Amsterdam Tour Packages | Amsterdam Travel Maps | Basics of Amsterdam | Best Restaurants in Amsterdam | Amsterdam Tourist Places | Museums of Amsterdam
Amsterdam gets its name from the Amstel river and the dam that went across it at present-day Dam Square.
The city was officially founded in 1275 after residents living near the Amstel dam were granted toll freedom, meaning they didn’t have to pay tolls as they navigated the country’s waterways. Amsterdam has 90 islands, 160 canals, over 1200 bridges, and a population of about 1 million. 700 years ago, almost all of what is Amsterdam today was under water.
The difference between “Holland” and “The Netherlands” is?
Noord-Holland is the full name of the province Amsterdam is in. Other provinces include Limburg, Freasland, and Zeeland, Gelderland, Flevoland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Noord-Brabant, Drenthe, Groningen, and Zuid-Holland, (where New Zealand gets its name.)
“The Netherlands” translates as “the lowlands”
These provinces united as a country to fight Spain in 1579. With Amsterdam at its center, Holland was the main province in the newly formed country and has remained the informal name for the Netherlands, which means literally, “under land,” as in, under water.
What does “gezellig” mean?
Gezellig: the single Dutch word which describes “the feeling or ambiance that makes a place warm, cozy, friendly, and welcoming.
“A boat ride around the canals is the first thing you should do in Amsterdam…”
Why is that you ask?
Because the water-level view of those gabled canal houses and picturesque bridges will lend meaning, perspective, and color to everything else you do during your stay.
Amsterdam’s 17th-century Golden Age becomes a vivid reality as you glide through the waterways that were largely responsible for those years of prosperity. You’ll learn more about the canals and those who have lived along their banks than you could absorb in hours of study. More important, you’ll see the canal houses and waterways as they were designed to be seen, from canal level. This is also the best way to see Amsterdam’s large and busy harbor.
Amsterdam has been a trading city…
At first, trade centered on the fish that the original dam’rs of the river Amstel caught in the rivers and the North Sea.
Later, during the 17th century, on the spices, furs, flower bulbs, and artifacts carried back to Europe by the ships of the Dutch East and West India Companies. The fish were sold on the same spot where one of the major department stores in the city center now stands and the early townspeople brought calves to market on the same street you will walk along to begin my walking and Exploring tour through Amsterdam.
The luxury items you buy to take home today are the same sort of goods Dutch merchants sold to each other in the Golden Age of the 17th century, and the junk you buy in the flea market at Waterlooplein is much the same as it has been for hundreds of years.
Adding a modern dimension to this tradition-laden scene are the funky boutiques you find scattered around Amsterdam, and adding sparkle are the diamond cutters. Still, tradition is one thing, modern facilities are another.
Amsterdam has the full range of shopping facilities, from small and highly individualistic, not to say eccentric, boutiques whose designers are often small-name, through chains and department stores to shopping malls.
We in Holland really enjoy shopping and where possible we like to take the time to seek out the more offbeat places.
Why is there an XXX on everything?
These are the crosses of the Amsterdam coat of arms, and the Amsterdammetjes (see below) represent Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Amsterdam (and Scotland). Andrew was condemned by the church as a heretic and crucified, but with an especially nasty twist. He was crucified upside down to inflict extra pain. The inverted crosses commemorate this. Why three crosses? Each cross is supposed to represent and protect Amsterdam from three disasters that the city has endured for centuries. Floods (fought with the windmills), the plague, and fires (especially in the 1500’s).
The kids are taught that the three crosses represent, goodness, kindness, and strength.
What’s with the posts along the sidewalks?
They’re called “Amsterdammetjes”
Actually, there to help control traffic, separating cars from pedestrians. We feel so strongly about these little objects of affection that citizens recently mustered 50,000 signatures for a petition opposing government plans to remove them but the government will do what it wants to here and they are being replaced by granite curbs …Oh well, so much for Democracy.
The VVV Tourist Office
One way to save money is to buy the VVV’s Amsterdam Culture Pass, a booklet containing some 30 coupons for free or discounted admission to the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Vincent van Gogh Museum, plus discounts on other attractions, excursions, and restaurants, including reduced rates for the Museum Boat and the Canal Bus.
The Culture Pass costs f36.75 ($18.35) and can be obtained through the VVV in Amsterdam. You can also buy a
Museumjaarkaart (Museum Year Pass) costing f47.50 ($23.75) for ages 25 to 54,
f 37.50 ($18.75) for age 55 and over, and f17.50 ($8.75) for age 24 and under.
The pass covers free admission to some 250 museums throughout Holland (16 of which are in Amsterdam) and can be bought from the VVV, as well as from most museums.
If museums are high on your sightseeing agenda, it’s a good investment even if Amsterdam is your only stop in Holland.
In mid-April, there’s no admission fee at most Amsterdam museums during National Museum Weekend, while a few charge greatly discounted fees.
If a city’s restaurants can reflect it’s true spirit…
Amsterdam’s should to be liberal, multiethnic, and adventurous, though still satisfying the Dutch insistence on value for each guilder or Euro we spend.
