Added on 16 Oct 2014,
last edited by »biroto-Redaktion« on 04 May 2017
Nearby cycle routes and tours
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Type of sights
Old town / World heritage site
Name and address
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 center. 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 traveler's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.
Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important trading centers in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. The city's small medieval center rapidly expanded as the Jordaan and the Canal District were constructed; the latter's cultural significance was acknowledged when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded in all directions, with many new neighborhoods and suburbs designed in modernist styles.
Amsterdam is not the seat of the government, which is in The Hague. Partly because of this, the city has an informal atmosphere unlike other capital cities its size. In fact, Amsterdam has a history of non-conformism, tolerance and progressivism, all of which come together in its liberal policies concerning cannabis and prostitution. Attractions include the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Magere Brug, Albert Cuyp Market and the Vondelpark.
The "Amsterdam" that most visitors experience is the city center, the semi-circle with Centraal Station at its apex. It corresponds to the city as it was around 1850. Five major concentric canals ring the Binnenstad: Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Singelgracht, together forming the Canal District. Other districts inside the city center are the Jordaan, a former working class area now popular with yuppies, and Plantage, a leafy and spacious area with botanical gardens and the zoo. The Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade and Mauritskade surround the city center and mark the location of the former city moat and fortifications. Almost everything outside this line was built after 1870.
The semi-circle is on the south side of the IJ, which is often called a river but more exactly is an estuary. Going east from Centraal Station, the railway passes the artificial islands of the redeveloped Eastern Docklands. North of the IJ is mainly housing, although a major dockland redevelopment has started there too.
The river Amstel flows into the city from the south. Originally, it flowed along the line Rokin-Damrak. The dam in the Amstel, which gives the city its name, was located under the present Bijenkorf department store near Dam Square. The original settlement was on the right bank of the Amstel, on the present Warmoesstraat: it is therefore the oldest street in the city. The city has expanded in all directions, except to the northeast of the A10 ring motorway. That area is a protected rural landscape of open fields and small villages considered a part of the Waterland region.
The radius of the semi-circle is about 2 km. All major tourist destinations, and most hotels, are located inside it or just outside it. As a result, a large swathe of Amsterdam is not visited by the average tourist: at least 90% of the population lives outside this area. Most economic activity in Amsterdam—the offices of the financial sector, the port—is near or outside the ring motorway, which is 4–5 km from the center.
The expansion of Amsterdam outside the ring motorway and the expansion of activity outside the city center is redefining what locals consider the 'central area' of Amsterdam. Zuid, especially with the construction of the Noord/Zuidlijn and the Zuidas, is becoming more and more important in the daily lives of the locals. Its significance for tourists has increased by the recently completed reconstruction work on the Museumplein and the adjoining museums.
Amsterdam is a living museum with an architectural landscape that has changed little since the 17th century. Many vistas in Rembrandt's paintings, such as at the Geldersekade, are still largely similar as of this day. As such, Amsterdam is best experienced by getting lost in the city's old tiny corridors. Those rushing through busy shopping streets like Damrak and Kalverstraat don't do the city justice and miss the city's historic air.
- ⊙Amsterdam Centraal railway station, Stationsplein (tram or metro Centraal Station). This beautiful building is an attraction in itself, so if you did not arrive in Amsterdam by train, it is well worth making a special trip to look at the station's facade. The station was built between 1881 and 1889 on three artificial islands. It was designed by Pierre Cuypers who also designed the Rijksmuseum in a similar neo-late-Gothic/Renaissance style. At the time, the project was highly controversial as the new station would effectively cut off the city from the IJ waterfront. Politicians in The Hague pushed it through anyway, and now it is widely regarded as the most beautiful station in the country.
- ⊙Beurs van Berlage (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Dam). Take a guided tour and check out the view from the top of the old stock exchange tower. It was built in 1903 (by Hendrik Petrus Berlage) and is considered the beginning of modern Dutch architecture. Costs €3.50, located on Beursplein near Dam Square.
- ⊙Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis), Dam (tram 1, 2, 5, 13 or 17 to Dam), ☎ +31 20 6204060. Tu-Su 12:00-17:00. The Royal Palace is one of the three official palaces of the Netherlands. It is at the disposal of King Willem-Alexander by the Act of Parliament. It was built in 1651 as the city hall of Amsterdam, in a period known as the Dutch Golden Age. Many school children learn that because of the swampy soil, it was built on no less than 13,569 wooden poles. In 1795, the French Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded the Netherlands, and his brother Louis Napoleon became the first King of Holland in 1806. He acquired the city hall in that year and turned it into a royal palace. It was restored to the original owners when Prince William VI returned to the Netherlands in 1812, but when he was crowned as King William I, he decided that Amsterdam should be the official capital and acquired the city hall once again as a royal palace. This is still a delicate subject among the locals, some of who would like to see the palace returned to Amsterdam. It was completely renovated in 2009. It is mainly used for diplomatic receptions and to welcome visiting heads of state, not as a royal residence. €7.50.
