Called “the Venice of the North” thanks to its charming network of canals, Amsterdam is a destination rich in culture and heritage.
A creative, innovative city and home to a long list of well-known artists and intellectuals, Amsterdam is dotted with museums, galleries, universities, cafes and parks to inspire and stimulate the imagination.
The capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam also is home to year-round amusement and events. Summer is the high season, when the city’s streets, coffee houses and canals are at their busiest. The breath-taking outdoor flower season at the Keukenhof Garden arrives each spring; while the city’s bargain season occurs in winter, when discounts are available on accommodation, tours and shopping.
There are many different angles from which one can take in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam. Survey the historic waterfront architecture on a canal cruise, enjoy people-watching with a stroll through Dam Square, or join in the local enthusiasm for bicycles and try a tour of the city on wheels.
Art museums are a major part of Amsterdam’s cultural tourism. The large Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, showcases renowned works such as Rembrandt’s Night Watch. There is also the Van Gogh museum, which is dedicated to works produced by the famous Dutch post-impressionist. The Stedelijk Museum is the city’s leading modern art space, which will soon reopen to the public upon completion of a major expansion project.
Amsterdam has been home to a number of famous residents – and many of their houses have been preserved and restored as museums. The house Rembrandt purchased amid his rise to fame in the 17th century, a 10-room property at Waterlooplein, is now a must-see museum for fans of the Dutch Old Master with the premises restored to show visitors the way it looked when Rembrandt was living and working inside.
Another popular house-turned-museum is the Anne Frankhuis, the preserved canal-front home that hid the young diarist and her family for two years during World War II. Open daily, the museum guides visitors throughout the house using quotes from Anne’s original diary.
On the west side of Dam Square is the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, which was originally a town hall, but was converted into the majestic residence of Louis I of Holland in 1806. Today it is open to the public when not in use for a function by the Royal House.
The neighbourhoods of Amsterdam offer visitors a diverse selection of dining establishments, cafes, bars and dance clubs. Food in the Netherlands can on the one hand be a traditional European affair, with dishes like fondue, beef steak and potatoes comprising the mainstays. However, Amsterdam has also taken its culinary heritage from its long tradition as an international port city, with popular local dishes like rijsttafel originating in Indonesia.
Fashionable grand cafés have popped up across the city in recent decades offering Dutch twists on French and Viennese classics; while Michelin-starred eateries and upscale, modern cuisine can be found around Reguliersdwarsstraat, Raadhuisstraat and Leidsestraat.
For travellers looking for less costly dining, the Jordaan and Nieuwmarkt districts have a large selection of mid-range and budget options covering both European and international tastes.
The Netherlands’ modest land area makes day trips to nearby cities and even other countries easily achievable via rail or car. Enhancing the pleasure of exploring these smaller neighbouring towns, many rail stations provide bicycle rentals right from the station gates.
Known as the “international city of peace and justice” and home to the Dutch Parliament, the Hague can be reached in a journey time of one hour from central Amsterdam. Take a tour Binnenhof in the city’s centre, which houses the current government and explore Gothic architecture dating back to the 13th century. Then visit the M.C. Escher Museum and take in the intricate geometry of the late artist’s original tessellations.
Belgium is also a popular onward journey from Amsterdam. Take a trip to Ghent and Bruges to explore beautiful cathedrals, medieval castles and pick up some world-famous Belgian chocolate.