Famous for its extensive network of canals among many other things, Amsterdam, sometimes known as the “City of Festivals,” has something for everyone. The city boasts a great number of museums in addition to its infamous red-light district and unique coffee shops. Offering countless music and film festivals, a fabulous nightlife scene and a multitude of historic monuments, visitors are sure to find something to do day or night.
The real core of Amsterdam is
Leidseplein & Rembrandtplein
Built in 1612 during the expansion of the city, the Jordaan neighborhood is well known all over the country for its unique street life, while Jordanezen (the native inhabitants) are renowned for their corny songs, sarcastic humor and working-class mentality. However, most of the Jordanezen left some years ago for improved housing in neighboring cities like Almere and Purmerend. Nowadays, it is a district with many students, artists and young urban professionals, though the area does still retain a unique street culture. The Jordaan accommodates several art galleries, bars and cozy restaurants, and is akin to a small village in a big city. The area is located between Brouwersgracht, Prinsengracht, Raamstraat and Marnixstraat.
The Red-Light District (De Wallen)
Amsterdam's Red-Light District begins left of the Damrak where Medieval Amsterdam used to be. The district inhabits the streets and canals between Niezel and Sint Jansstraat to the north and south, and
On February 1, 1999, the Dutch government made Amsterdam's canal district a national monument. In 2010, UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. The concentric rings of canals (ranging from the Singel Canal up to the Prinsengracht Canal) are a historically important part of the region, and are one of the city's most attractive sights. The network of canals starts at
De Pijp was Amsterdam's first modern housing development, and was built at the end of the 19th Century to accommodate the city's growing number of laborers. Nowadays, De Pijp is known as the perfect example of a multicultural society. People from all over the world live here: young and old, students and artists. The main streets in De Pijp are
The Museum Quarter is the area around the Museumplein, just a ten minute-walk from Leidseplein. The
Banks of the River Ij
The most modern city developments are located on the southern banks of the
Every year, Amsterdam is visited by thousands of tourists from all over the world, all with varying budgets. Since Amsterdam offers hotels in all price classes, each and every tourist is guaranteed to find a good place to sleep, whether they have a lot to spend or not.
For those visitors who can really splash out and are willing to do so, there is the Amstel InterContinental, located in the very heart of the city: the best, the most luxurious and of course the most expensive of all. This is the hotel where film stars and royalty stay. It's conveniently located near the old center, important theatres, museums, restaurants and clubs.
Dam & Surroundings
The Dam, with its square and Royal Palace, is one of the most visited tourist areas in Amsterdam. This area is filled with plenty of hotels. Among the more expensive ones, there is the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam City Centre, not far from Centraal Station. From here you can easily get to the boats for a tour of the canals. On Dam Square itself there is the beautiful Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. Die Port van Cleve is somewhat less expensive and is located just behind the famous Bijenkorf, as well as the Tulip Inn Dam Square which also fits in this price category. For those who are on a tight budget but want to stay in this part of the city, there are hotels like De Korenaer and De Gerstekorrel. Both are very centrally located, within walking distance of all major tourist attractions.
Leidseplein & Rembrandtplein
Both squares are cozy in the summertime, when the weather is nice and the terraces are full of people. This is also the place to be if you're into clubbing. In this area you can find expensive accommodations at places like the American Hotel and Amsterdam Marriott Hotel. Other hotels in the area include the Golden Tulip Amsterdam Centre and the NH Schiller, right on the Rembrandtplein. For the younger ones who like to go from youth hostel to youth hostel, there is the comfortable City Hostel Vondelpark, very close to Vondelpark. Also in this area you can find the very reasonably priced Hotel Abba.
Close by is the famous workers' district, De Jordaan. This district used to be a rather tough area, but has become one of the most popular residential areas. You can find the Ramada Amsterdam City Centre close to here.
This is the area around Museumplein (Museum Square) where you will find all of Amsterdam's major museums within walking distance, including the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum (Municipal Museum). The Bilderberg Garden Hotel is among the more expensive accommodations in the area, while the four-star Ramada Amsterdam Museum Square and the Ambassade Hotel are a bit more moderately priced. The Banks Mansion and Ramada Hotel & Suites are more or less equally priced. For those who like to be in a quieter area, Hotel Heemskerk is recommended.
