Amsterdam – the capital city of The Netherlands. Full of artistic heritage, picturesque narrow houses and an elaborate canal system. Famed for some fantastic museums and stunning artworks including that of Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Amsterdam was founded at the Amstel which was dammed to control flooding. The cities name being derived from The Amstel Dam. In the late 12th century it was a small fishing village. During the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century it became one of the most important ports in the world. And later became a centre for both finance and trade sectors.
Amsterdam is known mainly for two things – drugs and prostitution. But the city also offers a wealth of history and museums.
I stayed in NH Schiller on Rembramdtplein, a great location right on the square and really central to wander around some of the most popular places to visit.
It’s noticeably busier at the weekend, more so than some other European cities I’ve visited, so possibly something to bear in mind with timing.
Anne Frank House
Definitely a must visit while here. It gets booked up in advance so reserve your tickets online before your trip. It’s worth checking again but when I booked, the tickets for the whole of June became available at the start of May so you can book 1-2 months in advance depending on the timing of your visit. Tickets were 14 euros for adults.
As the house is a traditional old Dutch house some of the stairs are extremely steep. Worth considering if you have any sort of mobility issues. The staff were really helpful if required and they can take you to an elevator where you can see Anne’s diary, a short film and the end of the exhibition.
If you are able to it’s really worth seeing the parts of the house that are available to walk around as part of the museum experience. It’s full of interesting information to read and there’s also an audio tour you can listen to on the way round.
There’s a main shopping street not far from Rembrandtplein with plenty of your high street shops and a small shopping mall which has a lovely restaurant on the 3rd floor with panoramic views.
There’s also a little street of market stalls a short walk from their along one of the canals. Here you can find tulip bulbs to take home as a souvenir amongst other things from interesting art and pictures, to magnets and key rings.
The 9 Little Streets is a must see whilst visiting. Full of picturesque monuments and quirky shops and lots of places to eat. Set across the 4 main canals in the Amsterdam World Heritage canal belts, it’s beautiful, easy on the eye and great for photos!
I did come across some nice gift shops in the red light district too – which has changed over the years!
Red Light District
The infamous area in the Medieval city centre, narrow alleyways, crossed by canals with plenty of bars. From brothels to sex shops to smoking bars, The Red Light District has it all.
Amsterdam prides itself on its liberal and tolerant attitude embracing the fact that people enjoy prostitution, drugs and pornography, and the fact that people are only human. Instead of criminalising it all they enjoy the honesty.
Since October 2000 prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but not on the street, which is why they stand behind windows and have their own room. The name comes from the 300 red lights that highlight the windows where the women are working.
You can also visit Red Light Secrets – The Museum of Prostitution. A quirky museum that allows you to step into an intriguing and unique world! Tickets are around £15. Private walking tours with a local guide is another option. Or you can take your own route through. The only place photos are allowed is in the museum.
There are plenty of options here, again something for everyone be it a canal tour during the day, an evening one, something with a bar and drinks – the choices are plentiful.
I always enjoy a boat trip on a city break if it’s an option as gives you another perspective of the city.
Prices vary, the cheapest one I saw was 13 Euros. Though you can get one with wine and cheese for not much more.
Museums and other experiences
There are many other museums available too.
Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam and offers magnificent art! Experience 800 years of Dutch history and see some of the works of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Van Gogh – Though someone I know had visited and didn’t recommend it, plus I’d just visited the Van Gogh immersive experience in London – which was great if you can still get tickets!
The Royal Palace again offers stunning art. You can admire the finely preserved furniture, chandeliers and decor from the era of Louis Napoleon. As with many venues you can get an audio tour to learn the history of this 17th century monument.
The Heineken experience is another one if that’s your preference – this one’s self explanatory!
There are many more museums in Amsterdam, I’ve only touched on a few of them. Almost everything can be booked online in advance to save queuing and secure you a space.
And of course I have to mention cycling, a key part of the city’s character. Traffic is much kinder to cyclists than they are in London! It’s really easy to hire a bike if you’re interested and there are cycle paths everywhere. It’s another option for a different perspective and seeing a bit more of the city.
There’s so much choice for places to eat, here’s a few I’d recommend.
If you like Thai – Bangkok. Just off Rembrandt Square. If you want to sit inside you’ll most likely need to make a reservation in advance. You can usually find a table outdoors and they do have outdoor heating.
Shiso is an Asian Fusion restaurant right on Rembrandt Square. A relatively new place also serving delicious cocktails!
A couple of traditional Dutch restaurants are The Pantry and Moeders. The latter is a little sentimental where mothers and daughters go to eat together and their are lots of pictures on the walls of mothers and daughters who’ve visited there together.
Fabel Friet is one of the many places serving delicious french fries in the area! You can find them everywhere with a choice of toppings and sauces. This one was recommended to me and is located in the 9 Little Streets!
And obviously if you want bars they are everywhere! Lots of choice and plenty where you can sit outside if you visit when the weathers good!
There’s a lot more to Amsterdam, there’s so much to see and do – something to suit all tastes!