Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands . It lies on the banks of two rivers, the IJ and the Amstel . It is the largest city in the county and also its financial and cultural center. However, the seat of the government is not located here but rather in The Hague.Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, dating mainly from the 17 th century - the Golden Age. During that time a series of concentric, semi-circular canals were built around the old city centre; a feature that still defines the city’s layout and appearance today.
The center is shaped like a horseshoe and is surrouded by four famous canals: the ‘Singel’, ‘Herengracht’, ‘Keizersgracht’ and ‘Prinsengracht’. You can explore the center on foot, and soak up the beauty of old gabled houses along the canals. Many older buildings were built on wooden piles driven into watery marsh. As a result some are beginning to sink. Amsterdam is a city of contradictions. On the one hand it is famous for its culture and art, with its many outstanding museums, like the Rijksmuseum , the Van Gogh Museum , the Stedelijk Museum , Rembrandt House Museum , the Anne Frank House , and its world-class symphony orchestra, the Concertgebouworkest . On the other hand it is famous for its liberal views and tolerant approach to soft drugs and prostitution, which is most obvious in the red-light district , de Wallen , and its numerous " coffee shops " selling cannabis.
For a tourist, Amsterdam is a pleasant city to visit; most of its attractions are gathered in the compact old city center, which is best explored on foot or by bike. Stroll across beautiful bridges and narrow lanes, sit down in a pleasant street cafe, or alternatively, see the city from water by taking a circular canal-boat cruise, and check out how the locals live on house-boats along the waterways. Bla bla
Amsterdam has a mild, maritime climate; extremes of heat and cold are rare. Average winter daytime temperatures are around 5°C and can fall to 1°C at night. During an occasional cold spell the temperatures can plunge down to -10°C and canals freeze over. During summer months it is quite warm: the July average temperature is 22°C during the day and 13°C at night. However, during occasional heat waves temperatures can climb to 30°C and more. On average, February is the coolest month, and July the warmest. Rain can be expected any time of the year, although December is on the average the wettest month.
January average temperature 3 deg Celsius, 68.6 mm rainfall February average temperature 5 deg Celsius, 48.3 mm rainfall March average temperature 5 deg Celsius, 66.0 mm rainfall April average temperature 8 deg Celsius, 53.3 mm rainfall May average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 61.0 mm rainfall June average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 71.1 mm rainfall July average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 76.2 mm rainfall August average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 71.1 mm rainfall September average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 66.0 mm rainfall October average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 73.7 mm rainfall November average temperature 6 deg Celsius, 81.3 mm rainfall December average temperature 3 deg Celsius, 83.8 mm rainfall
Amsterdam has one of the biggest airports in Europe, Schiphol. Located 18 km southwest of the city, it offers connections to virtually anywhere. Many of the world’s airlines fly directly to Amsterdam. Departure tax is already included in ticket price. www.schiphol.nl /
A train service leaves every 15 minutes; it takes 15 – 20 minutes to get to Centraal Station and it is inexpensive. The KLM bus is more expensive, it connects the airport with around 15 hotels and leaves every half hour. A taxi ride takes 20 – 45 minutes and is really expensive.
he road network in the Netherlands is well–maintained, making traveling by car very convenient. Amsterdam has good connections to The Hague, Rotterdam and Amersfort. At rush hours, traffic can be dense although not usually stationary.
Buses are the most affordable way to travel. They are all cheaper than trains. Long-distance buses connect Amsterdam with the rest of Europe and connections are good. www.connexxion.nl /
Traveling by train is very pleasant. The main station in Amsterdam is Centraal Station efficiently handling many connections within the country and to neighboring countries. www.ns.nl/cs/Satellite/travellers There are train-ferry services to Britain, and the Eurostar train through the Chunnel. Eurail passes are valid in The Netherlands.
Ferries run from Amsterdam to Britain and Norway.
The Netherlands is a convenient place to traverse by bike: it is very flat, and there are numerous bike paths throughout the country. Bikes are allowed on trains and ferries and it will only cost you a few euros.
The most authentic way to get around the city is on bike. Most streets have bike paths, and b ike racks can be easily found everywhere in the city. Make sure you get a good lock because bikes are stolen all the time.
The city center is small and can be easily explored on foot.
In the city center, driving a car is complicated by traffic jams. Parking space is limited and expensive and there are many one-way streets. It's a better idea to park outside of the city and use public transport, bike or walk.
