Amsterdam emerged as a fishing town in the late 12th century – its name taken due to its proximity to a dam on the river Amstel.
During the 15th century, the town saw rapid development and trade innovation, paving the way for the Dutch Golden Age from 1585 to 1672. In this period Amsterdam was a financial hub with the strongest market in the world. The first multinational corporation, The Dutch East India Company, was created in 1602 and soon had a far-reaching geopolitical power.
While Amsterdam was the wealthiest city in the world, the cityscape expanded and changed, and some of the most important buildings were erected, including many of the beautiful canal homes and the former town hall and current Royal Palace in Dam Square. Immigration increased during the 17th century, leading to a deliberate city plan that involved the creation of four major canals that emerged at Amsterdam’s waterfront, the IJ Bay.
Holland’s modern history is marked by the German invasion of the country in May 1940 and the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. The city’s entire Jewish community was nearly wiped out, and with it the city’s historic diamond trade that was mostly controlled by Jewish businessmen.
The cultural openness of the city has roots in Amsterdam’s central role in the 1960s and 1970s as a hippie hub. The 1970s also saw a spike in immigration from Suriname (a former Dutch colony), Morocco, and Turkey.
No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to this historic house. Avoid the long lines buy purchasing your ticket online.
Take a relaxing boat tour on this amazing body of water.
This waterside public library has more than 500 free computer stations, three restaurants, and periodicals from across the world.
This neighbourhood offers the charm of New York City's Greenwich Village. Dine, shop, and entertain yourself.
Sample and learn about all the rare cheeses the Netherlands produces.
Visit the former residence of Rembrandt while viewing his classical artwork.
Take the kids to this historic park built in 1850. Bike, hike, jog, or just enjoy a tasty picnic.
This specialty museum showcases the world's best purses and handbags.
This quirky neighbourhood offers clothing stores, galleries, and restaurants.
Visit one of the largest parks in Europe. The park houses 150 indigenous species of trees and more than 200 species of birds.
These are two unmissable spots for getting your fill of the art and history of Holland. The Dutch Golden Age is on full display at the prestigious Rijksmuseum, which features classics by Rembrandt and Vermeer, among other famous works.
The Van Gogh Museum boasts the largest collection of the Post-Impressionist’s work, with more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings that track the artist’s development. From his self-portraits to sunflowers, the collection and other exhibitions show the depth of Vincent Van Gogh’s talent, torment, and influence on 19th-century art.
Visit the historic home where the 13-year-old Jewish Anne Frank wrote her famous diary, while she and her family hid from Nazi persecution during Germany’s occupation of Holland in 1940. Kept in a similar state as during the war, the home is a memorial to Anne Frank, her family, and the more than 100,000 Dutch Jews sent to concentration camps.
This 120-acre public park is the green jewel of Amsterdam, complete with expansive lawns, bike paths, ponds, and flower gardens. A perfect place for people-watching, the park also hosts an open-air theatre and concerts during June, July, and August. Catch classic and contemporary films at the Netherlands Filmmuseum located in a 19th-century pavilion inside the park.
In the city’s Red Light District, known as De Wallen in Dutch, scantily clad women can be seen posing in red window displays offering, well, themselves. At the numerous “coffeeshops” in Amsterdam, the sale and consumption of cannabis is permitted.
Still, exercise tact, as “drug tourism” has become a concern and many shops keep cannabis menus behind the counter.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
Visit this popular historic concert venue to hear the world's most beautiful orchestra concerts and acoustic bands.
This casual restaurant that locals patronize regularly serves home-style Dutch fare.
This top-rated restaurant serves authentic Dutch cuisine. Everything is fresh and prepared to order.
Greetje serves high-end Dutch cuisine in an exceptionally classic atmosphere. Book ahead of time to reserve a table.
Alto Jazz Cafe
Enjoy live jazz at this popular bar.
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Amsterdam has an oceanic climate, which means winters are mild. The best time to travel to Amsterdam is between April and September, when the weather is mild and comfortable. The summer months have an average temperature of 20Â°C. Spring has an average temperature of 10Â°C. The winter months have an average temperature of 4Â°C, while fall has an average temperature of 8Â°C.
If you want to see Amsterdam the way 40% of its locals do every day, get on a bike. With well-kept bike lanes running through the entire city and respected by drivers, biking in Amsterdam is a safe and environmentally friendly way to see the diversity of neighbourhoods within the city.
Many places offer rentals for less than €10 a day, and there are a host of bike tours that will take you through town or to the countryside to see the classic Dutch windmills, clog and cheese factories, and some of the natural beauty that surrounds the city.
Take in the vibe of the city by simply strolling. One walk that won’t disappoint is along the Western Canal Belt, where you can peek into cafés, explore museums, and get a good look at the 17th-century architecture of the bridges and building façades.
Start at the Herenmarkt, a small square featuring the former headquarters of the Dutch East India Company.
Alternatively, check out Jordaan, the once working-class neighbourhood now home to a number of new art galleries, boutiques, and coffee shops.
Head to the world-famous street market, Albert Cuypmarkt, for a chance to savour and take home Dutch cheese, olives, fresh vegetables and fruit, or a sweet syrupy stroopwafel. Crafts, clothing, and even cosmetics and cameras are on sale at low prices. The city’s immigrant population—Surinamese, Turkish, and Moroccan, among others—set up regular stalls as well, making the market a great way to experience the multicultural Amsterdam of today.