They are. As a trading city with a true melting-pot character, Amsterdam has absorbed culinary influences from far and wide, and assembled them into its own collection for all of our enjoyment.
You can find just about any type of international cuisine on the city’s restaurant list. Amsterdam’s long history as a port and trading city and Holland’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants from all over the world has resulted in an endless and ever-increasing selection of our favorite restaurants.
Dutch cooking, of course, is part of this, but you won’t be stuck with biefstuk (Dutch beefsteak) and kip (chicken) every night unless you want to be.
The Dutch love to travel and experience different cultures. When at home we want to enjoy a wide selection of cultural flavors as well, and in all price ranges. From elegant 17th-century dining rooms to cozy canal-side bistros, …Exuberant lively taverns with equally exuberant Turkish attendants, …Exotic Indonesian dining rooms attended by turbaned waiters, to the bruine kroegjes (brown cafes) with their smoke-stained walls and friendly table conversations.
The numerous eateries of Amsterdam provide us with the enviable luxury and difficult but welcome task of choosing one or two a day from almost countless numbers.
Amsterdam’s “Grand Cafe’s” are everywhere…
Some are tiny spots pushing back the passing parade, just enough to find the air and a sliver of sunshine.
But… they all are Grand, when the weather is.
These are cafes in the grand tradition of Paris, Vienna, and Rome, with lots of style, ambiance, and balconies or terraces–they’re seen-and-be-seen kind of places. Grand cafes are distinguished by their emphasis on food and drink, architecture, production values, and style. Some grand cafes are truly grand, be aware that there are others that use the name even though they may not be particularly impressive–the definition is an elusive one, merging into restaurants with terraces at one end and more-or-less ordinary cafes with seats outside at the other.
Raw Fish is Good for you!
There are a few distinctively Dutch foods whose availability is seasonal. Among them: asparagus, beautifully white and tender, in May; “new” herring, fresh from the North Sea and eaten raw, in May or early June (great excitement surrounds the first catch of the season, part of which goes to the queen and the rest to restaurateurs amid spirited competition); and Zeeland oysters and mussels (Zeeuwsoesters and Zeeuwsmosselen), from September to March.
Are there any good parks to go to in Amsterdam?
The “Vondelpark” is the largest and one of the most popular. Imagine a Euro version of Venice Beach without the beach. Basically turned into a hippie commune in the late sixties and seventies, it still retains some of that color. Wander ’round, rent some in-line skates at the far end of the park and enjoy the best people watching anywhere in the city. Outdoor concerts are held in the summer at the
Vondelpark Open Air Theater (Openluchttheater)- June through August www.openluchttheater.nl
The Netherlands Film Museum Vondel Park 3 – Amsterdam’s film lovers cinema only screens classic films. (In Vondelpark – near the main park entrance at Stadhouderskade)
The experience of viewing a film here is a truly pleasurable event especially for film buffs.
- The cinema’s are small in capacity but large in seating comfort.
- The sound system is superior.
- The most outstanding ingredient is the predominance of a “respectful of others” audience.
ie.. Not much talking goes on during the film except for the emotional utterances encouraged by the film itself and a film buff obsession of, watching the credits ALL THE WAY TO THE END, is properly respected.
- The Film museum also has a wonderful cafe’ “Vertigo” with a sunny terrace in the afternoon, and good food.
- One more thing to mention is the varied selection of marvelous films that the Film Museum brings back to our lives.Nightlife
If variety is the spice of life… then Amsterdam is the spice merchant…
Our cultural and entertainment calendar is full, but not over crowded. There’s a strong jazz scene, a variety of good music clubs, and enjoyable English-language shows at the little cabarets and theaters along the canals. The brown cafes “typical local Amsterdam pubs” have never been better.
Visit our entertainment section…
Amsterdam loves to party and has some great dance clubs. This city is the capitol of House music. You’ll also find a great mix of Reggae, Drum ‘n’ bass, Garage, Trance, Techno, Disco and Hip Hop. The Dutch are among the best DJ’s in the world. Clubs like Escape near the Rembradtsplein have dress codes and charge about 25 guilders to get in, then they go all night. The red-light district offers places like Trans Budda & the Winston to dance the night away. If you’re looking for a drink during the long summer nights we recommend heading to the Leidseplein area and find one of our favorite places ROOKIES Bar Cannabis-Coffeeshop. The brown cafes “typical local Amsterdam pubs” have never been better.
More on bars and cafe’s
And there’s always the movies.
Amsterdam is one of the few cities on the European continent where you can see first-run blockbuster hits from the United States with their English-language soundtracks still intact.
For many visitors...shopping is often the favorite part of the experience of Amsterdam. The city center is small enough that shops and other attractions are often right beside each other. Rather than going on shopping expeditions, it is normal for visitors as well as locals to simply drop into the nearest shops while you’re involved in more weighty cultural or work matters. Whatever kind of shopping you prefer, you’re sure to be impressed with the range of shopping possibilities Amsterdam offers. Wonder around the small brick path streets, and you will be astonished at the variety of unique shops at hand.Amsterdam is truly a paradise for shoppers