Amsterdam is the Netherland’s capital city and is one of Europe’s most popular cities with visitors – and for plenty of good reasons! The city is most famous for its historic and intricate canal system, many bridges, colourful flower markets, bustling streets and being home to more bikes than people. Amsterdam is our entry point to several of our trips, including the upcoming journey to explore the Waterways of Holland and Belgium. During this trip you’ll have time to explore the city at your leisure, but with so much to see and do, it can be hard to choose what to focus on during your time there. Keep reading to see some of Amsterdam’s highlights and so you can make the most of your stay in this charming port.
Cruise the Canals
Conceived and constructed in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, present day Amsterdam is home to a waterway of over 100km of canals, 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The canal systems is regarded as a feat of engineering and advanced city planning and was constructed to help deal with Amsterdam’s soaring population due to immigration. There are four main canals that form concentric circles through the city, with different areas meant for different uses such as residential sections, areas for commercial trade, and others meant for water management. Today, the canals are mostly used for recreation, houseboats, tourism, and as a private means of transportation compared to biking, walking or taking the subway. During our time in Amsterdam, we’ll enjoy a canal cruise as a part of our city tour and see for ourselves why this city is considered the Venice of the North.
Explore the Neighbourhoods
Renting a bike is the perfect choice to discover some of Amsterdam’s different neighbourhoods and a wonderful way to enjoy the canal system from land. Visit the shops and restaurants of Negen Straatjes (Nine Little Streets), which is also full of local culture. With street names like Gasthuismolensteeg ("Inn Mill Alley") and Huidenstraat ("Skins" or "Pelts Street"), each name is a reminder of the kind of work that was carried out in centuries past. Amsterdam’s lively Jewish Quarter is home to the Waterooplein Markt, the oldest and most famous flea market in the Netherlands. Open six days a week, and with no fixed prices, it’s easy to spend the day exploring over 300 stalls offering all sorts of unique finds. If you're in the mood for a nice pint, visit the Eastern Docklands and stop by the Brouwerij ‘t IJ brewery. The brewery is famous for its Belgian beers and features its own pub, where you can grab a brew on the terrace and admire the Netherlands largest wooden windmill, built in the 16rh century. Finally, don’t forget to barter for souvenirs at the Albert Cuyp Markt in the De Pijp neighbourhood, where knick-knacks like wooden clogs and tulips are in abundance. Locals also visit the market to stock up on fresh produce and meats, pick up a lovely bouquet of flowers or grab a quick lunch. (Photo credit: Koen Smilde Photography, Amsterdam Tourism Board).
Discover the Museumplein:
Calling all art lovers! If you’re on the hunt for some history and culture, look no further than Amsterdam’s museum quarter in Leidseplein. Dating back to the 19th century, the Museumplein is home to three of the city’s major museums, including the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijik Museum Amsterdam, and the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam. It has over 8,000 pieces on display from their collection of 1 million objects spanning the years of 1200-2000, which includes some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer. The Stedelijik is a museum featuring modern art, contemporary art, and design. Built in the 19th century, its collection features work from the early 20th century up to the 21st century and incudes work by Wassily Kandinksy, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, and Willem de Kooning, among others. Finally, the Van Gogh Museum is a gallery dedicated to the works of Van Gogh and his contemporaries. It houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work in the world with 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters by the artist, and features exhibitions that chronicle the various phases of his artistic life. (Photo credit: Jan Kees Steenman, Amsterdam Tourism Board).
Remember Anne Frank
Another important location to visit in Amsterdam is The Anne Frank house. This is the home where Anne Frank went into hiding with her family, along with two others, and wrote her famous diary during their time of living here in secrecy. Anne's father, Otto, originally ran his business from the building, but during WWII all eight people hid in a secret annex whose entrance was disguised behind a swinging bookshelf. When Otto was the only one to return from Auschwitz in 1945, he decided to convert the barren building into a museum to commemerate Anne's life and create awareness of the autrocities of the Holocaust. Visitors to the museum can see the room where Anne wrote her diary, and experience the lives of those who lived here through a series of quotes, photos, videos and original items. (Photo credit: © Anne Frank House, Photographer Cris Toala Olivares).
Experience Tulip Mania
Every Spring, people come from all over the world to admire the beautiful fields of tulips that span the country. The term tulpenmanie (tulip mania) goes back to the Dutch Golden Age, when tulips were first imported into Amsterdam from Turkey in 1554. The popularity of the flowers grew dramatically, and the Dutch tulip bulb market bubble is one of the most famous market crashes of all time. At its peak, the price of some of the rarest bulbs would fetch six times an average person’s annual salary. Relive the fervour of tulip mania in Amsterdam by visiting the floating Bloemenmarkt, where you can wander through the barges and select your own special bouquet. Also included in our journey through the Waterways of Holland and Belgium is a visit to the Keukenhof Gardens, which is the world’s largest flower garden and park and will be in full bloom during our visit. (Photo credit: Laurens Lindhout Rechtenvrij, Amsterdam Tourism Board).
For those of you who have always dreamed of the Netherlands, make sure to to add Holland and Belgium to your wish list! Interested in seeing Amsterdam for yourself in 2021? Click HERE to find out more about our upcoming cruise through the Waterways of Holland and Belgium.