Amsterdam, the Venice of the North Robin Alves
canals of Amsterdam

John Green said : «Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin ».

Known as the Venice of the North, the diamond capital or the city of a hundred canals, Amsterdam has a lot to offer. If you attribute to Amsterdam only the red light district or coffee shops, it’s time to change your view. The city is not unwholesome, it’s refreshing. I would definitely recommend chilling in numerous parks, walking down the canals, discovering delicious restaurants and affordable tea houses, visiting museums and etc. As a recent visitor of Amsterdam,  I created a short presentation of the city and I am willing to give you some advice to enjoy your trip. I promise you, you will not regret visiting Amsterdam.

Above all, Amsterdam, is the capital of the Netherlands, the country's largest city and its financial, cultural, and creative centre. Its name derives from the city’s origin as the “Dam” of the river “Amstel”. In the past, the name was "Amstelredamme" which later changed as “Amsterdam”.

Julie Burchill : "Amsterdam has more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges, but it never seems crowded, nor bent and bitter from fleecing the tourist.»

Beyond its nickname, Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of canals, about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals are Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, which were dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, compose concentric belts around the city.

Amsterdam has a relatively high degree of freedom and tolerance towards other religions and cultures, especially compared to other countries in Europe. Especially, the Jewish have always had a large presence, notably in the Old Jewish Quarter. The most prominent synagogue is the Esnoga built in 1675 in an austere Classicist style. As the Netherlands was a protestant nation, most of the churches are from this branch of Christianity like the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam from 1565. The late-medieval city also had smaller chapels such as the Sint Olofskapel on Zeedijk, and convent chapels such as the Agnietenkapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, nowadays the museum of the University of Amsterdam.

They are many neighborhoods in Amsterdam. Obviously, the old centre is the most visited area with about 7,000 registered historic buildings. This place is known for its traditional architecture, canals, shopping and coffeeshops. The Canal Ring built in the 17th century represents a UNESCO world Heritage site. Magere Brug is over 300 years old and nearly in its original capacity. This bridge is a beautiful place to overlook the river and take pictures of traditional Dutch architecture. Similarly, the Jordan neighborhood is actually very pretty, like a traditional working class area, plenty of art galleries, hip boutiques and restaurants.

I advice you to take a look on the downtown eastside: the Plantage is the place where most of Amsterdam’s museums are gathered. In the south of the city, we find out the famous Vondelpark, the Albert Cuyp Market and the best places to have a cheap accommodation. The west of the city represents a vast suburban area that is catched by newspapers headlines for some bad news. Eventually, the nord and the east are merely residential suburbs.

Stefon Harris : « I love Amsterdam. The city is vibrant and alive. It's fresh and so open. It's definitely one of my favorite places.

If you plan a trip, first of all, visit the museums, because Amsterdam has an amazing collection. The most famous is the Rijksmuseum with paintings from the Dutch Golden Age (Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals). Pari passu with the Van Gogh Museum that hosts paintings with their vivid colors and emotional impact by the world-famous post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh.

Don’t forget to visit the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank was a jewish girl who kept a diary while hiding from Nazi persecution in hidden rooms at the rear of the buildings. This house is an exhibition, but it also highlights other forms of persecution and discrimination. Keep in mind that there are a lot of people here, especially during the summer.

In addition, some advice from Irene’s Travel Blog is to try local food. You will find traditional firms with Dutch cheese at the Albert Cuyp Market. but also regale yourself with the Ossenworst, a raw beef sausage with nice spices from the city. Without forgetting to check out bitterballen, a kind of fried meatball, and try a traditional herring or a broodje haring (herring sandwich), available from fish stalls around the city. Herring in Amsterdam is usually served with onions and pickles. Eventually, stroll down the Bloemenmarkt flower market which is the only floating market in the world. There are 15 stalls in this block-long flower market and you can shop for flower bulbs, seeds, accessories, souvenir, and everything else that is related to the flower trade.

The red light district is certainly worth seeing for a new visitor, but Amsterdam is still much more than that. Truly, it is within the excellent family or romantic destinations. I can definitely understand why many people choose to visit Amsterdam due to its reputation for tolerance. In these places, they are major tourists attractions with a thick crowds of people. Smoking is common here, the odor is recognizable... But don’t confuse the two sides of the city..

James Weldon Johnson : « Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town.

Top 10 of things to do in Amsterdam (obviously, its merely a sample) :

1) Rent a bike and become truly Dutch !

2) Take a walk along the floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt, and be seduced by all the colors and smells.

3) Go shopping at Albert Cuypmarket, you find an an impressive collection of food, especially Dutch cheese

4) You must visit Anne Frank’s house with the rich history behind it and a long line-up of people

5) Stop by a “bruin cafe” which is typical Dutch spaces to have a coffee, breakfast, or a good beer

6) Why not to rent a small boat and navigate in the Spui river.You will be jealous to see others on theirs boats.

7) Check out the outskirts of Amsterdam and go for a walk around Delft (50km outside of Amsterdam) and see the houses from the 18th century.

8) Buy tulip seeds and have a piece of Holland with you at home

9) Have a Picnic in Vondelpark

10)  Snap a Photo at the Bridge of 15 Bridges

Last word from Ezra Koening : "In Europe, I always have fun bike riding in Amsterdam. »

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