Amsterdam Destination Guide
When you think of Amsterdam, images of clogs, tulips, cheese and windmills rightly spring to mind. What started as a fishing village is now a hub of culture, architecture and canals, and you can see the entire city in a day – either on foot or from a boat on the canal. Whether you’re here for the museums or the postcard perfect scenery, you won’t regret putting Amsterdam on your travel itinerary.
Amsterdam’s attractions are numerous but it’s famous for its extensive artistic heritage. This city has the greatest number of museums in any one city, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and a museum dedicated to that famous Dutch icon, the tulip. The Zaanse Schans with its Zaans Museum just outside the City offers the perfect place to photograph beautiful windmills and other architecture, and to learn about the history and symbolism of the clog and other traditional crafts. It’s also a great place to shop for souvenirs!
You can shop for tulips at the Bloemenmarkt along the Singel and taste flavourful Dutch cheeses at the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Rooms. Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District is situated in the oldest part of the City and offers a lot more than window shopping. This is truly one of the most beautiful parts of the City with long winding, narrow cobbled streets and charming fourteenth century architecture like the gothic Oude Kerk and old buildings leaning at odd angles along the canals.
Forget the assortment of cheeses you’ll find at every turn; when you’re in Amsterdam, you have to try raw herring. The fresh catch hits the stands between May and July, and the flesh is so sweet that it doesn’t require any extra garnish such as onions and pickles. The best place to buy this Dutch delicacy is the family-run Stubbe’s Haring near Centraal Station.
Quench your thirst at the Brouwerij ’t IJ, where beer is brewed in the thatched windmill that towers over the terrace, or sip cocktails while you enjoy live music. Whatever your taste, you’re sure to find good company until the early hours of the morning..
When visiting Amsterdam, many people are surprised at how easy it is to explore the city on foot. Most of the sights can be found in the city centre, also known as the inner canal belt. Our advice is to try and get accommodation in this area if you can. It offers a range of hotels to suit your budget, and plenty of restaurants and bars. If you’re looking for out-of-the-ordinary accommodation in Amsterdam, try a stay on a houseboat – it’s a floating hotel, fully equipped and well located for city exploration. If you’ve got a hankering for luxury that’s featured in a Hollywood movie, the Hotel Pulitzer was in Oceans 12 and overlooks one of Amsterdam’s prettiest canals. Or check in to the Hilton Amsterdam to be on the scene of former Beatle John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s week-long stay in bed to promote world peace. Just remember to book in advance; it’s a popular town.
Amsterdam shopping includes the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) – literally 9 narrow streets, in the historic canal district – dotted with art galleries, jewellers, vintage stores and boutiques. The most exclusive shopping street is the P.C. Hooftstraat; art and old wares aficionados should go to the Mirror Quarter (Spiegelkwartier), a collection of more than 70 antique shops and galleries. The City’s well-known flea market is on the Waterlooplein six days a week, and you can visit the Sunday Market at the Westergasfabriek for great food, artisan bread and the best coffee in town.
Good to know in Amsterdam
- Over 86% of the Dutch population speaks English fluently.
- Cyclists don’t stop for pedestrians. There were more than 800 000 bicycles in Amsterdam at last count. Assume bicycles always have right of way and you’ll be safest.
- Never cycle next to your friend; and remember to switch on your light at night and lock up your bicycle.
- There is a difference between a coffee shop and a koffiehuis (coffee house). While both sell coffee, tea, cake and sometimes sandwiches, the former also legally sells soft drugs (marijuana, hashish and space cakes).