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Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. With more than one million inhabitants in its urban area, it is the country's largest city and its financial, cultural, and creative centre.
Amsterdam derives its name from the city’s origin as “Dam” of river “Amstel”. In the past, the name was "Amstelredamme" which later changed as “Amsterdam”. Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, attracting over 7 million international travellers annually.
Amsterdam is colloquially known as Venice of the North because of its lovely canals that criss-cross the city, its impressive architecture and more than 1,500 bridges. There is something for every traveller's taste here; whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.
The Districts of Amsterdam
The medieval centre and most visited area of Amsterdam. It is known for its traditional architecture, canals, shopping, and many coffeeshops. Dam Square is considered its ultimate centre, but just as interesting are the areas around Nieuwmarkt and Spui. The Red Light District is also a part of the Old Centre.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canal Ring was dug in the 17th century to attract wealthy home owners. It is still a posh neighbourhood with many Dutch celebrities owning property. The Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein are the city's prime nightlife spots.
Get into Amsterdam
Train-ticket vending machines
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is 15km southwest of the city. It ranks in the top 25 airports worldwide for passenger traffic, serving 55 million passengers per year.
Most trains arrive and depart from Amsterdam Centraal Station (with one extra 'a' in Dutch), located on an island between the Amsterdam/Old Centre and the IJ waterfront. Other important train stations are Duivendrecht and Bijlmer-ArenA in the southeast, Amstel and Muiderpoort in the East, RAI and Zuid-WTC in the South, and Lelylaan and Sloterdijk in the West. Schiphol Airport also has its own train station, which functions as a major interchange station. It has at least seven trains an hour to Amsterdam Centraal, with additional trains going to other stations in Amsterdam.
Most international bus services are affiliated to Eurolines, which has a terminal at Duivendrecht station (was at Amstel Station) buses One bus per day is usually the maximum frequency on these routes.
What to do in Amsterdam
Several companies offer private tours by car, van, or mini bus for groups of up to 8 people. Bike tours are also available at a more affordable price, and offer a more authentic Dutch experience.
Other companies offer canal cruises, usually lasting from one to two hours. Departures from: Prins Hendrikkade opposite Centraal Station; quayside Damrak; Rokin near Spui; Stadhouderskade 25 near Leidseplein.
The Canal Bus. Runs three fixed routes, stopping near major attractions (Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank's House, etc.). You can get on or off as often as you like, but it is expensive.
Lovers Canal Cruise start opposite the Rijksmuseum. It is €15 per person, but you cannot get on and off. The cruise is about 1 hr.
Amsterdam Boat Guide. Local company offering private boat tours in classic boats. Canal cruises, dinner cruises etc.
Amsterdam Jewel Cruises offers an evening dinner cruise. It is the only classic boat offering a private table for a romantic dinner cruise. A la carte dining, but not cheap! The cruise starts at 7.30 pm and lasts just under three hours.
A must see in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum — absolutely top-class museum that has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. Some artists you can't overlook are Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen.
Van Gogh Museum — even someone with little knowledge of art must have heard about Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th century art for its vivid colours and emotional impact. This museum has the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world. A hint: you can book a ticket online and skip the cashier line.
Anne Frank House — dedicated to Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of the building. It's an exhibition on the life of Anne Frank, but also highlights other forms of persecution and discrimination. Mind that there could be quite a line in the evening/weekends in summer.
Amsterdam has one of the most extensive historic city centres in Europe, with about 7,000 registered historic buildings. The street pattern has been largely unchanged since the 19th century — there was no major bombing during World War II. The centre consists of 90 islands linked by 400 bridges, some of which are attractively floodlit at night.
The inner part of the city centre, the Old Centre, dates from medieval times. The oldest streets are the Warmoesstraat and the Zeedijk located in the Nieuwmarkt area of the Old Centre. As buildings were made of wood in the Middle Ages, few buildings from the period have survived.
Churches and synagogues
Since the Middle Ages and throughout the 17th century, the Netherlands was a country with a relatively high degree of freedom and tolerance towards other religions and cultures, especially compared to other countries in Europe.