Along the river Gaasp you will find the Belfort Hotel which is located near the ring road. For the business traveler who needs to stay close to the airport, there is the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Hilton, just two minutes from the main terminal. The rooms are all provided with soundproof windows, so don't worry about the noise. You can be in the city center within 15 minutes. There is also the Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel & Conference Center. Do keep in mind that most of the hotels in Amsterdam charge 5 percent city tax, which is often not included in prices of rooms given.
Going out in Amsterdam is something that's embedded in the culture; restaurants and bars are brimming with customers the whole week through. If you're planning to eat out in Amsterdam, the one problem you'll be faced with is making a decision. The cultural diversity which typifies the city is best reflected in all its dining options.
What makes eating out in Amsterdam all the more enjoyable is the large range of inexpensive restaurants serving great food. Walking along the Zeedijk you'll find thrifty local favorites. These restaurants aren't famed for their looks or even their service, but if you want a good meal you really can't go wrong. Around the center you'll find a lot of restaurants targeted mainly to tourists. However, for a true culinary experience you mustn't be afraid to branch out.
For an enjoyable evening, head to Bubbles & Wines, a wine bar that also serves champagne, with over 50 labels and types to choose from. Bep is a hip restaurant with a retro 70s decor that serves Thai food, while Indian Restaurant Vijaya has plenty of tandoori and curries to keep you satisfied. La Pampa specializes in nicely-seasoned steaks and flavors from South America, with exotic seafood dishes and drinks galore. For classic Middle Eastern cuisines, Shibli Bedouin is a good bet. There is even a belly dancer accompanied by live music to keep things interesting.
Leidseplein & Rembrandtplein
Don't be afraid to stray from the Leidseplein and Rembrandt Square as there is a whole city out there to explore. Musical accompaniment can be found at Mulligans, while the bustling l'Opera in Rembrandtplein is always a good choice for a nice meal.
Another trendy place with a "look-at-me" atmosphere is The Palladium. After you have lined your stomach with a good meal, be ready to discover the extensive bar and pub culture that is such an integral part of Amsterdam. Some of the most popular places to spend an evening are the Leidseplein and Rembrandt Square. Bars like Heeren van Aemstel are highlights in these bustling areas filled with a mostly young crowd.
Jordaan & De Pijp
Neighborhoods like De Pijp and Jordaan are stuffed to the brim with restaurants and cafes. De Pijp is a favorite among Amsterdam's large student population, so expect to find a young, trendy crowd in the bars and restaurants. Jordaan was originally a real working-class neighborhood, but has evolved into an absolute center of trendy activity. Restaurants like Bordewijk show the city at its most natural; laid-back, with not a care in the world, and shying away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city center.
As with restaurants, branching out in Amsterdam to different bars and cafes is a definite must. Walking through Jordaan and De Pijp you'll find a large selection of quality bars. Check out places like Cafe Nol or De Twee Zwaantjes. These places show off the qualities that typify Jordaan; they are brash, noisy and crowded. Expect to hear Dutch music blared out at a disturbingly high volume and be aware of the inevitable sing-along.
Amsterdam has always been a well-known name in world history. During the 17th Century Amsterdam was the center of world economics, but nowadays the city is known for its tolerant character.
Holland in the 12th Century was barely habitable. The land was very humid and consisted mainly of peat. Various rivers intersected the landscape including the River Amstel, which flows into the River Ij. By the end of the 12th Century, a small settlement arose near a dam in the Amstel, and the city became known as Amsterdam. This dam is still a significant point in the city, and is now used as a square. Amsterdam became a town at the beginning of the 13th Century.