Amsterdam is famous for its numerous beautiful canals. See the nice canal-side houses and soak up the atmosphere as you ride over the bridges. Sightseeing on a bike is a lot of fun
Skating in the Netherlands is a serious matter. We are not talking about roller blading or figure skating. The Dutch are into long-distance skating tours although the weather conditions have not been right lately. The canals must be thoroughly frozen to be safe enough for skating.
If the canals do freeze over, and you decide to skate, be careful, because ice can be weak, especially under the bridges. Numerous lakes and ponds in Amsterdam offer a safer alternative.
Address: Olympisch Stadion 2, Phone: + 31 20 551 2525
In 2001 the old Amsterdam Olympic stadium (from 1928) was brought back to life. Winter events have been organized here ever since. There are large ice toboggans and an artificial ice skating rink, especially appreciated by the kids. Christmas-inspired crafts are sold here and you can have a cup of mulled wine to a background of live music.
Address: Stadhouderskade 42 Old South Web: www.rijksmuseum.nl Email: info@ rijksmuseum.nl Phone: 020 674 70 00 Open: daily 9:00 am – 6:00 pm, Friday 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Access: tram 2, 5 & 20 from Centraal Station to Hobbemastraat Admission: Admission: Adults: € 11/ 18 and under: free? CJP / Stadspas cardholders: € 5,50/ Groups (of 15 or more): € 10,- per person).
This is Netherlands' greatest museum and can be compared to France's Louvre. There are over 150 rooms displaying paintings, sculptures, and superb Asian artifacts. Items on display date from the 9 th to 19 th century. The major part of the collection is represented by 15 th – 17 th century Dutch paintings. The museum's most famous piece is Rembrandt's Night Watch. Do not miss the collection of silver and Dutch ceramics.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM
Address: Paulus Potterstraat 7 Old South Phone: 020 570 52 00 Web: www.vangoghmuseum.nl Email: info@ vangoghmuseum.nl. Open: daily 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Friday 10:00 am – 10:00 pm Access: Tram 3 & 12 (crossroad Paulus Potterstraat-Van Baerlestraat); Or Tram 2 & 5 from Centraal Station Admission: Adults: € 12.50 / 13-17 years: € 2.50 / 0-12 years: free admission / Members of ICOM: free admission
The van Gogh Museum houses the world's largest collection of the author’s works, including 500 drawings, 700 letters and 200 paintings - many of his most famous.
The displayed works range from early dark-colored The Potato Eaters to later bright and colorful paintings such as The Yellow House in Arles, and Starry Night.
The museum also displays a collection of some of Van Gogh's contemporaries -Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec; and examples of Japanese woodcuts which were a great inspiration to him.
The new extension of the museum often presents excellent temporary shows of 19 th century art, graphic design, photography, and sculpture.
ANNE FRANK HUIS
Address: Prinsengracht 267 Western Canal Belt Web: http://www.annefrank.nl Phone: 020 556 71 05 Open: daily: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm; September - December: 9:00 am – 7:00 pm Access: Westermarkt: tram 13, 14, 17 & 20 Admission: Adults: euro 8,50 /Age 10-17: euro 4 / Age 0-9: free / Euro <26-Cardholders: euro 4
The museum is dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank who wrote a famous diary during a two year period of hiding from the Nazis. She depicted her day to day life as a Jewish teenager during World War II. The Frank family and a family of their friends hid in this house. Later they were betrayed and discovered, and sent to the Bergen concentration camp where Anne sadly died only weeks before liberation. Her father was the only one to survive. Her original diary is now on permanent display here.
Temporary exhibits focusing on related issues are occasionally hosted in the museum.
Note that the museum has many visitors, so expect crowds, especially during the day. To avoid them come either early or late.
Address: Stadhouderskade Old South Web: http://www.vondelpark.nl Email: stadsdeel@ oudzuid.amsterdam.nl Access: 1e Constantijn Huygenstraat: tram 1 & 6; Emmastraat/Van Baerlestraat: tram 3, 5, 12 & 20
On a sunny day this green park overflows with people. Laid out in 1865, and named after the 'Dutch Shakespeare' Joost van den Vondel, it served as an English-style walking and riding park for upper classes.
Iin the summer of 1973 it met an entirely different fortune when over a 100,000 youths camped here, making it world-famous hippie park. Now the hippies are gone, but the park is still a fun and vibrant place.
You can play football or rent in-line skates or, on a different note, you can join in ‘Oriental laughing sessions’ every weekday from 8:00 am (weekends from 9:00 am) at the van Eeghenstraat entrance.
There is also a rose garden and a Picasso sculpture, plus the popular Netherlands Filmmuseum, and famous Round Blue Teahouse – a trendy spot for a drink.
