Czar Peter House in Zaandam: an early tourist attraction in the Netherlands

a small wooden house with a red roof

Long before the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum and many other sights, one of the earliest tourist attractions in the Netherlands was a simple wooden house with an interesting royal history.

The Czar Peter House is the oldest preserved wooden building in the Zaan region of the Netherlands, a few kilometers outside Amsterdam.

In 1697, the house was a temporary home to Czar Peter the Great who stayed there for eight days to study shipbuilding.

Grand Duke Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov had began his reign in 1682, and set about implementing reforms to modernise Russia. He introduced French and western dress to his court, re-organised the Russian army along modern lines and hoped to make Russia an industrial and maritime power.

Thus, 15 years into his reign, he travelled to Zaandam to study shipbuiliding as an ordinary ship’s carpenter under the pseudoym Peter Michaeloff.

Built in 1632, the building was the home of blacksmith and craftsman Gerrit Kist whom Peter had met in Moscow. It was far from palatial, with Peter staying just for eight days. Later, Peter went to Amsterdam and on to London, returning to Moscow in 1698.

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Peter’s short stay made the humble cottage famous. He returned to visit again a number of times – his last visit was in 1717.

Having become famous, the house became a tourist attraction. Its visitors book contains thousands of names, including Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte in 1811. Many Dutch and international monarchs have visited this simple house.

In 1818, in honour of the birth of his grandson, King Willem I bought the hosue as a gift for his Russian daughter-in-law Anna Pavlovna. Five years later, she paid for a stone arch to protect the wooden house. This has since been replaced several times by other structures.

Today, the house in Zaandam is part of the Zaans Museum and can be visited each day.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog is part of Europeana’s Discovering Europe season featuring cultural jewels and hidden gems from across the continent.

Feature image: Czar Peterhouse in Zaandam, 1697, Willem van Senus, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

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