Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most beautiful capital cities. A unique city within the plethora of beautiful European cities, Amsterdam should be on the list of must see’s on any European vacation. Most European capitals boast grand cathedrals, historic castles, and other beautifully historic buildings, and although Amsterdam does have some of these typically European features, the city’s main attraction is the city itself.
Netherland’s capital is characterized by small windy streets spilling into wide squares, tiny streets lined with shops, and canals surrounding a city center connected by hundreds of bridges. The architecture and street layout is something rather peculiar, with a series of canals circulating out around the city center like the spokes of a wheel. Depending on how much time you have, I would highly recommend just wandering around the city, exploring its unique nooks and hidden treasures.
Here is a great 48 hour tour of Amsterdam!
Historically Dam Square served as the city’s fish market, and for over four hundred years this space would be occupied by buyers and traders, and a stomping ground for storks looking to score some left over fish. Today, the square serves as the city’s central open space, with millions of visitors and locals passing through every year. Dam Square is a great place to hang out and further explore the city. Also a great meeting point for travelers and friends, and a bit of people watching.
Van Gogh Museum
The Museum is the world’s largest holder of Van Gogh works, with over 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters, as well as hosting several other famous works from various artists. A visit to the Museum is a must, not only because of its close relationship between the city and wider culture, but because it really is a unique museum experience. Unlike most contemporary art museums, the Van Gogh museum displays its artwork in a purposeful way, highlighting moments in the artist’s life. The galleries are arranged in order to reflect the progression of Van Gogh’s artistic work, with accompanying information about his life at the moment of a particular work. It’s interesting to see the progression, or digression, of Van Gogh’s work, as he battles a terrible mental disease that ultimately claims his life.
Although no longer a brewery, the two hundred year old complex now houses a museum and attraction which highlights the history and making of the world’s most famous beer. Highlights include a bottle ride, where you follow the path of a bottled beer through the assembly line, and your very own personalized bottle of Heineken beer.
There are over 100 km of canals separating Amsterdam city center into smaller islands, granting the city the name of ‘Venice of the North’. These canals serve as a great opportunity to experience the city in a different light. There are several different staging points offering daytime cruises all year around, with tickets starting at 13 euro. Many cruises also offer a more intimate luxurious dinner experience for around 150 euro.
Eat at One of Amsterdam’s Brown Cafe’s
Make sure not to miss a chance to experience an authentic dutch pub, known as ‘Brown Cafe’s’. With over 500 cafés in the city center there’s ample opportunity to enjoy some genuine Dutch cuisine. The name ‘Brown Cafe’ name refers to the cafe’s dark wood interiors and walls stained by decades of cigarette smoke. These pubs can be described as an extended living room combined with a bar and cafe. Many of the cafes host local bands, showcasing a variety of music from folk to rock.
Extending over several hundred acres, Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest and most visited park. Popular with visitors and locals alike, the park offers great bike paths, green spaces for sporting or lounging on sunny days, an open air concert venue, and three outdoor cafes. If you are in Amsterdam during a warm month, definitely save some time for Vondelpark, it’s a great place to hang out and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Anne Frank House
This is the house where Anne Frank went into hiding during the second World War, and in which she wrote her famous diary. The secret room which held Anne is preserved in its original state, and available for tours all year long.
St. Nicholas Church
Standing opposite Centraal station, St. Nicholas is Amsterdam’s most famous revival church. The great neo-baroque and neo-classical church was built between 1884 and 1887, boasting a beautiful dome, stained glass windows, and the Netherlands most famous organ.
Take a Stroll Through the Red Light District
One of Amsterdam’s most famous areas, the area called ‘De Wallen’ is the city’s largest and most notorious red light district. During daylight hours these couple of blocks see little activity, but the night displays a very different story. Beginning around 11pm, Amsterdam’s De Wallen comes alive with sex shops, peep shows, half naked women in windows tapping on the glass at passerby’s and a large number of coffeeshops offering premium cannabis. No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a stroll through the Red Light District if just to see what it’s all about.