A city most recognizable for its debauchery and reputation for tolerance, Amsterdam is not given enough credit as one of Europe’s most charming cities. Overflowing with culture, impressive architecture, idyllic canals, and an old-world allure, this urban city is a one stop shop. You can meander through the canals and get your culture-fix at some of the most fantastic museums during the day, and go out for serious partying by night. With the most beautiful square in the centre, and such wonderful history spanning throughout the city, Amsterdam is absolutely unique .
There are many ways you can get to Amsterdam. If you’re flying in between European countries the best airline by far is Ryan Air. This unbelievably reasonable and efficient airway offers inter-Europe flights anywhere from 25 euros and up. Cheaper than a train, Ryan air is your ticket to success when wanting to travel affordably. If you choose to fly you will arrive at Schiphol Airport. From Schiphol you will take the train 15 km into the heart of the city. Trains are also a fun way to travel from city to city. A more scenic route, Eurorail will also drop you off at Schiphol Airport where you can take a direct train to the historic Amsterdam Station.
Once you arrive in Amsterdam you will immediately fall in love with its charming nature and old-world European atmosphere. With picturesque streets, vintage bikes bordering the 17th century scenic canals or Grachtengordel , Amsterdam is a photographer’s haven. A large attraction to this seemingly tiny city is the treasure-trove of extraordinary art and 900 year old antiquity. The Rijksmuseum, or national museum of the Netherlands, possesses nearly seven million works of art, which only a fraction are on display. The museum opened in 1885 and has been a historic sanctuary ever since. The amazing realism of Dutch paintings and history shines brightly at this museum. The most fascinatingly stunning painting is Vermeer’s, The Milkmaid. Simple at first glance, this painting is a true masterpiece with its magical colors and intricate depth. Another must-see painting at the Rijksmuseum is Rembrandt and the Night Watch. Known as one of Rembrandt’s greatest paintings, The Night Watch, is responsible for his change in fortune from rich man to pauper.
The next stop in Amsterdam’s museum excursion is the Van Gogh Museum, which has the most comprehensive collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world. This airy building by Gerrit Rietveld, is modern and fresh contradicting the antiquity of the work inside. With most of Van Gogh’s famous paintings, including Sunflowers, The Bedroom at Arles, and Wheatfield with Crows, this museum will wow you with all the brilliant works by this master. This museum also features 580 of his drawings, and hundreds of letters mapping his conquest, along with contemporary temporary exhibits.
By far the most poignant and spine-chilling museum in Amsterdam is Anne Frankhuis, otherwise known as Anne Frank’s hiding place before her and her family were captured. As you enter this old walk-in, you immediately are transfixed by the extreme events that took place here in 1942. Once the warehouse where Otto Frank ran a pectin business, you will enter layers of history and gradually reach the top of the building where the hiding took place. As you continue upstairs you will walk through the offices of Otto Frank and his staff who helped hide him and his family. After you tour this floor, you will run into the moveable bookcase, the camouflaged entrance to the annexe. Anne Frank once wrote, ” no one could ever suspect that there could be so many rooms hidden behind it.” As you enter the moveable bookcase, you will go up a steep and narrow set of stairs to the claustrophobic rooms in which two families hid. This is where your emotions run wild. As you walk through the tiny rooms with creaking floors, you will be captured by the pencil sketchings on the walls, drawn by Anne and her sister Margot, marking records of their growth and childlike fantasies. You can explore Anne Frank and Fritz Pfeffer’s room with old film-star pin-ups still on the wall and Anne’s famous red-checked diary which she wrote in every day. An absolute necessity when visiting Amsterdam, this deeply moving museum will leave you contemplative and transport you to a time where worlds collided and one girls courage inspired millions.
Lastly, if you want a less severe museum and something quirkily and stereotypically Amsterdam, visit the Sex Museum. A hilarious and grotesque museum all in one, this site will give you a dose of this city’s “tolerance-free” motif. With a collection of erotic paintings, objects, and recordings, surprisingly this museum is one of the most visited in the city.
Once you’ve finished exploring the cultural sites that Amsterdam has to offer, you can now just enjoy the environment and the wander this enchanting city. Dam Square, at the heart of the city center, marks the site of the original 13th century dam on the Amstel River. Surrounded by restaurants and grand buildings, this center is the focus of Amsterdam’s political and commercial life. With the Koninklijk Paleis, or the town hall at one end, the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky on the other, and the National Monument in the center, this is a big circle for visitors to congregate. After you experience the hectic buzz that the Dam Square evokes, stroll down the canals and waterways. With delightful views, elegant bridges, gabled houses, and petit waterside cafe’s, an escape to the canals offers a perfectly peaceful afternoon.
Dining options in Amsterdam are plentiful. With a wide variety of ethnic cuisine (some of the best Indian food I’ve tasted, other than India), and typical Dutch cafe’s and pancake houses, your appetite will be more than satisfied. One of the largest and hippest cafe’s in Amsterdam is De Jaren. This airily spacious, multi-levelled cafe’, located on a sweet canal is the best spot to people watch and enjoy a lovely meal on the sunny terrace. Another hip and popular little restaurant on one of the prettiest canals in town is Spanjer & Van Twist. With yummy salads and a down-to-earth atmosphere, this is a great little lunch spot. If you want more of a luxurious dining experience try De Kroon Restaurant. Waiters in long white aprons float beneath crystal chandeliers, as you devour a delectable meal in Amsterdam’s night-life district.
