Nothing could be more Dutch than Amsterdam. The city presents a picture perfect scene: quaint wooden bridges running across canals, wooden shoes adorned with bright flowers in windows curtained with delicate lace. True, wooden shoes are a common sight in Amsterdam, but seldom on people’s feet. There are a lot of historic buildings that dot the city landscape, though it’s just as modern and progressive as any other. This is why Amsterdam has become one of the world’s top Tourist Attractions.
The city was in its prime during the 17th century when a flourishing sea trade made Amsterdam one of the world’s richest port cities. Tall and thin town homes soon became one of the most distinctive sights of this city, which can be attributed to a tax evading practice adopted by the burghers as it is the street front footage that served to determine the tax structure.
Dam Square forms the nucleus of Amsterdam, one of the city’s top tourist attractions. The square is big and can’t exactly be termed beautiful, but is steeped in history. The majestic Royal Palace forms the most dominating structure of the square. It can be reached by traveling to the Central Station by train from where the square is just a five-minute walk away. It is lined with plenty of shops, food stalls, and restaurants, it being the favorite hangout of locals and tourists alike.
The center of the old city is surrounded by canal rings that give it its shape. You can walk along the streets lining the canal or take a ride on a boat through them. Another option will be to rent a houseboat and to stay right on a canal instead of boarding a hotel. Or a more hands-on way to look around Amsterdam is to ride a bike along the streets just as the Dutch do.
Yes, the Dutch do take their biking seriously and Amsterdam is a city where you get to see more bikes than cars. To explore Amsterdam, biking is indeed a great option. You should take care not to tread on to the bicycle lanes that are well marked out and is solely a biking territory. So if you find yourself in one inadvertently and hear a bike bell honking at you, get out of the way.
The Rijksmuseum boasts of a number of masterpieces, and you can devote a morning exploring them. (This museum, however, has come under restoration check to verify how much of it can be open to the public.) You can then move on to the Van Gogh museum in the afternoon. Here you will see more of Van Gogh than you possibly can in any part of the world; with some 200 paintings on display for you to marvel at.
The Anne Frank House is one of the best tourist attractions of Amsterdam. You actually get to see where the Frank family confined themselves during the dark days of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. It is here that Anne Frank penned her thoughts in her diary. The little rooms have nothing to show off now but are a mute witness to a deplorable part of history, something that is enough to make you stop and think. On display here is the original diary, as written by Anne Frank. This happens to be one of the most sought after tourist attractions of Amsterdam and long queues are a common sight. Summer sees the extension of visiting hours till 9 pm. So you could plan a late afternoon or an early evening visit to avoid the rush.
Another must see tourist attraction is the Oude Kerk or the Old Church, which happens to be the oldest church in Amsterdam. That it is located in the red light district can well be termed a strange quirk of history. But then, that’s not all. For you’ll find this place teeming with tourists at night.
There is no dearth of restaurants and bars to fall back upon when it’s time for some food and drink. And when it’s about drink, beer scores way above everything else, what being it the national drink of the Netherlands. If it is a simple meal that you are looking for with some coffee or beer, you can turn to Brown Cafes – the traditional local pub of the Dutch. They certainly are not the swankiest of places but the friendly nature of the people more than makes up for it. They are also cheap, which also explains why they are crowded. Then there are the coffee shops that are not the least what you think them to be. Our page on coffee shops will throw more light on the quirky side of the Dutch.
You’ll come across more canals in Amsterdam than in Venice, 100 to be precise with no less than 1200 bridges spanning across them. You’ll love spending a day or two lazing around the canals and admiring the tall thin houses. Staying in any of the several thousand houseboats that dot the canals can be an experience in itself. There are hundreds of agents who can make the bookings for you.
Other than wooden shoes, if there is one more sight that forms an integral part of the typical Holland landscape, it is the windmill. In fact, windmill ranks top among the tourist attractions of Holland. And to come back from Holland without having seen a windmill would be a disaster. There still remain eight windmills, and it’s actually two of them that you can visit. So that’s it, wooden shoes and windmills along with so many other things to see, explore and experience in Amsterdam.