Things to Do in Amsterdam - page 3
Amsterdam’s De Negen Straatjes, or ‘Nine Little Streets’, are the nine shopping streets linking the main Prinsengracht and Singel canals. The pedestrian quarter not only makes the perfect destination for window-shopping, but draw your eye above the shop fronts and you’ll find plenty of impressive architecture to marvel over. Many of the buildings here date back to the 17th-century and the area has been the go-to shopping area for locals for almost 400 years.
Ardent shoppers will find plenty to get excited about, with the area’s shops as varied and vibrant as the city itself. The cobbled streets abound with homegrown designer boutiques, vintage clothing shops and independent art galleries, with shop windows showcasing creative displays of artisan furnishings, alternative clothing designs and handcrafted accessories. The unique, quirky and bizarre reign in the small themed shops, with plenty of unusual finds and distinctive keepsakes on offer.
With its ring of canals extending over 62 miles (100 km) and featuring an incredible 1,500 bridges, it's no surprise that Amsterdam’s canal ring has earned itself the nickname ‘the Venice of the North’. The 17th-century canals, including the most famous waterways of Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, achieved UNESCO World Heritage status back in 2010, and remain key landmarks for visiting tourists.
The Prisengracht, or Prince’s Canal, is the longest of Amsterdam’s four main canals, measuring around two miles, and one of the liveliest in the city. Here, colorful houseboats float by the riverbanks and the surrounding streets are crammed with cafés, shopping boutiques and landmark buildings.
Located in a terrace of sprawling 17th-century mansions along Herengracht in Amsterdam’s UNESCO-listed Canal Ring, the Willet-Holthuysen Museum forms the elegant backdrop to a wonderful collection of fine paintings, antique furnishings and decorative pieces. Owned in the 19th century by the wealthy Willet family of avid art collectors, the house and its contents were later donated to the city. Today it forms the best example of 19th-century style and decoration in the city.
The carefully restored interior, decorated in rich blues, gold and greens, is typical of the indulgent lifestyle of Amsterdam’s prosperous merchant classes. Above stairs there’s a ballroom, library, dining room, salons and a bedroom complete with an ornately carved four-poster bed; they are all kitted out with silverware, silk wallpaper, gold-embellished Meissen porcelain, hand-embroidered curtains and beautifully crafted furniture.
The Museum Van Loon is located in a fine mansion overlooking the Keizersgracht canal; it was designed by Adriaen Dortsman in 1672 and the house’s first tenant was Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt. Between 1884 and 1945 it was home to the Van Loon family, who founded the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and were one of the wealthiest families in Amsterdam. Today this is one of the few 17th-century canal-side townhouses in Amsterdam to have retained its original integrity and the elegant double-fronted mansion still stands with its vast proportions intact. It certainly reflected the Van Loon family’s elevated social standing by its sheer size, with grand apartments stuffed with Louis XV furniture, fine porcelain and precious silverware leading on to a procession of yet more ornate rooms.
Since opening its doors back in 1864, the Tropenmuseum, or ‘Museum of the Tropics’, has amassed 175,000 objects from Dutch colonies around the world, making it one of the largest museums in Amsterdam.
Split into eight sizable permanent exhibitions, the items showcase the daily life and possessions of Dutch overseas residents and provide a fascinating glimpse into the diverse cultures and traditions of inhabitants around the globe. Each exhibit focuses on a different geographical region, with Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, all getting a nod. Other key attractions include a vast collection of over 150,000 photographs dating from 1855–1940; a theatrical exhibition featuring masks, puppets and musical instruments from around the world; and a Junior sub-museum, with a series of interactive exhibitions and events, including dance, art and cooking, aimed at children.
Michel de Klerk was the leading architect of the early 20th-century Amsterdam School movement, and his legacy is the foremost example of the style in the city. Greatly influenced by the works of Hendrik Berlage, the designer of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (Beurs van Berlage), De Klerk’s Het Schip is found just north of the Westerpark and was completed in 1921. It was to be his swansong, a vast apartment building intended to provide social housing for more than 100 families of railway employees to combat a severe housing crises in the city. Beautifully formed in the shape of an ocean liner and constructed from red brick, Het Schip is adorned with elaborate masonry, spiky towers, spires, ornate glass and wrought-iron grid-work. When it was completed, the complex also incorporated a school, meeting hall and a post office; the latter is today a museum of Amsterdam School architecture featuring a typical working-class apartment of the 1920s.
As the name might suggest, the Homomonument, located in the center of Amsterdam, pays homage to the struggles of gay men and women fighting for equity and freedom. The memorial, which includes three large pink granite triangles, was opened in 1987 and is the first in the world to honor gays and lesbians who lost their lives at the hands of Nazis. In 2011, another such monument was erected in Barcelona that was modeled after the famous Homomonument.
Travelers looking to explore the history and culture of Amsterdam may want to include a visit to this iconic destination en route to the Anne Frank museum. Travelers say that while it’s easy to miss, the pink triangle monument recognizing some 600,000 who died during the Holocaust.