Between June and August the park hosts open-air theater, free concerts and children's programs.
AMSTERDAMS HISTORISCH MUSEUM
Address: Kalverstraat 92 and NieuweZijde Voorburgwal 357 Web: www.ahm.nl Email: info@ ahm.nl Phone: 020/523-1822 Open: Weekdays 10:00 am - 5p:00 pm, weekends 11:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission: Adults between 19 and 64: eur 10,00 / Senior 65+: eur 7, 50 / Children under 6: free / Children between 6 and 18: eur 5,00 / Museumkaart holders: free / I Amsterdam Card holders: free / Group reduction minimum 15 persons: 25 %
This beautiful museum will show you how Amsterdam developed from a fishing village into a modern metropolis. It includes many maps, archeological finds, models, and a lot of state-of-the-art technology, including the speaking dollhouses, showing the daily life through the centuries.
There is also a cafeteria and a gift shop with beautiful souvenirs.
The Beguine court is a peaceful haven in the middle of the city, just a block away from the noisy shopping street, Kalverstraat. The quiet courtyard filled with trees, was built in the 14 th century by the lay Catholic sisterhood Behijnen, as a convent for single or widowed women.
You can also find here the English Reformed Church, an earlier Italian Catholic chapel, and the oldest house in Amsterdam, dating back to 1475.
THE RED-LIGHT DISTRICT
The most notorious part of Amsterdam has got to be the Red light district, located in the oldest part of the city. Be mindful that it is forbidden to take photographs of the prostitutes, which you might be tempted to do as they sit in large windows like pictures in a frame. The district dates back to the 14th Century when sailors used to come there, looking for female company. Today it is full of sex shops, brothels, gay bars, cinemas, hotels and different kinds of museums. This infamous part of the city is a major tourist attraction. Each year, millions of visitors come to see this vibrant and exciting part of Amsterdam.
Besides the sparingly dressed ladies in the windows there are also numerous pubs, bars and coffeeshops. In the vicinity you can find the city’s small Chinatown and the Nieuwmarkt with De Waag (Weigh House) built in 1488 which functioned as a city gate until the early 17 th century.
Web: www.ijoevers.nl Neighborhood: Inner City East/Eastern Isles Access: Volendammerweg: bus 33; Waterlandplein: bus 32
Oevers was a city harbor in the Golden Age, which later fell into disuse. Today it is a modern neighborhood along Amsterdam’s second river, the IJ; The 1980s housing shortage renewed city officials’ interests in the area and a number of restructuring programs followed. Designers and architects aimed to fuse the structures and spirit of the old harbor with modern architecture. In this, they certainly succeeded. The Java and the KNSM islands are worth visiting especially as they offer a great view of the city, the river IJ and an insight into crisp-modern architecture. No wonder architects and town planners from abroad flock here in amazement.
Dutch cuisine used to be pretty dull, main dishes of meat and potato were prepared without much imagination but this is changing now. New restaurants have taken an innovative approach to traditional food; in addition many places with international cuisines have emerged.
Address: Oude Waal 9-11 Phone: +31 20 624 3203 Open: Mon – Sun 6:00 pm onwards Access: Nieuwmarkt: metro 51
Located near the Nieuwmarkt, in the old city center, this modern and bright restaurant offers international menus from Dutch, French, Italian and Oriental cuisines, vegetarian dishes also. In the summer you can enjoy your meal outside. Several fixed-price menus are available every day. Average cost of a meal is €28. It is advisable to book ahead.
This place offers delicious Brazilian cooking and its specialty is seafood. The Feijoada and Xinxim served here are delicious and the salad bar has fresh and interesting salads. It has a comfortable, friendly atmosphere and regular live events that ensures the place has many customers so booking is advisable.
Address: Van Baerlestraat 49 Phone: +31 20 679 8888 Access: Van Baerlestraat: tram 3 & 12, Concertgebouw: 5 & 16
A nice Mediterranean restaurant located near tourist attractions like The Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Concertgebouw. It offers delicious food, although the menu is rather limited. Prices are affordable and they also offer some nice wines. Average cost per meal is €30.
Every year a big party is thrown in Amsterdam in honor of the Queen. Celebrated on April 30 (the former Queen Juliana's birthday), the city comes to a halt and most of the public transport shuts down, or is heavily slowed as the whole city turns into a street party. There are markets, fireworks and festivities everywhere, lasting until the early evening. Everyone wears orange clothes to pay a tribute to the Queen’s lineage in the House of Oranje.
