Amsterdam is located in the province of North Holland, in the Netherlands. The city is sometimes called the "Venice of the North" because there are canals running through the city center. In terms of population, Amsterdam is moderately large with a population of roughly 750,000. However, the historic center of this ancient city is one of the largest in Europe.
Things to See
Amsterdam is much more than a place where liberal activities are tolerated. A thriving cultural center sits in the center of this horseshoe-shaped metropolis. Museums of all types can be found clustered in the southern part of town around the Museum Square, while beautiful architecture is at every corner. If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, don't miss the following attractions:
- Anne Frank House: The house of the famous diary writer always has a line. Don't be discouraged though; it moves quickly and the house provides a first-hand glimpse into the experience of hiding during World War II.
- Rijksmuseum: The largest museum in Amsterdam boasts classical works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and many more Dutch artists.
- Artis: A zoo, botanical garden and many other natural wonders thrive in the Artis. Reserve at least a half-day to explore its wonders.
- Van Gogh Museum: The museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world. Some of the more famous works are elsewhere, but a decent chronological history of the painter's works is on display.
- Film Museum: Shows contemporary and classic films several times daily.
- Begijnhof: Pop in at this quiet square for a moment of peace and several photo opportunities.
- Canal tours: Many small boats leave from near the Centraal Station for tours around the city's horseshoe-shaped canals. These trips are a great way to see the city.
- Red Light District: Not only is prostitution legal in Amsterdam, but red lights and scantily-clad girls in windows, can be seen far beyond the small neighborhood called the Red Light District.
Where to Stay
Amsterdam boasts a bevy of luxury hotels for travelers with an unlimited budget. Meanwhile, the city also features youth hostels for those traveling on a budget. The following properties are suitable for visitors with varying budgets:
- Amsterdam American Hotel: A luxurious property located a few steps from the nightlife on the Leidseplein, this hotel is also one of the few places that serves an American breakfast, buffet style.
- Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky: Another luxury hotel, located on the Dam Square.
- Rembrandt Square Hotel: Located in a nightlife hotspot, this hotel has reasonable prices, is clean and cozy, and features friendly service.
- Amsterdam Vondelpark Hostel: For those looking for budget accommodations, this hostel is a good choice. Private (two-person) rooms with a private shower complement the traditional dorm-style hostel rooms. In addition, the location is excellent. The property is situated between the Vondelpark, Leidseplein, and Museum Square.
Where to Eat
Take advantage of the Netherlands' seafaring past to enjoy Indonesian, Surinamese, and several other exotic cuisines. Notable eateries include:
- Kantjil en de Tijger: Centrally located, this is a real Indonesian treat. Order a "rice table" to get a small taste of a large number of dishes.
- Vijaya: This Indian restaurant located near the Centraal Station offers excellent food and a friendly atmosphere.
- The Pancake Bakery: The Dutch love their pancakes, both sweet and savory, and this restaurant near the Anne Frank House offers an impressive selection.
Other specialties to try include Stroopwafels, sweet waffle cookies held together by a delicious syrup. You might also consider sampling herring from a street vendor or Turkish pizza or shoarma. Other local favorites include falafel, Dutch apple pie with whipped cream, and pea soup with smoked sausage and rye bread.
The spring brings fields of tulips and migrating cranes nesting in the city's trees. If you visit during spring, consider making a day trip to the Keukenhof, a huge garden of tulips open for only a few weeks each year. Fall and winter in Amsterdam are cold, wet and gray, with limited daylight hours. Summertime features mild weather and sunshine.
Regardless of when you travel to Amsterdam, you will likely fly into the city's international airport, Schipol, which is about a 20-minute train ride from the center of town. Trains run every 15 minutes to and from the airport. Getting around Centraal Station is very straightforward. From the front doors you can hail a cab, or catch the bus, tram or subway line of your choice. Cheap flights from inside Europe sometimes land in Eindhoven, a city located about 90 minutes south of Amsterdam. From there, you can drive to the heart of the city using a thick network of highways lead into the city's core. Another option is to take the beltway (A10), which surrounds the city.
Once inside the city, the extensive network of trams, buses, and subway lines can take you anywhere you want to go. Tickets purchased for the bus or tram are good for one-hour only. If you plan to take public transportation on more than three separate occasions during your stay, it's a good idea to purchase an OV-chipkaart, which is more economical than buying individual tickets. You can purchase this OV card at the airport or the train station, and use it throughout your stay.
Whenever you go, and wherever you stay, take the time to wander through the city's eclectic neighborhoods. While renting a bike is popular among tourists, it is not the safest way to see the city. What's more, you might get so distracted steering the bike that you will miss the amazing sights. Instead, bring comfortable walking shoes and soak up the city on foot.