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!