Amsterdam is famous for its tulips, bridges, romantic canals – it has 165 canals – and bicycles. Attractions in Amsterdam are many and varied. Of course, everyone knows the city for its red-light district and the legal selling of soft drugs in ‘coffee shops’ but the city has so much more to offer visitors.
ETIAS Netherlands explains the country of which Amsterdam is the capital. ETIAS explains the visa and how it works for travelers from and to different countries. ETIAS requirements spells out who qualifies for the ETIAS visa and ETIAS application guides travelers through the application process.
Anne Frank in Amsterdam
Anne Frank wrote the now infamous Anne Frank’s Diary as a Jewish child during the holocaust. She kept the diary between 1942 and 1944 while hiding out in the secret annex above her father’s business on Westermarktin in Amsterdam. As such, hers has become one of the most famous stories ever to come out of Amsterdam.
Anne was not born in the Netherlands, however. She moved to Amsterdam with her family when she was just four and a half, in 1934. She was born in Frankfurt, Germany but the Frank family decided to relocate after Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. Her former place of hiding has become a popular landmark in Amsterdam.
When considering what to do in Amsterdam bear in mind that the Anne Frank House, as it is now known, is open to the public as a museum. The Anne Frank and World War II Walking Tour provide an interesting look into the life of this little girl during the war as well as her father’s life after the war. The tour incorporates not only the Anne Frank House but also the Jewish Historical Museum, the Auschwitz Monument, and the Portuguese Synagogue.
Amsterdam’s Red Light District
Amsterdam has three different Red Light Districts. Prostitution in Amsterdam is almost as old as the city, probably dating back to before the 15th century when the first women arrived to ply their trade in the city’s harbor. The Red Light District remains active in the oldest part of Amsterdam.
Albert Cuyp Market
Attractions in Amsterdam cannot exclude this outdoor market from which anything can be bought. Since 1905 this icon has sold all and sundry and even have dining options. A must on the Amsterdam to do list.
Dam Square is an iconic building known as the “belly button” and sits dead center in the city. It is a crowded square offering cafes, restaurants, and bars, open day and night. It was built around the 13th century by the residents of Amsterdam as embankments along the Amstel River to protect the city against floods. This is actually how Amsterdam came by its name.
Royal Palace Amsterdam
The Royal Palace originally played the role of city hall and courthouse after it was built between 1648 and 1655. It is one of the country’s four royal palaces and is important as the political and economic center of the city as well as in its role as a city square. With its architecture and ornate interior, it is among the popular attractions in Amsterdam, and an emblem of the city’s prosperity in the “Golden Age”.
The town hall only took its place as a royal palace when Napoleon’s younger brother first used it as a residence after the French occupied the city. When Napoleon was overthrown in 1813, Prince William of Orange returned the palace to the local citizens.
The Oude Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building. The name translates to “old church” which takes on a querulous aspect considering it lies within the Red Light District. It might look like a church, but it is no longer a church.
First consecrated around 1305 as the original church of Medieval Amsterdam, it was oft destroyed during and after the Reformation in Amsterdam. While the magnificence of the interior was lost along with much of the art, gravestones still cover the floor, and the organ and stained glass remain. A 58-year renovation saw it reinvented as an art venue exhibiting on a rotation basis and hosting regular performances and workshops.
Foremost among the attractions in Amsterdam, the city’s best-known neighborhood, the Jordaan, was built in the 17th century. Careful renovation and strict preservation have ensured the conservation of the historic character of the buildings within the neighborhood.
On the Amsterdam to do list as among the trendiest areas of the city because in part of the eclectic shops of the neighborhood as well as its galleries, restaurants, and bars. Cafe Papeneiland is a brown cafe dating back to 1642, gives a sense of the city’s history and serves an authentic Dutch apple pie.
Volendam is a chocolate-box image as a fishing port town ensconced by low-rise houses. A stroll along the dyke takes visitors past the church and the old center where the bronze statues can be appreciated. Seagulls abound around about the fishing market and the souvenir shop by the harbor.
Canal Boat Cruise
Unavoidable on any Amsterdam to do list is experiencing the city and its 90 islands and 1500 bridges from the canals. Considering Amsterdam boasts more than 60 miles of canals, what could possibly be a better way to catch many of the attractions in Amsterdam?
The design of the Amsterdam Canal District dates back to the end of the 16th century but it was actually constructed in the 17th century. Intended for water management and defense, it quickly became a preferred and efficient means of local transport.
Westerkerk church was the biggest Protestant church to be built, not only in the city but in the world, at the time of its construction between 1620 and 1631. The transparency of Westerkerk’s serenity and beauty can be appreciated in its 36 windows, bathing the interior in sunlight. Many compare the rays shining into the interior to God smiling down on Westerkerk’s congregants.
The church claims many accolades and much prestige. It marks the final resting place of Netherlands’ famous son, Rembrandt. While Anne Frank was confined to her hiding place with her family during the Nazi occupation, she was no doubt transported time and again to a place of serenity when hearing the bells sound.
Westerkerk’s carillon is legendary, and its toll harks back centuries, to 1658 in fact. The bells, made by François Hemony, can be appreciated several times a day, played as they still are by hand. Boudewijn Zwart is a performing artist who is well known for the playing of the carillon in the present day.
Any contemplation of what to do in Amsterdam would be amiss were Westerkerk not to make it on the list.
Does anything whisper Amsterdam more soulfully than Tulips from Amsterdam? Forever immortalized by Max Bygraves’ lyrics to Tulips from Amsterdam, the windmill and tulips have become indubitable icons of Amsterdam:
When it’s Spring again I’ll bring again Tulips from Amsterdam. With a heart that’s true I’ll give to you Tulips from Amsterdam. I can’t wait until the day you fill These eager arms of mine. Like the windmill keeps on turning That’s how my heart keeps on yearning for the day I know we can share these Tulips from Amsterdam.
The endearing and unassuming tulip must of course be the national flower of Netherlands. But did you know that it symbolizes wealth and elegance? The largest tulip garden in the world bears the name Keukenhof Park and it lies a few miles southwest of Amsterdam. Keukenhof Park welcomes tourists throughout the tulips’ flowering phase, from mid-March to mid-May. Since the flowering phase only endures for about two months in a year, the tulip fields are at their best around April, which makes this the park’s busiest time.
There is just so much in Amsterdam to do that I have not even touched on. In answering what to do in Amsterdam and contemplating attractions in Amsterdam, look also at:
- Visiting markets such as Jordaan’s Noordermarkt, a farmer’s market on Saturdays and an antiques fair on Mondays. The Waterlooplein flea market near the Rembrandt House sells just about anything. The Bloemenmarkt floating flower market is in the Singel canal. The Museum Market is held on the third Sunday of the month close to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum.
- Amsterdam is known as the “Capital of Museums” with an abundance of museums. Museum Square is in the center of the city and incorporates the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Royal Concert Hall.
- The windmill village Zaanse Schans is still inhabited by Dutch people, retaining as it has its many windmills, ancient shipyards, and workshops making wooden shoes and cheese.
For such an unassuming city, there is much to see and do. A whole different world, in fact, awaits discovery when visiting Amsterdam.