Amsterdam is sometimes referred to as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ or ‘two sides of the same coin’. You can only get to know one of the most charming and authentic cities in Europe by getting to know its loves and vices. It is a magnet, attracting you to enjoy fun and indulge in learning. People from all different parts of the world have been arriving in the Dutch metropole for centuries looking for happiness. Despite its traditional architecture, the city is multicultural thanks to its nearly 800 thousand inhabitants of 177 different nationalities.
Amsterdam means canals (grachts) and bridges over the Amstel river. If you want to get to know the city, you have to see it from a boat. Many 16th and 17th century buildings line the canals as a reminder of the city’s golden age when people built refined houses with beautiful details and personalities best reflected by house signs. When passing by the buildings, look up to see how some of the signs are tilted down towards the canals. Do not worry, they are not falling, but showcasing a construction technique which allowed cargo from ships to be hoisted to house attics without damaging the façade.
Examples of beautiful architecture are also to be found away from the main canals. For example, two original gothic parish churches: The Old Church from 14th century and the New Church, with the latter being the place of coronation of Dutch Kings.
The 17th century Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis in Dutch), on the west side of Dam Square, is considered to be the peak of Amsterdam’s architecture. It was built during the Dutch golden age as a City Hall. It is supported by 14 thousand wooden pylons, as the city was built on marsh land.
Alongside grachts, the Unesco List of World Heritage Sights features the City Walls, a protective ring fortification of the city 135km long with over 40 fortresses.
The city interspersed with canals also features museums of world-renowned artists, such as Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh and painters of the modern school. Those not interested in works of art can visit the National Maritime Museum or NEMO, the Museum of Science.
The Jewish Historical Museum, the Diamond Museum and the Museum of Sex are also worth visiting. Rijksmuseum is the greatest museum in the whole of the Netherlands providing its visitors with insights into the national history and the opportunity to admire beautiful works of world-renowned artists.
You will enjoy one of the most amazing cultural experiences if you visit the Concertgebouw concert hall, dating from the end of the 19th century.
You must not skip Anne Frank House, either. A museum dedicated to a Jewish girl who was living with her family in the back part of the building, hiding from the Nazis. The house has become a symbol of the hatred and discrimination of the Nazis towards Jews.
Still not enough? Then head to the floating flower market, a true Netherlands speciality with the most symbolic flower of the country – tulips. You could also decide to explore Waterlooplein, a square founded in 1882 thanks to two filled‑n grachts in the Jewish quarter with a multimedia show called the Holland Experience, which introduces the whole country to visitors to the show. One of the largest markets of the city is located in the show’s vicinity, attracting tourists. You can buy virtually anything there, from new clothes made in Bali to antiques.
However, if you have not visited the Red-light District, you have not been to Amsterdam. Take a stroll and indulge in its “intoxicating” atmosphere. The quarters are an organic part of the city, viewed as such even by the locals, despite the number of CCTVs and a heavy police presence. The quarters also harbour the largest amount of coffee shops offering weed and weed products, not alcohol. Marihuana is legal in the Netherlands, but there are certain limitations which had better be observed.
Amsterdam’s history can be traced back to the year 1,000 AD. Then, local farmers started cultivating the marshes, called Aemestelle, and to drain local water canals. Low water levels were controlled by building dams, with one constructed right in the mouth of the Amstel river, at the place where AmsterDAM is located today. The islands created were first used for farming. Later, buildings were erected there too, with wooden pylons used to support the constructions.
Amsterdam flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries when the Dutch colonised Indonesia and were profiting from the exotic spice trade. They soon controlled all spice trade to the East of the Cape of Good Hope. In the middle of the 18th century, Amsterdam was in the centre of all financial transactions, but its power started to fade. After WW II, Amsterdam faced grave social issues. The situation changed in the middle of the 1980s when the city regained its fame and turned into a peaceful and sought-after destination.
What to eat in Amsterdam? Cheeses, sausages and cold cuts, fried fish, meat balls, potato croquettes and French fries – with lots of mayonnaise. This may sound way too rich, but do not worry. Enjoying the beauties of the Dutch metropolis and the unforgettable experiences it offers, you will not gain weight. If you are concerned about the calorie intake, opt for fish (e.g.: the popular flatfish with stewed vegetables), asparagus with ham and traditional pancakes with Stroop maple syrup. If you want to enjoy the visual aspect of your meal, go to the cheese markets. They are stunning! Wheels of Gouda or Edam and stallholders dressed in traditional costumes. You will not find anything like this anywhere in the world.
Fancy a drink? Definitely try the Dutch cocoa. The fist cocoa powder was made in Amsterdam at the beginning of the 19th century. Dutch chemist Van Houten discovered a way of separating the cocoa butter from the chocolate mass. Do you prefer beer? The global giant Heineken has moved its production from Amsterdam, but has remained the city symbol, alongside many other exceptional breweries, such as Brouwerij De Prael, De Bekeerde Suster and Brouwerij´t Ij.