Amsterdam: From Van Gogh to Modern Exhibits

Amsterdam: From Van Gogh to Modern Exhibits

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, located in the western part of the country. It is situated specifically in the province of North Holland, on the banks of the Amstel River, and is approximately 2 meters (6.6 feet) below sea level. The city is known for its extensive network of canals, including the famous UNESCO-listed Canal Ring, which contributes to its unique and picturesque urban landscape, earning it the nickname “The Venice of the North.”

Amsterdam is also known for its progressive and liberal attitudes towards drugs and prostitution, with regulated establishments for both. The city is associated with iconic Dutch symbols such as tulips and windmills. Visitors can enjoy the sight of blooming tulip fields in the surrounding countryside, while historic windmills can be found in nearby regions such as Zaanse Schans.

Amsterdam is not bordered by any other countries as it is located entirely within the Netherlands. However, it is in close proximity to Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. These neighboring countries can be easily accessed from Amsterdam by train or car.

Within the Netherlands, Amsterdam is surrounded by various municipalities and cities within the province of North Holland, such as Haarlem to the west, Almere to the east, and Amstelveen to the south. Amsterdam’s strategic location in the Netherlands makes it easily accessible and allows visitors to explore not only the city itself but also the neighboring regions and countries within a relatively short distance.

While Amsterdam attracts visitors with its iconic canals, historical sites like the Anne Frank House, and vibrant neighborhoods such as Jordaan, Rotterdam’s modern architecture and bustling port present a contrasting urban experience. Meanwhile, The Hague offers a more formal ambiance with its governmental institutions, cultural heritage, and proximity to the North Sea coast. Each city has its own distinct character, making the Netherlands a diverse and captivating destination for travelers.

Short History

Amsterdam was founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village along the Amstel River. By the 17th century, Amsterdam had grown into one of the wealthiest cities in the world, thanks to its flourishing trade with Asia and the Americas. During this period, the city became known for its artistic and cultural achievements, producing such famous figures as Rembrandt and Vermeer. Amsterdam also played an important role in the Enlightenment, with leading figures such as Spinoza and Descartes living and working in the city. In the 20th century, Amsterdam became known for its liberal attitudes towards drugs and sexuality, and the city remains a hub of cultural and social experimentation to this day.


Amsterdam is known for its distinctive architecture, which includes a mix of styles from different periods in the city’s history. Some of the most notable architectural features of Amsterdam include:

  • Canal houses: Amsterdam’s canal houses are narrow, tall buildings with elaborate facades that date back to the city’s Golden Age in the 17th century. Many of these houses have been converted into museums, shops, and restaurants.
  • Gable stones: These small, decorative stones are found on the facades of many Amsterdam buildings, and typically feature a symbol or image that represents the building’s history or former occupant.
  • Traditional Dutch architecture: Amsterdam is home to many buildings with traditional Dutch architecture, which features steep roofs, ornate gables, and brick exteriors.
  • Modernist architecture: Amsterdam also has a rich tradition of modernist architecture, with notable examples including the iconic Eye Film Institute and the Tuschinski Theater.
  • Postmodern architecture: In the 1980s and 1990s, Amsterdam saw a wave of postmodern architecture, with buildings such as the ING House and the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ showcasing playful and eclectic designs.

Museums and Galleries

Amsterdam is home to many world-class museums and galleries that showcase the city’s colorful cultural heritage and artistic achievements. Here are some of the most interesting museums and galleries in Amsterdam:

  • Rijksmuseum: This renowned museum houses an extensive collection of Dutch art and artifacts, including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh.
  • Van Gogh Museum: Dedicated to the life and work of Vincent van Gogh, this museum contains the largest collection of his paintings and drawings in the world.
  • Stedelijk Museum: This modern art museum has a collection of over 90,000 works, including pieces by Picasso, Warhol, and other contemporary artists.
  • Anne Frank House: The former home of Anne Frank and her family, this museum provides a moving glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most famous Holocaust victims.
  • Hermitage Amsterdam: This branch of the famous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, features exhibitions of Russian art and cultural artifacts.
  • FOAM Photography Museum: This museum showcases contemporary photography from around the world, with exhibitions featuring established and up-and-coming artists.
  • Tropenmuseum: This ethnographic museum explores the cultures and traditions of non-Western societies, with exhibits on everything from African art to Asian textiles.

