Things to Do in Amsterdam - page 3
Twenty-two floors above ground, the A'dam Lookout observation deck offers 360-degree views of Amsterdam. See the city’s historic center, its canals—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—vibrant port, and unique polder landscape, low-lying land that was reclaimed from the sea by the rerouting of water through the canals.
Located in the heart of Museum Square, just steps from the popular Rijksmuseum, the Diamond Museum takes visitors on a journey from the diamond mine to sparkling jewelry. Few know of Amsterdam’s prominent role in the diamond trade, and the museum seeks to educate visitors about the fascinating history and craft of these gemstones.
The miniscule but informative Tulip Museum is just across Prinsengracht canal from the Anne Frank House and has recently has a major revamp. The all-new displays take a colourful and cheery look at Amsterdam’s obsession with tulips in the 17th century, when the bulbs were imported from the Himalayas and sold on the open market in The Netherlands. For years they were more highly prized than gold and prices became so over-inflated that the country nearly went bankrupt when trade in the bulbs collapsed in 1637. This sorry tale of national folly is related in a series of basement exhibitions alongside cleverly designed woodcuts showing the journey of tulips from the Far East into Europe. Today’s multi-million-euro Dutch bulb industry is also showcased against the stunning backdrop of vast photos of tulips in glorious technicolor that adorn the walls. On the ground level of the museum is one of Amsterdam’s classier souvenir stores, selling bulbs and flowers that can be packaged for transporting overseas.
Dedicated to the preservation and history of Dutch and foreign films, the EYE Film Institute (EYE Filmmuseum) is an archive museum located in Amsterdam. It houses over 37,000 film titles, 60,000 posters, 700,000 photographs and 20,000 books, with some of the earliest materials dating back to 1895 when the movie industry was just starting in the capital. The permanent collection offers a fascinating glimpse into Dutch and world history. EYE is a vast complex that includes a cinematography museum (previously known as the Dutch Historical Film Archive), an auditorium, a souvenir shop filled with memorabilia, four movie theaters, as well as a waterfront restaurant and café. Many specialists refer to the EYE as the best cinema museum in the world.
The acclaimed, futuristic building was unveiled by Queen Beatrix in 2012 and was designed by Viennese firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, which specializes in über-modern buildings that appear to be in motion. Guided tours of the EYE are available upon request, although it is possible to simply wander around and admire the daring features free of charge. The EYE Film Institute is in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Overhoeks, across the canal behind Amsterdam Centraal; it is the first cultural attraction in Amsterdam to be located outside the main canal ring.
The shopping area of The Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) offers more than just retail. Spanning nine side streets, the pedestrian neighborhood dates back to the 17th century and boasts historic architecture. Galleries, boutiques, and cafes line the cobbled pavements, creating a boho vibe that’s popular with tourists and locals alike.
Named after the Prince of Orange, Prinsengracht canal is the longest of the main canals in the city center, measuring around two miles (three kilometers). It's one of the liveliest canals in the city and is notable for myriad colorful houseboats and numerous historic sites flanking its banks.
The Torture Museum in Amsterdam provides a vivid reminder of Europe’s dark and painful past. Among the world’s strangest museums, it displays more than 40 instruments of cruel and unusual punishment from different parts of Europe, from the inquisition chair and the guillotine to thumbscrews, the flute of shame, and Judas Cradle.
In the heart of Amsterdam, New Market Square (Nieuwmarkt) is a bustling central square that’s long been a popular hangout spot. It once served as a market (hence its name), though also saw some of the darker moments of European history: in World War II the Nazis used it as an assembly point for Jews who were being sent to concentration camps.
Amsterdam'sMuseum Willet-Holthuysen houses a wonderful collection of fine paintings, antique furnishings, and decorative pieces. Owned in the 19th century by the Willets, a wealthy family of avid art collectors, today it showcases one of the best examples of 19th-century style and decoration in the city.
The Museum Van Loon is located in a fine mansion overlooking the Keizersgracht canal; it was designed by Adriaen Dortsman in 1672 and the house’s first tenant was Ferdinand Bol, a pupil of Rembrandt. Between 1884 and 1945 it was home to the Van Loon family, who founded the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and were one of the wealthiest families in Amsterdam. Today this is one of the few 17th-century canal-side townhouses in Amsterdam to have retained its original integrity and the elegant double-fronted mansion still stands with its vast proportions intact. It certainly reflected the Van Loon family’s elevated social standing by its sheer size, with grand apartments stuffed with Louis XV furniture, fine porcelain and precious silverware leading on to a procession of yet more ornate rooms. Furnished in the style of the Dutch aristocracy of Golden Age, the walls are smothered with family portraits and the grand staircase is constructed from decorative marble with an ornate brass balustrade. A formal knot garden lies behind the house; beyond that is a coach house built in the style of a colonnaded Greek temple.
More Things to Do in Amsterdam
Since opening in 1864, the Tropenmuseum (Museum of the Tropics) has amassed 175,000 objects from Dutch colonies, making it one of the largest museums in Amsterdam. Divided into eight permanent exhibitions, the museum is designed to provide insight into the daily lives and diverse cultures of people from all over the globe.
