Architecture, Historical Sites and Churches One of the first things you will want to do in Amsterdam is simply take in its ambiance and architecture. It has over 7,000 historic buildings, and let’s be honest, most cities you do visit are lucky to have a dozen. The streets of Amsterdam have been mostly untouched since the 1800s as World War II was kind to the city. There are actually a number of islands within the city and they are linked together by bridges. Seeing the city’s lit bridges at night is one common pastime. Old Centre is the medieval section, though Middle Age-century buildings do not commonly survive, as they were typically made of wood. Therefore, two wooden houses from Middle Ages, in Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1, are doubly interesting. The Begijnhof courtyard and house of beguines, a religious community, are also worth a look and entry to the courtyard and gardens is free. The Canal Ring consists of a ring of canals originally built the canals, along with mansions, in the area, as well as traditional drawbridges. MagereBrug, a bridge, is over three centuries old and overlooks the river Amstel. Jordaan was built in the 17th century, while some warehouses like the Admirality Arsenal, dates back just as far. De Gooyer is a windmill just a short distance from the city centre and is now used as a brewery. Molen van Sloten is still a windmill and is open to the public. A number of churches are located in Amsterdam, and this should surprise no one, since the Netherlands have long led the global scene in tolerance of multiple religions and cultures. Therefore, there are many synagogues and Protestant and Catholic churches. Some of the most impressive buildings include Oude Kerk, built in 1306, NieuweKerk built in the 1400s, Zuiderkerk, built in the 1600s, Noorderkerkand Westerwerk, built in the early 1600s. Most churches are free to tour, and some even let visitors climb their towers at certain times. SintOlofskapel and Agnietenkapel are popular chapels to visit in the medieval section of the city. Amstelkring is a “hidden church”, as it was a Catholic Church in a mostly Protestant nation; it is also a museum.
Speaking of museums, Amsterdam has a great diversity of art, from the truly classic to even museums of vice, such as odes to alcohol, cannabis and pornography. Summer is especially crowded for museum touring. The top museums in terms of highest quality include the Rijksmuseum, with Dutch-Golden era original paintings, featuring Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and others, as well as Asian artwork. The Van Gogh museum features the work of the master, while the Anne Frank House is a tribute to writer Anne Frank. It might be advantageous to purchase a museum card for €54.95, as this covers entry into over 400 museums in and outside of the city and throughout the Netherlands. You can buy it at a number of museums in person and the pass is valid for one year. Still the Schuttersgallerij, or Civic Guards Gallery, is most impressive; this hidden passageway is has very large paintings free to view. The paintings are from the 1600s, and depict wealthy citizens from a forgotten age.
Beyond the traditional styles of the historic centre and the museums, there is plenty to look at in the way of modern architecture. Distinctly late nineteen and twentieth century buildings can be seen outside Singelgracht, a former moat. Later designed buildings are observable around Bijlmer, as well as the Amsterdam School, and the Eastern Docklands. Perhaps the greatest attraction is the EYE Film Institute, which is a designer futuristic building hosting a theatre, shopping center, museum and restaurant. It also provides great views of the IJ River.
The parks of Amsterdam offer tremendous scenery and a laid back atmosphere, consisting of, among other things, sips of red wine. In fact, you will find the Vondelparkin South Amsterdam to be quite refreshing for its free spirit and large park size, not to mention the flora and greenery. It also has an open air theatre that plays shows on the weekends. Artis Zoo and the HortusBotanicus are nearby for your viewing pleasure. The Bloemenmarket has great flora, but diamond viewing may be just as interesting, courtesy of Gassan Diamonds and Coster Diamonds, who offer tours.
How about beaches in Amsterdam? While the capital city is not a beach, there are manmade beaches in the city—three in all, and they are found in West, East and South Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is all about its canals and rivers, and a ferry ride over the River IJ isone is a must-see attraction—all the more so when you consider it’s free. Canal Cruises are approximately one and a half hours and run from various points in the city, including Central Station, Damrak and Leidseplein. There is also a canal bus that stops near some of the museums, a Lover’s Cruise, a private boat tour with dinner, and jewel cruises. There are also canal bikes, which travel via boat pedals, or you can rent your own boat at Boaty Rental Boats for free travel. These boats are easy to control and electrically powered, meaning they are silently operating and free of any exhaust fumes that might otherwise make compromise a romantic cruise. Lastly, you can rent a gondola, or a small Venetian handcrafted boat.
There are over 55 theatres in the city as well as a number of concert halls, many of which serve free lunch along with certain concerts throughout the month. These include the Royal Concertgebouw, which has a full orchestra (with free lunch concerts on Wednesday), Het Muziektheatre (free lunch concerts on Tuesday), Ignatiushuis (Tuesdays) and the NEMO Panorama Terrace. Meanwhile Bostheater Open Air Theatres has free karaoke parties.
Festivals are practically all-year-round in the capital city, and large crowds can be expected with the more popular events. In January, the city introduces a Realism Art Fair, held in the hall of the Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, as well as Amsterdam International Fashion Week. In February, it’s the Chinese New Year celebration, and in March Pink Film Days celebrates LGBTQ films. April is King’s Day, a national holiday featuring orange costumes, flea markets, music and street parties with drinks. This is easily the most crowded day of the year and cell phone usage may be limited because of the abundance of traffic. May features Taste of Amsterdam, a culinary festival, and Art Amsterdam is a modern art fair held at the RAI Conference Centre. A Tulip Festival comes the same month and then summer hits with popular arts and music festivals like Holland Amsterdam and Amsterdam Roots. The Open Garden Days provides an entrance to see a variety of gardens via canal boat.
July introduces Julidans, a modern dance festival, and RobecoSummerNights. August introduces De Parade, with magic, art, animation and dance, Gay Pride, and Prinsengracht concert in the canal of the same name. September hosts the Jordaan Festival of art, entertainment and shopping, while the Robodock arts festival has contemporary exhibits and avant-garde performances. Also in September is National Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants offer three-course meals for a reduced price. October sees features ADE, an electronic dance festival and Amsterdam Marathon, with thousands of locals and visitors running through the city. The year concludes with Museum Night in November, The International Documentary Film Festival, showing 200 amateur films, and December with the Light Festival and a great Christmas Canal Parade.
The city certainly has a reputation, and mostly for its Red Light District, since there is plenty to do in the city for families with children. There are a number of petting zoos like the Amstelpark Petting Zoo, KinderboerderijDarwinpark, and the DierenweideOsdorp Petting Zoo. Meanwhile Chimpie Champ is an outdoor playground exclusively for children. The only really questionable entertainment in the city is the RLD; you plan on avoiding that path then the city should provide you an excellent family vacation.