where a torturer of the Spanish Inquisition turns volunteers into victims of her painful instruments.

Other interactive highlights include a lesson in grisly, primitive surgical practice on the VOC’s injured, a sentencing at the Council of Blood and a chat with a local who sells your soul to the VOC. There’s a maze of mirrors to get lost in, replicating the dark, dangerous and confusing streets of Amsterdam that were littered with robbers and where any misstep would leave you splashing in a canal. They save the best for last with a grim rollercoaster ride including a tummy-twisting drop.

At the end, personal photographs are available for sale, taken from various points along the tour and a gift shop sells creepy memorabilia. This haunted house is chock full of historical facts and leaves you with a newfound appreciation for the modern judiciary system.

Practical information

The Amsterdam Dungeon was created by Merlin Entertainments Group, which operates similar dungeons in London, York, Edinburgh, and Hamburg as well as Legoland, Sea-Life, the National Seal Sanctuary, and other attractions. It occupies a former church on the site of a medieval graveyard where archaeologists recently found hundreds of tombstones. (See article.)

How to get there: The Amsterdam Dungeon is located at Rokin 78 in central Amsterdam. From Centraal Station, take tram 4, 9, 16, or 24 and get off at Spui/Rokin.

When to visit: The dungeon is open daily except Christmas from 10:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Recommended ages: 10 and up.

For more information, or to order tickets online: Visit

photoAbout the author:

Jade Frank is a freelance travel writer and photographer. She is from Alaska, has lived in South America and Europe, and has taught English to university students in Kunming, China, where she wrote the ChinaMusing blog.

More about Amsterdam:
Amsterdam - 31-page city guide

Article and top inset photo copyright © Jade Frank.
Interior dungeon photos: Merlin Entertainments Group