Tips things to see and do in amsterdam
Things to see and do in Amsterdam
Lose yourself in a maze of canals
Criss-crossed by bridges, 165 canals encircle the city of Amsterdam and keep the sea at bay. The waterways provide an attractive border to the arty locales of the Museum Quarter, the Jordaan and the Pijp. Within the pockets of land that their eclectic network creates, you can find shops, galleries and authentic cafés. The most picturesque of canals is Prinsengracht, lined by shady trees and funky houseboats. As you wander up to this area, you'll find the tall spire of the Westerkerk and the modest Anne Frank Huis. Smaller canal areas that are worth visiting include the historic Brouwersgracht and retail area of Leliegracht.
Visit the home of the diarist Anne Frank
Contemplate the tragic history of the Jewish community with a visit to the home of the diarist Anne Frank. Prinsengracht 263 was the canal-side house where the young Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family hid for two years during the Second World War, having fled from persecution in Germany in 1933. A bookcase marks the entrance to the unfurnished rooms of the annexe in which they lived, sustained by the efforts of friends. In the new wing, there's a good exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the War, and displays charting racism, neo-Fascism and anti-Semitism. To avoid the long queues, arrive early in the morning, or after 7pm during the summer.
Get on your bike
Cycling is a quintessentially Dutch means of getting around Amsterdam. Bicycles have long been part of a thriving democracy in the Netherlands. They played a vital role in the early-20th century campaign to secure women the vote and the absurd 1960s happenings of the Provos art group, when artists used them as a Socialist symbol. So, by getting on your bike, you'll prove yourself a free spirited citizen. There are plenty of places to hire them such as Mac Bike (www.macbike.nl) and Rent-A-Bike (www.bikes.nl), while clear cycle lanes stitch the city together. You can catch all the sights on a bike by booking a guided tour from the Yellow Bike company (www.yellowbike.nl). Bear in mind some golden rules. Never cycle next to your friend, put your lights on at night and lock your bike up.
Take a sneaky peek in the Red Light district
Amsterdam's Red Light district has cultivated a notorious reputation on the international stage. But when you visit, you'll discover that the reality is a bit different. It's like a small, cutesy version of Las Vegas, with cheesy sex shops selling blow-ups, massive dildos and other outrageous toys. Situated in a rough triangle formed by the Central Station, it's the oldest part of the city. But its historical significance has been largely obscured by the popularity of window-shopping in the area. Along its streets, the multi-cultural community of prostitutes, junkies, clerics, carpenters and cops freely intermingle, exhibiting a strange kind of social cosiness. As a tourist, you'll be a mere voyeur.
Marvel at the Old Masters
Dip into the Golden Age with a trip to see the Old Masters Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum. The 17th-century era in which the artists made their names sparked the locals' enthusiasm for original artworks. The Rijksmuseum has amassed the country's largest collection of art and artefacts from the 15th century until 1900, including 40 Rembrandts and four Vermeers. The museum is undergoing a facelift at the hands of Spanish architect Cruz y Ortiz, and will re-open in 2010. Four hundred masterpieces are on display in the Philips Wing, including gems such as Rembrandts' Night Watch and Vermeer's Kitchen Maid and Woman Reading a Letter, plus a selection of works by the likes of Frans Hals, Jacob de Wit and Ferdinand Bol, and a wealth of decorative arts.
Mix with Moderns at the Stedelijk Museum
In this city, you can mingle with great modern painters. The Stedelijk Museum has an amazing collection of 20th-century artists. It holds pre-war works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, plus a selection of paintings and drawings by Malevich. Post-1945 artists include De Kooning, Judd, Lichtenstein, Nauman, Stella and Warhol. Its Museumplein venue is closed for renovation until the end of 2009, so it's organising temporary shows in town. Another highlight is the Van Gogh Museum, which holds 200 paintings and 500 drawings produced by the troubled genius, as well as Japanese paints and works by his one-time collaborator Gauguin. It is housed in a Rietveld building, which has recently been enlarged with a new wing by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
Oude Kerk/Old church
This old church with little houses clinging to its sides, remains a calm heaven at the heart of the freneric Red Light District. Its buildings, especially the Gothic-renaissance style octagonal bell tower, was used by sailors to get their bearings.
Once a working class area, Amsterdam’s Jordaan has become greatly sought after. The converted warehouses are especially popular, and the Jordaan is now inhabited by a colorful mixture of students, well-to-do businessmen and creative professionals. The Jordaan oozes atmosphere with its narrow streets, picturesque canals, brown cafes, art galleries and unique shops. You can easily lose yourself in a pleasant stroll in through the enchanting streets that connect the 3 main canals.
