Things to Do in Amsterdam
The one-time abode of French philosopher René Descartes, Maison Descartes has become a popular attraction for French tourists, housing the French consulate and the French institute, who organize a number of cultural events in the city.
Descartes lived in the house at 6 Westermarkt, in the same block as the famous Anne Frank House, in 1635 and it remains dedicated to his memory. It was here that he wrote his final published work ‘Treatise on the Passions of the Soul’ - one of his most poignant works, allegedly inspired by his affair with maid Helena Jans Van der Strom, with whom he had a daughter, Francine.
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.
Run by the University of Amsterdam and housed in a grandiose former bank on the southern fringes of the Red Light District, the Allard Pierson is the city’s leading archaeological museum. Unaccountably often overlooked, it is named after the first classical archaeology professor at the university and turns the spotlight on ancient Mediterranean civilizations. The collection of antiquities spans the centuries 4,000 BC to 500 AD, from the time of the pharaohs through the ancient Greek and Roman empires until early Christianity. Including Persian, Etruscan and Cypriot pottery, jewelry and glassware, the museum may not be vast but it is certainly world class; the star exhibit are the extensive Egyptian collection, including mummies, statuary, and everyday household objects unearthed from tombs. A roster of temporary exhibitions provides further insights into civilization around the shores of the Mediterranean during ancient times.
The House of Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience is on Museumplein and has won awards for its innovative, contemporary design. At just a stone’s throw from the three great art museums of Van Gogh, Stedelijk and Rijksmuseum, it is an homage to two of Amsterdam’s oldest alcoholic drinks: Bols was the world’s first distilled spirit, produced in Amsterdam in 1575 by Lucas Bols, while genever is the Dutch equivalent of today’s gin and was drunk instead of water in the 17th century, as it was believed to hold medicinal properties.
A fun-filled, self-guided romp around the exhibition takes about an hour and includes taste, touch and smell sessions in the Hall of Taste as well as the chance to learn about the process of distilling Bols and to experience life as a liqueur in the interactive World of Cocktails. All tours end in the sleek and futuristic Mirror Bar, where the staff can whip up pretty much any cocktail under the sun.
Dappermarkt, or Dapper Market in English, is regarded as one of the best markets in Amsterdam. In 2007, National Geographic Traveler declared this to be one of the top 10 shopping streets in the world. It is in eastern Amsterdam in an area where many people from other parts of the world now live, giving it an exotic feel. There are 250 stands with approximately 160 merchants, and goods can be purchased at low prices. Items on offer in this lively market mostly include fruits, vegetables, and other food products, but also some basic, inexpensive non-food products.
Visitors can stop for international cuisine in the market. Cafes and other shops line Dapperstraat, the street the market is located on. You'll find a Turkish bakery, an Islamic butcher, a Suriname food store, African cosmetics, and other stores selling clothing and shoes. Throughout the year, the market hosts special events.
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.
Whether you’re looking to catch the latest blockbuster or attend a celebrity-studded film premiere, the coolest place to watch a movie in Amsterdam is at the sumptuous Tuschinski movie theater, located on the city’s most famous square, Rembrandtplein.Whether you’re looking to catch the latest blockbuster or attend a celebrity-studded film premiere, the coolest place to watch a movie in Amsterdam is at the sumptuous Tuschinski movie theater, located on the city’s most famous square, Rembrandtplein.
The modern cinema has made a name for itself among the new generation of cinema-goers, for its plush, comfortable seating and beautifully restored interiors. Intricate stained glass windows, marble pillars, chiseled bronze works and hand-embroidered carpets shipped in from Morocco, all lend an air of tasteful opulence and a stunning collection of artwork and elaborate murals adorn the walls.
More Things to Do in Amsterdam
The Theater Amsterdam is new to the city, located in Westelijke Houthavens; a gloriously contemporary glass building overlooking the waterfront, it was designed with encompass several bars and restaurants and has excellent green credentials. It has hit the headlines with a new play based on the diaries of one of Amsterdam’s most famous daughters.
Showcasing the two years Anne Frank and her Jewish family spent incarcerated in the secret annex behind their house on Prinsengracht in World War II, the play ANNE has taken Amsterdam by storm. Based on her adolescent dreams and innermost thoughts, as revealed in the world-famous Diary of Anne Frank, the drama follows Anne’s daily trials from going into hiding as a child in 1942 and ends abruptly with her betrayal and subsequent banishment by the Nazis to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus just months before World War II ended in 1945.
Ever wondered what life was like in 17th and 18th century Netherlands? The Zaanse Schans, 15km north of Amsterdam, is the kind of museum that shows rather than tells and it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in all things traditionally Dutch. The conserved area is still inhabited, but set up like an open-air museum where visitors can wander the village, explore the preserved buildings and watch local craftsmen at work.
Green wooden houses, a historic shipyard, traditional grocery store and a pewter factory are among the village’s visitor attractions but the Zaanse Schans is most famous for its windmills, once used for everything from paint-making to paper production. 250 years ago around 600 windmills stood in the area but today, 5, including a sawmill and an oil mill, are open to visitors, who can explore the working mills and marvel at the landscape of colorful wind sails.
Covering some 79 acres (32 hectares), the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens is the world’s largest flower garden. Come springtime, the meandering, wooded gardens are visited by some 800,000 flower-lovers, who come to soak up the blaze of color that envelops the park, its greenhouses, brooks and shady ponds and winding paths. It’s truly a memorable sight.
