European City Maps through Time

I’m fascinated by the progress of city maps over time. Now, a moment for disclaimers. I’m totally an amateur and all I know is what I’ve observe. Annnnyway, ignoring that, let’s check out Amsterdam during the 1300’s:

amsterdam 14th century

First off, this isn’t oriented north, it’s more like southwest but not quite because the perspective is warped. We’ve got that distinctive skewed perspective and a bunch of tiny buildings AND a cool old church (which was/is called Old Church in Dutch, Oldekerk). In other words, it has landmarks, little depictions of what you’ll see. It also shows the canals and surrounding farmland that will eventually become part of the city. I have no idea how accurate this map is. Did they really depict every single building in Amsterdam? Because that would be fucking awesome. 

Moving on, here’s Amsterdam in 1572:

amsterdam 1572Same sort of thing. The landscape has changed, city expanded, even more tiny houses and ships. Here’s a couple more examples of the same style, Utrecht in 1557 and Nuremberg in 1648:

Utrecht 1557

Utrecht 1557


Nuremberg 1648


Okay, so pretty cool, the maps seem to be getting better, or at least, they’re better preserved. Let’s check out one more from the 1600’s. This is Utrecht 1652.

 utrecht 1652


Alright, let’s check back in on Amsterdam and jump forward in time. One of my personal favorites of the bunch, Amsterdam 1770:

Amsterdam1770Well shit. That’s completely different. No more skewed view, no warped perspective. All neat lines, proper north/south axis, just neat everything. Six years after this map was made, the US got into an ugly (glorious?) war with Britain. 

Let’s jump to the 1800’s with a map of Utrecht in 1865:

utrecht 1865

This was the end of these kinds of maps. After the 1800’s, city maps seemed to have changed. No more showing where every buildings is, just the streets and a few dots at landmarks. And why? Well, I would speculate it was urban sprawl and automobiles. Cars ruined the good ol’ days of meticulously drawing every building. Also pollution and more urban sprawl. Cars just ruined everything. Okay enough of that, let’s jump to the 20th century.

Here’s both Amsterdam and Utrecht in 1910:

amsterdam 1910

Amsterdam 1910

utrecht 1910


I’ve seen several more of this particular style that seemed to become the standard of city maps in the early 1900’s. Four years after these maps, World War One began.

Now we have this, a modern driving map of Amsterdam:

amsterdam modern (2)


And finally, for everyone like me who wants to see every tiny little building, I want to tell you, not all hope is lost! Here’s Utrecht now:

Utrecht modern (2)

Utrecht, although it’s cropped because it’s just a huge file.




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