The miniscule but informative Tulip Museum is just across Prinsengracht canal from the Anne Frank House and has recently has a major revamp. The all-new displays take a colourful and cheery look at Amsterdam’s obsession with tulips in the 17th century, when the bulbs were imported from the Himalayas and sold on the open market in The Netherlands. For years they were more highly prized than gold and prices became so over-inflated that the country nearly went bankrupt when trade in the bulbs collapsed in 1637. This sorry tale of national folly is related in a series of basement exhibitions alongside cleverly designed woodcuts showing the journey of tulips from the Far East into Europe. Today’s multi-million-euro Dutch bulb industry is also showcased against the stunning backdrop of vast photos of tulips in glorious technicolor that adorn the walls. On the ground level of the museum is one of Amsterdam’s classier souvenir stores.
More Things to Do in Amsterdam
Built in the late 17th century, the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam is one of the most significant legacies of Jewish history in the entire city. During the 16th and 17th, century when the Jewish community was facing persecution in Spain and Portugal, many fled to Amsterdam and the concept of building the biggest synagogue in the world began.
Building of the Portuguese Synagogue began in 1671 and was complete in 1675. Restorations have been made over the years but overall it stands today as it did over 300 years ago. Still in use by the Jewish community in Amsterdam, it also attracts swathes of visitors who come to marvel at its ancient architecture and beguiling interior.
The synagogue is located in a complex that also houses a number of other buildings, including the rabbinate, a mortuary, and the Ets Haim (Tree of Life) library, which is home to a valuable collection of Sephardic Jewish manuscripts.
Located opposite Artis Royal Zoo in the Plantage, the award-winning Dutch Resistance Museum has been named as Amsterdam’s best history museum. The displays follow the story of Amsterdam in World War II, from the point of Nazi invasion of The Netherlands in May 1940 until the end of the war in May 1945. The slow build-up of Dutch resistance to their German occupiers is highlighted with the use of clever dioramas and interactive exhibits that manage to convey a sense of claustrophobia and urgency. As well as following the tragic fate of the 140,000 Amsterdam Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps, the museum recounts the story of the 20,000 Dutch political prisoners who were sent to labor camps such as Dachau in Germany; of those 2,000 were executed and several thousand died of disease.
The chronological exhibits include propaganda posters and the underground printing presses used to produce them; newspaper clippings; interviews with resistance members.
The old heart of Amsterdam runs from the throbbing Dam Square – home of the Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) – south down to the great cobbled public square of Nieuwmarkt. Once bordering a canal that was filled in around 1601, Nieuwmarkt is today packed with bars and cafés and is the gateway to both Chinatown and the Red Light District, which lies a couple of streets west between the parallel canals of Oudezijds Voorburgwaal and Oudezijds Achterburgwaal. The central focus of Nieuwmarkt is the city’s last surviving fortified gate; constructed around 1425, the spiky-spired De Waag sits in the middle of the plaza and was originally one of three entrance gates into the city through the fortified walls.
Currently under renovation (penned to finish before summer 2015), the upper stories of De Waag are only occasionally open for special exhibitions but its lower floors are occupied by the Restaurant-Café in de Waag, which serves drink and food all day long
Amsterdam is known for its canals and bridges – the city boats 165 canals and more than 1,200 bridges. One of the most popular bridges is known as the Bridge of 15 Bridges, named as such because it is the only place in Amsterdam where you can see as many as 15 of the city’s bridges. While it is a great spot any time of day, it is particularly impressive at night when the bridges are illuminated. It is also considered one of the most romantic spots in Amsterdam.
To spot all 15 bridges, make your way to Thorbeckeplein, which is adjacent to Rembrandtplein. Walk south to Herengracht and, at the intersection of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht, stand on the odd-numbered side of the street. With your back to Thorbeckeplein, you can see six bridges across the Reguliersgracht and gazing down the Herengracht to your left, you can see another six bridges. Two more bridges are visible to your right and the 15th bridge is the one you are standing on.
Amsterdam is a city crammed with museums and galleries, but for the definitive history of the city itself, head to the Historisch Museum, or the Amsterdam Historical Museum, located just off Kalverstraat shopping street.
From its origins as a tiny, riverside settlement to the modern sprawling metropolis, the museum’s permanent exhibitions trace the city’s evolution. Exhibits feature everything from Dutch trading to bicycle use in the city, with special rooms focusing on WWII, gay rights and the city’s famously liberal drug policies. Interactive displays, a series of paintings by the Dutch Old Masters and a 17th-century style reconstructed café liven things up.
The Historical Museum is housed in a 17th century building, formerly home to the City Orphanage, and its classical facade is still adorned with the Amsterdam Coat of Arms above its entrance. Inside, rooms are circled around a central courtyard and the David & Goliath restaurant.
Amsterdam is known for its wide streets, classic museums, and colorful canals. It is also known for its coffeehouse culture and open-minded approach to cannabis and prostitution. Visitors flock to see the city’s Red Light District, where prostitution is legal and very much out in the open. Red Light Secrets, located in the heart of the area, is the world’s only museum dedicated to prostitution — offering an eye-opening glimpse into the profession and its history in Amsterdam.