Once nightfalls, the streets become full of people, and bars and clubs become lively with action. You can relax at trendy bars, dance the night away at clubs, or go to traditional Dutch bars, or ‘bruin kroeg’. An ultra-chic and trendy club is the Supper Club. When you arrive at this mod building, you feel as if you’ve entered the twilight zone, with a sci-fi glare and white bed-like cushions from floor to ceiling, the Supper Club is creatively posh. For a more relaxed evening, visit Absinthe Bar. Known for selling the ‘mind-altering’ absinthe, this little tavern-esque bar is your watering hole for classic drinks and casual fun.
At night, The Red Light District overflows with tourists staring at half naked women as they pose in the red lit windowsills. Like the Disneyland of prostitution, The Red Light District is a sight to see. Another unique and typical Amsterdam experience is to visit a “coffee shop”. Not your ordinary Starbucks, but a place where cannabis is sold, Amsterdam’s coffee shops are abundant and very popular. In Amsterdam alone there are approximately 500 coffee shops, each with their own unique twist. Some sell baked edibles, others only offer weed, and some even serve food and alcohol. True Amsterdam experiences, both The Red Light District and “coffee shops” add a quirky twist to your European holiday.
Amsterdam has a variety of really special little hotels and bed and breakfasts for you to choose from. Hotel Roemer, once an 18th century mansion, is a chic up-scale boutique hotel located in the heart of the city. Modern design against a traditional backdrop, this hotel is simplistically posh. For a super stylish and intimate find, try Hotel Dylan. With 41 rooms and suites all individually designed and decorated, a restaurant thats’ food is to die for, and ambience that will allow you to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, this hotel spells LUXURY. If you want an alternative to boutique hotels, apartment rentals are everywhere, and allow you to rent for a minimum of three nights at a very reasonable price. A marvelous rental on the Amstel Canal, accomodates 2-4 people for only 150 euros. Compared to European hotels, that is a fantastic deal. Last but not least, there is a hostel option which is daringly fun. The Flying Pig Hostel, one of Europe’s famous hostels, is your affordable and youthful option. A truly unique and lively spot, this hostel is comfortably simplistic and a great place to meet fellow travelers.
Shopping is not really Amsterdam’s forte’ as opposed to other European cities, but there are a couple great little boutiques. The Nine Street, is the quaintest little shopping area where you can find the best boutiques in the city. If you’re looking for a shop with the most renowned Dutch designers in the fashion world, you must visit Van Ravenstein. Dries Van Noten, Anne Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela, Viktor and Rolf, and a few non-Dutch designers such as Givenchy and Balenciaga, are all nestled in this lovely boutique. Noa Lifestyle, is a special little find with a variety of European designers. With amazing cashmere sweaters and fabulous shoes and accessories, you may want to come here for your local shopping fix. Spoiled Boutique, has one of the best denim bars in all of Europe. With brands such as PRPS, Nudie, Blue Blood, Levis Vintage, and so many more this is a wonderful boutique for your denim desires.
Once you’ve spent a few days in the city, it’s nice to escape the metropolitan bustle and go on an excursion. For beer lovers, the Heineken Experience is the perfect way to spend the afternoon. Just outside of the city, this brewery/ museum will let you walk through the history of Heineken beer, watch how this famous beer is made , and even let you drink as you go. For a more relaxed experience, visit the stunning Keukenhof Gardens. A historic park filled with 79 acres of the most gorgeous tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils, Keukenhof is special retreat. A feast for the eyes, the flowers are works of art and the colors are absolutely breathtaking. In order to reach these outer-city destinations, you can rent a car, take the train, or bus. No matter what method of transportation you choose, the views of the countryside are captivating with traditional windmills and tulips on the horizon.
Highlights of Amsterdam:
-Rijksmuseum: | www.rijksmuseum.com |
-Van Gogh Museum: | www.vangoghmuseum.nl |
-Anne Frank Huis: | www.annefrank.org |
-Sex Museum: | www.sexmuseumamsterdam.nl |
Out and About:
-Cafe’ De Jaren: | www.cafedejaren.nl |
-De Kroon Restaurant : | www.dekroon.nl |
-Spanjer & Van Twist Restaurant: | www.spanjerenvantwist.nl |
-Supper Club: | www.supperclub.com |
-Traditional Dutch Bars, or Bruin Kroeg
-Red Light District
-Hotel Roemer: | www.hotelroemer.amsterdamhotels.it |
-Hotel Dylan: | www.dylanamsterdam.com |
-Amstel Canal Apartment: | www.holiday-velvet.com/amsterdam |
-Flying Pig Downtown Hostel: | www.flyingpig.nl |
-Nine Streets Shopping: | www.theninestreets.com |
-Van Ravenstein Boutique
-Noa Lifestyle Boutique
-Spoiled Denim Bar
-Heineken Experience: | www.heinkekenexperience.com |
-Keukenhof Gardens: | www.keukenhof.nl |