Amsterdam attractions and sights
Amsterdam has a broad spectrum of recreational and cultural sights that range from fascinating old buildings, like the Oude Kerk, to oddities such as the Hash Marihuana Museum.
are the main tourist attraction in Amsterdam. Everyone knows the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, but there is much, much more.
Amsterdam has over fifty museums which attract many millions of visitors every year. Read more about the museums in Amsterdam. The following sites and monuments should also be of interest and are an essential part of the Amsterdam experience.
Oude Kerk is 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. The Dam is the very centre and heart of Amsterdam, although there are arguably prettier sights in the city. As an historical site however, it is fascinating and worth taking the time to appreciate.
The Dam has seen many historical dramas unfold over the years, and was for example, the reception area for Napoleon and his troops during the 1808 take-over of the city. The impressive history of the square is well documented in the Amsterdam Historical Museum.
The Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) which dominates the square, was originally used as the town hall and its classical facade and fine sculptures were intended to glorify the city of Amsterdam and its government. In contrast to its turbulent history, the square is now a peaceful place and is home to hundreds of pigeons and tourists resting their tired feet.
Begijnhof a narrow, vaulted passageway leads to this charming garden surrounded by old houses. The houses in the courtyard were once occupied by devout celibate Béguine nuns and are still home to single women today. In the centre of the lawns is a medieval church and at No.34 stands the oldest house in Amsterdam. The entrance is on the Spui and is indicated by a carved sign. Entry is free, but you must be quiet!
The number of canals have led Amsterdam to become known as “The Venice of the North”. And thus, a trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a boat cruise. A canal tour can be both fascinating and relaxing by day and enchanting and romantic at night when many of the houses and bridges are illuminated.
The four main city center canals are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. There are also numerous smaller canals in the neighbourhood of Jordaan, of which the Brouwersgracht, the Bloemgracht and the Leliegracht are especially pleasant.
Of Amsterdam’s 1280 or so bridges, the Magere Brug, or “ Skinny Bridge” is the most famous. It is a traditional double-leaf, Dutch draw-bridge connecting the banks of the river Amstel. Approximately every twenty minutes, the bridge opens to let boats through. The original bridge was built in 1670, but as the traffic on Amstel increased, a wider bridge was built to replace the narrow one.
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.
Rembrandtplein (square) is lined with pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels and is thus a tourist magnet. A popular centre for nightlife, it also includes traditional Dutch pubs which play real Dutch music. In summer, the terraces are packed with people enjoying a drink and watching the world go by. In the centre of the square is a small but pleasant park where you can relax or pay homage at the statue of Rembrandt. Around the area you’ll also find quality night clubs, gay venues, respectable diamond dealers and the inevitable tacky souvenir shops.
The Leidseplein or Leidse-square is one of Amsterdam’s most popular centres for nightlife. With many restaurants, clubs, coffeeshops, cinemas and theatres in the area, the Leidseplein is vibrant and colourful. On warm summer evenings, tourists and locals alike take advantage of the pubs’ outdoor seating for a long, lazy drinks with friends. Street musicians, jugglers, fire-eaters and other performers liven up the square, often till the early hours.
Red Light District
Beer and party atmosphere, sex for sale, and limitless people-watching. The stores are full of hardcore videos, magazines and sex toys. The Red Light District is somewhat of a sexual amusement park and often not taken too seriously by the hordes of tourist who frequent it. The famous red window lights are striking against the quaint, old canal houses and even the fairy lights that line the bridges at night are coloured red. Although it is generally considered to be a very safe area, care should still be taken when walking through the quieter streets of the area. There is a strict “no photography” policy.
Albert Cuyp market
The Albert Cuypmarkt is arguably the best-known and busiest outdoor market in Europe. It attracts thousands of visitors every day, and is especially popular on Saturdays. There are over 300 stalls and goods range from fresh produce, to clothes, to odds and ends, with prices among the cheapest in Amsterdam. The market is located in the Pijp district, surrounded by many pleasant cafes and small shops. There is another number of regular street markets in Amsterdam.
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 trough the universe. In the peaceful gardens, you can find many old trees and statues of contemporary artists and aswell as an impressive, tropical rainforest greenhouse. The Geological museum shows you how the planet has evolved over the past 4 billion years.
The Vondelpark is located in the south of Amsterdam, just five minutes walk from the Leidseplein and in walking distance from the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum. With 10 million visitors a year, the Vondelpark is the most famous park in the Netherlands.
Hortus Botanicus – the Botanical Garden
Amsterdam has a big and attractive botanical garden called Hortus Botanicus, one of the oldest in the world (est. 1632). It has more than 6000 plants and some of the plants are really unique as 2000 years old agave cactus. In the recently renovated Orangery of Hortus Botanicus, a beautiful café with a large outside terrace open to the garden welcomes the visitors. Located in a short walking distance from the Rembrandts House, very close to Artis – Amsterdam ZOO, the Jewish Historical Museum and the Resistance Museum, Hortus Botanicus remains a pleasurable oasis of peace in the busy and crowded Amsterdam centre.
Squares in Amsterdam
The city squares symbolize the whole areas of the city with their activity and the character. Big and open Dam square with the Palace of the Queen and the best department store has a central role in town; Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are entertainment and tourism centers while the Museumplein name speaks for itself. Nieuwmarkt, Westermarkt and Noordermarkt are old markets, which found today a new function, each of them different. Even a small square called het Spui has its own special character, making it a real fun to visit.
Amsterdam has a number of beautiful, quiet parks where you can relax during the busy day in town. The largest of them – Vondelpark is located in the very centre of the city. Other parks as Beatrixpark, Frankendael, Sarphatipark, Amstelpark, Westerpark are quiet, well-maintained community parks. An artificial forest just South of Amsterdam – Amsterdamse Bos is today a big nature reserve, with many attractions.
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 admired. Don’t forget to take your camera.