These are just a few of the many museums and galleries that Amsterdam has to offer. Whether you’re interested in art, history, or culture, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant and dynamic city.

Landmarks and Monuments

Amsterdam is a city with many notable landmarks and monuments that reflect its cultural heritage. Here are some of the most interesting landmarks and monuments in Amsterdam:

  • Anne Frank House: This historic house is where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II, and it now serves as a museum dedicated to her life and legacy.
  • Royal Palace of Amsterdam: Originally built as a city hall in the 17th century, this grand palace now serves as the official residence of King Willem-Alexander.
  • Dam Square: This bustling public square is a popular gathering place in the heart of Amsterdam, featuring historic buildings, street performers, and plenty of cafes and shops.
  • Oude Kerk: This 13th-century church is the oldest building in Amsterdam and a remarkable example of Gothic architecture.
  • Magere Brug: This picturesque bridge over the Amstel River is a beloved symbol of Amsterdam, and is particularly beautiful when lit up at night.
  • Westerkerk: This towering church is the largest in Amsterdam, and its iconic spire can be seen from all over the city.
  • Museumplein: This public square is home to several of Amsterdam’s most famous museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.

These landmarks and monuments are just a few of the many attractions that make Amsterdam a fascinating and memorable destination. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just soaking up the unique atmosphere of this lively city, there’s plenty to see and do in Amsterdam.

Parks and Green Spaces

Amsterdam is a city that’s famous for its canals and historic architecture, but it’s also home to many beautiful parks and green spaces that offer a peaceful escape from the busy city streets. Here are some of the most beautiful parks in Amsterdam:

  • Vondelpark: This 120-acre park is the largest in Amsterdam, and features walking and cycling paths, ponds, gardens, and a variety of outdoor activities.
  • Amsterdamse Bos: Located on the outskirts of the city, this sprawling forest park is home to miles of hiking and cycling trails, as well as lakes, playgrounds, and a petting zoo.
  • Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam: This historic botanical garden dates back to the 17th century, and is home to a wide variety of plants from around the world.
  • Westerpark: This former industrial site has been transformed into a vibrant park, featuring a lake, gardens, cafes, and cultural events.
  • Oosterpark: This scenic park in the eastern part of the city is home to a large pond, playgrounds, and plenty of green space for picnicking and relaxing.
  • Rembrandtpark: This peaceful park is named after the famous Dutch painter, and features walking paths, a playground, and stunning views of the city skyline.
  • Beatrixpark: This small but charming park is known for its modernist architecture and tranquil atmosphere, and is a great spot for a picnic or a stroll.

These parks and green spaces are just a few of the many outdoor attractions that Amsterdam has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful escape or an active adventure, there’s something for everyone in the city’s beautiful parks and gardens.


While Amsterdam itself does not have direct access to the coast, there are several beautiful beaches near the city that are worth visiting. Here are some beaches that you can explore:

  • Zandvoort Beach: Located just 24 kilometers (15 miles) west of Amsterdam, Zandvoort Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in the Netherlands. It offers a wide sandy shoreline, beach clubs, water sports activities, and a vibrant atmosphere. Zandvoort is easily accessible from Amsterdam by train.
  • Bloemendaal aan Zee: Situated next to Zandvoort Beach, Bloemendaal aan Zee is known for its long sandy beach and vibrant beach clubs. It is a great spot for sunbathing, beach parties, and enjoying the lively beach scene. Bloemendaal aan Zee can be reached from Amsterdam by train and bus.
  • IJburg Beach: Located within Amsterdam itself, IJburg Beach is an artificial beach situated on the eastern part of the city. It offers a sandy area with designated swimming zones, beach volleyball courts, and a pleasant waterfront environment.
  • Scheveningen Beach: While not directly near Amsterdam, Scheveningen Beach is worth mentioning as it is easily accessible from the city. Located in The Hague, Scheveningen is one of the most famous and vibrant beaches in the Netherlands. It offers a wide stretch of sandy coastline, beachside cafes, water sports, and attractions such as the Pier and Sea Life Scheveningen.

These beaches provide opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, beach sports, and enjoying the coastal atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a lively beach scene or a tranquil spot to relax, these nearby beaches offer a variety of options for a day trip or a beachside getaway from Amsterdam.

