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Why you'll adore Amsterdam
Famous for its canals, cafes, picturesque buildings, museums, and liberal culture, Amsterdam has something for everyone. Rent a bicycle or take a boat trip to really get to know this hip city and its bustling streets andwaterways. There are a range of hotels in Amsterdam to suit most budgets and requirements, ensuring you can relax and make the most of your stay here.
Amsterdam’s 17th century canals run through the heart of the city and have been awarded World Heritage status. Lined by iconic, narrow buildings and home to many sleepy houseboats, a stroll along the maze of canals is a pleasant attraction in itself. When you need to relax, there’s always a café nearby. A combination of pub and cafe, ‘brown cafes’, as they are called, have an intimate, cosy atmosphere and serve a range of traditional drinks and snacks.
More adventurous visitors might be intrigued by the city's famous red light district, in the old town area, with its window displays and sex shops. Despite initial reservations some may have, the area has a strong police presence and is populated by a range of people, from hen parties to tourists, seeking amusement and titillation more than anything else.
Arts and Culture
The city has a number of important museums which attract visitors from all over the world, quickly filling up most of the cheap hotels in Amsterdam during the summer months.
The Rijksmuseum houses the largest collection of classical Dutch art, with nearly one million objects from around the country. Some of the most famous pieces on display are the works ofRembrandt, including his masterpiece, De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch).
Rembrandt fans will also enjoy the Rembrandt House Museum which has been reconstructed to show how it would have looked during the artist’s time living there.
The Van Gogh Museum is home to the largest collection in the world of the famous artist’s work and is the most visited museum in Amsterdam. Here you will find his renowned paintings including the Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters) and Zonnebloemen (Sunflowers).
Just next door is the Stedelijk Museum, containing Amsterdam’s largest display of modern art, including works by Piet Mondriaan, Karel Appel, and Kazimir Malevich.
The Anne Frank House is where the young Jewish girl, Anne Frank, and her family hid from the Nazis during the war and where she also wrote her famous diary of the ordeal. Today, the house is a museum dedicated to her memory with the original diary, photographs and personal possessions on display.
Amsterdam has three main theatres which host a wide variety of entertainment. The Stadsschouwburg is the former home of the National Ballet and Opera and offers a mixture of contemporary and traditional plays, mainly by Dutch writers.
The Royal Theatre Carré was originally designed as a circus theatre in 1887 and now features acclaimed shows like The War Horseand performers such as Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, and Marianne Faithfull.
The DeLaMar Theater is also host to a range of international theatre, musical, and dance performances. The Dutch National Opera & Ballet has been the main opera house in Amsterdam since 1986 and is home to the Dutch National Opera and Dutch National Ballet. Across from the Museum Square is the Concertgebouw, home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world.
Restaurants and cafes
Amsterdam’s food is as rich and diverse as its culture, with sweet, savoury, mild, and spicy dishes to suit any appetite.
Dutch pancakes are a popular meal that every visitor should try, we recommendPannenkoekenhuis Upstairs (so long as you don’t mind the steep staircase up to the restaurant) which serve generous sized helpings of this favourite, the bacon and syrup pancake being particularly delicious.
Stroopwafels (two thin waffels with syrup in the middle) are another Dutch classic which can be bought packaged as a souvenir or eaten fresh.
Two of the best places to try hand-made stroopwafels are a little café called Lanskroon, in the centre of the city, and from the vendor inAlbert Cuypmarkt who makes them from fresh throughout the day.
Indonesia was a former colony of the Netherlands and has contributed significantly to Dutch cuisine, particularly with the rice table (Rijsttafel in Dutch).
This dish consists of small plates of spicy meat, fish, or vegetables that can be shared between groups for more variety.
For food on the go, chips with peanut sauce(another Indonesian fusion) are a very addictive Dutch snack and can be bought at most street stands. Raw herring may not sound appetising to everyone, but, served with onions, is another popular street food snack.
Bars, Clubs and Music
Amsterdam has a thriving and diverse nightlife that attracts many tourists. In addition to the traditional bars serving beer and snacks, there are various nightclubs around the city, such asthe Escape, Club Home, and Panama.
Trance music is very popular in the Netherlands and home to some of the scene’s leading talent, including DJs such as Armin van Buuren andTiesto. Every October, Amsterdam hosts the Amsterdam Dance Event which is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the world.
Jazz is also very popular in Amsterdam, with many live performances in clubs such as Bimhuis, Café Casablanca, and Café Alto.
For rock/pop concerts and shows, there is theHeineken Music Hall, which features shows such as Batman Live, Riverdance, and acts likeZZ Top. The Ziggo Dome is an indoor music arena that also hosts big name acts, such asBeyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Tom Jones.
To get a feel for how the locals shop, head toAlbert Cuypmarkt, Amsterdam’s oldest and busiest market. Here, you can find a wide array of cheap goods and tasty snacks, including stroopwafels, doughnuts, and egg rolls. Tulips can be bought from Bloemenmarkt, by the Singel, and Delftware, the famous blue and white Dutch pottery, can be bought at many specialist shops in the city, such as Jorrit Heinen Royal Gifts and Collectables in the Munt Tower.
Amsterdam Airport has an outstanding shopping area, with many unique and stylish gift ideas on display, from Gouda cheese, to wooden clocks decorated with tulip designs, and merchandise from the world of Miffy (Dutch artist Dick Bruna’s loveable bunny character).
The airport also has a well-stocked reference library and an annexe of the Rijksmuseum, where you can appreciate paintings and artifacts from Dutch history, before checking into your Amsterdam hotel.