AmsterdamA city with many souls, a favorite destination of many travelers. We are talking about Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. Many consider it a city of vice, others think it is one of the most romantic cities in Europe.
Some people love it for its incredible cultural offer, others for its architectural beauties, its beautiful canals and the sense of civilization that you can breathe while walking through its streets.
Where is Amsterdam: the history of the beautiful capital of the Netherlands
Amsterdam, located in North Holland, is the capital of the Netherlands. Today a splendid city, it has had to fight hard to reach the level of beauty that has come to distinguish it: the countless canals and the beautiful bridges are the result of an incredible reclamation work. Built on highly marshy ground, the history of the town began in the 13th century from a small fishing village located near a dam on the Amstel River. It is the etymology of the city's name that tells us its origins: originating from Amstel and Dam (dam), Amsterdam literally means "dam on the Amstel river". And it was that dam, together with ingenious systems of canalization, that gave life to the skeleton of Amsterdam that we know today. A city on the water that not surprisingly, is referred to as the "Venice of the North". The exploitation of the canals and their subsequent navigation made Amsterdam a flourishing commercial port. Not all the canals that once formed the city in past centuries are still visible today: in addition to the construction of artificial islands (which are presently the site of entire buildings and neighborhoods), many of the waterways were covered in order to give life to the road network that distinguishes the city. Discovering the origin of the beautiful Venice of the North, it's time to pack up and plan our trip to Amsterdam: so, let's go and find out what there is to do and see in the city.
What to do in Amsterdam: the canal tour
Once in Amsterdam, the first thing to do is - simply - to walk around the city: to admire the bridges and canals and look with amazement at the tall and narrow facades of the buildings is a real mystical experience. Let's go to Grachtengordel, a district in the center of the city characterized by a set of concentric canals that embrace the oldest core of Amsterdam. Here you can admire the facades of the old houses, which are tall and narrow and often tilted. The reason is quite simple: in ancient times, there was a system of taxation in place that imposed higher taxes on those who owned wider homes. This is essentially the reason why the inhabitants of Amsterdam built narrow but tall houses. The most extreme example in this sense is located at number 7 of Singel: it is two meters wide!
When you've grown tired of walking, you can continue your exploration of the canals directly by boat: in an hour you can admire many beautiful towns, cruising alongside to some of the most characteristic places, such as the Magere Brug (historical bridge of the city), a beautiful ship of the eighteenth century called VOC and the flower market. The price of the boat tour is about 16 euros.
A tour (on foot or by motorboat) of the canals is truly essential, especially if you consider that in 2010, the entire area was included by UNESCO among the World Heritage Sites.
Amsterdam: places of interest to visit
Among the places of interest to see in Amsterdam we cannot fail to mention Dam Square, the city’s beating heart and the original center of the small fishing village from which the Dutch capital originated. The square is overlooked by the Royal Palace, the Nationaal Monument, a 22-meter-high obelisk, and the Nieuwe Kerk, the new church. From here you can start your exploration on foot or by bicycle. From Dam square, in fact, other districts are easily accessible, including the Begijnhof and the Red-Light District, to name a few.
The Begijnhof, located in the western part of the center of Amsterdam, is one of the places to visit if you want to leave behind the chaos of Dam Square. After passing through a door overlooking Piazza Spui, you will find yourself immersed in a small oasis of peace. This place, where the Beguine nuns once lived, is now home to students and elderly people. Open all day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors to Begijnhof can walk
along the paths and visit the chapel, as well as admire Houten Hyus, a wooden house dating from 1528, and one of only two houses of this kind that are still intact in Amsterdam.
Now let's talk about the notorious red-light district, a place that - in all honesty - is not suitable for everyone. If you are curious to see it, be prepared to enter what is considered a district of vice in all respects. Narrow medieval streets are overlooked by small windows lit in red where the prostitutes wait for their customers. A trade as old as the world and that spread in the city since 1300, when Amsterdam was one of the main ports for international trade. One of the recommendations for those who venture into the red-light district is not to take pictures, as it is prohibited by law.
Museums of Amsterdam
As already mentioned at the beginning of this article, one of the great attractions of Amsterdam is undoubtedly its vast cultural offer. There are many museums throughout the city that every year attract visitors from all over the world. Let's start with a visit to Museumplein, the park square on which many of the city's most famous museums are found: the famous Rijksmuseumn (National Museum), also known as the "Amsterdam Picture Gallery", where you can admire "Rembrandt's Night Watch"; the splendid and highly visited Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, a museum of modern and contemporary Dutch art.
Science lovers will have to visit the Nemo in Amsterdam, i.e. the science museum. Its name, in fact, is New Metropolis: here, in a ship-shaped building, lies the largest scientific center in the Netherlands. It is without doubt perfect for all those who visit the city with children.
Speaking of Amsterdam and museums, we cannot help but mention the House Museum of Anne Frank, which, as everyone knows, is the place where the young girl wrote her famous diary during the Second World War. Here you can take a look at the original diary, reflecting on one of the darkest pages in contemporary history.
For film lovers, however, we recommend a visit to the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam, one of the most visited museums in the city. Located in a futuristic building, everything inside is dedicated to cinema and film art. In addition to a
permanent free exhibition, it is also possible to visit the temporary exhibitions on display from time to time inside.
Amsterdam Flower Market
You can't talk about Amsterdam without mentioning its symbol for excellence: the tulips, to which the inhabitants of the city have even dedicated an entire museum, the Tulip Museum. But this is not where we want to take you: because we will end our trip to Amsterdam at the Bloemenmarkt, the floating flower market in the city, unlike any other in the world. Located on the Singel canal, right in the city center, Amsterdam's flower market is structured around a series of colorful and fragrant stalls. Open Monday to Saturday, it is perfect for admiring the colors of the many flowers sold and for buying tulip bulbs to take home. If you are lucky enough to visit Amsterdam in the spring and love flowers, take a trip outside the city, because just 20 minutes from the city you can see huge fields of flowers: a real living picture.
Tips for visiting Amsterdam: I Amsterdam City Card
If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, you can consider signing up for the I Amsterdam City Card, a tourist pass with which you can have unlimited access to the public transportation system of the GVB company and get discounts and free admission to museums and places of interest in the city. You can book the pass online and the prices vary depending on the days on which you want to use it.
To plan a trip to Amsterdam and visit the city, you must have a valid passport or identity card for expatriation with you. The Netherlands is a member of the European Union and adheres to the Schengen Agreement.
Amsterdam is a beautiful city and can be visited all year round. However, winter is particularly harsh and rainy. If you want to enjoy the favor of the climate, choose to travel in spring or in the first part of autumn.
In general, the best time to visit Amsterdam is between April and June: in fact, these are months in which you can enjoy mild and pleasant temperatures and take full advantage of outdoor activities. On April 27th, then, the city is tinged with orange: the "King Fest" is celebrated, a celebration much loved by the Dutch.
On the other hand, if you decide for a summer trip, you can also enjoy favorable temperatures, risking to run into some particularly humid and rainy days.