One way to describe Amsterdam is as a floating city. It wouldn’t be far from the truth, since Amsterdam has 165 canals and 1,281 bridges connecting 90 islands. Canal cruising, is in fact one of the enjoyable things to do in Amsterdam. Its small size make things more personal, so to speak, since you seem to be closer to its people, its secrets, its sights and its neighbourhoods. More like a village than an urban city, Amsterdam can be easily explored by walking or by doing a bike tour or taking public transportation. Aside from its wonderful museums, the city has 6,800 buildings and houses from the 16th to the 20th centuries that are protected, so touring the city is like a fascinating visual lesson in history. While there are the usual tourist attractions around Amsterdam, what is more intriguing are the things that many visitors miss during their visit, such as those that look mundane but at closer inspection, are actually extraordinary – those things that you don’t normally see unless you know where to look. Did this pique your interest? Why not add Amsterdam in your list of places to visit. Skiddoo has an Early Birds promo to Europe so why not take advantage of this and schedule a trip soon.
Best time to travel to Amsterdam
To see Amsterdam at its best, schedule your visit in April, May, September or November, the months that fall before and after the city’s peak tourist season. The temperatures during these months are milder and there will be fewer tourists. The city during this time will revert to its usual practice, being laid-back that is. It you want to see Amsterdam when it is quiet then schedule your vacation during winter, as it will definitely be less crowded, which means more time to enjoy the top sights and hotel rates would be lower. June to August is peak season in Amsterdam, since the weather is hospitable, but hotels at this time are at a premium and requires far advance booking. December to March might not be very appealing to most people, but this is the time when hotel rooms and airfare are at their lowest (except during the holidays). Temperature during this period hover between -1.1 °C and 4.4 °C (30 °F and 40 °F).
Amsterdam began as a small fishing village in the 13th century, but through trade, the city steadily progressed. It had been associated with beer since the 14th century, having received exclusive trading rights to imported beer from Hamburg. It became the world’s richest city in the 17th century, trading commodities such as diamonds, tobacco, guns, wheat, beer and other products.The Dutch at that time also got embroiled in a war as they sought their independence, a war that eventually lasted for 80 years. They eventually won their independence in 1648, but became a Protestant country and held the distinction of being Western Europe’s first republic.
Even today, Amsterdam is still known as a city for international business and is the country’s business and financial capital and is home to many banks and huge international corporations. It is still a city that is considered as a diamond centre. The city is home to 825,080 residents and is also the birthplace of Baruch Spinoza, a philosopher, artist Vincent van Gogh, Alfred Henry “Freddy” Heineken and famous diarist, Anne Frank. Today, Amsterdam has become a very popular tourist destination, with about 4.63 million international visitors coming each year, aside from about 16 million people who come to the city for day trips annually.
As a tourist destination, Amsterdam does not skimp on attractions. Popular are the city’s canals, the Rijksmuseum, with its collection of paintings by Dutch Masters Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, and Rembrandt, the Van Gogh Museum, the House of Anne Frank and the only floating flower market in the world, the Bloemenmarkt. The serene Vondelpark, the National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum), the De Wallen (red light district) and the Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam are also very popular among tourists. These are major attractions that Amsterdam offer its millions of visitors, yet there are still things and attractions that are lesser known yet prove to be intriguing and interesting.
For a cosmopolitan city, Amsterdam does not have that many public toilets. While it is all right in other countries for people to use a pub’s or restaurant’s restroom, that is basically impossible in Amsterdam, where they either charge you or refuse your request to use their restroom. Peeing in the wild (into the canal, behind trees or on sides of building) carry a 90-euro fine when you get caught. The solution to this is the installation of the curling Dutch pissior, the public urinals (for men) around Amsterdam, which had become a city trademark. The urinal is called De Krul. It had been around since 1880, and its design had not changed. It comes in one person or two person design.
Known as Westerpark’s hidden jewel, the Buurtboerderij or neighbourhood farm is the last one remaining within the city’s ring road, located about four kilometres from the city centre. The farm, which is run by volunteers, is open to everyone. Volunteers and staff of the Regenboog groep receive and serve guests and maintain the gardens and its restaurant. They help with the kitchen duties and assist people when they want to hold a party in the farm. A variety of activities are held at the Buurtboerderij, including theatre and live music performances, drawing lessons, yoga. They also serve low-cost meals for the community. There are sheep for children to play with and the herb and vegetable garden provide the volunteer chefs with plenty of fresh ingredients. The community, working together with Time-out Hotel help those with mild physiological problems slowly ease into normal life. Dining guests are also invited to help out in the farm and in the kitchen.
The 9 Streets (De 9 Straatjes)
Amsterdam’s The 9 Streets (literally comprising nine streets) is more commonly called as the Soho of Amsterdam. What makes it a very interesting place to discover is that the streets are lined with rows of specialist shops. Here you can find a variety of items, from designer trainers to authentic Dutch cheese, vintage clothing and handmade jewellery. There are restaurants serving food following traditional recipes. You can find vintage watches, home décor, designer fashion (Karl Lagerfeld has a boutique at Hartenstraat), hotels, museum, art galleries, designer shoes, handbags and lingerie, antiques, a bookstore, a bakeshop and beauty salons. The Consulate of Estonia is in the area, too. Hotels located at The 9 Streets are often fully booked.
De Pijp (The Pipe)
De Pijp is basically a large residential area located on the southeast of Amsterdam’s city centre, and is largely known as the city’s bohemian neighbourhood. On its northern side is the most visited place in the city, The Heineken Experience. The population in the neighbourhood is diverse, from regular families to artists, students and young professionals. The atmosphere in De Pijp is always relaxed and you can have plenty of time to enjoy your coffee in one of its quiet cafés. The number one attraction in the area is the Albert Cuyp Market, named after Dutch Golden Age artist, Aelbert (Albert) Cuyp. The open-air market sells a variety of things, catering mostly to its diverse population of Moroccan, Turkish, Antillean and Surinamese origin. Bars and ethnic restaurants are also in the market, where you can try some freshly-made Dutch Stroopwafels, the thin caramel waffles that are quite famous.
Begijnhof, for most people is literally hidden. It’s a 14th century courtyard that you could only see when you push a heavy brown door located on an enchanting square. Look for the stone sign that reads “Begijnhof” on top of the door. What the door opens into is a peaceful courtyard where you can enjoy some peace and quiet away from the cacophonous noise of the city. It is among the oldest inner courts in the city and used to be a semi-monastery of the Beguines, a religious community of unmarried women (not necessarily nuns), who looked after sick people. There are 47 tall Amsterdam style townhouses and one restored wooden house that was constructed around 1528, which makes it the oldest among the still extant wooden houses in the city.