For many tourists, Amsterdam is a city where they can enjoy a tolerant lifestyle and the conviviality that this city offers. Many people visit Amsterdam for a day trip. This really doesn’t let you see all the city’s highlights. It’s definitely worth taking a trip to Amsterdam for a few days, as there are so many things you can see and do. We’ll list the most important highlights for you.
The Amsterdam canals
In the 17th century, during the Golden Age, Amsterdam was the centre of trade in Europe. From the overseas territories, discovered by the Dutch East India Company, many products and spices entered our country. In Amsterdam there were large warehouses along the canals in which all the goods were stored. The rich traders built beautiful houses for their families on the water. This part on the Herengracht, situated between the Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat, was therefore named “Gouden Bocht” or “Golden Bend”.
The beautiful canalside houses, often with their decorated point, spout, staircase, neck and bell gables, are best seen from the water. Around 1600, work was started on digging three main canals: the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. These canals were expanded considerably over the years, due to the rapid growth of the city. The canals lie in a circle around the city centre.
A tour with a tour boat will take you past all the beautiful houses. In the meantime, the guide will tell you a lot about the buildings and the canals. The boats are very flat so as to be able to pass under the many small bridges. At some intersections the captain must have really good navigational skills to sail the boat through the canals.
During a round trip, the boat sails under numerous bridges, large and small. Amsterdam has a total of 1,400 bridges. The best known and most photographed bridge is the “Skinny Bridge”. Story goes that the bridge is named after the Skinny Sisters, who each lived on one side of the Amstel river. This drawbridge was built in 1670.
A boat tour through the canals of Amsterdam is one of the most visited attractions in the Netherlands. Tickets can be booked at the boarding points. The largest embarkation point is on the Damrak, not far from Central Station.
The Amsterdam museums
For a small European city, Amsterdam has an enormous number of museums and galleries. Some of them are world famous and have beautiful collections. In our opinion, these are the museums you shouldn’t miss when you are in Amsterdam:
The Rijksmuseum owns the largest and most beautiful collection of Dutch art and displays it to the public in a beautiful, huge building. You can admire the works of the famous Dutch Masters here. The most famous painting is The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn. This portrait of a shooting company is regarded worldwide as the highlight of 17th century painting. You can spend a whole day in these museums. In any case, take your time on the visit, it’s definitely worth it.
Van Gogh Museum
The building that houses the Van Gogh Museum was designed by Gerrit Rietveld, a famous Dutch designer. In 1999 the building was extended with a modern wing, designed by Kisho Kurokawa. It goes without saying that the museum houses many pieces by Vincent van Gogh. Masterpieces include the Vase with Sunflowers, the Bedroom in Arles and Wheatfield with Crows. The museum also offers art by Van Gogh’s contemporaries and temporary exhibitions.
The Stedelijk Museum – Museum of Modern Art, located on Museumplein in Amsterdam, is the largest museum of modern and contemporary modern art in the Netherlands. Dating from 1895, the historic red-brick museum’s collection includes exceptional works of art by world-famous modern artists, including Dutch artists from the 20th century.
Anne Frank house
For more than two years, the Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family were in hiding in the secret annex of the building on Prinsengracht 263. This is where Anne wrote her world-famous diary. The Germans invaded the house in 1944 and the family was taken to German extermination camps. Only father Otto survived. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her diary was published posthumously in 1947. It has become one of the most read books in the world. The Anne Frank House is an impressive monument and museum in memory of this brave Jewish girl.
The Scheepvaartmuseum offers a wonderful overview of Dutch shipping history through the centuries. In the museum you find many ships, ship models and maps. The museum is housed in a former naval warehouse belonging to the Dutch Navy. Ammunition, sails and ropes for the war fleet were stored here. Next to the museum is a replica of the Dutch East India Company ship “Amsterdam”.
Amsterdam’s Hermitage shows the collection of one of the biggest and most famous museums in the world: Staatsmuseum de Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The Museum of the Tsars, which today houses a collection of more than three million exceptional works of art. Every six months there is a new, high-profile exhibition.
Eye Filmmuseum of Eye is for everybody who loves film and art. Eye is the only museum in the Netherlands that is open 7 days a week, day and night. A well-known film writer is regularly in the museum centre. Enjoy the beautiful views of the IJ and the city from the restaurant and the terrace. It is worth going to Eye for this reason alone. From Amsterdam Central Station, the free ferry will take you to the other side in just a few minutes, day and night.
Other sights of Amsterdam
In addition to the canals and museums, Amsterdam has more to offer its visitors. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere in the city and walk through the various districts. You find cosy cafés with terraces absolutely everywhere. A few recommendations are:
This part, to the west of the ring of canals, used to be the working-class area where workers lived in small houses. Nowadays, it’s an area where many “yuppies” live. There are also many nice speciality shops with peculiar items.
The Artis city zoo is located in a beautiful district in the city. It is certainly worthwhile to walk around this Plantage area and enjoy the peace and quiet, especially in comparison with the busy centre. In the zoo, the planetarium, savannah and aquarium are the main attractions.
This city park is located near the Leidseplein and is for many Amsterdammers a place to relax in the grass, jog or make music. The park is named after the famous Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel and there is a statue of him in the park. On King’s Day, there is a free market in the Vondelpark where children sell things, make music or offer homemade delicacies.
The ramparts, Red Light District
The Red Light District is an important tourist attraction. In this area with narrow streets, scantily clad prostitutes stand or sit behind red lit windows, waiting for customers. There are also sex shops and clubs. The streets are mainly populated by tourists and to a lesser extent, customers. In order to limit the flow of tourists, the municipality decided that, as from 2020, guided tours of the Red Light District will be prohibited.
More information on sights, events and activities in Amsterdam can be found on the Amsterdam website. If you are staying in the city for a few days and want to visit museums and use public transport, purchase an Amsterdam City Card. For accommodation in the capital of the Netherlands, click here.