1: Canals of Amsterdam (Amsterdamse Grachten)
There are many things for which Amsterdam is famous, but surely topping the list is the city’s exquisite network of canals that wind through the city. In fact, Amsterdam has been called “The Venice Of The North” for that very reason. The canals arrange the downtown area into an elegant series of semicircles, through neighborhoods and business districts. To get the full experience, ride along the canals on one of the many boats for hire, and enjoy the most unique perspective of this most unique city.
The rich vein of art that runs through Dutch history ensures that any trip to Amsterdam is incomplete without a stop to the Rijksmuseum. All the Old Masters are in attendance, from Vermeer and Frans Hals to, of course, Rembrandt. Aside from celebrating “the Dutchness of Dutchness”, as director Taco Dibbits has said, the museum honors the history of the Netherlands going back all the way to the year 1200, especially as it pertains to art. There is also an Asian pavilion, and notable things to explore include the stern of a ship and the Hartog plate.
3: Van Gogh Museum
4: Anne Frank House (Anne Frank Huis)
Whimsy floats in the air at Vondelpark, much like the green parakeets that have been spotted in the trees there. Quaint treelined paths and tranquil ponds make up the landscape of this oasis in the middle of the city. Take in a show at the open air theatre, and replenish yourself at one of the park’s several cafes and restaurants. Marvel at the statues dotted throughout, including Joost van den Vondel, for whom the park is named.
6: Floating Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt)
The Dutch are famous for their love of flowers, especially tulips, so this blocklong flower market caters to locals just as much as tourists, which means that prices are reasonable and quality is high. To give it that extra touch of Dutch charm, the market floats on the Singel Canal. It serves the public six days a week, all year round. Because of this, its offerings tend to be seasonal, although bulbs and plant accessories can be purchased almost all the time.
7: Begijnhof (Beguinage)
This beautiful courtyard was first established in the Middle Ages, making it the oldest in Amsterdam. Originally founded in 1307, it was the site of a Beguine house, which is a convent of sorts for women who wanted to live religious lives without becoming nuns. The last Beguine died in 1971, at which point the site ceased its original function as a Beguine house and is now an operational chapel and historical site. Walk the verdant grounds, visit the chapel, and learn about the Amsterdam Miracle of 1345, which is still honored every March by a silent procession through the town.
8: Dam Square (Damplein)
According to many, Dam Square is the beating heart of Amsterdam, and it’s easy to see why. Damrak runs from Central Station directly to the square, which features a large World War II monument at its center. Once in the square, you can feel the pulsing energy as tourists, business people and school groups hustle and bustle through the vast open space. You can enjoy buskers and living statues on your way to the Royal Palace, have a sitdown on the monument, visit Madame Tussaud’s famous wax museum, or patronize any number of luscious dining establishments. Because of its location, Dam Square is the perfect starting point for any venture further into the city.