The legend of Sinterklaas (the Dutch Santa Claus) was born in the 3 rd century when the bishop St Nicholas dedicated his life to helping the poor and needy, especially children. His birthday is commemorated on December 6. Three weeks before that, Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam on a ship. He rides to the Dam square on a white horse, accompanied by the Black Peters. There are also music bands playing, acrobats and clowns. It is a big feast for children!
THE ELEVEN CITIES JOURNEY
This epic 200 km skating marathon leads up to 10,000 skaters through the countryside of Friesland. It is a unique and legendary event, but it only takes place if it is cold enough for the canals to freeze over. Winters of weak ice have meant that the Eleven Cities Journey has not been held since 1997. If it does take place, it starts early in the morning and finishes by dusk.
Date: March 23 to May 19 Time: 8:00 am – 7:30 pm Web: www.keukenhof.nl Location: Keukenhof Gardens, 30 km southwest of Amsterdam.
This huge 32-acre garden explodes with color every spring. The crowds at this eight-week spring event are enormous as the blossoming tulips and daffodils can attract as many as 800,000 people. The garden is divided into theme parks, gardens, sculpture routes and also features a children’s exhibition, ‘Clever Clogs’.
This 3-day event marks the start of the cultural season. All the theatres, symphonies, and other art groups offer a preview of their work for the upcoming season. Events are staged all over the city, and most of them are free.
OPEN MONUMENTDAG AMSTERDAM
Date: Weekend in mid-September Web: www.bmz.amsterdam.nl Location: various locations in Amsterdam Free entry
Amsterdam is brimming with history and there is a lot more to it than it seems at first glance. Each September, for one week, visitors are allowed in buildings otherwise off-limits.
New Year's Eve is celebrated by locals and tourists alike, with festivities in the streets and squares of central Amsterdam. The main party sites are the Dam Square and the Leidseplein. At midnight, the sky fills up with fireworks.
This is the Netherland's most prominent concert hall where the famous Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (Royal Concert Orchestra) performs. Lovers of classical music can enjoy the performances of visiting maestros like Mstislav Rostropovich, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and Bernard Haitink, and other esteemed artists and orchestras. Prices vary a lot. Expect to pay from €5 to €100 per ticket.
This pub offers good beer, authentic music and a friendly atmosphere. Live music is played almost every night from 9:00 pm on and on Sundays you can join in the music sessions so bring your instrument.
The brown cafes (proeflokaals) These traditional Dutch bars are unpretentious places, similar to the pubs in London, and can be found on almost any corner in the old part of the town. You can't miss them; the characteristic lacy curtains covering the bottom part of the window and smoky brown interior – the result of centuries of smoky atmosphere - will give you the clue. Taste some of the local beers such as Heineken, Grolsch, or Amstel - called pils; or Duch gin called jenever.
Amsterdam was founded as a small fishing village towards the end of 12 th century. The land was mostly marsh so, in order to make the land habitable, a dam was built on the Amstel River. Thus the city got its name: Amstelredam (dam on the river Amstel). Amsterdam was given city rights in the beginning of the 13 th century and it started to grow as new canals were dug and the population grew. The economy was not particularly well developed at that time as it was based mainly on beer and herring. During the 15 th century it became a part of the Burgundian Empire. The economy was revitalized due to the city’s lively harbor as markets dealt in fish brought from the south and grain from the Balitic. Soon Amsterdam became Holland’s largest city with a population of around 30,000 inhabitants.
The 16th century brought about a Dutch rebellion against Philip II of Spain and his successors. The events escalated into the Eighty Years' War which ultimately led to Dutch independence. The Dutch Republic became known for its relative religious tolerance so the Jews from Spain and Portugal , and Huguenots from France fled there. Prosperous merchants from Antwerp (persecuted for their religion) also sought safety in Amsterdam. They brought their business with them, which resulted in an economy boost. The rich migrants from Flanders influenced the language: their Brabant dialects became the basis of standard written Dutch; and made Holland a mercantile power.
The 17 th century is considered Amsterdam's "Golden Age". Early in the century it became was the richest city in Europe. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to North America , Africa and present-day Indonesia and Brazil and formed the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam's merchants had the biggest share in the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and WIC (Dutch West India Company). These companies acquired the overseas possessions and formed the seeds of the later Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was the most important port for the trans-shipment of goods in Europe and it was the leading financial centre of the world. Amsterdam's stock exchange was the first to trade continuously.
The city was flourishing, business was booming, population was growing and so was the city. The famous ring of canals was built at that time. During the first half of the century two important churches were built; Zuiderkerk and Westkerk. The Dam Square was enlarged. The population grew to 200,000 in the year 1700.
