Your Guide to Amsterdam
The Dutch capital is a consistently popular destination for tourists, students and adventurers. Read on to find out what the historic city has to offer.
Why Visit Amsterdam?
Known for its picturesque canals, strikingly beautiful windmills and wonderfully colourful landscapes, Amsterdam is a city that captures the hearts of many who visit.
It’s a relatively small city (compared to other major European cities) making it a delight to get around; visitors get a real feel for its atmosphere, neighbourhoods and charm in just a few footsteps.
It’s a great place to visit at most times of the year with one of the best year-round climates for a city break. It’s also a very significant historic city. More than 6,000 houses and buildings date back to the 16th - 20th century; you can still walk around the Jewish quarter (or Jodenbuurt) just east of the Amstel river.
It has a legendary nightlife, a significant English-speaking population and is an incredibly environmentally friendly city.
Still need persuading on why to visit Amsterdam? Read on to find out more about the Dutch capital.
10 Interesting Facts about Amsterdam
- Amsterdam is ranked 2nd in the Top 10 Cities to Live
- The capital has been ranked one of the Top 15 Safest Cities in the World
- The city has more museums per square meter than any other city in the world.
- There are 880,000 bikes in Amsterdam with 12,000 bicycle wrecks being fished out of the canals every year.
- 86% of Amsterdam residents are bilingual, speaking both Dutch and English.
- There are 1,281 bridges in Amsterdam, criss crossing over the many famous canals
- Amsterdam residents are the second largest consumers of coffee in the world. An Amsterdam local consumes about 3.2 cups of coffee a day.
- Amsterdam is a city of houseboats. There are 2,500 of them in the city.
- The majority of Amsterdam is below sea level. At its lowest point, it is 6.7 metres below sea level.
- Many buildings in Amsterdam lean to one side because the city was built on long wooden piles that had to be driven into the ground. The Central station has 6000 of them keeping it up.
Top 5 Things to Do
Amsterdam is teaming with things to do and see. Whatever the weather, you can be sure of an abundance of eye-opening and intriguing experiences across the capital. Where you’re a foodie, a bike-lover or simply an intrepid explorer on your next getaway, there’s something for everyone.
1. A visit to Museumplein.
The cultural nexus of the capital houses the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. It’s centered around a large, leafy open square where there are often lots of activities, letting you unwind in between soaking up the huge array of culture.
2. Take a Canal cruise
Exploring Amsterdam on water is a necessity in a city where there is more than one hundred kilometres of canals. The main ones are known as Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. Take in the sights and sounds while floating along the canal on a guided boat tour. There are various ones to choose from, from hop-on-hop-off sightseeing tours to night-time cruises with food and wine.
3. Visit Anne Frank House
The front of the Prinsengracht house where Anne Frank and her family hid for two years after fleeing Germany is now a museum. It features a sobering exhibition about the persecution of Jews during the war and discrimination. It’s an important thought-provoking experience that is an important part of the city’s history.
4. Visit Vondelpark
The city’s largest city park in Amsterdam is well worth a visit. There are often free concerts at the open-air theatre and an array of impressive sculptures. The park has to be renovated every 30 years due to its constantly lowering ground level.
5. Rent a bike
Cycling is an important part of Amsterdam life. There are more bikes than people in the city. Its network of cycle routes and flat landscape make biking the best way to get around. There are lots places to rent a bike, letting you take in the capital’s streets, canals and attractions like a local.
Top 5 Places to Eat
With the twice-yearly Amsterdam Restaurant Week coming up (28 - 31 March) there’s never been a better time to immerse yourself in the culinary traditions of Amsterdam. However, the city is a foodies’ paradise the whole year round. Whatever your budget or taste, you’re bound to find a wealth of delicious temptations in Amsterdam.
1. A trip to Westergasfabriek
There’s a wide range of bars, restaurants and coffee houses in this foodies’ hub sprawling across former industrial buildings that once were the municipal gasworks. Regular food markets and festivals are held here, including the Sunday market held on the first Sunday of each month.
2. Traditional Dutch cuisine
For those who fancy an immersion into traditional Dutch cuisine, Moeders (‘mothers’ in Dutch) is simply a must. The city centre restaurant serves almost exclusively Dutch dishes such as stamp pot, poffertjes or suddervlees. It’s a homely and quintessentially Dutch experience that’s not to be missed.
3. Living-room restaurants
The latest trend sweeping Amsterdam is centred around blending home cooking with dining out where cosy dinner parties are held at the chefs’ premises. One such example of this is Eat Your Heart Out, a living room restaurant which is great for groups of 15+. Regular afternoon and evening tastings are often available letting you try something new.
4. Something a little different
Amsterdam has no shortage of quirky venues for eating and drinking. Eat in a former church at Bazar, an Arabic kitsch cafe with a North African menu or dine at Brasserie Harkema, a tobacco factory turned restaurant-landmark offering a range of French classics.
5. The Classic Fries and Mayonnaise Experience
It’s difficult to visit Amsterdam without experiencing the unexpectedly delicious combination of chips and mayonnaise. It’s a definite for anyone new or wary of the combination, and has spawned many converts who will now not have their chips any other way. Try Manneken Pis where fries are prepared in front of your eyes and served in the classic paper ‘cone’. Try it, you won’t regret it.
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