Amsterdam tourist attractions: the ultimate list!
Canals, Bridges and Houseboats:
Amsterdam is named Venice of the north due to its many canals and bridges. The most prominent canals are Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Herengracht. Along these canals you can find the most beautiful houses once belonging to doctors, lawyers, bankers and shipowners. The canals are lined by many trees, giving it a lovely touch. Did you know that the names of these canals refer to important political people of that time. Keizersgracht = German Emperor Maximilian I Prinsengracht = Prince of Orange Herengracht = noblemen
Everyday Amsterdam's water canals are lively with boats, barges, sailing and rowing boats, motor boats and tour boats. Not all of them are used for transport, some of them are real house-boats, used both by those who enjoy an original type of accomodation and those who have difficulty in finding an apartment. There is a limited number of house-boats that are allowed to stay on the canals, so it is not possible for anyone to just anchor and live there.
The many canals in Amsterdam called for bridges. That's why you'll see lots of them. The most photographed one probably is the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) that spans over the river Amstel and consists of two parts that can be raised to let boats pass by. It is a wooden double liftbridge with 9 passages with 20th century origin. The name refers to an older bridge here that was narrow, or skinny. This bridge dated back to 1691. In 1871 this bridge was demolished because it was a ruin. The next bridge was a wooden bridge that hold for 50 years. It was then thought there should be a modern stone bridge here, but government made other decissions. The bridge was rebuilt to look like the old one. Untill 1994 it was manually opened, but legislation made an end to this. The manual labour was too heavy.
Flower Market / Bloemenmarkt:
This flower market is a must....especially in January when you are dreaming of Spring blossoms! You may not be able to take the flowers home with you, but you can buy Tulip bulbs!! This is a beautiful stroll along a canal by the Muntplein.
The national flower of the Netherlands is the Tulip with one nick-name for the Dutch being Tulip Munchers. The history of this name relates back to WW2 when Nazi occupation of the surrounding area stopped food coming in. This forced locals to eat whatever they could including Tulip bulbs. Wierd but apparently true. The flower market is a phantasmagoria of colour, noice and people. It's worth a visit just to see the action as buyers go after their flowers of choice.
Vondelpark is the biggest, greenest and most famous park of Amsterdam. It's a nice place to spend during hot days or when you have some spare time. There are a lot of meadows, trees and ponds. You will see people walking, running and rollerskating along the paths, and relaxing on the meadows. I saw two places where you can have a drink. Vertigo is a cafe near the Filmmuseum and more in the middle of the park is a nice blue coffeehouse.
Leidseplein is an excellent area of Amsterdam for a number of activities you may be looking for.
There are hundreds of restaurants, and any kind of cuisine you could wish for. Shopping will also not be a problem there, to say the least. Whether you are looking for that perfect souvenir, or a great pair of shoes, this is a great area to find them. The nightlife is great. Tons of bars and discos are to be found. The many coffee shops and street performers add to the Leidseplein's wonderful atmosphere. And if anything else, have a seat at a cafe and do some people watching. Definately worth spending some of your time at.
As most of the big cities, Amsterdam has its China town too. Along the Zeedijk you will find lots of Chinese restaurants, takeaways, oriental shops and even a Buddhist temple, open for the public. The Fo Guang Shan He Hua temple is the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe that is built in the traditional style. The Buddhist Temple in the heart of China Town in central Amsterdam is worth a visit. Spend a few minutes of tranquility in this colourful shrine – it is both interesting and thought provoking. You can light an incense stick and offer the fruit that is in a basket by the doorway to Buddha.
Albert Cuyp / Street Markets:
One of the most pleasant activities is wander around street Markets. They are usually open everyday and you can find everything you need. The biggest in city is Albert Cuypmarkt in Albert Cuypstraat, open Monday-Saturday from 9am-5pm. It's not in the city center, but it's a must-see thing for me. You can find there a good choice of restaurants and trendy cafes. You will surely find another markets on your visit, but you may also want to visit Flea Market (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday, 8:30-5:30 Saturday), this one is in the Waterlooplein area (closer to the center, you can take Nieuw Doelenstraat from Rokin-Vijzelstraat-Rokin crossing) and you can take profit and see the Stopera, the incredible building where opera and city hall share the same roof. Incredible, isn't it? The best way to go there is by bike.
Queensday / Koninginnedag:
Amsterdam You definately want to be in Amsterdam on THIS day!! It's one of the biggest holidays in the Netherlands. It's kind of like Canada Day, the USA's July 4th, and New Orlean's Mardi Gras - all rolled into one! On Koninginnedag (APRIL 30) the entire country – especially Amsterdam – turns into one giant flea market. Early in the morning, millions of closets are cleaned out and dumped onto the sidewalks in front of apartment buildings and homes. Koninginnedag is also declared as free market day. Everyone - including all bars and restaurant takings are tax-free for the day. People raid their grandmother's closets, and poke around in their attics, gather up old house items, stake out a spot on the sidewalk in the center of town and have a HUUUGE flea-market/garage/sidewalk sale. It's *FAN-TAS*TIC*!! It is particularly big with children. I heard of children making 200 - 300 euros in a day !! As a sidenote: April 30th isn’t even Queen Beatrix's date of birth; (she was born January 31st). April 30th is actually the birth date of her mother: Queen Juliana. But Beatrix, in typical Dutch sensibility and pragmatism, kept the April 30th date as the official day of celebration for the Queen’s Birthday because the weather is much warmer and drier at the end of April than at the end of January. So if you’re lucky enough to be in The Netherlands for Queen’s Day, be sure to take a get up early on Queen's day, and stroll the sidewalks of the smaller, suburbs and districts of Amsterdam. See what little treasures and souvenirs you will find to take home with you.
