Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, once world-famous for “Coffee Shops” serving marijuana. There is so much more to Amsterdam, which the rest of the world is catching on to, in the form of history, natural beauty, culture and cuisine. As part of the European Union, entry to Amsterdam is relatively easy for other EU citizens, nor is a visa required for citizens of most English-speaking countries. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is a major hub, and the third busiest in Europe. Many travelers connect through Amsterdam en route to other continents, so even a short visit to the city is possible during your layover. No matter how much time you have, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Amsterdam!
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Vonderlpark is the largest city park in Amsterdam receives over 10 million visitors per year. The park has water features, sculptures, playgrounds and a rose garden. Vondelpark is a great spot for a picnic, but there are also many cafes surrounding the park. In the summer months, you might catch a performance at the Vondelpark Open Air Theater.
Leidseplein is a popular square facing Vondelpark, best known for the nightlife scene. There are theaters, cafes, coffee shops and nightclubs. Anchoring the entertainment district is the Stadsschouwburg, a theater built in the late 1800’s. Leidseplein also has a few large concert venues, such as Paradiso and Melkweg.
The trendy district of Jordaan is a must-visit on your Amsterdam itinerary. The canals and narrow streets are lined by pubs, cafes, art galleries and boutiques. Jordaan has the only houseboat museum in the world, Woonbootmuseum. The Lindengracht Market is a lively shopping spot that offers cheese, fresh fish, flowers and many other local offerings, every Saturday. On Mondays, the Westerstraat market has textiles, designer goods and food carts to fuel your shopping.
Another trendy neighborhood of Amsterdam is OudWest, bordering Vondelpark. This neighborhood is described as a melting pot and is a former industrial era just coming into its own recently with the addition of trendy spots such as De Hallen. De Hallen is a former tram terminus transformed into a cultural complex which includes a hotel, library, bike workshop, antiques and a cinema, as well as Foodhallen, a massive food market serving all kinds of cusines.
De Negen Straatjes
“The Nine Streets” is one of Amsterdam’s trendiest neighborhoods, with the streets crossing the city’s largest canals and full of vintage and designer boutiques, interior design stores and cozy cafes. With so many canals, bridges and boutiques, De Negen Straatjes is one of Amsterdam’s most photogenic districts.
De Pijp is a former working-class neighborhood turned hip and trendy, with Middle Eastern cuisine, sidewalk cafes and the Albert Cuypmarket, the country’s largest open-air market. At night, the neighborhood comes alive with jazz clubs, rooftop bars and restaurants. De Pijp is also where you’ll find the Heineken Experience.
Visitors to Amsterdam can visit the Heineken brewery and join an interactive tour to learn about this Dutch pilsner that enjoyed world-wide. The Heineken Experience is centrally located in Amsterdam, so it’s easy to work it into your visit, and of course you will get to sample some of the beer at the end of the tour!
Amsterdam is famous for it’s picturesque canals, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can join any one of several canal cruises. The typical cruise lasts one hour, but there are other options such as hop-on hop off, romance cruises, city lights night cruises or private cruises. Hiring a gondola is another unique way to cruise the canals of Amsterdam.
Cycling is huge in Amsterdam, and is the most popular way to get around town. The sheer number of cyclists can be intimidating to drivers and visiting cyclists, but experiencing Amsterdam by bicycle is a unique experience. Rental shops are all over the city and if you decide to give it a go, you may want to avoid rush hour until you’ve gotten your “bike legs” and are a bit more comfortable with the flow of traffic. Dutch cyclists are notoriously unmerciful to tourists slowing down traffic in the bike lanes!
Anne Frank House
The Amsterdam canal house where Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution during WWII is now a museum that preserves her hiding spot, in addition to a permanent exhibition of the life and times of Anne Frank. The Anne Frank house is one of Amsterdam’s most popular museums therefore purchasing advance tickets online is highly recommended. Those without advance tickets may only enter after 3:30 pm and must wait in lines up to two hours long.
Museumplein is a public square lined with Amsterdam’s most famous museums, including Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum of Art. The square itself is a destination, containing a skate-park, ice skating rink, a playground, and the ever popular “I Amsterdam” sculpture. On the third Sunday of each summer month, you can find food and craft vendors around the park, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch a concert or special performance outside. Museumplein is easily reached via public transportation.
The Rijksmuseum, or State Museum is an art and history museum located on the Museumplein. The most visited museum in Amsterdam sits in a striking building with over 80 galleries. Inside, you’ll see artwork from Van Gogh, Rembrandt and many others, along with a rotating selection of temporary exhibitions. Advance tickets and skip the line tickets can be purchased online to avoid the lines at entry.
Van Gogh Museum
The second most visited museum in Amsterdam also on the Museumplein, is dedicated to Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionist painter who created over 2,000 pieces or art. Known for pieces such as Starry Night and Cafe Terrace at Night, Van Gogh is also remembered for cutting off his ear for a lover. In addition to displaying nearly 700 of his pieces, the Van Gogh museum also showcases other Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists.
Stedelijk Museum of Art
For a modern art experience, head to the Stedelijk Museum of Art, also located on the Museumplein since it opened in 1895. The museum contains works by Cezanne, De Kooning, Matisse, Pollack, Warhol and many more. In addition to paintings, there are sculptures and photography and video, as well as numerous exhibitions throughout the year.
Amsterdam’s only lighthouse is set on a small island only accessible by boat. It’s also the site of a new pop-up restaurant in the summertime, which makes for a fun evening out and a unique experience in Amsterdam. Tickets sell out quickly, so make your plans well in advance of your visit to Amsterdam.
The Netherlands are synonymous with tulips (and wooden clogs!) Tulip season actually kicks off in January when growers bring 200,000 tulips to Dam Square on National Tulip Day. In the spring, tourists and locals alike flock to the tulip fields in the Netherlands countryside. One of the most famous destinations, Keukenhof is in the town of Lisse, a short bus ride from Amsterdam. Keukenhof plants over 7 million bulbs each year, which brings in nearly 1 million visitors between March and May. Bike rentals are also available near the gardens, for a true Dutch countryside experience!
In addition to tulips, windmills are an icon of the Netherlands. There are still eight windmills within the city of Amsterdam and many more in the countryside. A short train ride from the city takes you to Zaanse Schans, an outdoor museum that is home to 8 windmills that have been transported here. There is also a bakery museum and a Dutch clock museum for visitors to explore.
Day Trips from Amsterdam
The Netherlands is a relatively small country, so it’s easy to get around and take day trips from your hotel in Amsterdam. In addition to the tulip fields and windmills, there are many options, from historical, cultural and even beach towns! Utrecht and Leiden are university towns, each just 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam. Cheese connoisseurs will want to check out Gouda, 55 minutes by train, which has a cheese market every Thursday. Rotterdam is 70 minutes from Amsterdam, and best known for total Nazi destruction during WWII. Now, it is a modern city with plenty of attractions to occupy a full day. Haarlem is just 15 minutes from Amsterdam, and is best known for art museums and the surrounding tulip fields. Zandvoort is a coastal town and popular seaside resort just 30 minutes from Amsterdam. Zandvoort has a long, sandy beach on the North Sea, surrounded by sand dunes, and is also the home of Circuit Park Zandvoort, the country’s most popular auto racing circuit.
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