At Keukenhof Tulip Gardens, nature’s talents are combined with artificial precision to create a wonder of landscaping, where millions of tulips, along with narcissi and daffodils, hyacinths, bluebells, and many others blossom perfectly in place and exactly on time. And if the temperatures have been wilting, don’t worry: fresh blooms are planted by helping hands for the duration of the season. Special exhibits are held in the pavilions around the site, and there are cafes and refreshment stands throughout.
Few places are as unashamedly picturesque as the village of Marken and its location - a peninsular stretching onto the IJsselmeer Lake – is often found plastered on souvenir postcards.
The quintessentially Dutch village has become a key tourist destination, with tour groups flocking to catch a glimpse of the unique island culture. Here, the vistas are undeniably quaint: painted wooden houses line the waterfront; colorful fishing boats jostle for space around the dock and the glistening lake waters reflect every detail. Even the village’s 2000 inhabitants seem caught in time, dressing themselves in traditional costumes and preserving their time-honored customs.
Marken’s wooden houses, many of them now listed as National Heritage Sites, remain the village’s key attraction, but there are enough sights to make a pleasant day trip from Amsterdam, just 45 minutes away by road or boat.
With its distinctive wheel-like shape and fire-engine red rind, Edam is one of Amsterdam’s most famous exports, although the cheese looks a little different in its home town - here, the cheese has an uncharacteristic yellow rind. Edam isn’t just a cheese, though; it’s also the name of the town where it’s made, a waterside residence settled back in the 12th century. 18km north of Amsterdam, the town lies on the banks of the IJsselmeer (IJssel lake) and is reachable by boat, as well as being a popular destination for cheese-loving tour groups.
In the heart of town is the famous cheese market and cheese-weighing hall, an ancient tradition that was reopened in 1989 thanks to tourist demand. The market runs weekly through the summer months, with locals getting into the spirit with traditional costumes, live folk music and, of course, stalls stacked high with cheese. For the full experience, pay a visit to the region’s cheese and dairy farms.
The world-renowned Hard Rock Cafe opened an Amsterdam location in 1999. It has since been providing visitors with a complete sensorial experience through traditional American fare, inventive drinks, and loud (you’ve guessed it) rock music. Each Hard Rock Café around the world is unique and customized to its location; the Amsterdam branch has a definitive relaxed feel that blends in perfectly with the casual fun that has become so typical of the Hard Rock brand throughout the years.
There’s also a small museum on site with two particularly crowd-pleasing features; the former is the memorabilia, which, in this instance, holds authentic items like Run D.M.C.’s iconic hat, John Lennon’s cigarette box, Van Halen's trademark Kramer guitar, a small acoustic guitar that was used by Jimi Hendrix, and Gene Simmons’ Punisher bass, to name a few.
Amsterdam’s museum quarter – or Museumplein – is home to the three most important and revered museums in Amsterdam – the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, and the Van Gogh Museum. The surrounding area also features some exclusive shopping, the largest city park in Amsterdam (the Vondelpark), along with a whole host of other attractions.
The Museumplein is a place that attracts Amsterdam’s visitors and locals in equal measure – where international art-lovers mingle with local children playing football on the grass. In 1999 the main square was transformed from a simple 19th-century paved square into a large field with a pond at its centerpiece.
Located to the south of the Museumplein, Amsterdam’s world-famous Concert Hall can accommodate up to 2000 people and is international recognized for its outstanding acoustics. Between the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum sits Coster Diamonds.
The Hague’s Binnenhof (or Inner Court) complex is not only an important political hub – housing the official offices and meeting rooms of the Dutch Parliament and Prime Minister – but one of the city’s most striking landmarks. Built back in the 13th century as a hunting lodge for the counts of Holland, Binnenhof centers around the Hofvijver or 'Court Pond' and includes the Het Torentje, ‘the Little Tower' where the Prime Minister’s office is located and the resplendent Ridderzaal, the ‘Hall of the Knights’ where the Queen holds her annual speech on Prinsjesdag. The Ridderzaal, with its dramatic twin towers, richly decorated interiors and intricate leaded glass windows, was the last building to be added in 1280, and stands proud at the heart of the cobblestone courtyard.
Several of the Binnenhof’s monumental buildings are open to the public as part of an official guided tour, including the Ridderzaal, where a permanent Parliament exhibit is housed.
Madurodam, since it was developed about 60 years, ago is one of Holland’s most popular travel destinations. Famously a mini-city on a 1:25 scale, this thoughtful and amusing destination highlights all the qualities of the Dutch culture, including the perfectly ornamented bridges, canals, windmills, and major landmarks from all around Holland.
If you were ever thinking how one might be able to see an entire country in one day, this is it. The kids will have just as much fun as you are, as you discover the Madurodamers watching a football match in the stands, relaxing, working and just going about their lives, as you discover Madurodam’s fully functionally harbor, trains and airport. The model city even has carefully manicured gardens made with real flowers and plants, imagine, fig trees with real fig, 1/25 of the size!
In 1932, the North Sea coastline of The Netherlands was sealed off by a 30-km (19-mile) dike, connecting the province of Noord-Holland with Friesland. The Afsluitdijk stands 100 meters (328 feet) wide and sits seven meters (23 feet) above sea level, and this outstanding feat of hydraulic engineering closed the mouth of the saltwater Zuiderzee (Southern Sea), shortening the coastline and giving Amsterdam and other low-lying towns protection from repeated flooding by the sea.
In time the Zuiderzee became the freshwater Ijsselmeer – one of the largest lakes in Western Europe – and while large areas of land were reclaimed for farming and housing, many residents of the outlying fishing villages lost their livelihoods.
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