Shopping Districts

Amsterdam is a city that’s known for its unique and diverse shopping scene, with everything from high-end fashion boutiques to vintage stores and markets. Here are some of the most worth visiting shopping areas in Amsterdam:

  • Nine Streets: This picturesque neighborhood in the heart of Amsterdam features a variety of independent boutiques, vintage stores, and specialty shops.
  • De Pijp: This trendy neighborhood is home to a diverse array of shops and restaurants, including vintage clothing stores, artisanal food markets, and independent bookstores.
  • Kalverstraat: This bustling shopping street is one of the busiest in Amsterdam, and is home to a mix of international chain stores and local boutiques.
  • Jordaan: This historic neighborhood is known for its charming streets and quirky shops, featuring everything from handmade pottery to artisanal cheese.
  • Haarlemmerstraat: This lively shopping street is home to a variety of independent shops, as well as several unique cafes and restaurants.
  • Bijenkorf: This iconic department store in the heart of Amsterdam is known for its high-end fashion and luxury goods.
  • Waterlooplein Market: This popular flea market is a great place to find vintage clothing, antiques, and other unique treasures.

These shopping districts are just a few of the many places to explore in Amsterdam, where you can find everything from high-end designer labels to one-of-a-kind treasures. Whether you’re looking for fashion, food, or just some unique souvenirs to take home, Amsterdam has something for everyone.

Food and Drink

Amsterdam is known for its unique and diverse culinary scene, with everything from traditional Dutch specialties to international cuisine and trendy cafes. Here are some foods and drinks to try when visiting Amsterdam:

  • Stroopwafels: These thin, chewy waffle cookies are a beloved Dutch treat, often filled with a sweet syrup made from caramel and spices.
  • Bitterballen: These crispy, deep-fried meatballs are a classic Dutch snack, often served with mustard for dipping.
  • Poffertjes: These small, fluffy pancakes are a popular street food in Amsterdam, typically dusted with powdered sugar and served with butter and syrup.
  • Raw herring: This traditional Dutch delicacy consists of raw herring served with chopped onions and pickles, often eaten as a sandwich or with bread.
  • Jenever: This Dutch gin is a popular local spirit, often served straight or mixed into cocktails.
  • Dutch cheese: Amsterdam is home to a variety of delicious Dutch cheeses, including Gouda, Edam, and Maasdam, often served with bread and mustard.
  • Indonesian food: Amsterdam has a long history of colonial ties to Indonesia, and as a result, Indonesian cuisine is very popular in the city. Try dishes like nasi goreng (fried rice), satay (grilled meat skewers), and rendang (spicy beef stew).

Whether you’re looking for traditional Dutch cuisine or international flavors, Amsterdam has plenty of culinary delights to discover.


Amsterdam is a compact and walkable city, but there are also many other efficient and convenient ways to get around. Here are some of the best ways to move around Amsterdam:

  • Bicycles: Bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in Amsterdam, and the city is known for its extensive network of bike lanes and paths. Many bike rental shops are available throughout the city.
  • Trams: Amsterdam has an extensive tram system, with many lines running throughout the city center and beyond. Trams are frequent and efficient, and are a great way to explore different neighborhoods.
  • Metro: Amsterdam also has a metro system, with several lines running underground through the city center and suburbs.
  • Bus: Amsterdam has an extensive bus network, with many lines running throughout the city and suburbs. Buses are a convenient way to reach areas not served by trams or metro.
  • Ferries: Amsterdam is surrounded by water, and there are several free ferries that shuttle passengers across the IJ River to different parts of the city.
  • Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Amsterdam, but they can be expensive. Many taxi companies also offer app-based ride-hailing services.
  • Walking: Amsterdam is a very walkable city, with many sights and attractions within walking distance of each other. Walking is also a great way to explore the city’s charming streets and canals.

These transportation options offer convenient and distinct ways to navigate the charming streets of Amsterdam, ensuring an enjoyable and efficient exploration of this picturesque city.


