The Dutch capital and the most populous city in the Kingdom of Netherlands, Amsterdam has an honorary spot in every traveler’s bucket list. Amsterdam’s name derives from “Amstelredamme”, indicative of the city’s origin as a dam of the river Amstel. The city of canals, museums, and tulips, Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. It is also a city of tolerance and diversity. Rich in culture, lively nightlife, blooming flowers, extensive and little road traffic is what makes up the city of Amsterdam. Few cities meld history with modern urban flair like Amsterdam.
The city was originally established as a small fishing village in the late 12th century. It later became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century). During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving more than 4.63 million international visitors annually, this is excluding the 16 million day trippers visiting the city every year.
The Seventeenth-century buildings. World class museums. Joint-smoking alien sculptures. Quirky festivals. Bars, theater, laid back cafes. There is never a shortage of things to do in Amsterdam. But, time and resources are limited, so here is a list of Top 10 things that you must do when visiting Amsterdam;
10. Visiting the “Royal Palace”
The Royal palace of Amsterdam is one of three palace at the disposal of the monarch by the Act of Parliament. It was built in 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age and was originally used as a city hall. It later became the Royal Palace during the reign of King Louis Napoleon. It is used for reception of foreign head of state on the visit to the city and for the King’s New Year reception. It is located on the Dam Square. To counter the city’s sandy land, it stands on 13,659 wooden piles. Inside, Atlas stands, holding 1000 kg weight of the world on his shoulder. The palace is open to the public all round the year except on Royal events. So, gear up and go on a roller coaster ride to witness the history of Amsterdam.
9. Beer tasting at the “Heineken Experience”
“Heineken Experience” in Amsterdam is a historic beer brewery established in 1864. Heineken is one of the three largest beer producers of the world. Its rich and successful history has been presented in their old brewery in Amsterdam, with several amusement park attractions added to the exhibit and renamed as Amsterdam Heineken Experience. For a small charge, visitors get to learn about famous pilsner and drinks. The architecture of the 19th century has authentic interiors, old photographs and state decorations.
8.Picnic at the “Vondelpark”
With around 10 Million visitors per year, “Vondelpark” is the most famous park in Netherlands. It is a 47-hectare urban park at the heart of the city. The park was opened to the public in 1865, named as Nieuwe Park. The renamed The Vondelpark in 1867, with the inauguration of a statue of Dutch poet Joost van del Vondel. Apart from the statue, there is a playground for kids, bars, restaurant and an open-air theater for concerts. The park is always full of people enjoying a sunny day, jogging, roller-skating, people watching or simply lazing around in the sun. The 150-year-old park has many old trees- horse chestnut, Dutch red chestnut, catalpas, and many different sorts of birch trees. It is also a home to many birds- wild ducks, blue herons etc.
7. “Cycle” all the way
The roads in Amsterdam are owned by cyclists. It is rightfully called the Bicycle capital of the world and is equipped with an elaborate network of cycle paths and lanes. They are fully equipped with several guarded bicycle parks that can be used for a very nominally fee. These lanes are so comfortable that even toddlers and elderly people use bikes as the easiest mode of transport. It is used by all socio-economic groups and driving a car is discouraged. In Amsterdam over 60% of transportation is being carried on by bicycles. There are over 800,000 cycles in a city of 1.1 million people! Renting a cycle or taking a guided cycle tour is the typical Dutch way to get around the city. So, as they say, when in Amsterdam be a cyclist.
6.Roam the infamous “Red light district”
From Brothels and sex shops to museums and church, Amsterdam’s Red light district or The Rossebuurt (red neighborhood) as the locals call is, is unlike any other place. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and has enjoyed a long tradition of tolerance. Medical care, better working conditions, and safe environment are being provided to the women. Opened in 2014, brothel-turned-prostitution museum gives behind-the-scenes insights into the profession. Educate yourself about hash, marijuana and hemp at the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum. It has a high concentration of cannabis coffee shops, jenever (Dutch gin) tasting house, charming bruin cafes (historic Dutch pubs) and an independent brewery Brouwerij de Prael. A variety of fast food, frites (fries), pancake and other street food are sold in the streets. Oude Kerk (old church), Amsterdam’s oldest church is also located in the RLD. Contrary to popular beliefs, it is one of the safest areas of the world and has a cluster of policemen, private bodyguards roaming around the city. It’s a must see.
