Amsterdam originates from a small fishing village in the 13th century. Since then, Amsterdam has had a strong tradition as a centre of trade, art and immigration. During the 17th century, which is considered Amsterdam’s Golden Age, Amsterdam became Europe’s leading financial and maritime centre. The city is famous for its art, canals, flowers, cyclists, cheese, and open-mindedness.
The Netherlands are renowned for their painters, and the most famous paintings of Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Frans Hals can be seen in Amsterdam. Three important museums can be found at the Museum Square in Amsterdam: the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, and Van Gogh museum.
The Rijksmuseum has a collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200-2000. Especially famous is Rembrandt’s largests painting De Nachtwacht (The Night’s Watch). The Rijksmuseum also has famous paintings by Vermeer, such as Het Melkmeisje (The Milk Maid), and Het Straatje (The Alley). It is situated in a beautiful 19th century building designed by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the Amsterdam Central Station.
The Stedelijk Museum has a world renowned collection of modern and contemporary art. Its collection contains works by Chagall, Matisse, Warhol, Koons, Mondriaan, Dumas, Appel, and others. Recently, a new wing has been added that looks like an enormous bath tub. The Stedelijk will have two temporary exhibitions in June: a retrospective on the Italian designer Sottsass, and a retrospective on the German painter Günter Förg.
Do not visit Amsterdam without seeing the work of Van Gogh, our most famous, and tragic painter. The Van Gogh museum has the world’s largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Apart from the permanent collection, there will be a temporary exhibition on Van Gogh and Japan until June 24. Avoid the long lines and reserve tickets online ahead of time.
For twenty years, Rembrandt van Rijn lived and worked in this beautiful building in the center of Amsterdam. Nowadays, his house is a museum that shows visitors how the great painter lived and worked. In addition, the Rembrandthuis has large collection of Rembrandt’s etchings and drawings, and often stages temporary exhibitions of contemporary artists.
During World War II, the Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi persecution in the house at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. Sadly, Anne did not survive the war, but her wartime diary that was published in 1947 has reached millions of readers around the world. The 17th-century canal house has been converted into a museum that shows the original hiding rooms in which Anne, her family and four others spent more than two years. The museum also contains an exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the war. Try to visit this museum on a weekday morning if you can, as the lines are often well around the block.
The sea has played a major role in the Dutch history, and the Scheepvaartmuseum allows visitors to explore 500 years of maritime history in the Netherlands. You can visit the full-size replica of a Dutch East India Company ship from the 17th century. The permanent collection shows artefacts of the Dutch East India Company, world maps, scale models and paintings.
Amsterdam counts 165 canals that were created to stimulate trade and transport. The 17th century Canal Belt, with its characteristic houses that were inhabited by rich merchants and influential regents, was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 2011. In total, the water of the canals and harbours fill a full quarter of the city. A canal cruise is a popular tourist attraction, and allows visitors to see the city from a different perspective.
To see Amsterdam from yet another perspective, namely that of its 820.000 inhabitants, you can explore the city by bike. Although cycling in Amsterdam is perfectly safe, please make sure to follow the traffic rules, and be careful of some locals who unfortunately do not always follow them.
Not far from the city center, the Jordaan district is a pleasant neighborhood where you can walk through lovely streets with beautiful houses and bridges. In the medieval neighborhood De Wallen, also known as the Red Light District, the liberal and tolerant attitude of the city shows itself in various ways. The upcoming neighborhood of Amsterdam-Noord is worth a visit as well. You can reach it with a free ferry behind the Central Station, to see a totally different side of the city, and visit its more alternative cafes and restaurants.