An aerial view of the 'Dam and part of the historic Canal Ring that has been in place for 400 years. Photo by Steve Collis.
Amsterdam Map | Amsterdam
Guide | Weather | Things to Do
is a mesmerizing, characterful and tolerant city latticed with 17th
century canals, humming with bicycles and studded with towering old
town houses and wonderful museums. This city, Netherlands' capital,
walks a delicate line between arch conservatisim and liberally crazed
The Bloemenmarkt, Europe's only floating flower market, since 1862 situated on Amsterdam's Singel canal between Muntplein and Koningsplein. Photo by Lies-Thru-a-Lens.
for tulips and other flowers, April for National Museum Week, 26th or 27th of April (not on a Sunday) for
the wildly OTT Orange Festival, Koningsdag)
Avoid: December- February.
However... although winter is cold, days are short and often damp
and grey, there's wonderful canal skating if it's cold enough,
and if it isn't then Amsterdam is loaded with indoor attractions like museums
and coffee shops.
One of many stern but attractive and ancient canal-side buildings throughout the city centre. Photo by Spider.
This is a superb strolling or biking city with some brilliant museums, interesting exotic cusines, endless scenic canal
views and canal boats, along with 'coffeeshops' that serve very little coffee and window displays that are half-naked and wholly human.
Typically bicycle overload in key districts of the city centre. Photo by Microtoerisme.
Leidseplein in central Amsterdam, with the Stadsschouwburg theatre straight ahead, the American Hotel to the left and many restaurants and nightclubs within easy reach. A popular square for night action. Photo by Jvhertum.
things to do
Oude Kerk, a 14th century church, the oldest building in the city, plain but with fine detailing.
The Royal Palace, a grand place to wander in wonder.
Visit some of the city's outstanding museums, including the Rijksmuseum National Museum and Van Gogh's.
Fascinating Anne Frank Huis where the young heroine hid out for years along with refugees from the Nazis in WW II...and wrote a diary telling all.
• FREE Concertgebouw's free Wednesday concerts.
FREE Visit the bohemian Jordaan district to experience one version of the traditional Dutch
life of narrow alleys, old houses and lush canals, good restaurants and cafés, quirky little shops
and an excellent flea market.
FREE Begijnhof, a square
of beautiful 14th century buildings hidden behind a modest wooden door.
FREE The bizarre red light district and coffee
shops which can be desperately tacky but provide a unique and
fascinating experience in Europe, now a thriving business in Colorado USA thanks to legalisation.
• FREE Check Bloemenmarkt flowers on the Singel canal if you'd like an explosion of colour, which, if you've just come out of a coffee shop, may be just the ticket!
• FREE Openbare Bibliotheek, the Central Library.
Not a sight but a very useful space with café, restaurants, terrific views, free internet workstations and international newspapers, just
10 minutes from Centraal Station. Open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm.
• FREE NDSM wharf, a bizarre, avante-garde arts community occupying a derelict shipyard. Get there via a free ferry from behind Centraal Station.
• FREE Albert Cuypmarkt, a massive and colourful street market featuring many exotic goodies from fabrics to food.
Koningsdag, aka Orange Day (the end of April), on Oudezijds Voorburgwal, a typically difficult street name for English speakers. Photo by Remi Mathis
Koningsdag means King's Day and is the Netherlands' biggest national holiday, celebrated at the end of April, the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander. The holiday was known as Koninginnedag (Queen's Day) until Queen Beatrix died in 2013. Koningsdag is celebrated on 27th April, or 26th April 27th is a Sunday). In 2014 that's the 26th and in 2015 the 27th.
The Netherlands Royal Family is known as the House of Orange-Nassau, thus orange is the traditional colour scheme for teams and celebrants, drinks, hats, hair etc.etc.
A window prostitute open for business in the red light district. Next door is busy.
There are estimated to be about 25,000 prostitutes in the Netherlands, with 30% of them being Dutch citizens. The majority of foreign ladies-for-hire these days (only 5% are men or boys and 5% transgender) are from Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Around 30% of
prostitutes work from windows and 30% in clubs; the rest find business at home, via an escort agency with just 10% on the street.
Plenty of sex and drugs are visible in Amsterdam, though rock'n'roll less so. Photo by nickolette.
Amsterdam is populated by generally very conservative, hard-working Dutch people so it's fascinating to see their historically relaxed and pragmatic approach to what are considered to be twin evils in some parts of the world, sex and drugs.
That being said neighbouring Germany now has an extremely open-minded attitude to paid-for sex, with brothels of all shapes and sizes scattered liberally around the country while some states in America are experimenting with full-on legislation of cannabis, led by courageous Colorado.
The War on Drugs is lost! Move on!
The Cannabis College is a
non-profit centre in Amsterdam that educates visitors about cannabis products, use and abuse, how to bong or vaporise, coffee shop etiquette, and so on.
Netherlands Travel | Amsterdam
Photos: The Hague | Delft | Haarlem | Rotterdam