At the Begijnhof (www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl), a secluded garden and courtyard offers a hidden sanctuary where traffic sounds dim and the bustle of the city fades into the distance. Established as a 14th-century convent, it formerly housed the religious and liberated sisterhood of the Beguines. In the centre of the courtyard stands the Engelse Kerk, the principal place of worship for the local English community. It's worth stepping inside to take a good look at the pulpit panels, designed by Mondrian. Although it's popular with tourists, noise levels never rise above a whisper.
Amsterdam's largest green space is named after the city's best-known poet, Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679), whose controversial play Lucifer caused the...
(Main entrance 1e Constantijn Huygensstraat (opposite Zandpad and Vossiusstraat)
This beautiful garden has been here since 1682, although it was set up 50 years earlier when East India Company ships brought back tropical plants and seeds...
(Plantage Middenlaan 2A)
Hortus Botanicus (Vrije Universiteit)
This small garden doesn't have the charm of its city-centre counterpart (see Hortus Botanicus), but it's a pleasant place for a stroll. The fern collection...
(Van de Boechorststraat 8)
Shopping streets in Amsterdam
As every metropolis, Amsterdam has several different quarters - each of them with a special character and public. Shopping streets in Amsterdam also vary, depending on their location in town. Many small shops, with their own importing contacts all over the world, make shopping in Amsterdam even more exciting. Furthermore, as the whole city center is not big, you may just walk through all the shopping streets of this city in just one or two days.
First off: Nieuwedijk-Kalverstraat, about 1 km full of shops. This pedestrian area, there is no traffic other than a constant stream of tourists, students, scholars, excursionists and locals. The Nieuwedijk is close to Central Station and basically dedicated to clothing, sportswear, music and gift shops with that special Amsterdam vibe. The road leads to Dam Square. Around this square you will find the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and Madame Tussaud's.
On the other side of the square the shopping continues: you are now entering the Kalverstraat. More shoes, clothing, bags, gift shops, cards, perfume, and the occasional coffee shop, fast food restaurant and ice cream salon. You will find that nearly all mainstream brand names have one or more store on this road. Here you can also find Waterstones and American Book Center. For a quiet drink away from all these shops you can make a sidestep onto Spui, where you will find many cafes, bars and restaurants and several fast-food chains.
Parallel to the Nieuwedijk-Kalverstraat are the Damrak and Rokin. This is a normal road, so beware of bicycles! The Damrak is filled with restaurants, hotels and exchange offices. Here you can find Himalaya, a spiritual bookstore and teahouse, slightly off the Damrak, just before the Red Light area.
At the end of the Kalverstraat on the Muntplein, you will find all sorts of tulips, narcissus and other bulbs and flowers on the Flowermarket. The bulbs are ready for export, so you can enjoy them at home too.
If you cross the Muntplein and walk through the Regulier Breestraat, which consists of many restaurants, fast-food chains and gift shops, you’ll end up on the Rembrandtplein.
If you like a little more luxury, or actually a lot more the Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat, affectionately called P.C. Hooftstraat is where you can do some serious damage to your credit card. In this road in the Oud Zuid district of the city, near the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk museum, you will find the haute couture boutiques: Cartier, Gucci, Edgar Vos, Tommy Hillfinger and the very impressive Oger shop are all located here. If all this is too much you can always go for a walk in the Vondelpark which is situated directly at the end of this road.
Nine streets (Negen straatjes)
In the Central Canal Belt of Amsterdam lies a three-block by three-block water-woven district known to locals as De Negen Straatjes. These "Nine Streets" are filled with quirky shops, trendy boutiques, cozy cafés and cool restaurants, making it one of the city's best areas to wander all day. Here are the reasons the area's cobbled lanes are much-loved. You're bound to love them, too.
Department stores and Malls
Amsterdam has great department stores and shopping malls. They offer unique choice of products with imports from Asia, Latin America and Africa. The best choice is offered by De Bijenkorf (The Bee Hive) located directly at the Dam square. Except for one (Villa Arena), all department stores and shopping malls in Amsterdam are located within a short walking distance from the Dam square. You may compare their actual choice within couple of hours. Shopping in Amsterdam may save you time and effort. If you like your shopping indoors, or if it happens to be raining you can always visit one of the shopping malls in Amsterdam: Magna Plaza (on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, again near the Dam square) or the Kalvertoren (on the Kalverstraat).