Anne Frank House:
No-one should leave Amsterdam without a visit to the house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazi’s for 25 months, from 6 July 1942 to 4 August 1944. The first translation of “The Secret Annex” appeared in Dutch in 1947 and since then the book Anne Franks diary has been translated into more than 60 languages. The original diary is on display in the museum. The feeling I felt when being inside the secret annex was one of sadness, how brave she was in the face of adversity and terror. Her father Otto Frank survived Auschwitz of the 8 people that were in hiding. Be advised there are very long queues so get her early or later in the day Aduts Euro 7.50 Children Euro 3.50 tour lasts approx an hour no guided tours
Van Gogh Museum:
This museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world as well as writings by the tormented artist to his confidante and brother, Theo. Here, you can compare his works to the works of other 19th century artists such as Denis, Chagall, Monet, and Manet!
Situated in the Dam square, the Royal Palace is itself one of the landmarks of Amsterdam. A fine example of the classical Dutch architecture, it was designed by Jacob van Campen and built between 1648 and 1655. Constructed on 13.659 piles, needed to create a solid base in the marshy ground, it was originally built to take place of the previous Town Hall, which had been completely destroyed by fire. Louis Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon I, made it his royal palace when he became King of Holland in 1808, though he abdicated only two years later. The simple facade strikes the viewers first. It has four orders of windows, above which is a triangular pediment containg sculptures by Artus Quelijn the Younger, an artist from Antwerp. The statues represents the city of Amsterdam surrounded by Neptune and other mythical sea creatures, including nymphs and tritons. The harmonious exterior of the palace is completed by an octogonal tower and cupola. Severely simple outside, the palace is splendidly decorated inside.
On the Dam-square the Wax-museum of Madam Tussaud deserves some extra attention. In here there is a lot of attention for Dutch history and present fame. There is a section explaning about the becoming of The Netherlands and you can meet the Dutch painters in person. Furthermore Dutch royalty and politicians as well as famous persons from television or music can be seen (though many of you foreigners now are seeking long long time to come up with Jean Claude Vandamme, who actually is a Belgian!) Madam Tussaud is definately interesting to visit on a rainy day.
This former National Naval Depot is built in 1656 by Daniel Stalpaert and is built on 18.000 piles and from 1973 is it rebuilt to a museum. It has one of the largest maritime collections of the world. There are special events scheduled regularly. One of the fantastic spectacles is the mustering of the crew of Dutch East Indiaman on the replica Amsterdam. However during the whole year the ship is manned. The stalwart sea dogs unload the cargo, scrub the deck and sing old shanties. In general: open daily except on Monday.
Amsterdam Historic Museum:
The Amsterdam Historic Museum is housed in the former orphanage founded around 1520 in a house on Kalverstraat. In 1579 the institute moved to the former St Lucy's convent that once stood on the site of the present museum. This medieval building was gradually demolished and in the course of the seventeenth century a new complex emerged. The museum has exhibitons, a permanent collection & library and a movie theater. Visiting hours: Mo - Fr: 10AM - 5PM Sa - Su: 11AM - 5PM Admission: Euro 6.00
Artis Zoo (Natura Artis Magistra):
Artis Zoo is one of the must see activities in Amsterdam because it's one of the nicest Zoo in the world. Artis is the oldest zoo in Holland, it has 14 hectares and provides home for around 700 species of animals (amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammans and insects). The Zoo is a heaven of course for any child, but adults are also to learn and enjoy seeing the animals there. I personally enjoyed Amsterdam's Zoo very much. In addition to the Zoo, Artis is also Amsterdam's oldest city park, featuring a botanical garden (De Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam) Opening times: daily from 9am to 5pm Entrance fee in 2004: 14,5 EUR (adults), 13,5 EUR (65+), 11,0 EUR (3-9).
Hortus Botanicus - Botanic Gardens:
Hortus Botanicus means "Botanical Garden" in Latin. Amsterdam has a wonderful such garden, with some 250.ooo flowers, 115.ooo plants and trees, from 8.ooo different varieties. The special thing about this Botanical Garden is the fact that is was established here back in 1682. The whole place isn't very vast, but more than similar to a little jungle-park, with plants side by side, one great butterfly park and the greenhouses for the tropical plants. The Palm-House (pictured) hosts one of the oldest palm trees.
Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art:
It is built in 1895 (neorenaissance style designed by A.W. Weissman) to house the works which were given to the city from Sophia de Bruyn. However since 1938 it is a national museum for modern art, where you can find works from Picasso, Matisse, Mondriaan, Cézanne en Monet. There are also regularly temporary exhibitions. Due to the renovation and expansion of the building is the Stedelijk Museum closed. Museum is now located in former TPG Building (the post group) - near Central Station. The temporary address is: Oosterdokskade 3-5, Amsterdam
Jewish Historical Museum:
The complex of the Jewish Historical Museum consists of four synagogues built in 17th and 18th century (the oldest building is the Great Synagogue - it was consecrated on 26 March 1671). After restoration, the previous Jewish Historical Museum, which was housed in the medieval Weigh House on Nieuwmarkt, moved in 1987 to this complex. Religion, culture and history of the Jews in the Netherlands and in general are central in this museum.
Like the "Rijkmuseum" the architectural concept of the Concerthall was based on a com[petition. It was built between 1883 and 1886 in a - then - far corner of the city, bordering a former municipality "Nieuwer-Amstel". The winning drawings were from .L. van Gendt and was exactly according to the demands to have two halls, a large for 2000 and a smaller for 450 people. On stage there's place for a choir of 500 singers and an orchestra for 120 musicians. Additional there are several dressing-, smoking- and dining rooms, as well as a rehearsel room. Very special is the garden, which is especially designed to have open air concerts in summertime.
Tropen Museum (KIT):
The Tropenmuseum is an anthropological museum. A visit to the Tropenmuseum is a journey through time and around the world. You get to know widely different cultures and get an excellent impression of everyday live in the tropics. There is a special Kindermuseum (Children's Museum), with a lot of hands-on projects. Business hours for family programs: Sa & Su: 11AM - 12Am Business hours: Daily: 10AM - 5PM Admission: Euro 7.00
Arena / AJAX:
Amsterdam ArenA This state-of-the-art stadium was opened in August 1996 and was the first stadium in the world with a retractable roof. Soccer club Ajax and American football team Amsterdam Admirals play their home games in this stadium. It is also the stage of many other events, mainly concerts. In July, the world's largest indoor rave Sensation will be held here.
Bicycle Tours& Rental:
Rent a bike and cruise through the narrow streets in the Center of Amsterdam. There are a lot of beautiful old houses and the ambiance is great. You can also see Amsterdam from a canalbike. A great experience! Of course the Red-light district. Particularly in the weekends it is very crowdy overthere, but worth while. you find an ambiance there that you never find elsewhere!
Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum:
This museum tells about the history and use of cannabis and hemp. Not only about the drug, but also the production of paper and textiles as well as its medicinal benefit. It also explains the process of producing hash and marijuana and the various rolling and smoking methods. Open: Monday to Saturday 11:00 am to 10:00 pm Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
The Amsterdam Sex Museum houses an extensive international collection of historical erotic and pornographic art, literature and artefacts. The exhibits include mannequins arranged in titillating tableau, Greek temple devotional items, Japanese carved erotic ivories and antique and modern fetish wear. There is a comprehensive selection of manuscripts and drawings ranging from the Karma Sutra to twentieth-century comics and a vast film and photographic library proffering every sexual predilection and preference. An interactive section offers visitors privacy in one of several small padded booths, with a selection of films playing continuously whilst the display of contemporary paintings can be viewed from one of three appropriately shaped seven-foot long vibrating chairs.
As you may or may not know, marijuana and hashish are legal substances in Holland and have been so for several years. Coffee shops are licensed and taxed. Pot is sold in licensed shops called coffee shops. There are approximately 500 or so in Amsterdam and many others throughout the country. Coffee shops serve good coffee made right in front of you, but don’t confuse them with cafes. â˜º People usually go right up to the counter where pot is sold and take a look at the “menu”. Categories range from hash, black from Afghanistan or Nepal or blonde from Morocco and Lebanon, Marijuana of both Indica and Sativa varieties grown indoors and outdoors and of course brownies and space cakes, usually containing 2 grams of the substance can also be found. Seeds can also be purchased at many coffeehouses for ten to twenty Euro per seed. Coffee shops usually have an eclectic blend of lounge music or rock. People sit around making long joints (they usually mix tobacco with their hash or pot). People are very pleasant. Nobody forces you to make conversation if you don’t feel like it. The environments are quite pleasant and conducive. You will see people from all over the world coming and going. Ok, here's a list of the kind of Coffee Shops and whats available. â˜¼coffee shops (cannabis, hashish, marijuana) â˜¼smart shops (mushrooms and smart drugs) â˜¼grow shops (cannabis seeds) â˜¼head shops (pipes and paraphernalia) WARNING:* Attempting to smuggle drugs out of Holland is a criminal offence, no matter how insignificant the amount. It's no good arguing that you were bringing some home as a 'keepsake', the customs officer will be snapping on the glove in no time. â˜º
Red Light District / De Wallen XXX:
The red light district is certainly a unique part of amsterdam. prostition in amsterdam dates back to the 13th century. known as de walletjes, (the little wallet), it attracted sailors for centuries. in the 16th century the calvinists tried to ban prostition in amsterdam but with little success. today the red light district is a garish area with prostitutes touting business from show windows, sex shops, and sleezy nightclubs. still this is a interesting place to visit.