Amsterdam, the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. With its universities, academies and research institutes, as well as more than 40 museums, numerous theaters and places of entertainment, Amsterdam is the first cultural center in the country. In addition, the city is famous for its historic houses, arranged in a pattern of concentric fan-shaped segments and built on piles driven through an upper layer of mud in the bottom of firm sand up to 18 meters below. . In total, some 6,750 buildings dating from the 16th to the 18th century are crowded over an area of 2,000 hectares, dissected by 160 canals (grachten), themselves housing numerous barges. Many picturesque bridges connect the city’s 90 islands, including eight old wooden bascule bridges, including the Magere Brug (Mager Bridge), one of the most often photographed in the city. Discover the best places to visit in the city with our list of top rated tourist attractions in Amsterdam.
1. The Rijksmuseum
One of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions – and certainly its most important art repository – the Rijksmuseum was founded in 1809 to house the country’s immense collection of rare art and antiques. The museum’s impressive collection includes some seven million works of art, including more than 5,000 important paintings distributed in 250 rooms in this vast building. In addition to his paintings, the Rijksmuseum has a well-stocked library of over 35,000 books and manuscripts, as well as many fascinating exhibits dealing with the development of art and culture in the Netherlands. Its collections of traditional crafts, medieval sculpture and modern art styles are particularly remarkable. A variety of thematic guided tours in English are available. For a special experience, try the fun cruise on the art history channel by visiting many sites represented in the collections of the Rijksmuseum.
2. The Anne Frank Museum
On the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank museum is dedicated to the short life of one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust in the world. In the house where Anne’s family hid for much of World War II – they were Jewish refugees from the German city of Frankfurt – Anne wrote the diary which became an international bestseller after the war, only a few years after her death at 15 (she died only two months before the end of the war). Much of the house has been preserved as it was in Anne’s time and serves as a poignant monument to a tragic period in history.
Next to the Anne Frank Museum, the West Church in Amsterdam (Westerkerk) is one of the most popular churches in the city. Completed in 1630, this Renaissance church is unusual due to its many internal and external Gothic features. Its 85-meter tower, popularly known as “Langer Jan” (tall John), is the tallest in the city, and at the top of its spire is a large replica of the emperor’s crown, placed at the memory of Emperor Maximilian of Austria. Inside the tower, a chime announces the hours. Other highlights include a beautiful organ dating from 1622, as well as an interesting marble column placed there in 1906 in memory of Rembrandt, who was buried outside the church (it was later reinstated inside the church).
3. The Van Gogh Museum
A must visit for art lovers and historians, the spectacular Van Gogh Museum has been one of Amsterdam’s main attractions since its opening in 1972. Dedicated to the often troubled life and extraordinary artistic talent of one of the the country’s most revered painters, this modern Gerrit The structure designed by Rietveld houses the world’s largest collection of paintings and artifacts by Van Gogh, much of which was donated by his brother, Theo, and other members of the family. With an impressive 200 paintings, 500 engravings and drawings, as well as 700 letters written to (and by) friends and family, the collection is divided into key periods in the artist’s life: his realistic works (1880 to 1887) , including the famous The Potato Eaters, and his Impressionist period from 1887 to 1890, which saw the creation of perhaps his best-known work, Vase with Sunflowers. The works of Van Gogh’s contemporaries, including leading artists like Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, are also interesting. If time permits, be sure to check the availability of the museum’s educational workshops in disciplines such as painting and photography.
4. The Jordaan (neighborhood)
The Jordaan is the most popular of Amsterdam’s neighborhoods, known for its mix of residential areas with garden courtyards, lively markets, and upscale boutiques and eateries. Tourists could easily spend a day simply wandering the picturesque streets, but the area is also home to plenty of things to do. Known to most as the home of the Anne Frank Museum, the area is also home to lesser-known treasures like the Woonboots Museum, a floating museum dedicated to houseboats. On Saturday mornings, Lindengracht turns into a huge open-air market, where you can find local crafts, produce, flowers, and goodies perfect for filling a picnic basket. Monday mornings, it is Westerstraat that fills with 200 vendors’ stalls, this time selling a wide range of goods in a flea-market-style bazaar. The Jordaan’s restaurants and cafes have become the trendy place to sit and people-watch while enjoying traditional Dutch folk music.
