Amsterdam has been one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations for many years. Visitors from all over the world gravitate towards its informal character, stunning monuments and museums, nightlife and coffee shops. Amsterdam city centre is in effect a huge open air museum full of charming little streets and neighbourhoods, stately canal houses, squares, warehouses, bridges as well as typically Dutch 'brown pubs' and pavement cafés. Amsterdam's famous ring of canals will be 400 years old in 2013.
Amsterdam offers everything you may expect from a global city. The capital city of the Netherlands boasts countless historic attractions and museums while you can shop, dine and go out in modern day Amsterdam. Its compact city centre allows you to easily explore Amsterdam on foot or by public transport.
A round trip through Amsterdam's canals is also a great way to explore the city. You can admire the splendid architecture at your leisure whilst sailing on the water. And a canal cruise is also highly recommended in the evenings when the bridges across the canals are beautifully lit. Most canal cruises depart close to the Central Station. An alternative way to discover Amsterdam is by hiring a bike, and there are plenty of places in the city where this is possible.
The Dam is the largest crowd-puller in the centre of Amsterdam. Around the Dam lie the National Museum, the Royal Palace and the Nieuwe Kerk, which regularly features interesting exhibitions. You can also go shopping in the area: in Kalverstraat or in the indoor shopping centre, Magna Plaza. It's also lovely to take a stroll along the canals, past the floating flower market on the Singel, the boutiques in the '9 straatjes' and through the large city park of the Vondelpark. Here you'll find the Museumplein within easy reach, where the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Rijksmuseum are located. While Rembrantplein and Leidseplein are definitely the places to be for a great night out.
From old masters to modern art, you'll find it all on Museumplein. Amsterdam's three most famous museums have been completely renovated in recent years. The Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam's largest crowd-pullers and in no less than 80 rooms visitors can admire over 800 years of Dutch culture spanning from the Middle Ages to the present day. The Van Gogh Museum is also a main reason for many people to visit Amsterdam. The museum's collection houses over 200 paintings by Van Gogh as well as works by Vincent's contemporaries, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat. The third large museum on Museumplein is the Stedelijk Museum of modern art with a collection that includes artworks by Karel Appel, Marc Chagall, Mondrian, Willem de Kooning and Andy Warhol.
Hermitage Amsterdam on the river Amstel, a branch of the world-famous museum in Sint Petersburg housing Russian art treasures, also attracts an impressive number of visitors each year, as does Rembrandthuis and the Anne Frank House situated on the edge of the characteristic neighbourhood, the Jordaan. In total there are over 50 museums in Amsterdam that you can visit. Madame Tussauds, the Scheepvaartmuseum (Maritime Museum) and NEMO are great fun if you're visiting Amsterdam with the kids, and tourists also enjoy seeing the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. There are museums entirely devoted to bags, cats and stringed instruments as well as museums for architecture, fashion, photography and diamonds. If you'd like to know what the interior of one of Amsterdam's canal houses looks like you can visit Museum van Loon, Museum Willet-Holthuysen, Huis Marseille or Museum Geelvinck. And there are also hundreds of galleries and exhibition spaces where you can frequently see much talked about exhibitions. The best known exhibition spaces are those of Nieuwe Kerk and Beurs van Berlage.
Amsterdam offers dozens of attractions, tourist sights, world class museums and over 7,000 listed buildings, several of which offer free admission. Something that every visitor should do is take a walk through Amsterdam's charming city centre. Stroll past the Dam where the Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and the National Monument are located and through the Jordaan, perhaps one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. Close to which you'll also find the Westerkerk church and the Anne Frank House. Continue your stroll past splendid canalside houses on Prinsengracht or another of Amsterdam's canals and you'll see centuries-old warehouses, stately town houses and churches. The oldest church, simply called 'Oude Kerk' (Old Church), was built around 1300 and lies in Amsterdam's red light district.
Hung in Schuttersgalerij, a little street just behind Kalverstraat, are a number of portaits of Amsterdam's 17th century Civic Guard. A little further along are the Béguinage and the Béguinage Chapel. This beautiful old courtyard harbours a wooden house dating back to 1530; Amsterdam's second oldest building. Along the Singel, close to the Munttoren is the floating flower market, where boats sell bulbs and other souvenirs. And if you want to sample the authentic atmosphere of Amsterdam you can head to the relaxed hustle and bustle of the Albert Cuyp market; open Monday through Saturday.
Amsterdam was the Netherlands' largest trading city during the 15th century, which was partly due to its traditional Dutch products of beer and herring. In the following centuries the city developed into one of Europe's most important distribution centres and several shipyards established themselves in Amsterdam. The formation of the Dutch East India Company ensured a massive growth in trade with southeast Asia that reached its peak in the seventeenth century; also known as the Dutch Golden Age. Splendid town houses and warehouses were erected in the city centre and painters such as Rembrandt were creating renowned masterpieces.
Amsterdam has a vibrant nightlife and you'll find many pubs, bars and nightclubs in the city centre, particularly around Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. Areas such as the Jordaan and the Pijp also feature popular pubs and bars and you'll find plenty of good restaurants here as well. Beer lovers should certainly visit the Heineken Experience, and music and theatre lovers can enjoy a performance at the Stadsschouwburg, Carré or the Concertgebouw. Larger pop concerts are held at the Amsterdam Arena or the Heineken Music Hall, and you can see smaller gigs at De Melkweg or Paradiso.
Kalverstraat is Amsterdam's main shopping street, and you'll find all the well-known high street brands here. Kalvertoren shopping centre is also popular, as is the striking Magna Plaza, situated just behind the Dam. Waterlooplein and the Albert Cuyp market are Amsterdam's most prominent markets and antique hunters can indulge themselves in the 'Spiegelkwartier'. You'll also find unique shops in the '9 straatjes', and exclusive high-end fashion brands in P.C. Hooftstraat.
Out of all of the Netherlands' cities, Amsterdam has the largest number of hotels. There is something for everyone. Large, small, luxurious, basic, or a bed and breakfast. Amsterdam has the hotel you're looking for. Several hotels are even established in listed buildings, for instance NH Doelen Hotel and NH Schiller.