- ⊙Nationaal Monument, Dam Square (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Dam), ☎ +31 20 2514900. A large spire that functions as a memorial for the victims of World War II. It was designed by architect J.J.P. Oud and revealed at 4 May 1956. Every 4 May, at the Remembrance of the Dead, a ceremony is held here to commemorate all civilians and members of the Dutch armed forces that died in World War II and later armed conflicts.
- ⊙Brouwersgracht. This canal is sometimes cited as the "most beautiful street of Amsterdam". The name, "Brewer's Canal", refers to the many beer breweries along the canal in the 16th and 17th centuries. Nowadays, there's just one distillery left, De Ooievaar, that has been located here since 1782 and specializes in Dutch jenever and liquors. The warehouses here used to store goods such as coffee, spices and leather, but now serve a residential purpose. Traditional warehouses with the row of spout gables can be found at Brouwersgracht 196–188, and at 204, 206, 208 and 210. Also check out the wide-open red shutters at Groene Valk (192) and Grouwe Valk (194). Geloof, Brouwersgracht 218, shows the typical "neck" gable designed by Philips Vingboons.
Churches and synagogues
- ⊙Begijnhof (tram 1, 2 or 5 to Spui). The Begijnhof is a late medieval enclosed courtyard with the houses of beguines (Roman Catholic women living in a semi-religious community). It is a very picturesque group of historic buildings, mostly private dwellings. House number 34 is the oldest home in Amsterdam. The courtyard also has a Reformed Church and a hidden Catholic chapel. Surprisingly, it feels like a serene oasis as it is surrounded by the chaotic Kalverstraat and Spui. Entry to the courtyard and surrounding gardens is free, but be careful not to disturb the local community still living here.
- ⊙Esnoga (The Portuguese Synagogue), Mr. Visserplein 3 (tram 9 or 14 to Mr Visserplein), ☎ +31 20 6245351. The most prominent synagogue of the city centre, the Esnoga dates back from 1675 and is built in an austere Classicist style. In 1492, Spain expelled its Jewish population as part of the Inquisition, and many fled to Portugal. One hundred years later, their descendants migrated to Amsterdam for its religious freedom. This happened at a time when the Dutch provinces were fighting for independence against Spain. As to avoid being related to the enemy, these Jewish refugees originally from Spain began to refer to themselves as "Portuguese Jews". In the early 16th century, the three Jewish communities that existed at the time merged to form the Portuguese Jewish Community of Amsterdam, which still exists today. They were joined by Ashkenazi Jews that arrived from Central and Eastern Europe in the 17th century, together forming the largest Jewish community in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Shabbat services are held regularly.
- ⊙Nieuwe Kerk, Dam (tram 1, 2, 5, 13 or 17 to Dam), ☎ +31 20 6386909. Used for royal coronations, most recently the crowning of King Willem-Alexander in 2013, and royal weddings, most recently the wedding of crown prince Willem-Alexander to princess Máxima in 2002. Today, the church is no longer used for services but is now a popular exhibition space. With a steep entry price of €10 this is one of the most expensive and least rewarding visitor attractions in the country.
- ⊙Oude Kerk, Oudezijds Voorburgwal (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Dam, metro 51, 53 or 54 to Nieuwmarkt). The oldest of the five main churches in the historic centre, and probably the oldest building in Amsterdam. It is right in the heart of the Red Light District. You can climb the tower from April to September on Saturday and Sunday, every half-hour. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people) cost €70 per hour. E-mail for more information.
- ⊙Zuiderkerk, Zuiderkerkhof 72 (metro Nieuwmarkt, tram 9 or 14 to Mr Visserplein, walk along Jodenbreestraat). Built in 1603-1611. Located on Zuiderkerkhof ("Southern Graveyard"). Now an information centre on housing and planning. You can visit the tower from April to September Monday to Saturday (with guide only) every half-hour, cost €6. Also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 15 people) cost €70 per hr. E-mail for more information.
- ⊙Westerkerk, ☎ +31 20 6247766. Apr-Sep M-F 11:00-15:00. Built in 1620-1631, located on Westermarkt near the Anne Frank House. You can climb the tower (with guide only) every half hour, M-Sa €6. The tower is also open in the winter by group appointment (maximum 10 people) for €70/hr. In good weather you can see all of Amsterdam, and as far as the coast. Free organ concert held every Friday at 13:00. Free.