The largest and most visited park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark occupies 116 acres, which contain many things to see and do. In addition to expanses of green space dotted by peaceful ponds and traversed by ample paths, the park is home to a rose garden featuring more than 70 types of the flower. It also has a variety of sculptures and statues, playgrounds, and other recreational facilities, including rollerblade rental and the Vondelpark Open Air Theater, which serves as a venue for musical and stage productions from May through September. It you haven’t packed a picnic, don’t worry – the park is also full of cafes where you can enjoy a snack or a full meal. As in any large city, after-dark visits to the park are not recommended.
6. Dam Square
Dam Square is one of the most tourist-packed areas of Amsterdam, and for good reason. Its most prominent feature is the 17th-century Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace), former home of the Dutch royal family and present-day venue for royal functions. Dam Square is also home to top tourist attractions like the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk); Madame Tussauds wax museum; and the National Memorial Statue, which is dedicated to Dutch soldiers who lost their lives in World War II. This huge public square is, naturally, lined with cafes and shops, and full of vendors selling food and souvenirs. Tourists will also find a Ferris wheel, perfect for getting a different perspective, as well as plenty of entertainment, which ranges from street performers to annual music festivals.
7. The Royal Palace
Formerly the town hall, the royal palace served as a residence for the king when he was in town. Its construction was a monumental task when it began in 1648 and required the sinking of 13,659 piles to support the gigantic structure. Based on the architecture of ancient Rome, the exterior is strictly classical, while the interior is beautifully furnished, its apartments decorated with a multitude of reliefs, ornaments, marble sculptures and friezes, as well as ceiling paintings by Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, students of Rembrandt. Other highlights include one of the finest collections of furniture in the world; the city treasurer’s room with its marble fireplace and its ceiling paintings by Cornelis Holsteyn; and the aldermen’s room, also containing paintings by Bol and Flinck. The largest and most important room is the council room, lavishly decorated and one of the most beautiful cabins in Europe. Guided tours in English are available.
8. Rembrandt House Museum
Rembrandt, with his wife Saskia, spent the happiest (and most successful) years of his life in the house of the Jodenbreestraat, which now houses the Rembrandt House Museum. It was here in the Jewish quarter that he found models for his biblical themes, and where he painted the views of his many outings along the canals. Rembrandt lived here for 20 years, and the house was furnished in the 17th century style with many engravings and personal items. Guided tours in English are available.
A two-minute walk from the Rembrandt House Museum is Zuiderkerk (Southern Church) where three of Rembrandt’s children are buried as well as one of his pupils. Built between 1603 and 1611, it was the first Protestant church to be built in Amsterdam after the Reformation and was designed by the architect Hendrick de Keyser, who is also buried here. After extensive restoration, it is now a center for local cultural activities and events. Another destination related to Rembrandt in the city is Rembrandt Square, which is home to many cafes and restaurants, as well as a statue of the famous painter.
9. The Botanical Gardens & the Zoo
Amsterdam offers a double dose of nature in the heart of the city. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, the city’s botanical garden, is one of the oldest in the world. Founded in 1638, it started out as a humble herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. Today, it displays rare plants and trees, exotic flowers and a large greenhouse encompassing different tropical areas. Less than a five-minute walk away, Natura Artis Magistra (“Artis”), Amsterdam’s excellent zoo, highlights creatures from around the world in a shady garden dotted with historic buildings. In the aquarium you can learn more about coral reef systems and take a look under an Amsterdam canal. Other highlights include the house of nocturnal animals, the zoo, the insectarium, the butterfly pavilion and the planetarium. Close to these fun nature-based attractions you will also find a replica of the Normaal Amsterdams Peil, the NAP, which shows the average water level in the North Sea.
10. The Old Church (Oude Kerk)
The old church (Oude Kerk), built in 1306 and the first hall church in North Holland, has become the model for many other churches in the region. Many additions have been built over the centuries, such as the large side chapels of the early 1500s. Also dating from this period, a portal leading to the iron chapel, where documents showing the privileges of the city, including the freedom of toll granted in 1275, were kept locked behind an iron door. The tower was added in the 16th century and has a 1658 carillon which is considered one of the most beautiful in the country (it also offers great views of the city). The interior of the church presents elements from before the Reformation, including three magnificent windows from 1555 of the Dutch High Renaissance and finely carved wooden choir stalls. After exploring this magnificent historic building, take a two-minute stroll across the Zeedijk Bridge, one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam. Many of the houses here lean at an angle to the vertical, and the 15th century house at no. 1 is considered the oldest building in the city.
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