When I first arrived in Amsterdam, I was blown away by all the sights and sounds the city has to offer. Little bicycle bells were ringing, trolley cars were crisscrossing each other, foot traffic was overflowing, and boats lined the canals. The capital of the Netherlands is known for its artistic history (as seen at museums like the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum), its intricate canal system, and the beautiful facades of the narrow houses that line the canals and stand throughout the city. Here are my must-sees of this gorgeous Dutch city:
Van Gogh Museum
One of the most famous artists born in the Netherlands is Vincent van Gogh. A Dutch post-impressionist painter who died at 37, he left his works to his brother Theo. Theo actually was the one who advised Vincent to become an artist, and their letters and familial relationship is mapped out along the walls of the museum. Not only does the Van Gogh museum house the largest Van Gogh collection in the world, but it also includes works from his fellow contemporaries such as Rodin and Monet. Note that tickets are only available online and indicate a specific timeslot that you can enter.
The majestic Rijksmuseum is a museum committed to the history and arts of Amsterdam. Notable works housed in the museum are Rembrandt’s Night Watch, Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, and a fabulous collection of Delft Blue pottery (quite popular in the Netherlands and throughout the world between 1600 and 1800). Tickets can be purchased online in advance or in person at the ticket counter. Even though the Rijksmuseum tickets do not indicate a specific time that you have to enter the museum on the date that you chose, I would still personally purchase tickets in advance so as to not wait in a queue. Also note that tickets online are one euro cheaper than if you purchase them in person.
Vondelpark is the largest urban park in Amsterdam, and the most famous park in the Netherlands. The park opened in 1865 and was originally named Nieuwe Park, but was later renamed after Dutch playwright and poet Joost van den Vondel. Drawing in about 10 million visitors each year, Vondelpark is replete with free concerts in the summer, a large playground for children, restaurants, and plenty of room to ride a bike, jog, or people watch. Entrance to the park is free.
The Begijnhof is one of the oldest hofjes, or courtyards with almshouses around it, in Amsterdam. These types of courtyards have existed since the Middle Ages, and there are still some in use today in the Netherlands.
The Canal Belt
The heart of Amsterdam is encircled by 17thcentury canals built to promote commerce as well as water traffic. Created in the Dutch Golden Age, these canals took about 90 years to build. The best way to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site is to walk along the canals or to see them by boat. There are many boat options, as you can rent a boat yourself, climb aboard a big boat tour, or find a smaller boat tour with only a handful of people joining you on the boat. Whichever option you choose, the canal rings are not to be missed.
The flower market of Amsterdam is the only floating flower market in the world, reminiscent of the days when flowers would arrive every day to Amsterdam from the countryside by boat. You can purchase bouquets of flowers, single flowers, and even bulbs to plant yourself. If you are from a different country and would like to purchase bulbs, make sure a customs cleared stamp is on the packet. There are also mass produced merchandise like magnets and Delft Blue pottery, but I would suggest purchasing your souvenirs at local businesses. My favorites are Antiquiteiten fa Mathieu Hart for antiques and Kramer Kunst & Antiek for a great tile selection.
These are just my personal Amsterdam favorites, but there is so much more to see!