The city of Amsterdam is an old city that has embraced the new cosmopolitan flair of Europe. The seat of government is in The Hague, but Amsterdam is also thought of as the capital and it is the home of The Netherlands’ royal family. The Dutch are also a cultured people who enjoy the finer things in life when it comes to the arts.
Amsterdam is a city of less than one million residents but has over 50 theatres and movie houses, two ballet troupes, a symphony orchestra, and numerous museums.
The Leidesplein is the theatre district of Amsterdam. Many of the numerous theater cinemas are themed in that each carries a certain type of film – art house, film noir, English only, new, etc. The Dutch run the film in it’s original language with the sub-titles in Dutch dialogue; as a result, visitors can often find a film in their native tongue; especially English.
The various theatres carry the best and latest in operas, symphonies, dances, and various other concerts. It is not uncommon to find a theatrical production being played out in a plaza or park. There is even a theatre that specializes in programs for the younger generation.
The Dutch art scene covers everything from graffiti to works by the masters; both inside the museums and galleries and out on the streets.
Some 50 of the over 400 museums in The Netherlands are located within the city of Amsterdam and are among the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Besides the typical works of the masters, modern art, film, and photography; some of the museums that can be found in Amsterdam are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, a Botanical Museum, a museum dedicated to the Dutch resistance during World War II, the Heineken Experience, the Ajax Museum (Dutch football team), a houseboat museum, a torture museum, museums dedicated to sex and erotica, NEMO a hands on science museum for the children that is housed in a boat shaped building, the shipping museum, a Biblical Museum, the tropical museum and the Jewish museum. There are also several art galleries within the city.
The largest of the museums is the Rijksmuseum, which houses Dutch art dating as far back as some early religious works, and of course; the masters.
Located in the middle of the city is the Anne Frank House, where the young teen wrote her diary while hiding from the Nazi’s with her family. The original diary is on display at the house.
The Houseboat Museum is an actual houseboat similar to those used by some residents of Amsterdam. The boat is set up as if the family where merely out running errands or at the cinema and will return at any moment.
Across from the Anne Frank House is the tulip museum. The small museum offers a multimedia presentation of the famous flower including its history.
For those interested in the art of the adult beverage there is the Heineken Experience which provides everything about the famous beer. And there is the Vodka museum that not only gives a history of the alcoholic potato and a display of unusual vodka bottles, but a bar where visitors can sample the famous Russian concoction. There is also a coffee and tea museum for the coffee and tea lover.
The Jewish Museum tells of the history of Dutch Jews and is housed in four synagogues some dating back to the sixteen hundreds.
Located on the edge of the Red Light District is the Museum Amstelkring which houses religious artifacts and art.
Visitors to St. Petersburg, Russia can see a few of the works housed in the Hermitage along the Neva River; but it is nearly impossible to see everything housed within the palace walls. However, visitors to Amsterdam can visit the Hermitage in Amsterdam which features two exhibits each year.
The TIN-Theater Museum features the history of the theater back to the Middle Ages. And the Film museum features a history on cinema history. The FOAM specializes in photography.
And for those who have an interest in things ancient and archeological is the Allard Pierson Museum.
And of course; the old city would not be complete without a historical museum of Amsterdam itself and the maritime museum Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum.
The tropical museum features exhibits on the tropical areas around the world.
There are museums dedicated to the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt and writer Theo Thijssen.
Madame Tussauds offers visitors the chance to see Rembrandt at work, see Kylie Minogue, Bono, Bob Marley or hold court with Princess Maxima.
The Tassen Museum Hendrikje is dedicated to the great designers of women’s purses and handbags offering thousands of the women’s accessories for visitors to view. The Brilmuseum features eyeglasses.
For the musically inclined there is a small museum featuring player pianos and thousands of the paper rolls used in creating the music. Sir Elton John has nothing on this small museum which offers s glimpse into the history of eyewear.
With the wide variety of exhibits offered by the museums and the variety of cultural events there is something for almost any interest for the visitors and residents in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam – a city sometimes called the Venice of the north – is a city surrounded by water. Holland is a small country located between Germany and England across the sea. Whether it be along the North Sea or one of the many canals and rivers throughout the city, finding a place to stay with a waterfront view is an easy task. This modernized city with an old world charm offers a variety of places for visitors to stay from the finest international chain hotels to an intimate inn and even a houseboat. For a relatively small city Amsterdam contains nearly 300 hotels and that does not include the 100 plus guesthouses, the hostels, cottages, houseboats, and even some apartments for extended stays. But even with all of these available hotel rooms and other places to stay, finding lodgings during the tourist season can be very difficult. As a result, it is recommended for tourists to book a room or other lodging in advance. By booking ahead guests will be ensured that not only will they get the room that they want but at a price they desire as well. There are websites that list these hotels and similar accommodations in the city by category – large, number of stars, small, etc. – there are even listings those places that are suitable for families, are pet friendly, wheelchair accessible, and even the ones that are gay/lesbian friendly.
For the adventurous tourists and travelers Amsterdam also offers campgrounds just outside the city. In winter it gets very cold in Amsterdam – cold enough to freeze the waterways – so for the avid camper, summer is the best time to visit. Residents of Amsterdam even skate along the waterways during the winter for pleasure and as a way to get from one place to another.
Like many European cities Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination but the city does not offer a lot in the way of parking; as a result, it is best to make use of the extensive public transportation services offered by the country of The Netherlands. Bicycle riding is also very popular in this small country. Visitors can easily rent bikes and even take them on the trains. The Netherlands’ transit system includes buses, trams, subways, and a train service that operates over 100 trips each day. There is even a train that runs right under Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for easy access into the city so there is no need to pay those high taxi fees to get into the city or to the hotel. It is even possible to take a trip across the country on the train and return to Amsterdam in the same day.
