Amsterdam Travel Guide

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

Amsterdam Local History

The city of Amsterdam started as a settlement around a dam in the Amstel River in about 1270. Due to its strategic location the city prospered, as it became the trading center between the Baltic countries to the north and southern Europe. In 1578, the Calvinists led by William of Orange captured Amsterdam from the Spanish and along with seven other provinces formed the republic of Holland.

The city's 'Golden Age' started in about 1580 when Amsterdam's shipping trade dominated the world. This period of prosperity lasted until the 19th century when French forces occupied Holland and Amsterdam was blockaded by the British and had to almost abandon its dependence on the sea.

In the early 20th century Amsterdam prospered as a major industrial center with rail links to the rest of Europe. The Second World War was a particularly difficult time for the city as it endured the hardships of German occupation. The city's large Jewish population was particularly hard hit with only one in sixteen surviving the war.

In latter half of the century Amsterdam became the center of liberal Europe and relaxed many laws involving drugs and homosexuality. Today Amsterdam is a vibrant, exciting city that embraces all people and cultures and is the fourth most popular tourist destination in Europe.

Amsterdam Attractions

Top Attractions

Anne Frank's House This is probably the city's most famous landmark. This was the hiding place of a young Jewish girl and her family, which was made famous by her diaries. This is truly not to be missed, and it is popular with young and old, so go early or late to avoid the queues. Open daily from 9am to 7pm, 9pm in summer.

Rijksmuseum This large museum houses some of the greatest Dutch paintings of the 17th century, including works by Rembrandt, Van Hals, Steen and Vermeer. It is advisable to buy at least one of the many guidebooks on sale for the museum, as it can be quite a confusing place. Open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Canal Trips Amsterdam has an extensive canal network and it is definitely worth taking one of the canal boat tours to see the city from the water. The tours last around ninety minutes.

Van Gogh Museum Vincent van Gogh is probably the most famous of all modern artists and the museum dedicated to his works is therefore very popular. Open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Concertgebouw This is the home of the famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, renowned for its excellent acoustics. Even though it hosts the world's best musicians, you can attend lunchtime concerts from September to May for free. Open from 10am to 7pm daily.

Simpel I would like to recommend restaurant Simpel which is a stylish restaurant with a very good atmosphere. Fantastic place with good food for a fair price! I had a wonderful dinner on Thursday and enjoyed so much that I came back the next day. There was a DJ playing that night so we stayed all night. We've been there from 19.00 til 03.00 and loved every minute of it! Go there, you'll love it!
submitted by Willem Smit, 17/07/05

Amsterdam Shopping

Amsterdam is host to many unusual specialty shops. An excellent feature of the shops in the city is that the majority are individually run and not part of chain stores. The general fashion district is to be found in the Nieuwendijk/Kalverstraat strip

Magna Plaza a massive five-story mall is also to be found here. The Jordaan is where most artists sell their wares. Most shops take Monday morning off with extended evening shopping on Thursdays. The majority of shops are closed on a Sunday.

Amsterdam Activities

Artis Zoo - Kerklaan 38-40 (Plantage). Open daily this complex is fantastic for kids. In addition to the animals there is a planetarium and an aquarium.

NEMO - This is a state of the art educational center for science and technology. It is housed in a futuristic looking building that resembles a ship. This is not only for children, adults are guaranteed to enjoy this outing and will definitely learn something new. Open Tuesday to Sunday, or daily in school holidays perfect for a rainy day.

Leidseplein - This is one of the most colourful squares in the city, perfect for a sunny day, you are sure to find jugglers, fire-eaters and performers here in the daytime.

Amsterdam Parks & Gardens

Vondelpark Amsterdam is depressingly short of parks, and only this one is truly mentionable. Opened in 1865 it is located on a 45-hectare plot and is home to over one hundred species of trees and many indigenous and exotic plants. Attractions also include a rose garden and many children's play areas.

Amsterdam Restaurants and Bars

Amsterdam offers a wide selection of places to eat and drink with more than one thousand restaurants in the city. Eating out is seen as an activity in its self in Amsterdam, which means that it is generally unhurried. Dutch cuisine is simple and traditional as a result there are few restaurants that serve Dutch food. Pancakes are a traditional Dutch food and can be found in many restaurants.

Besides traditional Dutch fare, Amsterdam, being the cosmopolitan city that it is has many excellent foreign food restaurants it is said that the best Indonesian food outside Indonesia can be found in Holland.

Amsterdam Restaurants

The Pancake Bakery - Prinsengracht 191 (Westerkerk). A popular, inexpensive place with a friendly atmosphere to enjoy the traditional Dutch pancakes.

De Belhamel - Brouwersgracht 60. With a great view over one of the cities main canals, this art deco styled French restaurant is one of the best of its kind in the city.

Orient - Van Baerlestraat 21. One of the highly recommended Indonesian restaurants of Amsterdam where the practice is to serve many small dishes together known as a Rijstafel (rice table) restaurant.

Rose's Cantina - Reguliersdwarstraat 38 (Flower Market). This bustling Mexican restaurant is renowned for its hearty portions and as good a Margarita on the rocks as you will get anywhere in Mexico.

De Blonde Hollander - Leidsekruisstraat 28 (Leidseplein). One of the few restaurants that serve authentic Dutch food as you would eat in someone's home.

Amsterdam Bars & Clubs

't Smalle - Egelantiersgracht 12 (Jordaan) 11:00-01:00. This establishment comes recommended as on of the few bars in the city that offer more than two choices as far as wine is concerned. It has a nice seating area outside alongside the canal and as the name suggests a 'cosy' upstairs area inside.

Last Waterhole - Armsteeg 12 (Oudezijds). To be found in the Red Light District, this is the haunt of Amsterdam's biker crowd. They are tame by normal standards and visitors are welcome at the pool tables or to join the jam sessions onstage.

Winston Kingdom - Warmoesstraat 123. A smaller venue featuring a variety of live music from R&B to Ghanaian percussion to punk and club. There is also a poetry night once a month on a Monday.

Escape - Rembrandtplein 11. Home to Amsterdam's hottest Saturday night, 'Chemistry', often hosting Holland's top DJ, Dimitri. The venue is a large hangar with a capacity of 2000, although due to its popularity you will probably still have to queue.

West Pacific - Haarlemmerweg 8-10. This converted gas factory is regarded as the up-and-coming location in the city. It has an onsite café, a fireplace and is open late.

Amsterdam children's activities

Artis Zoo - Kerklaan 38-40 (Plantage). Open daily this complex is fantastic for kids. In addition to the animals there is a planetarium and an aquarium.

NEMO - This is a state of the art educational center for science and technology. It is housed in a futuristic looking building that resembles a ship. This is not only for children, adults are guaranteed to enjoy this outing and will definitely learn something new. Open Tuesday to Sunday, or daily in school holidays perfect for a rainy day.

Leidseplein - This is one of the most colourful squares in the city, perfect for a sunny day, you are sure to find jugglers, fire-eaters and performers here in the daytime.

Useful Amsterdam Links

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Informative guide to Amsterdam city sights and attractions

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