Amsterdam is famous for its many canals and impressive architecture. They often call it the Venice of the North. The city is charming and bustling with creativity and opportunities. At night the streets along the canals light up giving the city a romantic atmosphere. It is the perfect surrounding to take a romantic boat trip with your loved one. The organised tours will take you passed beautiful quays and streets. You will come across characteristic narrow and high houses, sometimes no wider than 2 or 3 meters. These houses were built on as little ground as possible to avoid the high costs of taxes.
Things to do and see in Amsterdam
Enjoy a good bottle of wine and some nice ‘borrelhapjes’
In Amsterdam a popular pastime in summer is to make trips with friends along the canals while enjoying a good bottle of wine and some nice ‘borrelhapjes’. Borrelhapjes means finger food to eat with a ‘borrel’. A ‘borrel’ is like a Dutch institution; it means having a drink after work at the end of the afternoon, usually around 5 o clock. The Dutch eat certain typical things with their ‘borrel’; you will find them on most menus in bars and cafes. Most famous are the ‘bitterballen’, these are crunchy deep fried balls filled with smooth ragout.
A nice and popular neighbourhood in Amsterdam is the Jordaan. Here you will find vintage shops and many small boutiques. This used to be a working class area but has been turned into one of Amsterdam upper class areas. The charming and authentic houses that you will see in this neighbourhood are desired by many. From the Jordaan you can walk south towards a similar area called the ‘9 Straatjes’. This area is home to many hip shops, cafés, and restaurants.
North from the Jordaan there is a nice upcoming area, the Haarlemmerstraat area. This area has been popular since some years, but is still growing with exclusive shops and boutiques, alternative cinemas, nice little restaurants, organic shops, and many cafés. Also recommendable is the Westerpark, one of the locals’ favourites to hang out on hot summer days, having barbecues and picnics. In the Westerpark area you will find the Westerstrand, this is an urban beach on the IJ. Another great and famous park is the Vondel Park.
The Red Light District
And of course the red light district is one of Amsterdam most well-known features; popular with tourists, but not that popular with locals. There are several efforts being made by the municipality to restyle the red light district and change its grim character. Galleries have been opened in order to attract artists and young professionals. The University of Amsterdam has some buildings and libraries in this area too. On the edge of the red light district you can find some nice bars. The Nieuw Markt square is popular for its terraces and cosy restaurants. The Zeedijk is the heart of Amsterdam’s Chinese community. Here you will find the famous Chinese restaurant Nam Kee, after which a book/ film was called ‘Oysters of Nam Kee’, and the Buddhist temple; the shrine part is open to visit. On the Zeedijk you can also find one of Amsterdam’s hip cafés. It is called Latei. This place is popular with students and young urban professionals. Here you will be served organic and local products, and home baked pies.
Visit local museums
There are many interesting sights and museums in Amsterdam. Actually the list could be endless. However, there are a few places that you really don’t want to miss. While you’re in Amsterdam visit the Anne Frank house. Apart from the Anne Frank house you can also visit the former Jewish Quarter. Here you can visit the Portuguese Synagogue, and the Jewish museum, also diamantes. Nowadays what remains of the Jewish community is centred in the Amstelveen area in the south of Amsterdam. Other places to visit are the Museum Square. Amsterdam’s best museums are located at this square. Here you will be able to see paintings of famous Dutch masters like Rembrandt. On the Spui square you can visit the Begijnenhof. A lay order of nuns used to live here. There are some beautiful small chapels. On the Spui square there are also good book shops, and once a week a second hand book market. Amsterdam’s most famous market is the Albert Cuyp Markt in the Pijp area in Oud Zuid. This is also a nice area for eating out.
Shopping in Amsterdam
If you want to do shopping in Amsterdam there are many possibilities. For the main brands and warehouses go to the Kalverstraat area in the city centre. For more exclusive brands you can go to the Leidsestraat. And the PC Hooftstraat is specialised in upper-class posh shopping, here you will find the most expensive shops of the city.
Nightlife in Amsterdam
Nightlife in Amsterdam is centred on different squares, each with its own character. At the Rembrandt Square nightlife is tourist oriented. At the Leidse Square the clubs are more hip and alternative. Two nice clubs are the Melkweg and Paradiso. At the Leidse Square you will also find the classic municipal theatre. However, around these squares you will also come across the usual tourist traps. If you really want to see something of Amsterdam then avoid all the large chain bars and go into the old typical Amsterdam bars, it will make your experience of Amsterdam a lot more interesting and definitely more authentic. During the year there are many good festivals taking place in Amsterdam. Some of the best are the sailing festival Sail Amsterdam, the Gay Pride festival, and the Parade theatre festival in summer.
Getting There and Around
To get around the city you can go by foot or rent a bike. If you decide to rent a bike beware of other cyclists, pedestrians, trams, and cars. It can get confusing on the streets sometimes. To get to Amsterdam you take a flight to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. From there you take a direct train to Amsterdam Central Station.