Michel de Klerk was the leading architect of the early 20th-century Amsterdam School movement, and his legacy is the foremost example of the style in the city. Greatly influenced by the works of Hendrik Berlage, the designer of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (Beurs van Berlage), De Klerk’s Het Schip is found just north of the Westerpark and was completed in 1921. It was to be his swansong, a vast apartment building intended to provide social housing for more than 100 families of railway employees to combat a severe housing crises in the city. Beautifully formed in the shape of an ocean liner and constructed from red brick, Het Schip is adorned with elaborate masonry, spiky towers, spires, ornate glass and wrought-iron grid-work. When it was completed, the complex also incorporated a school, meeting hall and a post office; the latter is today a museum of Amsterdam School architecture featuring a typical working-class apartment of the 1920s, which stands in contrast to the one designed according to Michel de Klerk’s socialist principles. There are plans afoot to build an extensive new museum at the site.
Amsterdam’s oldest church, the Old Church (Oude Kerk), is a curious sight. Consecrated in 1303, the triple-nave Gothic church is surrounded by the window brothels, coffee shops, and bars of the city’s notorious red-light district. Inside are an impressive Christian Müller organ, some scandalous 15th-century carvings, and a floor built of gravestones.
Sometimes referred to as the “Venice of the North”, Amsterdam is well known for its picturesque canals, romantic bridges, and narrow houses. The city boasts well over 1,200 bridges, and one of the most visited is known as the Bridge of 15 Bridges, which offers views of 15 of the city’s bridges from one spot.
As the name might suggest, the Homomonument, located in the center of Amsterdam, pays homage to the struggles of gay men and women fighting for equity and freedom. The memorial, which includes three large pink granite triangles, was opened in 1987 and is the first in the world to honor gays and lesbians who lost their lives at the hands of Nazis. In 2011, another such monument was erected in Barcelona that was modeled after the famous Homomonument.
Travelers looking to explore the history and culture of Amsterdam may want to include a visit to this iconic destination en route to the Anne Frank museum. Travelers say that while it’s easy to miss, the pink triangle monument recognizing some 600,000 who died during the Holocaust.
The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam is one of the most significant remnants of Jewish history in the city. Built between 1671 and 1675, the synagogue has been restored over the years, but overall it stands today as it did over 300 years ago.
Amsterdam’s oldest and largest flea market, Waterlooplein Market dates back to 1893. The market, spread between the Leprozengracht and Houtgracht canals in the former Jewish quarter, has long been at the center of Amsterdam’s bohemian culture. Held from Monday to Saturday, it remains a prime gathering spot for the city’s youth.
The Amsterdam Museum offers a crash course in the city’s fascinating history and culture. Located in a former convent and 17th-century orphanage, the museum narrates the history of Amsterdam chronologically from humble fishing village to the multicultural cosmopolitan city of today. Interactive and multimedia exhibits appeal to visitors of all ages.
Famous for its Delft Blue pottery and as the birthplace of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, the quaint town of Delft is ringed by scenic canals and located in the western Netherlands between Rotterdam and The Hague. Delft is also notable for its striking medieval buildings, lively market, and connections with the Dutch Royal Family.
One of Europe’s biggest outdoor markets, Albert Cuyp Market has welcomed shoppers since 1904 when it began as a collection of street traders. Named after the 17th-century painter, today's market offers stalls filled with food, clothes, and more, giving locals and travelers a robust shopping destination.
Amsterdam is known for its wide streets, classic museums and colorful canals. It is also known for its coffeehouse culture and open-minded approach to both cannabis and prostitution. Visitors flock to see the city’s Red Light District, where prostitution is legal and very much out in the open. Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution, located in the heart of the area, is the world’s only museum dedicated to the risque profession—offering an eye-opening look at its history in Amsterdam.
Housed in a traditional 17th-century canal house, the small museum aims to educate curious visitors without entering a brothel. Travelers can examine full-scale replicas of luxury brothel suites and wardrobe displays, while also getting the chance to listen to interviews with prostitutes about their daily lives and step into a florescent, red-lit window. The building itself was once home to an operating brothel, facilitating an authentic experience.
Madurodam, a mini-Holland on a 1:25 scale, lets you tour the entirety of the Netherlands in an hour. One of Holland’s most popular attractions since its development in the Hague in 1952, it highlights the epitomes of Dutch culture in scale-model replicas of perfectly ornamented bridges, canals, windmills, and major national landmarks.
The Hague’s 13th-century Binnenhof (Inner Court) complex encompasses several landmarks, including the Gothic Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights)—a state building characterized by medieval-style turrets. Now home to the Dutch Parliament, the heritage site attracts visitors with a blend of courtly features and political significance.
The Netherlands is known for its many windmills, and the De Gooyer Windmill is one of the country’s most famous. Originally used as a flour mill, it dates back to the 16th century. It is one of the few remaining wooden windmills within the city of Amsterdam, and in the Netherlands as a whole.
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