- ⊙Noorderkerk, Noordermarkt 48, ☎ +31 20 6266436. M 10:30-12:30, Sa 11:00-13:00, Apr-Oct Su 13:30-17:30.
- ⊙Amsterdam Museum, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 or Kalverstraat 92 (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Spui), ☎ +31 20 5231822. M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa-Su 11:00-17:00. A museum about the history of Amsterdam. €10.
- ⊙Civic Guards Gallery (Schuttersgalerij), Kalverstraat 92 (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Spui), ☎ +31 20 5231822. M-F 10:00-17:00, Sa Su 11:00-17:00. Just inside the arched gateway to the Amsterdam Museum is a hidden passageway with fifteen enormous 17th-century paintings; entrance is free to the public during museum hours. The collection features massive and meticulously realistic portraits of wealthy citizens from the Dutch Golden Age, the same class of subjects Rembrandt depicted in the most famous of Civic Guard paintings, the "Night Watch". Free.
- ⊙Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum), Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1 (tram 9 or 14, metro 51, 53 or 54 to Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 5310310. 11:00-17:00 daily (except some Jewish holidays). Jewish Historical Museum. History of the Jewish people, culture and religion. €9.
- ⊙Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic), Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40 (tram or metro Centraal Station), ☎ +31 20 6246604. M-Sa 10:00-17:00, Su 13:00-17:00. One of the oldest museums in Amsterdam, this is a Catholic church stuffed into the upper stories of a house built in 1663, when Catholics were persecuted and had to disguise their churches. It's amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place. €7.
- ⊙Oranje Voetbal Museum, Kalverstraat 236 (tram 4, 9, 16 or 24 to Muntplein), ☎ +31 20 5898989. Sa Su 11:00-15:00. The legacy of Dutch football started in the 1970s, when Total Football, a revolutionary Dutch style of football, shook the world. The Netherlands is the best football nation that never won the World Cup: it lost the final three times, a national trauma. It did win the European Cup in 1988 lead by star player Marco van Basten. This museum has four floors dedicated to "Oranje", and a small cinema that shows a 20-minute film with historic football moments. Especially recommended for Germans. €5.
- ⊙Rembrandt House, Jodenbreestraat 4 (tram 9 or 14 to Waterlooplein, metro 51, 53 or 54 to Nieuwmarkt exit Nieuwe Hoogstraat), ☎ +31 20 5200400. 10:00-17:00 daily. This is where the artist Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn and his wife, Saskia, lived between 1639 and 1658. The house is a reconstruction of the painter’s life at that time and provides interesting insight. You will be able to see 260 of his 290 etchings, find out about how they were created, see where he worked and explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating building. €12.50.
- ⊙Anne Frank House (Anne Frankhuis), Prinsengracht 267 (Tram Westermarkt), ☎ +31 20 5567100. The house where the Jewish girl Anne Frank wrote her diary while hiding with her family from the Nazis. Don't let the long line (or maybe a very short line if you're lucky) discourage you; it moves quickly and the experience inside the hiding places on the top floors is moving. The museum lacks any exhibits to explain the historical context at the time of Anne's diary, however. Go in the early evening around 5PM to avoid any lines, or alternatively skip the lines entirely by reserving tickets from the official website. The Anne Frank House is open later during the summer. Museumkaart is valid, I Amsterdam Card is not valid. €9.
- ⊙Museum Het Grachtenhuis (The Museum of the Canals), Herengracht 386. Het Grachtenhuis is the gateway to the world famous Canal District. Het Grachtenhuis tells the fascinating story about how Amsterdam's Canal District was created by a multi-media exhibition. €12.
- ⊙Museum Willet-Holthuysen, Herengracht 605, ☎ +31 20 5231822. Mo-Fr 10am-5pm, Sa-Su 11am-5pm. It is the only fully furnished canalside patrician house in Amsterdam that is open to the public. The museum has a large collection of silverware, plates, and books from the Dutch Golden Age. It also has a substantial collection of art. €9. (updated Jun 2016)
- ⊙Amsterdam Pipe Museum (Pijpenkabinet), Prinsengracht 488 (tram 1, 2, 5 stop Prinsengracht), ☎ +31 20 4211779. 12.00-18.00. Unique collection of smoking pipes in an authentic canal house from 1670. In the historic ambiance of the collector's house his collection of pipes covering 2,500 years is displayed. Visitors get a personal tour by enthusiast volunteers of the foundation that also runs the speciality shop in the basement: a huge selection of nearly 3,000 modern briar pipes are for sale, next to collectibles and books on pipes and tobacco. 8 €.
