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Often lost amongst Amsterdam’s reputation as an anything goes type of city, is the tremendous culture and history of one of the world’s most vibrant and unique cities. Beyond the infamous Red Light District and coffee shops lay some of Europe’s finest artistic and historical treasures.
Things to do in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands; with a population of 907,976 within the city proper, 1,558,755 in the urban area and 2,480,394 in the metropolitan area. Found within the Dutch province of North Holland, Amsterdam is colloquially referred to as the “Venice of the North”, due to the large number of canals which form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The natural beauty of Amsterdam is apparent amongst the hundreds of tree-lined canals and bridges. Europe’s greenest capital city is compact enough to see on foot yet there is no shortage of things to see and do. Whatever your reason for visiting is, you won’t leave disappointed.
Located inside the original Heineken Brewery opened in 1930, the museum offers a detailed explanation of the brewery process as well as a few tasty samples and a free gift at the end of the tour. In addition, there is also a bottle ride that lets you assume the role of a beer bottle moving through the production process. At a cost of 10 euros, it is a fun and affordable daytime activity for anyone over the age of 18.
Rent A Bicycle
With over 550,000 bicycles amongst the population of 800,000, it is impossible to experience the day-to-day life of a typical Amsterdammer without hopping on a bike. Both guided and self-guided tours are available throughout the city. Routes vary according to length and neighbourhood. Try to keep up with the locals, but be sure to watch out for trams!
Catch An AJAX Match
Between September and June, Amsterdam’s local soccer club plays its home matches at Arena Stadium. It seats 52,000 people and also has a museum and a retractable roof. To really get into the mix of the AJAX spirit, you can buy standing-room seats next to the locals. Or if you would rather watch comfortably as an outsider, seat tickets are also available. The Amsterdam Admirals also play American football here from April to June in the NFL Europe League.
Famous throughout the world, Amsterdam’s coffee shops range from typical little shops strictly serving coffee to large establishments offering cannabis and magic mushrooms. Regardless of whether or not you choose to try the cannabis, a visit to one of these coffee shops allows you to experience the laid-back charm this city is so well-known for.
Van Gogh Museum
Containing over 200 of his paintings, 500 drawings and 850 letters written by him, the museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh’s work anywhere in the world. Vincent Van Gogh painted for only nine years of his troubled life, yet he remains widely recognized as one of the most brilliant painters in history. This collection was put together mainly by Vincent’s younger brother Theo, an art dealer who received many of the written letters. There are also works housed here by friends and contemporaries of Vincent’s, such as Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bernard.
Red Light District
Not a good place to bring children if you’re with your family, but a must-see for adults. Only a quick walkthrough is necessary to see something like nothing else you’ve ever seen. Nowhere else is the tolerance of the Dutch better exemplified than along these narrow canals lined with legal prostitutes and sex shops. It is best to come during the day to avoid the crowds.
Like the Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum cannot be seen in a single visit. With over 5000 paintings, Asiatic art, sculptures and a print room, you will need to have an idea of what you would most like to see. The most important collection is made up of paintings by Dutch masters from the 15th to 19th centuries such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals. Some areas of the museum are being renovated and paintings have been moved, but the most famous pieces will still be on view in the south wing.
Take A Canal Boat Tour
With more canals than Venice, Amsterdam does more than live up to its nickname Venice of the North. Boat tours provide a unique perspective of the city that can only be seen from the water level. Tours range from short and simple to long and elegant. Some evening tours even have five-star candlelight dinners. It may seem a bit touristy, but it is the best way to see Amsterdam.
Anne Frank House
The World War II hiding place made famous in The Diary of Anne Frank is now transformed into an exhibition of Anne and her family’s confinement. The second-floor annex concealed by a revolving bookcase is recreated by Otto Frank’s model. Downstairs is a museum dedicated to the persecution of Jews in WWII. It is a moving experience regardless of whether or not you have read the book.
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