You may find in Amsterdam lively and different markets, some of them have food and general goods, some are specialized in all kind of things you might be interested in – starting from biological food and antiques, ending on post stamps and art. All markets are located within walking distance from the centre of the city. Check our page about Amsterdam markets for a day of the week they are open, opening hours and a location.
Albert Cuyp Market
This sensory-overload experience is a must for Amsterdam visitors who love bustling markets. The 100-year-old, open-air street market (the city's largest) features nearly 300 vendors selling everything from fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, spices, chocolate, cheese, flowers and plants to clothes, jewelry, shoes, bike accessories, bedding, fabrics and cosmetics -- basically, everything but the kitchen sink (but there are parts and gadgets for the kitchen sink). Prices are dirt-cheap, but product quality often reflects this, so beware. Flowers are less expensive here than at the famous Bloemenmarkt.
Location: Albert Cuypstraat (in De Pijp neighborhood)
Open: Year-round, Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
This is Amsterdam's famous floating flower market, the only one of its kind in the world (the stalls are indeed "floating" on houseboats, but they are semi-permanent fixtures now). It caters to tourists, who flock to see thousands of blooms of every color and buy Dutch bulbs to take home.
Location: Singel, between Koningsplein and Muntplein (Central Canal Belt)
Open: Year-round, Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Waterlooplein Flea Market
Amsterdam's largest flea market is like 200 garage sales going on at once -- and the "neighborhood" is home to the posh and the tacky. It's easy to browse for hours in the maze of second-hand clothes, African drums, tie-dye shirts, antique rugs and furniture and bric-a-brac of all kinds. Unlike most markets in Amsterdam, bargaining isn't necessarily frowned upon here.
Location: Waterlooplein (near Stadhuis-Muziektheater complex)
Open: Year-round, Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Spui Art Market
Also known as "Art Plein Spui," this favorite Amsterdam market in the heart of the city showcases the work of up to 25 professional artists (from a rotating group of 60), whose media include everything from oil, acrylic, watercolor and etching to photography, sculpture, ceramics and jewelry.
Location: Spui (between Kalverstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal)
Open: March - December, Sundays 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
See a picture of Spui Art Market.
Amsterdam is renowned as the most important modern and experimental art center in the North of Europe. This reputation is based primarily upon a large number of remarkable art galleries, because the only important modern art museum in Amsterdam – Het Stedelijk, (The Municipal museum) is since years under rebuilding, and should open only in the end of 2011. Amsterdam art galleries present artists from all over the world, focussed on abstract and experimental art as well as photography. Interesting realistic paintings from so called New Dutch Realism movement, as well as realistic paintings from Italy, Spain, UK and the US are always on offer. Prices often are moderate, starting as low as € 150,- for a small painting or a print, but works of the well-known living artists tend to reach last years the record prices.
If you are a book lover, Amsterdam is your town. Amsterdam has wonderful bookshops with unique books from all over the world. Most of the bookshops are located around or in proximity of the Spuiplein. Several bookshops are located on the Leliegracht (five bookshops on one side of the not very long street). The biggest bookshop in Amsterdam – Scheltema (Koningsplein 20) has four big floors full of books, most of them in English.
Amsterdam antique shops in Amsterdam are located mostly around Spiegelgracht and Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, a small street leading towards the center of the old city from the Rijksmuseum. Over 70 antique shops and fine art galleries are located at this one street or its direct neighbourhood called also Spiegelkwartier (Mirror Quarter). Even if you are not a collector yourself, a walk around this area may give you an opportunity to discover objects which will fascinate you with their beauty and their past. Dutch Old Master paintings are always well represented, but you will also see Delftware and ceramics, Oriental and African Art, as well as many shops with old clocks, pewter, instruments and furniture. You do not have to enter these shops; their windows provide one of the most interesting exhibitions you may imagine.
Right in the center of Amsterdam, you can also find the oldest Zoo of Holland. It consists of four main areas: Zoo, Planetarium, Botanical Gardens and Geological and Zoological museum. In the zoo itself you will find animals from all over the world. In addition, a unique canal aquarium shows you which animals roam the canals of Amsterdam. The planetarium offers children a trip through the universe. In the peaceful gardens, you can find many old trees and statues of contemporary artists and as well as an impressive, tropical rainforest greenhouse. The Geological museum shows you how the planet has evolved over the past 4 billion years.
A trip to Holland just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a windmill. Believe it or not, there are 8 stunning windmills in at the heart of the city just waiting to be admired. Don’t forget to bring your camera.