Meanwhile, the town extended slowly from the center around the Dam. Various ramparts were thrown up and canals were dug. Around 1420 the town was bursting at the seams once again. On the eastern part a new wall was built along the present Geldersekade and Kloveniersburgwal. On the west side a moat canal was dug. The economy at this time was not very developed, being based largely on beer and herrings. It was only after Amsterdam became a part of the Burgundian Empire during the 15th Century that the economy began to pick up. Amsterdam's harbor had a stable function: fish from the south and grain from the Baltic countries were traded in the city's markets. Because of its economic prosperity, Amsterdam developed into Holland's largest city, with a population of about 30,000.
During the second half of the 16th Century, Europe had to deal with reformation. The Low Countries seceded from Spain after the Eighty Years' War, renouncing Catholicism. For a long period Amsterdam was allied with the Spaniards, but in 1578 the city was finally united with the rest of the Netherlands. Holland was one of the most tolerant regions in Europe during this period. For that reason, many Protestants and Portuguese Jews, who were persecuted elsewhere in Europe, moved to cities throughout Holland. A large number of merchants from Antwerp moved their businesses to Amsterdam, which meant a big boost for the local economy.
The Dutch were forced to find their own route to the Indies because of the annexation of Portugal by Spain in 1580. The first voyages to the Indies started in Amsterdam and were a major success. Stimulated by these results, plans were made everywhere in the country to send more ships to the Indies. Out of all these initiatives the United East Indian Company came into existence, the VOC. Over 50 percent of the capital from the new company was in the hands of Amsterdam. When the VOC was founded, not only merchants were involved, but citizens invested in the project as well.
The 17th Century was a period of glory for Amsterdam. Wealth, power, culture and forbearance flourished in the city. The population increased rapidly during this period and because of this, the city extended greatly. Amsterdam built its famous ring of canals, and tall houses were built on the canals, taller than in other city centres in Holland. The government strongly encouraged this development, because it added to Amsterdam's prestige. During the first half of this century two churches were built: Zuiderkerk and Westerkerk. The old gothic town hall was burnt down in 1652 and a new town hall, the present-day Palace on Dam Square was built. The Plaetse or Dam Square was enlarged by a great degree, just like the rest of the city. After the Jordaan was completed, around 1700, approximately 200,000 people were living in Amsterdam.
Culturally these days were roaring as well. Due to Amsterdam's economic prosperity, its citizens could afford to surround themselves with objets d'art. Bredero, Vondel and P.C. Hooft wrote their famous poetry, while painter Rembrandt and his students had their atelier in Amsterdam. Philosophers like Spinoza and Descartes formulated their ideas on paper here.
Often however, in locations where things are going well, mischief lies in wait. In 1672 the powerful Netherlands got involved in a war with France and England. Amsterdam's harbor was inaccessible to the fleets sailing in from the Dutch Indies, and because of this the boisterous prosperity came to a halt by the end of the 17th Century. The structure of Amsterdam's economy changed: the city lost its position as a stable market for world trade. However, money transfers became more and more important and Amsterdam soon became the financial heart of the world, the banker for European Monarchs who financed their expensive wars with borrowed money.
Amsterdam moved on quietly until industrialization also took its hold on the Netherlands. After 1850, the population in Amsterdam suddenly increased greatly; people moved to the city from all over the Netherlands in quest for employment. New residential quarters were needed, resulting in town developments like the De Pijp and the Vondelpark. After 1920, the large developments with new districts in the west, south and east followed. Plan Zuid, by architect Berlage, is still very popular. North of the River Ij, new quarters also arose.
In 1939 however, one of the darkest pages in world history became a terrible reality: World War II. Amsterdam's population was hit hard. Amsterdam had numerous Jewish inhabitants, who were deported and did not survive. Places like Anne Frank's House and the National Monument on Dam Square, are a reminder of this horrible period. After the war, Amsterdam continued growing. During the 1960s the Bijlmermeer was built, with its high blocks of flats.
Amsterdam is still the Netherlands' undisputed cultural center with orchestras, ballet, theaters, museums and galleries and two universities. Soccer plays an important role in the life of many Amsterdammers. In the 1970s Amsterdam was famous once again because of Johan Cruyff and Ajax. Ajax and the Dutch national squad's victories are celebrated like real national feasts in Amsterdam.