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.
Best season: April-October (April-May 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.
Top things to do and see in Amsterdam
• 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.
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.