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Amsterdam - Capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is a wonderfully compact city to roam around to do sightseeing.

The meandering canals are a delight to stroll around or leisurely cruise along, day or night.

Rich in culture and history, there are many old buildings that have been converted into standing monuments or walk through museums.

It's easy to get swept up in the media's portrayal of the seedy side of Amsterdam and of course it is there if that's what you want to see, however, Amsterdam offers much much more.

Autumn is a particular favourite time to visit with multi coloured leaves decorating the canal footpaths and wonderful oranges and browns in the many parks and gardens within the city.

As you would expect, locals here have a very relaxed nature about them and this extends to businesses too, so don't be surprised if they just see the same need for speed as you do.

So whether you're here for a beer-filled self-indulgent "cake" sampling weekend, or a relaxing couples retreat from the hustle of metropolitan life, get yourself to Amsterdam.

www.iamsterdam.com

Top 10 things to do in Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of Amsterdam and is located on Museumplein (Museum Square).

The museum, established in 1800, is dedicated to arts, crafts, and history and has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. It also has a substantial collection of Asian art.

The paintings are arranged into collections and include work by artists such as Jacob van Ruysdael, Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Rembrandt.

If you like your art history then peruse around the museum's library which is the largest public art history research library in the Netherlands.

In addition to the collections, the museum runs different themed exhibitions of art work. The exhibitions do change, mostly seasonally, so check out the website for the current information.

www.rijksmuseum.nl

Van Gogh Museum

The museum has the largest collection of Vincent Willem van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world and can be found in the same square as the above Rijksmuseum.

The main exhibition chronicles the phases of Van Gogh's life, from his childhood to his various emotional stages through to his death. Highlights include The Potato Eaters, Bathroom in Arles and one of the three Sunflowers paintings with a yellow background.

In 2002, thieves stole two paintings from the museum; View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen. To date, neither painting has been recovered.

As well as the work from Van Gogh, the museum also holds extensive exhibitions on various subjects from 19th Century art history which are all detailed on the official website.

www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House museum is dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank, who hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the building.

In the late 1950's property developers wanted to demolish the house however it was saved after the quick creation of a foundation dedicated to it's preservation.

The hiding place, a collection of secret rooms, have been preserved and are known in Dutch as the Achterhuis. You can climb through and up into the spaces and experience just how cramped and small it would have been for Anne Frank and the family.

You also get a sense of just how terrifying it would have been hiding just feet away from a Nazi raiding party.

The whole house acts as an exhibition space on the life and times of Anne Frank and also highlights all forms of persecution and discrimination.

Give yourself a good hour or so to get around the house, taking in all the exhibits.

In wintertime (half October till half March) the Anne Frank House is open daily from 9 am till 7 pm, in summertime from 9 am till 9 pm. In July and August, the museum is open till 10 pm.

www.annefrank.org

The Dam and Royal Palace

The Dam Square is simply known locally as The Dam. This centrally located square lies in the historical centre of Amsterdam.

The Dam is your gateway to some of the more notable buildings in the city. To the west of the Damn is the Royal Palace and next to that is the 15th century gothic Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

The Royal Palace is one of four in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix. Originally the palace was built as a city hall during the 17th century later becoming the royal palace for king Louis Napoleon.

On top of the palace is a large domed cupola that is topped by a weather vane in the form of a Cog ship, one of the many symbols that Amsterdam embraces.

The large central hall of the palace has an amazing rich marble floor that has two equally huge maps of the world with a celestial hemisphere embedded into it. The detail is amazing with the colonial influential area of Amsterdam being depicted on both maps.

Opening times are quite varied and seasonal so best to check the website for these and the current admission price. Guided tours are available at additional cost.

At the other side of the Dam, lies the National Monument, a large white stone pillar erected in 1956 to memorialise the victims of World War II.

Along the sides of the square you'll find the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky and the upmarket department store De Bijenkorf.

The Dam is a popular meeting point for locals, tourists and pigeons, becoming particularly busy at the weekends.

www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en/

Zuiderkerk

The Zuiderkerk or Southern Church, was built in the 17th century by a Protestant denomination. The church is located in the Nieuwmarkt area.

If it looks familiar then chances are you'll have recognised it from famous paintings by Rembrandt and Monet whom gave it particular favour.

It was constructed between 1603 and 1611 and stands on the Zuiderkerkhof (Southern Graveyard) square near the Sint Antoniesbreestraat. It's distinctive church tower dominates the surrounding area.