5.Get Inspired in the Museums
Among various museums, these are the best of the city:
“Von Gogh Museum”
“Von Gogh Museum” is an art museum in Amsterdam dedicated primarily to the painter Vincent Von Gogh(1853-1890). The museum opened on 2 June 1973. It is the largest collection of Von Gogh’s paintings in the world. More than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letter are kept on display in the museum. One of the Top 30 Museums in the world, it receives over 2 million visitors from around the world to admire and get inspired by the works of this famous artist.
“Anne Frank’s House”
“Anne Frank’s House” is a museum dedicated to the writer and wartime diarist, Anne Frank. During the WWII, Anne Frank and her family hid in this house for more than 2 years. Quotation from her diary, photos, film images, documents and some of the original object belonging to the family are preserved at the museum. Anne frank’s original diary is also on display. While in Amsterdam witnessing the story of Anne Frank, with 2 million people from around the world, is a must.
One of the most famous museums of the world, Rijksmuseum has a collection of 1 million objects! There are 8,000 objects of art and history on display at the museum. It includes some masterpieces by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. It also has a huge collection of antique objects of Dutch culture, drawings, and photography. 3 million art fanatics and history buffs visit this museum every year.
4. Float in the smell of Tulips at the “Bloemenmarkt”
Amsterdam’s flower market is the only “floating” flower market in the world. This unique market exists since 1862. At Bloemenmarkt, all sorts of tulips, narcissus, and geraniums can be found, both in bouquets and as bulbs to plant at home. It also has shops selling various Dutch souvenirs such as clogs, wooden tulips, and cheese. The Bloemenmarkt showcases the various colors of the city and is a must go-to place.
3. Get in touch with the city’s culture at the “Dam Square”
Dam square is the historical center of Amsterdam. As its name, it is rectangular in shape, it is 200 meters in length and 100 meters in width. It is in the dead center of the city connecting with the other well-traveled streets Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, and Damstraat. Beside it is the 15th-century Gothic Nieuwe Kerk, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, and the Beurs van Berlage, an old stock exchange building now used as a concert hall and an exhibition space. The National Monument, a white stone pillar, stands at the opposite side of the square. Designed by J.J.P. Oud, it was erected in the memory of victims of WWII. There are several food stalls, restaurants, and shops, including Bijenkorf, Magna Plaza, and the Amsterdam’s Diamond center. From time to time, several events such as concerts, sports events or used books market.
2. Click photos with the moving “I Amsterdam”
Originally meant as the market campaign, “I Amsterdam” slogan has become the motto of the city and its people. It shows their pride, confidence, and dedication. Located at the back of Rijksmuseum on Museumplein, the slogan is the city’s icon and the most sought after photo op. Visitors take photographs in, around and on the top of the slogan. It is two meters and tall and 23.5 meters wide. A second set of the letter is at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The third one is most special and changes location around the city, randomly showing up at fashion shows, fairs, festivals and various major events. The fourth set can be found at the Amsterdam Museum. So, be camera ready and take a photograph with “I Amsterdam”.
1.Cruising in the “Canals”
Often knows as the “Venice of the north”, Amsterdam has over a 100kms of the canal, about 90 islands, and 1,500 bridges. It was constructed in the 17th century; the canals in Amsterdam have become a global icon of the city. In 2010, the canal was officially added to the list UNESCO World Heritage sites. In 2013, it celebrated its 400th birthday! It is also one of the stunning backdrops for fantastic cultural events in the city. Some of the events organized alongside the water are- “King’s Day”, annual “Gay pride celebrations”, “The Grachten (canal) festival” and the famous “Light festival”. During this time the canal is decorated with barges, lots of colors, and music. Canal tours are one of the most memorable ways to discover city’s many sites. There are a number of departure points throughout the city and the tours are available in many languages. Whether it is an all-day cruise, hop-on-hop-off tours, child-friendly tours, or a romantic candle-light dinner, the Amsterdam holds some surprises for everybody. Whats more, in winter (if the temperature drops below -4°C) it is possible to ice skate over the frozen canal. Missing this would be a sin!