In 1634, French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes lived at 6 Westermarkt, just steps from the famous Anne Frank House. He felt at home and spent more than 20 years here, writing most of his major works in the Netherlands. Today Descartes' House (Maison Descartes) is a private residence, though visitors still come to see Descartes’ Amsterdam abode.
Today, the only thing to see at Descartes' House is the commemorative plaque out front that identifies the house as the former residence of Descartes. The plaque, written in Dutch and French, includes a quote in French, taken from a letter Descartes wrote to his friend Balzac: “In what other country could I find such complete freedom.”
Many walking tours of Amsterdam’s historic city center stroll past the Maison Descartes, as it is located between the Rembrandt House and Anne Frank House.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Descartes' House is a must-see for diehard Descartes enthusiasts.
- There are many nearby sights and eateries in and around Westermarkt Square.
- The street in front of Maison Descartes is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
Descartes' House is located in the Westermarkt area of Amsterdam, within walking distance of the Westerkerk, Anne Frank House, and Rembrandt House. From Amsterdam Centraal Station, take tram 13 or 17 to the Westermarkt stop. Descartes' House is also easily reached via bike or foot from most anywhere in central Amsterdam.
When to Get There
Since Descartes' House is a private residence located on a public street, there’s no perfect time to visit. In general, Amsterdam’s peak tourist season runs from the spring tulip bloom through August, when most Europeans take their annual vacation. Visit in fall or early spring to enjoy the city with fewer tourists.
Other Westermarkt Attractions
Westermarkt is a square in central Amsterdam just steps from the Anne Frank House, the Homomonument, and the Maison Descartes. Situated on Westermarkt is the 17th-century Westerkerk, the church where famous Dutch painter Rembrandt is buried. Though a bit confusing, the Westerstraat market, located a 5-minute walk north of the square, is often called Westermarkt as well.