After that the population stayed approximately the same for another century and a half. During the century before World War II it almost quadrupled to 800,000, but has remained fairly constant to this day.
Artistically speaking Amsterdam was a prolific city during the Golden Age. Rembrandt had his atelier here, Spinoza and Descartes wrote their philosophies, and poets like Bredero, Vondel and P.C. Hooft composed their famous poetry. The 18 th and early 19 th centuries saw a decline in Amsterdam's prosperity. The wars of the Dutch Republic with the United Kingdom and France took their toll on the city. During the Napoleonic Wars Amsterdam's fortunes reached their lowest point. However, with the establishment of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 , things slowly began to improve. Economy changed; Amsterdam was slowly becoming the financial heart of the world as European monarchs fuelled their wars with the money borrowed from them. The end of the 19 th century is sometimes called Amsterdam's second Golden Age. New museums, a train station, and the Concertgebouw were built. At this time the Industrial Revolution reached Amsterdam and people migrated into the city from all over The Netherlands, looking for employment.
The Amsterdam-Rhine Canal was dug to give Amsterdam a direct connection to the Rhine , and the North Sea Canal to give the port a shorter connection to the North Sea . Both projects dramatically improved communication with the rest of Europe and the world.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
Shortly before the First World War the city began expanding and new suburbs were built. During World War I , the Netherlands remained neutral. Amsterdam suffered a food shortage and heating fuel became scarce. The shortages sparked riots in which several people were killed.
Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940 , taking control of the country after five days of fighting. The Germans installed a Nazi civilian government in Amsterdam that cooperated in the persecution of Jews. More than 80,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps, of whom perhaps the most famous was a young German girl, Anne Frank . Only 5,000 Jews survived the war. In the last months of the war communication with the rest of the country broke down and food and fuel became scarce. Many city dwellers had to travel to the countryside to get food. Most of the trees in Amsterdam were cut down for fuel. After the war Amsterdam took some time to recuperate. In the 1960s the city again became the center of attention. With its tolerant politics towards soft drugs, the city saw an influx of hippies. Many riots occurred between the police and protesters demanding greater rights.
By the 1980s developments appeared in the forum of social issues, like the development of neighborhood councils, a tolerant approach to drugs, acceptance of gay and lesbian couples and building of affordable homes.
Nowadays Amsterdam remains a tolerant city and is among the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
Amsterdam is widely known for its tolerance, although part of this reputation is derived from cultural misunderstandings.
Prostitution is legalized and licensed in the Netherlands. It is very visible (window prostitution), and there are large numbers of prostitutes.
Cannabis and hashish are sold at the coffeeshops but bear in mind that all hemp related products (except the seeds) are still illegal. The sale, possession, and consumption of small quantities of cannabis are tolerated under the Dutch Opium Act.
However, this does not mean that you can get away with anything in Amsterdam. In any case, public attitudes and official policy have hardened in recent years.
Amsterdam may seem immoral to some people, while others may find its tolerance refreshing. It is not generally seen as a family destination, but if you avoid the red light district, it is no more objectionable for children than any large city.
Amsterdam is generally a very safe city, but nevertheless general precautions should be taken.
Be careful on public transport, especially the main transportation hubs like the Centraal Station and Schiphol Airport. Be careful on the trains from Schiphol Airport, where there have been reports of tourists being mugged.
Certain areas are best avoided at night; for example deserted narrow streets in the Red Light District, the canal-sides, and Vondelpark.
The Red Light District can be a little discomforting at night. If you are approached by a stranger, or offered anything, just say ‘nee dank’ (no thank you) and keep on walking. Do not take photographs or the prostitutes in the windows, as it is forbidden.
Do not carry all your money with you - take only the amount you intend to spend and leave the rest in a safe deposit in a hotel.
Cars with foreign plates are often broken into, so do not leave your radio or anything valuable inside. It is advisable not to park a car with foreign plates along the canals.
Dial 112 (police) for emergencies.
You can find the police headquarters at 117 Elandsgracht, or reach them by phone: 55 99 111.
The best time to visit is spring as this is the driest part of the year and the temperatures are pleasant. The tulips are in full bloom and the street cafes set up tables outside. During the summer months the city can be extremely crowded and it can be difficult to get reservations. If you decide for a summer-time visit, it is a good idea to visit some of the neighboring, historically interesting but less crowded towns. The weather in the winter is mainly rainy, however hotels have lower prices and the galleries are not crowded.