If stereotypes were true, we would always picture people from Amsterdam with a “stroopwafel” in one hand and tulips in the other, walking around with clogs or pedalling down a canal to a coffeeshop to get a glimpse of the Red Light district by night. We don’t mean to disappoint you, but Amsterdam has a lot more to it. One thing that we can say for sure, is that this city is loved for its tolerance unlike any other. :)
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, although The Hague has been the seat of government of the Netherlands since 1588. With a population of over 851,000 within the city and over 1,351,000 inhabitants in the overall area, it’s the largest city in the country. You might be surprised about the relatively low number of inhabitants, that’s because there are another 3.5 million visitors each year, and that’s not even including those from the Netherlands itself.
What keeps these people busy, apart from the famous Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank Huis? Let’s have a closer look at Amsterdam, to see what’s so special about it!
The origin of this city stretches back to the 13th century. Amsterdam was nothing more than a swampy area, before it was founded as a fishermen’s village. Nowadays, it’s hard to picture that Amsterdam was built from scratch. The beginning of the city of today, was by the building of the Dam on the Amstel river, around which the rest of Amsterdam was built.
These stunning canal houses didn’t come from nowhere. Back in the 17th century, Amsterdam was the centre of the world’s economy; Amsterdam’s West and East India Companies ruled the waters of the world and engaged in extremely profitable trade. This is why we now call this century Amsterdam’s Golden Age. The town was expanding faster than it could keep up with and it was running out of space. So, some changes had to be made …
The idea of the “Big 3” was born: the town was expanded by three massive canals, the Herengracht (gentlemen’s canal), Keizersgracht (knights’ canal) and Prinsengracht (princes’ canal). They became home to the majority of the most impressive canal houses in Amsterdam, especially for those who wanted to show off their wealth.
Amsterdam’s architecture is very unique and its diversity is spread all across the city. From the very classical and charming style of the canals to the iconic windmills, and from magnificent modern structures to picturesque house boats covered with tulips.
There are no less than 1281 bridges in Amsterdam, and the most famous one is the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge).
Amsterdam’s famous 17th-century Canal Ring was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. Have you ever wondered why some of these canal houses are so skinny? That’s because taxes were determined by the width of your house!
Also see » NEMO Science Center, Royal Palace at Dam Square, New Church, Begijnhof and its Houten Huys, Rijksmuseum, Royal Concert Hall and the modern Amsterdam Eye Museum along the IJ river.
There are countless ways to make your way through Amsterdam. As we all know, Amsterdam is the bicycle capital of the world. Statistics tell us that there are more than 881,000 bicycles, which means there are more bikes than residents. :) And then we don’t even count the +-10,000 bicycles that end up getting wet in Amsterdam’s canals every year. In fact, fishing for bicycles is a full-time job in the city!
In case you weren’t sure, the Dutch drive on the right side of the road, except for cyclists, again, they don’t respect the rules. This is mainly because they know they will always have right of way. So, keep an eye out and remember to be extra careful when driving in the city centre!
Even though it can be quite stressful to use your car in the city centre, everything is well thought out. One-way streets can make things rather difficult for you and your car. As well as the bustle of so much traffic, but as long as you drive carefully, and keep an eye out for the trams, pedestrians and cyclists, you’ll arrive safely at your destination.
Amsterdam offers an excellent public transport system, which includes trains, trams, underground, buses and ferries. They are frequent, on-time and straightforward to use. Amsterdam Central Station is the central hub that will get you to any location you can think of in the city. You can use the application 9292ov to plan your trip, for every type of public transport.
In Amsterdam, there are options to park your car in the streets or in car parks, but unfortunately none of them are free of charge.
Since parking spaces in the streets are very hard to find, you can expect costly parking charges of up to €5 an hour. Besides the fact that it’s expensive, it’s not very safe due to the fact that the streets are very narrow and crowded; there will be at least 5 bicycles in every corner you look at.
To park your car in a car park in the centre is safer and easier for sure, but be prepared to pay up to €7 an hour. It depends on the location, but a day ticket on average will cost you about €45.
We finally got to most interesting part … but where do we start? There are so many must sees and places to discover, such as museums, squares, monuments and events.
There are more than 50 museums in Amsterdam, including some world-famous ones. Museumplein (Museum Square) is home to Rijksmuseum which houses Amsterdam’s most impressive art collection by far, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum. Somewhere hidden in the Prinsengracht, there is this very special canal house, “Het Achterhuis”, where Anne Frank’s story lives on.
Also see » Museum Van Loon, Joods Historisch Museum, FOAM Museum, Het Scheepvaartuseum, Rembrandthuis, Hermitage Amsterdam and many more.
Other things you shouldn’t miss out on are Vondelpark, Leidse Square, Heineken Experience, Artis Zoo, Rembrandt Square, Flower market and Concertgebouw.
The busiest shopping area is around Dam Square, the streets are called Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat, close to the Dam itself you’ll find Bijenkorf, a luxury department store, and the Magna Plaza, a shopping centre.
For yesterday’s and today’s fashion, you can go to The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes), in The Jordaan, where you’ll find several vintage shops, as well as unique boutiques and trendy restaurants.
Head to the Museum District for luxury shopping at its best. The P.C. Hooftstraat is Amsterdam’s most expensive shopping street, with the most exclusive designer brands.
Are you more in the mood for vintage or antique shopping? Have a look at the Waterlooplein market, the IJ Hallen, Albert Cuyp Market or the Haarlemmerstraat.
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