If Amsterdam isn’t the most individual place in Europe, it’s certainly not far from it. This vibrant city plays host to millions of visitors each year, from within Holland and from further afield who come to Amsterdam looking to soak up some of the cultural and historic ambience. The wonder and grandeur of this beautiful city can be felt everywhere you go – by strolling gently along one of the delightful canals or just by taking some time out by visiting one of the many tourist sights in the city for which you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Like anything, pinpointing the best attractions for any one person in this awesome city is far from easy as there are so many of them. Ultimately it is down to personal preference. Not everyone is the same after all. Some may come just to visit the cafes and bars, others the museums or the canals.
Anyway, here are some of my own favourite tourist attractions in Amsterdam.
Grouped together in the Museumplein are the most famous museums in Holland. Here you’ll find the Van GoghMuseum with displays of his sketches and paintings, some 700 or so in total and other items related to this great Dutch Master. Then there is the Rijksmuseum, which houses considerable works of art, crafts and history of the Netherlands. There are works of art from the Dutch Golden Age, a section of the stern from the English ship the HMS Royal Charles captured in the Raid on the Medway in 1667 and the Hartog Plate the oldest known surviving artifact of Australia by explorers from Europe. The Stedelijkmuseum founded in 1874 displays contemporary and modern works of art.
The Canals of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has been described as the Venice of the North with its city centre based on a network of 3 canals plus a collection of smaller ones with a total length of some incredible sixty miles. Designed and built in the seventeenth century when Amsterdam and the rest of Holland were rapidly developing as a superior trading nation, the original intention was to use the canals for the transportation of goods. Little did designers know that they were also building one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world and in 2010 the canals were included in the Unesco World Heritage list as being of special cultural and physical significance.
The more notable canals are Prinsengracht, Keizergracht, Herengracht and Singel. Stroll by the canals or take one of the many tour boats for a memorable experience on this absolutely delightful waterway. One of the preferred methods to see the canals in detail is to cycle along them. You can take one the many paths that line the banks, stopping off here and there at leisure for a coffee, beer, something to eat or just to look in awe at the spectacular sights attractions.
De Oude Kerk
At 800 years old this is not only the oldest church in Amsterdam but also the oldest building. Surrounded by small quaint houses the church bell tower which is in the shape of an octagon was formerly used as a navigational aid by ships. Consecrated in 1306 it was built on a cemetery, the floor of this Protestant church consists of many gravestones, the locals still being buried inside the walls as recently as the mid nineteenth century. There are an estimated ten thousand Amsterdamers buried here! You can find De Oude Kerk in De Wallen which is the infamous red light area of Amsterdam.
Anne Frank House
You’ll find the house where Ann Frank hid from the Nazis in the Second World War on Prinsengracht, by the canal. Now a museum, she and her family were secretly hidden together with four others in the back of the building. The house was made famous following the publication of her diaries, the first edition being released in 1947 in Dutch under the name of Het Achter Huis, (the back house). Its success was phenomenal and copies of her books were made over the next few years in other languages including English, the English translation of her works being entitled first the Secret Annexe and later published under the more familiar term of The Diary of a Young Girl. So moved were the public by the diary, they flocked to see the house at Prinsengracht 263 and the secret rooms where she and her family and four others hid from the Germans for more than two years. The AnnFrankMuseum was born. The museum normally opens at 09.00 – try to arrive as early as possible because you’ll find there will be queues. As of the time of writing this article, you can buy admission tickets online.
With more than its fair share of pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels, Rembrandtplein is popular throughout the year, but it thrives when the warmer weather arrives and the sunshine lures visitors outside filling the many terraces that line the street. You’ll find a good selection of cafes and pubs including more traditional Dutch themed ones if that takes your fancy. The area being named after Rembrandt, in the centre of the square there is a delightful park dedicated to the Dutch Master with a statue of him.
Of course there are many more sights and attractions to see in Amsterdam. Here I’ve only outlined a few, but hopefully it will give you an idea. The only way you’ll find out if you like Amsterdam is to do what millions of others have done in the past and try it for yourself.
I’m confident you’ll more than love it.