The Zuiderkerk was used for church services until 1929, then as a temporary morgue during the Second World War before being closed in 1970 due to fears of it's collapse.

After extensive renovation the church now serves as a municipal information centre, with regularly changing exhibitions as well as a permanent exhibition which features a scale model of Amsterdam as it is envisioned in 2020.

The church is open daily for visitors except Sunday and the tower, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area, is open to visitors Tuesdays through Sundays during the summer months.

www.zuiderkerk.amsterdam.nl/english

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Vondelpark

Vondelpark is located in the stadsdeel Amsterdam Oud-Zuid, west from the Leidseplein and the Museumplein.

This 120 acre public park was opened in 1865 and originally named the Nieuwe Park. It was renamed to it's current name after the 17th century author Joost van den Vondel.

With an average of 10 million annual visitors, the park is certainly very popular and contains a film museum, an open air theatre, a playground and various food outlets.

In the centre of the park there is a rose garden, added in 1936, with a wonderful mix of species and colours in the spring and summer months.

The national film museum that is located in the park is a very worthwhile visit. The building itself is lovely being modeled on a 19th century pavilion. The films that are screened here range from 19th century silent films to contemporary digital productions. As well as screening films, the museum is also host to frequently changing exhibitions, lectures and debates.

There are several statues dotted around the park and a few fountains continuously spurting water up into the air and during the summer season, the open air theatre is host to a mixture of performing acts. Although it is free to enter, visitors may be asked for a small donation upon entry (usually around €1).

The park certainly has a nice refreshing and relaxing feel to it.

www.amsterdam.info/parks/vondelpark/

The Amsterdam Hermitage

Hermitage on the Amstel, to give it it's proper name, is a dependency of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg sitting along the banks of the river Amstel.

It has been displaying small exhibitions in a side building next to the Amstelhof since 2004 with the full museum being opened in 2009.

Originally the building was designed as a retirement home for the elderly and was opened as such in 1682. It was named Deanery Home for Old Women and later changed to Amstekhof in 1953.

There are two permanent presentations, one about Netherlands–Russia relations and the other about the history of the building Amstelhof. The rest of the building is used to host six-monthly temporary exhibits.

Open daily except for Christmas and New Year, the museum offers guided and audio tours to help get the most from the experience.

www.hermitage.nl/en/

Canal Boat Rides

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a canal cruise.

These leisurely trips along the canal are some of the best opportunities to take in Amsterdam's unique waterside heritage at a relaxing pace.

As you would expect, there are a plethora of different types of cruises to suit everyone's needs.

Amongst the more popular are the evening dinner and candlelight cruises where you'll glide slowly along the canals taking in the Amsterdam nightlife playing out on both sides of you, as well as getting close up views of the tunnel archways, most of which are lit up or illuminated in some way.

As well as the one-off cruises, there are several operators who offer a hop-on hop-off services much like the open-top buses in other major cities. This is a great and unique way to get around the city to do some sightseeing.

www.amsterdam.info/tours/canalcruise/

Nemo Science Centre

The Science centre NEMO, is located toward the east side of Amsterdam at Oosterdok.

It's unlikely that you'll be struggling to find the centre as it's located inside a huge four storey green ships hull.

The centre is a fascinating and fun place for a family outing with enough experiments and things to push and prod to keep younger and older kids happy.

The giant soap bubbles are a particular favourite!

Feature attractions do change regularly, so please do check out the website to see what's currently on.

There are several cafés within the centre or if you prefer to bring your own food, designated areas are set aside for this. There's also the option, weather permitting, of sitting out on the roof terrace which gives some great views over the area.

Open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Mondays.

www.e-nemo.nl/en/

Flower Market

Amsterdam's Flower Market, on the maps as Bloemenmarkt, is touted as the world's only floating flower market.

The market can be found on Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein in the city's southern canal belt and is host to 15 florists and garden shops as well as a range of souvenir gift shops.

The stalls themselves are situated on permanent house boats, docked at the side of the canal. As well as fully grown flowers, you can pick up seeds and bulbs here that are packaged and ready for exporting, according to most customs regulations

Of course you will need to check that you can take flora back into your home country as many countries do have strict prohibition on this.

The market is open daily from around 9am to 5pm, with Sunday's hours being a bit more relaxed.

www.amsterdam.info/shopping/flowermarket/

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