It wouldn’t be unfair if we call Amsterdam a city of dichotomy. While one part of the city has thrived and become famous for all the vices that go with a progressive society, the other part has changed little since the 17th century, the Golden Age of Dutch History. Lined with ever flowing tranquil canals and grand houses, the old part of the city is exceedingly beautiful, reminding its rich and colorful past. Here, small scale of the buildings, the intimacy of streets, and crowded yet architecturally beautiful squares promise a totally different experience to every traveler. And I am sure you’ll also be captivated by its timeless charm—narrow cobbled walkways, arched bridge over peaceful waterways, and of course the city’s thriving flea market. Let’s find out the top travel attractions in Amsterdam.
Museums in Amsterdam: To your surprise, Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world. Appreciate the works of Vincent van Gogh in one of the world’s most visited museums – The Van Gogh Museum. Located at the Museum Square, it has more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the artist (Opens 9 am to 5 pm between January 6 & February 28, September 2 and December 26; Opens 9 am to 6 pm between March 1 and September 1; On Fridays, remains open till 10 pm | Fee: Adults: €15; Children upto 17 years: Free). Next to this museum at the Museum Square is housed a wonderful repertoire of Dutch art and history in the Rijksmuseum (The National Museum), offering insight in to the rich cultural heritage of the Netherlands in an international context from 1100 AD to present. The Museum also houses Night Watch (de Nachtwacht)—one of the most famous works by the Dutch master Rembrandt. Admire the finest paintings by great masters of the 17th century such as Frans Hals and Vermeer (the Rijksmuseum opens daily from 9 am to 5 pm | Fee: Adults: €15; Children up to 18 years Free). The Anne Frank Museum exhibits the life and struggle of Anne Frank – a Jewish girl who along with her family and four other people hid in the building during the Second World War to escape the Nazis. This overly busy museum is counted among the most moving experiences in the city. The main attraction is the secret area where Anne hid from the Nazis (Opens daily between 9 am and 7 pm). The Rembrandt House Museum occupies the building where Rembrandt van Rijn once lived and ran the Netherlands’ largest painting studio in the 17th century – until the artist went bankrupt. The Museum opens daily between 10 am and 6 pm. Address: Jodenbreestraat 4, 1011 NK Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The Oude Kerk: To understand the history of Amsterdam, do make a visit to the city’s oldest thriving building, The Oude Kerk, which dates back to 1306 AD. Constructed to honor the city’s patron St. Nicholas, it survived several upheavals. The four stained glass windows, which survived the destruction during the Reformation at the end of the 16th century, are key highlights of the church. To have a view of the city, climb up its lower commands; they offer an impressive view of the city.
The Royal Palace: Only a few meters away on the Dam Square is located the Royal Place, which is one of the three palaces still used by the Royal Family. The 350 year old building started as the City Hall of Amsterdam. Later, in 1808, it’s transformed by Napoleon Bonaparte into a palace. Go inside and admire its gigantic chandeliers, marble floors, magnificent paintings, and delicate sculptures. Make sure to visit the exhibitions and interior design of the Royal Palace. But ensure you’ve booked in advance; at least two weeks ahead. The Queen Beatrix doesn’t live in the Royal Palace, but she does come occasionally to receive important guests. The Royal Palace opens 11 am through 5 pm. For detailed visiting calendar, you may visit: http://www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en/visit/opening-hours.
Canals of Amsterdam: Canals are a symbol of Amsterdam. In 2011, the 17th century canal ring area in Amsterdam was declared the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Golden Bend of the Canal that stretches from Leidsestraat to Vijzelstraat is the most beautiful and magnificent. The ‘Magere Brug’ is one of the most picturesque bridges of the city and remains romantically illuminated at night.
The Singel Canal is famous for its floating flower market. First held in 1862, the contemporary one is just a relic from the days when the flowers and plants sold at this market were shipped in by barges. Here you can find all your favorite flowers. Along this part of the Singel Canal, there’re a lot of souvenirs shops. The floating market is held every day between 9 am and 5:30 pm. On Sundays, you can buy or just look around flowers of choice between 11 am and 5:30 am.
The Friday Night Skate in Amsterdam: Amsterdam has some unexpected, secret treasures that are not known to many and rarely found in the guide books. The Friday Night Skate is one of those events. The Skating starts between 8:15 pm and 8:30 pm and departs from the round bench in front of Café Vertigo/Film Museum in Vondel Park and ends at Café De Vondeltuin in Vondel Park. Besides the Friday Night Skate, there’re many other moments and places where you can explore Amsterdam and the city’s fantastic skaters. And if you long for throbbing city life, head to Jordaan. With old townhouses and boutiques, this is the liveliest part of the city.
Amsterdam is famous for its diverse culinary offerings. Try Pekelvless, a meaty and traditional Dutch cuisine. Also try out some broodje haring – raw and cured fish specialty – a popular street food dish consisting of raw herring in a soft bun topped with sweet pickles or chopped onion. Taste Jenever (Dutch Gin) at the traditional tasting house Proeflokaal Wynand Fockink. It has been there since the 17th century. Forget not to try the house specialty Boswandeling – a lively combination of Jenever, herb bitters and orange liqueur. Then there’s a hole-in-the-wall takeaway, Vleminckx, has been serving the portions of frites to denizens since 1887. Buffet Van Odette is a sit down café that serves simple dishes such as pasta, omelets, and steak sandwiches, compiled using organic ingredients and injected with a dash of culinary creativity. It’s located on the Prisengracht canal. Balthazar’s Kitchen is one of the best eateries in Jordaan. Housed in a former blacksmith’s workshop, the Kitchen serves single set menu. For French, Spanish and Italian cuisine, visit Blauw aan de Wal which is housed in a 17th century herb warehouse. A long, graffiti-covered hallway in the Red Light District will take you here. So get off and make the most of your time in this idiosyncratic city.
Bicycle is the best way travel around the city. Besides this, you can also explore the city using tram, metro, and buses that connect the city center with suburbs.