The Noorderkerk market, located in front of the 17th-century Protestant Noorderkerk church, hosts a flea market on Mondays (8am to 2pm) and a bird market on Saturday mornings, followed by a farmers’ market in the afternoon.
For flower lovers, there is the Singel flower market, which stands on top of two houseboats. Admire a wide variety of tulips, narcissus, and other beauties—or take them home as bulbs.
The Avenue hotel offers both comfort and design with its nine historic buildings featuring unique decoration in every room. Less than half a mile from the city centre, the hotel is complete with wireless Internet access and its own café.
The newly redesigned Renaissance Hotel, just a short walk from Central Station, welcomes you in after a day of sightseeing with its brand-new lobby, Renaissance Bedding, and HDTV. Enjoy a delicious Mediterranean dinner at the restaurant Scossa, or have a drink at the hotel’s lounge bar, 2B. The Renaissance also hosts catered business events and offers luxury suites and club rooms.
The four-star Albus hotel is a smaller, stylish boutique hotel with spacious rooms and queen-sized beds. Centrally located and easily accessible by trams and trains, the Albus offers a selection of luxury suites complete with a Phillips 32-inch flatscreen, a Nespresso coffee machine, high-speed Internet, and a state-of-the-art Sensiq communication system.
The Bilderberg Garden hotel, steps from the city’s best museums and Vondelpark offers luxury, taste, and an intimate, friendly atmosphere during your time in Amsterdam. Rooms are complete with air-conditioning, robes, slippers, and a mini-bar. The hotel also features the famous French-Mediterranean–style restaurant De Kersentuin, serving both lunch and dinner.
If you need more choice, check out our Amsterdam hotel offers.
Amsterdam generally has a cool climate with warm summers. Best time to visit is flower season, April and May, or in the warmer months, June to September.
Best bets for transportation are to go on foot, by public transport, or by bike. Driving is discouraged in the city centre as many streets are for pedestrians and bikes only.
Public transport consists of the GV bus, metro, and tramlines. To ride any and all of them, purchase an OV-chipcard at a station or supermarket.
Trams run regularly until 12:15 a.m., night buses from midnight to 7 a.m., and the small blue Stop/Go bus from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (it runs through Old City and makes all requested stops).
Cruises, electric boats, water taxis, and buses traverse the canals, and there are three free ferries that take pedestrians and cyclists over to Amsterdam-Noord across the IJ waterway.
Think about car hire in Amsterdam if you want to explore the environs of the city. Head out to Volendam, a magnificent little village a few dozen kilometres outside of town.
From the Schiphol International Airport, there is a Direct Rail Link that runs every 10 minutes to Amsterdam’s central station for under €5. Purchase tickets before boarding the train to avoid a €40 fine. There are also Connexxion airport shuttles leaving every 10 minutes that service a number of major hotels.
Dialing code: 00 31 (20) for Amsterdam.
While frites are more a staple of Holland’s neighbour Belgium, those served at Vlaams Friteshuis (Voetboogstraat 33) have been a favourite in town since 1887. Smothered in mayonnaise, mustard, or a whole host of other special sauces, these freshly made crunchy frites give American French fries and English chips a run for their money.
As you stroll through Old Town, make sure to pause at De Bakkerswinkel (Warmoesstraat 69). This renowned cafe and bakery is known for its delicious bread, scones, pan au chocolat, and excellent coffee and tea. Serving sandwiches, quiche, and soup in addition to its baked goods, De Bakkerswinkel is a good place for a light lunch on your way to the next sight.
Located near the hip neighbourhood of Leidseplein is Blue Pepper (Nassaukade 366), a trendy and intimate restaurant featuring modern Indonesian cuisine. Choose from three menus of the day or order a la carte and enjoy such dishes as lamb satay, grilled scallops with black bean sauce, chili dumplings, or banana and caramel fritters.
This down-to-earth and affordable Dutch-French bar/restaurant is a favourite of locals and visitors alike. Located across a canal from the Anne Frank House, Cafe De Prins is known for its no-frills, friendly atmosphere and quality pub food that goes well with one of the local beers on tap. Try the cheese fondue and, during the summer months, see if you can get a table outside to enjoy a great view of the canals. Though small and often crowded, this local gem is worth the wait.
The health infrastructure of Holland is excellent, and should you be in need of assistance, you are sure to receive it. Pharmacies are well stocked and open seven days a week. If possible, try and obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before departing home. There are also a number of clinics and public hospitals, and nearly all practitioners speak English.
Fire or Police Department: Dial 112
Medical Emergency: Dial (020) 555 55 55
Amsterdam Foreigners’ Police: (020) 559 63 00 (8:30am to 4pm)
Clinics and Hospitals: AMC Hospital, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam Zuidoost, (020) 566 91 11. Slotervaartziekenhuis Hospital, Louwesweg 6, Amsterdam, (020) 512 93 33. VU Hospital, De Boelelaan 1117, Amsterdam, (020) 444 44 44.
Amsterdam is a relatively safe city, though caution is necessary in the Red Light District and near Central Station. Keep an eye out for pickpockets and avoid walking alone after dark.. In case of emergency, keep a copy of your travel documents on your person at all time.
Soft drugs, such as cannabis, are legal for “personal use” in the country. But selling or carrying more than five grams of cannabis can result in fines, and large quantities (over 30 grams) in prison sentences. Hard drugs (LSD, cocaine, and heroin) are strictly forbidden.