Housed in a traditional 17th-century canal house, the small museum aims to educate curious visitors without entering a brothel. Full scale replicas of luxury brothel suites, wardrobe displays, interviews with prostitutes about their daily lives, and even the chance to step into a florescent, red-lit window all seek to grant insight. The building itself was once home to an operating brothel, facilitating an authentic experience.
Dam Square is the main city square in Amsterdam and is one of the most well-known locations in all of the Netherlands. Located in the historical center of the city and just 750 meters south of Amsterdam Centraal Station, Dam Square is home to an array of notable buildings and frequently hosts events of national importance.
The square sits over the original location of the dam in the Amstel River and has been surrounded by land on all sides since the mouth of the river was filled in the 19th century. On the west end of the square you will see the Royal Palace, which was the city hall from 1655 until its conversion to a royal residence in 1808. Next to the palace are the Gothic Nieuwe Kirk (New Church) and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. On the east end of the square is the National Monument, a stone pillar erected in 1956 to memorialize the Dutch victims of World War II.
The Oude Kerk (or Old Church) is the city's oldest surviving building, consecrated in 1306. Yet the location of this triple-nave, late-Gothic church embodies a huge moral contradiction: it's in full view of the Red Light District, with passers-by getting chatted up a stones throw from the church walls.
Still, this Gothic-style church rewards visitors with one of the finest carillons in the country, the city's oldest church bell (1450), and a stunning Christian Müller organ that’s still used for recitals. Check out the lively 15th century carvings on the choir stalls, some of which are downright rude.
The floor of the church consists entirely of gravestones, as the church itself was built on a cemetery. There are 2,500 graves in the Oude Kerk, under which are buried 10,000 Amsterdam citizens, including Rembrandt's first wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh. Rembrandt himself visited the Oude Kerk often, and his children were all christened here.
Renowned as being Europe’s biggest outdoor market, the Albert Cuyp Market, named after the 17th-century painter of the same name, has been trading since the late 19th-century. Starting out as a collection of street traders, the market was taken over by the city council in 1905 and has since become a tourist favorite, offering a fascinating glimpse into local life.
Located on Albert Cuypstraat in the city’s characterful De Pijp district, the market is open every day except Monday and is an easy tram ride from the city center. Here, around 260 market stalls offer just about everything imaginable. Share some jovial banter with the notoriously chatty stallholders as you bargain over books, clothing and electronics, then fill your shopping basket with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, all at very reasonable prices.
Amsterdam’s largest and oldest daily flea market, Waterlooplein market has a vibrant history dating back to 1893 and remains one of the city’s liveliest markets, sprawled between the Leprozengracht and Houtgracht canals. Held from Monday to Saturday in the former Jewish quarter, the market has long been at the center of Amsterdam’s bohemian culture and remains one of the prime gathering spots for the city’s youth.
Browsing the stalls offers a snapshot of the city’s cosmopolitan culture with alternative and vintage clothing, music posters and memorabilia and DVDs all on sale, along with hair braiding artists and tattoo booths. Today, the market encompasses around 300 stalls, selling everything from quirky antiques and second hand goods to cheap and cheerful souvenirs and general bric-a-brac. Even if you’re not buying, shimmying your way through the crowds of locals and tourists provides the perfect opportunity to soak up Amsterdam’s eclectic vibe.
Standing high in the center of Amsterdam’s Dam Square, the National Monument is the Netherlands’ most important World War II memorial. In 1945, shortly after the end of the war, a liberty pole was erected in Dam Square; it evolved into the present-day 72-feet tall monument, which was unveiled on May 4 1956 by Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. Every May 4 since then, the Dutch royal family and local residents participate in National Remembrance Day and pay their respects to fallen soldiers from both WWII and subsequent armed conflicts involving the Netherlands. Dutch architect J.J.P. Oud created the travertine stone monument, while John Rädecker and his sons designed the monument's sculptures. One of the most striking features is the Peace relief, which depicts four chained male figures demonstrating the misery endured during the war.
Designed by architect Adolf Leonard van Gendt, the 19th-century building, located right in front of the Rijksmuseum, was inspired by the famous 18th-century Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig. Fashioned mostly in a Dutch Neo-Renaissance style, the impressive building includes a classic monumental facade and a gilded lyre atop its roof.
To fully experience the Concertgebouw’s spectacular interiors and acoustic prowess, attend one of the 445 annual concerts held in the main hall. Why not take an evening Theatre Tour to learn more about the intricate architecture before experiencing a live performance. Those on a budget can get a taster of events to come by attending the free 30-minute rehearsal slots held at midday, each Wednesday between September and June.
Things to do near Amsterdam
- Things to do in Zaandam
- Things to do in Hoorn
- Things to do in The Hague
- Things to do in Rotterdam
- Things to do in Dordrecht
- Things to do in Leeuwarden
- Things to do in Eindhoven
- Things to do in Antwerp
- Things to do in Ghent
- Things to do in Bruges
- Things to do in Brussels
- Things to do in Düsseldorf
- Things to do in North Holland
- Things to do in South Holland
- Things to do in Flanders