Amsterdam is an amazing city – colorful and full of life. Some people call it “the city of many faces”. Read this post and you’ll fond out why traveling to Amsterdam is not just a trip, but a unique experience. Check this quick travel guide.
The name Amsterdam comes from Amstelredamme (a dam on the river Amstel). In the 12th century, on the side of the Amstel river, was founded a fishing village. The people who lived there built a bridge and a dam across the river.
In the 16th century, after the Spanish invasion of Belgium, in Amsterdam arrived and established plenty of rich merchants, capable artisans and artists.
In the 17th century, because of the development of the trade, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world. This period is known as The Golden Age of Netherlands.
Amsterdam Central Station – Amsterdam Centraal
Amsterdam Centraal is one of the busiest spots in Amsterdam and usually it is the first landmark to be seen by tourists visiting Amsterdam. The Dutch rail network is well developed and the trains are fast and precise. Amsterdam Centraal is also a starting point of the metro lines 51, 53 and 54. There is a tram stop in front of the station and a bus stop behind of it.
The building itself is fascinating. It includes two towers and many gold ornaments.
From the station, you can go straight to Damrak – the boulevard that connects Amsterdam Centraal with the main square – Dam.
When I first visited Amsterdam (and Netherlands at all) I was impressed by the unusual architecture. Tall and narrow houses, some of them sloped and it’s like they are going to collapse any moment. Sometimes, the ground floor is turned into a shop, a cafe or an office. The stairs are narrow and steep and you should be careful, especially when you are going down the stairs. The facades are beautiful and almost every house has a hook or a reel on the top. Why they need a hook, you may ask. Well, imagine how someone moves a sofa upstairs through such stairs. Impossible. That’s why the windows are wide. The furniture goes through them.
In Amsterdam people live in floating houses docked at the canals. They are fully equipped with electricity and water and sanitary facilities. Some of them even have a floating garden.
Amsterdam is known for the huge number of the museums in the city.
The Rijksmuseum is the national museum. There you can see most of the paintings of Rembrandt, including “The Night’s Watch” and other works of art from The Golden Age in the Netherlands.
In Van Gogh’s Museum is exposed the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings, along with some sketches and letters.
In Amsterdam, you can also visit Anne Frank’s House. There you can view her diary and other personal belongings as well as some family pictures. You can also enter the room where the family was hiding from the Nazis.
At Madame Tussauds, you will have a close encounter with large numbers of celebrities. Take a picture with Einstein or Beatles… Hey, they also have Angelina Jolie 🙂
Whether or not you are a beer fan, you’d love to visit the Heineken Experience. Lots of beer, lots of fun.
In the Cheese Museum, you can try different types fo typical Dutch cheese and the entrance is free.
These are some of the most visited museums in the city. If you like offbeat places, you can visit the Museum of Bags and Purses, the Museum of Marijuana and Hashish or the Tattoo Museum, where you can see a real human flesh exposed.
The best museum for children is NEMO. It’s dedicated to science and technology and here is a stunning view from the roof terrace.
Dam Square is the main square in Amsterdam. There are several landmarks around – the Royal Palace, Madame Tussauds, The Monument to the fallen of World War II and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church). De Bijenkorf is the biggest department store in Amsterdam near the luxurious 5-star hotel Krasnapolsky.
Red Light District – De Wallen
Walking along the small streets near Central Station, unintentionally or not, you will find yourself in the Red Light District. It’s situated on this place since the 14th century. Logically, the neighborhood is located near the port of Amsterdam, so that the “craving for affection” sailors stopped here after a long sailing. Today, this is one of the most famous places in the city and it is always full of tourists.
After sunset, the neon lights of clubs with eccentric names combined with red lanterns hanging over the girls’ windows, create unique atmosphere blended with marijuana flavor. The feeling to be in a place full of wicked things is so sweet.
It’s important to know that it’s not allowed to make pictures of the girls. Put your camera in your pocket or bag to avoid troubles.
Inside the Red Light District is situated another city landmark – De Oude Kerk (Old Church). This is the oldest church in Amsterdam. Today, It’s used for concerts, exhibitions and other important events. Just in the spirit of the neighborhood, there is a statue of a prostitute in front of the church. This is Belle – a tribute to prostitutes all over the world.
Nearby, you can find Nieuwmarkt Square and other historical building – The Waag. Used as a gate once and part of the city walls of Amsterdam, today there is a pleasant restaurant inside it. From Monday to Saturday the square host a local market. In addition, there are lots of groovy cafes around.
The area around Leidseplein is full of restaurants, bars and coffeeshops. This is one of the best nightlife spots in Amsterdam. If you are looking for fun, this is your place. Often, there are street artists performing on the square and it’s worth to take a look at them. You can follow the Leidsestraat and visit the famous coffeeshop Dampkring where a scene from “Ocean’s Eleven” was filmed back in the days.
Vondelpark is a great city park, which is located close to Museumplein (where are situated Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and recently opened Stedelijk Museum). This is the most famous park in Amsterdam. During the sunny days, the park is full of people. There are several cafes, but most of the people prefer to have a picnic or barbecue directly on the grass.
Gaasperplas is located in the outskirts of Amsterdam, the last stop of metro line 53. The park is fascinating with its huge lake and diversity of animals. There is a beach, several children’s playgrounds and wide meadows which are perfect for a picnic.
While you are in Amsterdam you have to take a cruise boat. Most of them are docked in the canal in front of the Amsterdam Centraal. The price varies between 10 € – 15 € per person and duration is around 1 hour, depending on the route. It’s a great opportunity to see Amsterdam from its canals. In summer, you can also rent a boat or a canal bike. It’s a bit strange when passing by the floating houses. Sometimes, there are no curtains on the windows and you can see someone who is having a meal or a family watching TV.
Another free alternative of the cruise boats are the ferries. Just exit through the rear exit of Amsterdam Centraal and take the ferries to North Amsterdam. The time for passing the IJ canal varies from 2 to 10 minutes, depending on which route you get. The ride is completely free. Just on the other side of the canal, you can see a place worth to visit – EYE Film Institute. There is a huge amount of stored old movies that have been digitized and can be watched for free. On the ground floor, you can do some really fun things like your own flip book. You can also eat in the restaurant or just enjoy the view. There are some really nice cafes and restaurants around like De Punt. Sit, take a biertje and enjoy the view.
Bicycles are the preferred transport in Amsterdam and one of the city symbols. Everybody rides a bike. There are special wagons for children that are mounted on the front part of the bicycle. They collect from 1 to 4 children and can be covered when it rains. Although there are bicycle parking places everywhere in the city, but they are still not enough. You can see bicycles locked to almost every pillar, street lamp or bridge in the city.
Beware of the cyclists. They are everywhere and always have priority. Be careful when you cross streets and don’t walk on the cycle paths.
Another problem is pickpocketing. Take care of your personal belongings and be careful.
Check the opening hours of the museums. Most of them are closed on Monday.
Take a jacket. The weather could be windy and rainy even in summer.
There’s so much I can say about Amsterdam and yet it won’t be enough because it simply must be visited.