A large three-story floating Chinese pagoda is perhaps not the first thing that one expects to see when exiting Amsterdam Central Station, but despite all expectations, that is indeed a huge floating restaurant docked in the water.
The aptly-named Sea Palace was built in 1984. The massive building was then considered the world’s largest Chinese restaurant, capable of seating 900 people at once.
The whole project cost over 5 million gulden (about 4.3 million Euro, in 2021) and was financed by a group of businessmen from both Amsterdam and Hong Kong. It was the first of its kind outside of Hong Kong, which has a long history of magnificent floating eateries.
Tour guides often point out the Sea Palace as a curiosity, and over the years many of them have started to repeat a legend that is definitely untrue.
The most popular one is that the restaurant was never able to hold the 900 people as advertised. This came down to a claim that the water in the Amsterdam canals is less salty than Hong Kong’s harbor, thus reducing the buoyancy.
On Sea Palace’s opening night, the story goes, only 700 people could enter before it started to sink. 200 people had to wait outside. The owner allegedly felt bad for these people and had his cooks make them food that was packed in boxes to take home, thus creating take-out. Considering that take-out is much older than 1984, this is one story that doesn’t hold water.
Know Before You Go
Check restaurant website for opening hours.