Amsterdam City Guide
With its delicate gabled houses, placid canals, and cobblestoned streets, Amsterdam can feel more like a fairy-tale village than a major urban centre at times. Yet this is also a city with an edge, which you can find in its explosive nightlife and buzzing art galleries, particularly in trendy areas like the Joordan. The city is compact, allowing you to uncover hidden alleyways, secret gardens, and antique shops. ¶ As the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is also its financial and cultural centre. Over one million residents live here in the "Venice of the North," with its network of tranquil canals. Any Amsterdam city guide will mention the turreted Waag and wooden Houten Huis, making the city centre a World Heritage site. Whether you explore by boat, bicycle, or on foot, you can enjoy the rich tapestry of culture and history that this convivial port city has retained for centuries
Things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city where high and low culture is intertwined, and at the high end of that spectrum you'll find the Rijksmuseum. It is home to famous works from Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch Masters. The Stedelijk Museum hosts modern works from Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall, while the Van Gogh Museum is another must-see for modern art fans. One of the most exciting things to do in Amsterdam is to hire a bike and tour around the city's network of 165 canals, or hop on board a colourful houseboat and admire the waterside flower boxes as you drift away. You can learn more about the city's history during WWII by visiting the devastating Anne Frank Huis, to see where she wrote her famous diary.
Things to see in Amsterdam
There are green spaces throughout Amsterdam, and you're never too far from a picturesque park. If the Vondelpark is too crowded, beat the crowds and disappear into the sprawling Amsterdamse Bos, featuring thick wooded areas interspersed with meadows and cycling paths. There's even an organic goat farm on the premises selling freshly churned ice cream. For some alternative things to see in Amsterdam, take a guided tour of the Heineken brewery or wander through the revitalized De Biljmer neighbourhood with its Imagine IC Cultural Centre. You can find many unique shops in Amsterdam, but truly incredible deals can be had on vintage clothing and antiques at flea markets such as Noordermarkt and Waterlooplein. Sift through the velvet ribbons and antique lace to find a treasure.
If you're flying into Amsterdam, you'll most likely arrive at Schiphol International. There are also airports in Eindhoven and Rotterdam The Hague which can be accessed by train or bus. Amsterdam's Centraal Station offers links to many European destinations, and there are several motorways serving the city, including the A1, A2, and A4. To use Amsterdam transport like a local, consider renting a bike from major companies like MacBike or City Bikes. Over 60% of all journeys in Amsterdam are made by bike. There are also public trams, busses, and commuter trains to reach the outer limits of the city.
Amsterdam's festive spirit permeates the city, with a number of high profile international events to choose from. The city's International Fashion Week takes place twice yearly, showcasing local high fashion designers. Kingsday in April celebrates the King's Birthday, and is a very jovial festival with multiple street parties, open air concerts, and flea markets. Amsterdam's museums open their doors into the early hours of the morning during Museum Night in November, with special performances and free events. Christmas is also a special time for Amsterdam events, when the streets and canals are decorated with twinkly lights during the Light Festival.
Restaurants in Amsterdam
Locally produced cheese, sausage, beer, and pastry are not to be missed in Amsterdam. There's a prevalence of Asian cuisine as well, particularly Indonesian. Try the Indonesian "rice table" or "rijsttafel," with its mix of spicy, savoury dishes to share with a crowd. Many of these are clustered around the Nieuwmarkt's Zeedijk area. ¶ Another prime area to find restaurants in Amsterdam is the Damstraat, with its budget friendly Middle Eastern and Chinese restaurants. The area between Dam Square and the Centraal Station offers a wide selection of traditional brown cafes, pubs, bakeries and fine dining establishments to choose from.