Amsterdam has a big name, in reality it is a small city. Seeing a great deal in a few hours of the historical city is certainly possible. We have created a must see in Amsterdam when having a layover, stopover or transfer on Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the Passenger Terminal or just having a few hours in Amsterdam. Must see in Amsterdam:
1. Bikes bikes bikes bikes
Get out of the airport, take the train to Central Station and look for yourself: there are bikes everywhere. The Dutch are number one cyclist in the world. Amsterdam has a population of 850.000 while the official estimation of the municipality about the number of bikes in the city is: 1.000.000, meaning the average person has more than one bike. Crazy!
Holland is a liberal country. Gay marriage, euthanasia, prostitution, abortion and soft drugs are legalised/tolerated. Once you get to Amsterdam make sure to visit one of the 190 coffeeshops. The Warmoesstraat, close to Central Station is the street with most coffeeshops. Did you know that almost 1 in 3 coffeeshops in the country are located in Amsterdam and that around 1 in 19 people are living in the capital? More coffeeshops than McDonald’s!
3. Red Light District
Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands. Window prostitution is distinct in the city of Amsterdam. The area, in Dutch called ‘De Wallen’ because of its narrow canals used to be an area in which many sailors would set off. Being a main harbour city, Amsterdam has a long tradition of prostitution. Local authorities treat prostitutes as independent entrepreneurs. The prostitutes have to submit for income tax and pay 6% VAT. Being a sex worker is an official job!
4. Dam Square
This is the heart of Amsterdam and probably whole Holland. It is the square where people gather after an event. It’s the square with the Royal Palace, which is used for special events by the King. It’s the beginning of the most famous shopping street: Kalverstraat. On the 4th of May, Dam Square is the place where people gather to remember the fallen soldiers of the Second World War and this is the place where the Dutch keep two minutes of silence to remember them.
5. Canal belt
Amsterdam is built on water. Canals were used for water management, trade waterways and to defend the city. In the 17th century Amsterdam was a crucial centre for international commercial trade and intellectual exchange, for the formation and the dissemination of humanist thought; it was the capital of the world-economy in its day. In this so called ‘Golden Age’ the famous Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht were dug which are nowadays UNESCO Heritage. Check out the video of the City Archive Museum about the expansion of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century.
6. Anne Frank House
During the Nazi German invasion during World War II, Anne Frank hid from persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the 17th-century canal house on Prinsengracht 263, known now as the Secret Annex. Anne Frank did not survive the war, but in 1947 her wartime diary was published. The diary is the story of many Jewish families during World War II.
Amsterdam had numerous monasteries which usually had small inner courtyards. Many of them have been turned into residential places. The Begijnhof was originally built as a sanctuary for the Begijnen, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. The courtyard is in the middle of the busiest streets of Amsterdam, still you can still find peace on the courtyard. The beautiful authentic houses at the place overlook its well-kept green garden and Amsterdam’s oldest surviving house ‘The Wooden House’ dating from 1420 is on the Begijnhof.
8. Jordan District
UNESCO Heritage since 2010 this neighbourhood was built in the ‘Golden Age’ in the 17th and 18th century. The Jordan District is known for its beautiful houses, many restaurants and speciality shops. It is a must to stroll through the little streets and see the narrow canals. On the many bridges over the canals, you can take beautiful pictures and see why Amsterdam is called the Venice of the North.
9. Brown café
Amsterdam has a great variety of nightlife, including pubs, bars, clubs and cafés. To lots of locals the best place to go to are the brown café. The brown café, is renowned for its dark wood and smoke-stained walls. The atmosphere is ‘gezellig’ and people feel like it’s their second home. The brown café is part of Dutch culture. Most brown cafes serve beer, wine, jenever and soda’s.
10. Museumsquare and IAmsterdam Sign
Van Gogh Museum, Rijks Museum, Stedelijk Museum and the Concert Hall are all to be found on Museum Square. The IAmsterdam Sign can be found in front of the Rijksmuseum, which gives nice pictures. The square is also used for big events like festivals, celebrations or demonstrations.