But Amsterdam is also a thriving urban centre – a pulsing metropolis in a compact cityscape. You’ll find that sights in the city centre are all within walking distance. You can easily discover other districts with plenty of tram, bus and metro connections to choose from. And don’t forget the fleet of ferries ready to take you across the IJ River.
Which sights shouldn’t you miss? Although Amsterdammers believe that the only thing anyone “should” be doing is “as they please”, there are a few gems that number among the city’s top sights: famous museums include the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and the Hermitage Amsterdam. There’s the equally celebrated 17th century canal district, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
Other highlights include the cosy 17th century Jordaan district, the lively Pijp with its terrace cafés and Albert Cuyp Market, the Plantage district, where nature, culture, history and science go hand in hand, the Eastern Docklands boasting modern architecture and design, and the up-scale museum mecca that is the Oud-Zuid area. Then why not head to Westerpark area and discover Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek or the imaginative architecture of the Amsterdam School (Museum Het Ship).
Amsterdam Noord is both fascinating for its daring architecture along the banks of the IJ and the historic dike houses in the Nieuwendammerdijk neighbourhood. The district of Oud-West also has some surprises in store including historic riding academy Hollandse Manege, the seven buildings of United Europe and a giant bookcase that’s part of a housing estate.
And speaking about must-see sights – don’t miss taking a boat tour through the canals, exploring the city by bike, and enjoying sunny terrace breaks in between. But that’s not all! If you’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt, there’s still plenty more to discover…
Organic market and picnic in the park/Parks
Start the day like an Amsterdammer. Go shopping in the cosy “9 Straatjes” or “9 Streets” area in the canal district and stop for lunch at one of the many cafés and eateries. If it happens to be Saturday, head to the organic market on Noordermarkt square in the Jordaan. Looking for some rest and relaxation? Lay your weary head in the green grass of one of the city’s parks. The best known is Vondelpark, with its multitude of joggers, sun worshippers and performers, people lounging on terraces, playing football or rollerblading.
Westerpark is a more hip and happening alternative, sprawling around the impressive industrial complex of Westergasfabriek, built in 1885. On a hot summer’s day, Oosterpark is full of families with well-stocked picnic baskets, and kids splashing around in the public wading pool till far into the evening.
Canal District: Canal houses and gardens
Amsterdam is most famous throughout the world for its canals. The reflection of the historic facades, bridges and boats in the water creates a unique atmosphere. But the city’s web of waterways also offers plenty of surprises even city residents are often unaware of.
Such as a number of canal houses that are open to visitors, featuring beautiful interiors dating from the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries. Perhaps the gardens hidden behind these houses offer the biggest surprise of all – with only the sound of chirping birds, these gardens offer an oasis of tranquillity, shutting out the hustle and bustle of the city around them.
Festivals: Experience Amsterdam’s fabulous festivals throughout the year
Although summer offers the greatest concentration of festivals, there’s bound to be a festival on that you won’t want to miss, no matter what time of year you visit Amsterdam.Highlights include the orange-coloured street party that is Queen’s Day, the prestigious international Holland Festival, the Grachtenfestival celebrating classical music with concerts in canal houses and on the waterways, the often surprising Over het IJ theatre festival, the annual Gay Pride Canal Parade, dance event Sensation at Amsterdam ArenA stadium, the Parade travelling theatre festival and the Dutch Design manifestation in September.