For those visitors who insist upon driving, they must pay close attention to any and all traffic laws. The Netherlands may be liberal in some areas of the law but it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to traffic violations and tickets with heavy fines are given out even for first offenses and with no warning. If the ticket is not paid within a 24 hour period then the vehicle is towed.
Since the city of Amsterdam is considered small, walking from place to place is also a relatively simple task.
Bicycle and walking tours around the city of Amsterdam are among the items offered to visitors to the city.
Getting to Amsterdam as a tourist destination is even easier than getting around in the city once visitors have arrived. Schiphol Airport serves some 40 million visitors each year with approximately 90 different airline services from every corner of the globe.
The trains that run all through the country also offer trains to the neighboring countries of Germany, France, Belgium, and beyond. Many Hollanders speak English and offer informational kiosks throughout the train stations and airport making it easier for visitors find what they want and to get around the city.
Besides the windmills, wooden shoes, chocolates, and tulips for which Amsterdam and The Netherlands are best known; Amsterdam is the home of the artist Rembrandt and oddities like leaning houses.
Among the other rather unusual things that can be found in The Netherlands and Amsterdam are targeted for adults – that of the coffeehouse where Cannabis is smoked and the Red Light District where the ladies are displayed in shop windows. In the Red Light District a man literally shops for the companion he wants. Beware: no photos are allowed when visiting the area.
Football fans can watch the two time World Cup Champions the Amsterdam Ajax play. One of the biggest teams in Europe the Ajax have been a part of Amsterdam and football for over 100 years.
Since Rembrandt lived, worked, and died in Amsterdam there are a number of museums and art galleries some of which are dedicated to the great artist; as well as, the other great masters in art.
When many people hear the words Holland, The Netherlands, or Amsterdam the first things that comes to mind are wooden shoes, windmills, chocolate, and tulips. But the country of The Netherlands and Amsterdam have a lot more to offer its millions of visitors each year. This small country in western Europe is located west of Germany with England to the east located across the sea.
Amsterdam is a city located on the North Sea and while storms can be fierce the summer weather is pleasant. There are four beaches in the Amsterdam area for residents and visitors to enjoy the warm sun. Some of these beaches even permit swimming.
Like Venice and St. Petersburg, two cities surrounded by water, boat traffic is numerous and tourists can find rides along the waterways in the form of a taxi or a structured ride.
Amsterdam offers the golfer a number of choices to get in a few holes while on holiday.
Since bicycle riding is more than just a popular pastime in The Netherlands, it is also a form of transportation instead of the motor vehicle; bike riding tours are available during the non-winter months. A combination bike and boat ride is also offered during the summer months of June, July, and August. These bicycle tours wind through the Dutch countryside offering tourists a glimpse into the “real” Holland with trips through the countryside, cheese farms, and clog factories. While on the tour visitors can see windmills, get a bit of history, and learn a bit about how the Dutch have reclaimed some of their country back from the sea – The Netherlands is a country at or below sea level which floods easily.
And of course; there are the numerous gardens located all over the country showing off the tulips the country of The Netherlands is so famous for. While there are many small gardens hidden behind the walls of private homes, there are also large public gardens with thousands upon thousands of flowers in a rainbow of colour.
For visitors who wish to view the city in a more pedestrian manner, there are several walking tours of Amsterdam. The most well known is the The WOW or Walking Over Water Tour. During this 3 hour and a half tour visitors can see the old Amsterdam City Center, leaning houses, sea dikes, lost city walls, hidden monasteries, sites of former executions and spectacular murders, and the famous Red Light District where the girls are on display in shop windows; but beware taking photographs is prohibited.
The second walking tour takes about 2 hours and is called The Red Light District walks. As the name implies this tour focuses on the Red Light district. The Red Light tour visits the spots where the women offer their services to men and educates the people with a visit to the PIC or Prostitute Information Centre.
The walking tours are conducted in English year round. The residents of Amsterdam and The Netherlands are a cultured and sophisticated people and their festivals reflect such culture. Besides the various festivals for various holidays there are art festivals, literary festivals, and festivals for film and theatre; as well as, music festivals and concerts. There is some kind of festival taking place nearly every month of the year in Amsterdam. The Dutch even put on a festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
What began as a country wide celebration of the Queen Mother’s birthday has evolved into a massive outdoor party each April 30. All of Holland comes out dressed in orange to enjoy a giant birthday party and celebrate out among the blooming flowers and warming weather. The holiday is more than just a big party; marketing is strictly regulated as everything imaginable is available for sale; even the children get involved and show off their business skills.
Among the more unusual festivals happens in November when the various coffeehouses in the city hold the High Times Cannabis Cup; a six day festival that includes musical events and tasting parties. In The Netherlands it is legal to buy and smoke cannabis. It is illegal however to carry more than 5 gram of the drug.
December is the month that all the children wait for; on December 5 St. Nicholas arrives but not is a sleigh, but in a boat. The arrival of St. Nick is accompanied by a parade and festival. The Dutch do not celebrate the traditional Christmas of December 25 as the jolly one’s arrival so for many Dutch it is a normal day with businesses and museums open to the public.
The year ends with a bang – literally – on December 31 with bars and nightclubs opening late, early evening is for families, and a big fireworks display.
Summer may be the time when most of the tourists come to visit but The Netherlands offers something for residents and visitors any time of the year.
By: Darren W Chow