AMAZING AMSTERDAM!

Amsterdam is a compact, historical and very charming city that is a blast to explore! It’s actually one of my favorite cities in Europe and is one the most popular travel destinations in Europe. Amsterdam is well-preserved and is appealing with its 17th-century architecture that provides a quaint backdrop for a city famous for its modern, progressive attitudes. From the city’s world-class art museums to its colorful flower markets, from cannabis-selling “coffee shops” to the racy “red light district”, there’s something exciting and unique to discover in Amsterdam at every turn.

The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. In the early 17th century, when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals. Amsterdam is home to more than one hundred canals and more than a thousand bridges. Actually, even more than Venice! The canals are home to some 2,000 houseboats. Tour operators offer a variety of cruises and excursions. I would highly recommend a canal tour during the day or an evening dinner candlelight cruise. It’s pretty romantic and a great way to see this historical city.

One of the busiest places around is Amsterdam Central Station. It is the city’s main train station and is a stunning, iconic building.  This transportation hub is also an international railway station. From the station there are regular services to destinations such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Russia and Switzerland. We’ve taken several fun train trips from Amsterdam. It’s easy and safe!

One our favorite day trips was to Lisse to see Keukenhof an epic botanical garden where 7 million flower bulbs, mostly tulips, are planted annually. It is one of the world’s largest flower gardens and is a feast for the eyes full of colors and designs. An important note: Keukenhof is only open from March – May. So remember as you fly in or out of Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam look for the numerous tulip farms. The aerial view is a spectacle to see!

The oldest section in Amsterdam is DeWallen. It is home to several historic buildings, including the city’s oldest church called Oude Kerk. Oddly enough right around the corner is Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District, the city’s designated area for legalized prostitution. I’ve never seen anything like it and found it rather shocking but also somewhat fascinating. More than one hundred one-room apartments are rented by a variety of sex workers who entice onlookers from behind windows illuminated with red lights. It is all very organized and tightly regulated…as we learned in our walking tour of the Red Light District. A strong police presence keeps the neighborhood very safe. Visitors are welcome to stroll around this area that is always full of onlookers…but taking photos of the sex workers are absolutely forbidden.

The Famous Anne Frank House is actually Amsterdam’s most visited attraction. This is the structure that once hid Anne Frank, her family and four other Jewish people from the Nazi authorities during World War II. Anne’s father published the diary that Anne wrote while they lived hidden within the building. Oddly enough Mr. Frank, in an attempt to protect his beloved family, moved them from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933 in hopes they would be safe in Holland and away from the Nazi’s and Hitler. The building opened as a museum in 1960. Visitors can view the rooms where Anne actually lived and wrote her diary that chronicles her all-too-short life. It’s truly a heart wrenching story and a sobering experience!

Koninklijk is the Royal Palace located at Dam Square in the heart of Amsterdam. It was built during the “Dutch Golden Age”. My daughter Codi and I loved visiting this opulent site which is one of three royal palaces in the Netherlands. The interior is extravagant and is a premier example of the elaborate Empire style of the early 1800s. The palace is still used by the Dutch Royal Family for Royal events but is also open to the public.

Photo Credit: Royal Palace Amsterdam
Photo credit: Royal Palace Amsterdam

We also loved going to the Van Gogh Museum which is located at Museum Square, or Museumplein. This museum is home to the world’s largest collection of the artist’s paintings and letters. There is also information about Van Gogh’s troubled life and efforts taken to restore his paintings. It’s quite a story about this world renowned artist from Amsterdam that died penniless.

Also in Museum Square, is the famous Rijks Museum. This jewel is arguably the most important of the nation’s and the world’s art and history museums. The total collection numbers more than one million artifacts dating from the 13th century onward.  This gorgeous museum opened in 1885. The most famous are paintings by the Dutch Master Painter – Rembrandt van Rijn. His masterpiece, The Night Watch, is absolutely worth the price of admission. Rembrandt Square is one of the busiest squares in the entire city and really comes to life at night. It’s a great place for shopping, dining and entertainment. The focal point of the square is an enormous sculpture of Rembrandt overlooking a bronze-cast representation of his most famous painting, The Night Watch. It really comes to life with these life size sculptures in 3-D.

On our last trip to the Netherlands we actually got to tour Rembrandt’s home and art studio. It was surreal but such a treat. It’s where he taught art classes and painted all his masterpieces. The picture below is me by Rembrandt’s bed. It was very short because in the 1600’s they slept sitting up as it was believed if one slept completely lying down all the blood would go to your head and you would die.

And one last thing I love about this city are all the bicycles! It’s truly amazing to see, there’s nothing like it! Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world. There are about 1,200,000 bicycles in Amsterdam outnumbering the amount of citizens in the city. Bicycles are used by all socio-economic groups because of their convenience, there’s actually 249 miles of bike paths. I was intrigued to see policemen, professional men and women all cycling in their professional clothes to work. Women are often wearing dresses and heels, I cannot imagine that balancing act. Grandparents or young families can pile on the kids with all kind of innovative, original contraptions they connect to their bikes. On our last visit we saw an entire wedding party on bicycles, it was adorable. No matter the weather, from the very young to the very old, everyone rides a bicycle! It’s their tradition and a wonderful way of life.

The people here are friendly, welcoming and most speak perfect English. There is so much to explore and see. As I always say…Amsterdam is truly a city with a whole lot of personality!!!

Published by Travel with Terri

I have the opportunity to travel the world and I love to share about my trips! I write about my many adventures and document my travels through photography. I often share itineraries, favorite restaurants, free things to experience and how to be street smart. Traveling should be fun - so Travel with Terri to get great ideas to have a trip of a lifetime!

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