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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) in Amsterdam

What is the Magere Brug?

The Magere Brug, also know as Skinny Bridge, is a striking bridge with an interesting history, and one of the best-known sights of Amsterdam.

Magere Brug History

The story goes that the Skinny Bridge (or Magere Brug in Dutch) was named after two wealthy sisters from the Mager family, who many years ago lived on opposite sides of the Amstel River. It’s said that they had the wooden bridge built to make it easier to visit one another. However, it’s rather more likely that this famous and striking structure received its name simply because it was so narrow: magere means ‘skinny’ in Dutch. It was supposedly so constricted that it was difficult for two pedestrians to pass one another when crossing.

Recent research in Amsterdam’s city archives has found that originally a large and broad stone bridge was planned for this location during Amsterdam's Golden Age, when there was a lot of money around, but that in 1672 the economy took a downturn, forcing the city council to create a much simpler, smaller bridge instead. The crossing opened in 1691, was wooden and had 13 arches, but deteriorated over time and was replaced with a wider nine-arch bridge 200 years later. The existing, eye-catching crossing was constructed in the 1930s, is predominantly concrete, and also has nine arches. It’s based on an old Dutch design known as a double-swipe balanced or bascule bridge, with a movable wooden central section that can be raised to allow the free passage of tall-masted boats. Until 1994, the bridge had to be opened manually but is now operated automatically to a regular timetable, to ease water-traffic congestion.

Skinny Bridge

Situated between the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals opposite the Royal Carré Theatre, it’s seen by many as the most romantic bridge in Amsterdam. Indeed, it’s a common site for lovers’ strolls and marriage proposals. Another, most likely apocryphal, tale says that a kiss between lovers whilst on the bridge, or passing beneath it in a boat, ensures they will stay in love forever.

It’s certainly one of the most attractive bridges in the city, and even prettier at night when 1,200 lightbulbs illuminate it and create a picture-perfect reflection in the water beneath. Its pleasing form means the Skinny Bridge has been used as a location in numerous films, including the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever.

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