Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House in the center of Amsterdam is the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II. Now converted into a museum it contains a sobering exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the war, as well as discrimination in general. The rooms at the Anne Frank House still portray the atmosphere of the period spent in hiding. Historical documents, photographs, film images and original objects that belonged to those in hiding and those who assisted them help illustrate the events that took place. Anne’s original diary and other notebooks are also on display in the museum.
The Rijksmuseum is the largest museum in the Netherlands, attracting more than one million visitors each year. Re-opened in the spring of 2013 after a decade of renovation, the museum has a wonderful collection of the 17th centur Dutch Golden Age masterpieces including “The Night Watch” by Rembrandt as well as other celebrated paintings like Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” and “Woman reading a letter”, “The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede" by van Ruisdael, “The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter” by Jan Steen and many more. These marvelous paintings reflect the history and character of the Dutch. Unique sculptures and various antiquities such as traditional furniture, Delftware, silver, ship models and dolls houses complete the exhibits on show.
Van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum maintains the world’s largest collection of the works of the world’s most popular artist - Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Alongside his instantly recognizable impressionist works, such as landscapes, self-portraits and still life paintings – especially ‘Sunflowers’ – the museum provides opportunities to track the artist's development and compare his paintings to works by other artists from the 19th century – those who inspired him and those who drew inspiration from him. Each year 1.6 million visitors come to the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the 25 most popular museums in the world. The museum has recently reopened after an extensive renovation program.
The Oude Kerk (Old Church) is both the oldest church and the oldest building in Amsterdam. It dates back to about 1250 and is incongruously located in the heart of the red light district. Perhaps this is why the inscription above the bridal chamber says "Marry in haste, mourn at leisure"! The Oude Kerk has been renovated and expanded many times over the centuries. Its original interior was lost during the Reformation but it still retains its hand-painted wooden roof. Some of the stained glass windows date back to the 16th century and Rembrandt's wife Saskia is buried here.
The Begijnhof is an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century. It was originally built as a sanctuary for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. The houses in Begijnhof are still occupied by single women. Although nothing survives of the earliest dwellings, the beautiful houses that overlook its well-kept garden include Amsterdam's oldest surviving house, Het Houten Huis, dating from around 1420. On the adjoining walls, there is a fascinating collection of wall plaques with a biblical theme. The southern fringe of the square is dominated by the Engelse Kerk (English Church) which dates from the 15th century and possesses its original medieval tower.
Red Light District
Prostitution is legal in many parts of Europe, but nowhere in the world is it a major tourist attraction like it is here. In this part of town, working girls rent small rooms with enormous windows along the canals and side streets to flirt with passers-by under the glow of what are literally red lights. However, it is mostly safe and clean as well as home to bars, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and residents. This is a place to wander with locals and tourists, young and old, to visit famous churches and a farmers market as well as to enjoy the medieval buildings and canals.
With 65 miles of ancient canals, 25 percent of the city’s surface consists of navigable waterways and Amsterdam is still the most watery city in the world. The city was founded around 1250 with the building of the Dam that gave it its name - ‘Aeme Stelle Redamme’ is Medieval Dutch for: ‘Dam in a Watery Area’. The first canals were dug for water management and defence. As the city expanded in the Middle Ages, successive defence moats ended up inside the walls and lost their function but they acquired an important new one; local transport of merchandise. In one very ambitious expansion project that took 50 years, the 3 main canals of the city were dug and the houses around them were built. Completed around 1660, it made the city grow to 4 times its size and gave it the most intricate and efficient system of navigable waterways in the world. These three main canals form a historic monument which was placed on the World Heritage List in 2009.
Today you can tour the canals on foot, by bike or on a canal cruise.
Nearly half of all journeys in Amsterdam are by bike. The Dutch are proud of their biking culture and can be seen pedaling rain or shine (although never with a helmet!) through the city streets. Bicycle paths connect the entire country and cyclists are well respected on the roads. This makes cycling an efficient way to get around the medieval city streets and bikes are available to hire. Take care if you are walking in Amsterdam, especially in the narrow streets around the canals, as bicycles may not always stop for unwary tourists!
Amsterdam has over 1000 restaurants catering for the tastes, needs and budgets of even the most discerning visitor. From vegetarians, to fast food, to haute cuisine, the city boasts stylish and top quality restaurants as well as traditional Amsterdam cafes and Dutch Pancake houses.
For an authentic taste of Dutch culture, don't miss a visit to a traditional Dutch pub known as a 'brown café' (bruin café). These local watering-holes are a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture. The Dutch word that embodies the unique experience of coziness, or a comfortable, relaxing time, is 'Gezelligheid'. It is this concept that each cafe or bar tries to express in its own unique way. While some offer live music or exhibitions, others appeal to the romantic with lovely views and distinctive decor. Many offer a wide selection of beers, bar games and ‘borrel hapjes’ (snacks) as well as coffee and cakes.
Dutch Pancake Houses
Dutch pancakes are an entirely different species than American pancakes, French crêpes, South Indian dosa or any other pancake you may have been exposed to. ith the diameter of a satellite dish, Dutch pancakes are often savory (bacon, ham, cheese), sometimes sweet (pineapple, banana, apple), and always consumed for dinner: most pancake restaurants don't open until well after breakfast time! Pancakes and their little cousins, poffertjes, are a popular and typically Dutch meal.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Netherland’s international airport, is situated around 20 km from Amsterdam centre. Ninety airlines fly to and from Schiphol and have offices at the airport or in Amsterdam. You can reach the city from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in just half an hour by train, taxi or bus.
Schiphol train station is located directly underneath the airport. From here, intercities and slower trains from the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways - NS) can take you to Amsterdam Central Station (city centre) in approximately 25 minutes.
The Connexxion Amsterdam Tourist Ticket costs €10 for a round trip. The bus takes only 30 minutes from Schiphol Plaza to the centre of Amsterdam (Leidseplein). There are 6 to 8 buses each hour. Return journeys do not have to take place on the same day.
The taxi rank is located at the airport’s exit. Depending on traffic, a taxi can take you to the city centre in half an hour. One ride will cost you approximately €40.
City Travel Options
GVB is the public transport company of Amsterdam providing an integrated metro, tram and bus service throughout Amsterdam and its surrounding areas. 24, 48 and 72 hour GVB passes allow for unlimited travel on all trams, buses, metros and night buses for the duration of the pass and provide the most economical way for visitors to explore the city.
Bike Hire: The easiest way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Avoid parking problems, traffic queues, and experience the city like a local. There are bike hire shops all over the city.