- ⊙Museum Van Loon, Keizersgracht 672. 17th century house with interior restored with furnishings to how it looked in the 18th century. Also interesting to see a garden you would not normally see form the streets. (updated Jul 2016)
- ⊙Hermitage Amsterdam, Nieuwe Herengracht 14 (Metro Waterlooplein), ☎ +31 20 5308751. Hermitage Amsterdam is a branch of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg on the Amstel River in Amsterdam. This museum hosts exhibitions with paintings and other cultural artifacts from the vaults of its Russian parent.
- ⊙Scheepvaartmuseum, Kattenburgerplein 1, ☎ +31 20 5232222. 09:00-17:00 daily. Het Scheepvaartmuseum reopened in late 2011 following major renovations. Stimulating, interactive exhibitions allow visitors to explore 500 years of maritime history. The building, called the Arsenal, is impressive. The Central Square, the indoor courtyard can be visited for free and takes your breath away. Also the museum shop, the restaurant and the library are open to the public free of charge. €15 (adults), €7.50 (children, students and seniors) (prices 2014).
- ⊙Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum), Plantage Kerklaan 61D, ☎ +31 20 6202535. Award-winning museum showing what Amsterdam and Holland were like during Nazi occupation.
- ⊙De Gooyer. It's the only windmill (1814, restored) in the centre of Amsterdam, and the closest one that's open to visitors. De Gooyer at Funenkade, Bus 22, Tram 7, open Wednesday to Sunday from 3PM to 7PM.
- ⊙Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7 (tram 2 or 5 to Van Baerlestraat), ☎ +31 20 5705200. Sa-Th 10:00-18:00, F 10:00-22:00. This museum is dedicated to Vincent van Gogh, a late 19th century Post-Impressionist Dutch painter. The museum is extremely popular so expect to wait in line to get in. best to get there early (is a good cafe inside to keep you going). In the museum are many, but not all, of Van Gogh's works. The museum contains some famous paintings like Sunflowers and Potato Eaters, but lack others such as Starry Night. Also, there are selected works of Monet exhibited there. The audio tour at €5, in the language of your choice, will give you a much better understanding of Van Gogh's life and his paintings. €17 for adults, under 18 free, no discounts for students.
- ⊙Spui Every Friday and Sunday a market is held on the Spui. Friday has books on sale, while Sundays are all about art and antiques.
- ⊙Waterloopleinmarkt (tram 9 or 14, metro 51, 53 or 54 to Waterlooplein). M-Sa until about 17:00. A well-known but fairly overrated market near the city hall. Partly flea market, partly alternative and second hand clothing and accessories. More oriented towards tourists than to locals.
- ⊙Dappermarkt, Dapperstraat, ☎ +31 20 6947495. M-Sa 09:00-17:00. In the east, behind the zoo, and was voted best market in the Netherlands.
- ⊙Bloemenmarkt The world's only floating flower market, open daily on the Singel between Koningsplein and Muntplein. It is very touristy, but you could do worse than buying your tulips here. Make sure you buy pre-approved bulbs if taking them to the U.S. or Canada. They will have the holographic licence and export tag on the bag.
Inside the range of 4 km:
- ⊙ NH City Centre Amsterdam, Spuistraat 288-292, Amsterdam, PC VII - IX
- ⊙ Hotel Nicolaas Witsen, Nicolaas Witsenstraat 4, Amsterdam, PC VII - IX
- ⊙ ibis Styles Amsterdam City, Stadhouderskade 135, Amsterdam, PC VI - IX
- ⊙ Hotel Museum Square, Jan Luijkenstraat 44, Amsterdam, PC VII - IX
- ⊙ The Bicycle Hotel, van Ostadestraat 123, Amsterdam, PC IV - VII
- ⊙ Hotel Atlas Vondelpark, Van Eeghenstraat 64, Amsterdam, PC VI - IX
- ⊙ Hotel Casa 400, Eerste Ringdijkstraat 4, Amsterdam, PC VI - IX
- ⊙ Art Hotel Amsterdam, Spaarndammerdijk 302, Amsterdam, PC VII - IX
Inside the range of 4 km:
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Wikivoyage contributors, 'Amsterdam', Wikivoyage, The FREE worldwide travel guide that anyone can edit, 29 September 2016, 12:21 UTC, <https://en.wikivoyage.org/w/index.php?title=Amsterdam&oldid=3058996> [accessed 13 October 2016]
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16 Oct 2014 - 14 Oct 2016
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Nearby cycle routes and tours
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Added on 16 Oct 2014,
last edited by »biroto-Redaktion« on 04 May 2017