Amsterdam is a safe city, but as with any city, it’s important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in Amsterdam:

  • Be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye on your surroundings and be aware of any suspicious behavior or potential dangers.
  • Avoid unlit areas at night: Stick to well-lit areas and avoid walking alone in unlit areas at night.
  • Watch out for pickpockets: Pickpocketing can be a problem in crowded areas, so be sure to keep your valuables secure and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Use licensed taxis: When taking a taxi, make sure to use a licensed taxi and agree on a fare before getting in.
  • Be cautious with drugs: While marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, other drugs are not, and drug use can be dangerous and lead to legal trouble.
  • Follow traffic rules: Amsterdam is a city of cyclists, so be sure to follow traffic rules and be aware of bikes when crossing streets.
  • Use common sense: Use common sense and trust your instincts when it comes to your safety.

Overall, Amsterdam is a safe city for tourists, but it’s important to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Expensive or Cheap

Amsterdam can be considered a relatively expensive city compared to other European destinations, but it’s still possible to visit and enjoy the city on a budget. The cost of accommodation, food, and activities can vary depending on your preferences and travel style.

Accommodation in Amsterdam can be expensive, especially in the city center, but there are also many affordable options available such as hostels, budget hotels, and short-term rentals.

Food and drink prices can also vary depending on where you eat and drink, with restaurants and cafes in tourist areas typically more expensive than those in local neighborhoods. However, there are many affordable street food options and markets throughout the city.

Transportation costs in Amsterdam are relatively low, with options like biking and walking being free and public transportation being affordable.

Overall, Amsterdam can be an expensive city to visit, but it’s still possible to enjoy the city on a budget by being mindful of your spending and seeking out affordable options.

Best Time to Travel

The best time to travel to Amsterdam depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek. Here are some factors to consider for each season:

  • Spring (April to May): Spring in Amsterdam is a beautiful time when the city’s famous tulips are in bloom. Keukenhof, located just outside of Amsterdam, showcases stunning displays of colorful flowers. The weather is generally mild, although rain showers are common. Spring also brings festive events like King’s Day (Koningsdag) on April 27th.
  • Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Amsterdam, with longer days and pleasant temperatures ranging from 18°C to 25°C (64°F to 77°F). The city comes alive with outdoor festivals, vibrant terraces, and boat trips along the canals. However, it can be crowded, and advance bookings for accommodations and attractions are advisable.
  • Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Amsterdam offers mild temperatures and fewer crowds compared to the summer months. The city’s parks and tree-lined streets showcase beautiful fall foliage. September hosts events like the Amsterdam Fringe Festival and the Amsterdam Dance Event, attracting art and music enthusiasts.
  • Winter (December to February): Winter in Amsterdam brings chilly temperatures ranging from 2°C to 6°C (36°F to 43°F), along with occasional rain or snow showers. The city is less crowded during this time, and you can enjoy the festive atmosphere with holiday lights, ice skating, and Christmas markets. Be aware that some attractions may have shorter opening hours or closures during the holiday season.

Each season offers its own unique charm and attractions in Amsterdam. Consider your preferred weather, crowd levels, and specific events or experiences you wish to enjoy when deciding on the best time to visit this captivating city.

Date Ideas, Activities or Experiences

Amsterdam is a charming city with many romantic spots and activities that are perfect for a date. Here are some ideas to consider when visiting Amsterdam:

  • Take a canal boat tour: Amsterdam is known for its beautiful canals, and a canal boat tour is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
  • Visit a museum: Amsterdam is home to many world-class museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. Visiting a museum is a great way to spend a romantic afternoon and appreciate art and culture together.
  • Enjoy a picnic in the park: Amsterdam has many lovely parks and green spaces, such as Vondelpark and Westerpark. Pack a picnic and enjoy a relaxing afternoon together in nature.
  • Rent a tandem bike: Renting a tandem bike is a fun and romantic way to explore the city and its many bike paths.
  • Visit a flower market: The famous Bloemenmarkt is a colorful and vibrant flower market that is open year-round. Stroll through the market and pick out a bouquet of flowers to take home.
  • Explore a neighborhood: Amsterdam is home to many unique neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm. Pick a neighborhood to explore together, and enjoy its local shops, cafes, and architecture.

Whether you’re looking for romance or adventure, Amsterdam is the perfect city to explore together.

Fun and Interesting Facts

Amsterdam is a fascinating city with an interesting history, lively culture, and many fun facts that make it unique. Here are some curiosities about Amsterdam:

  • Amsterdam has more canals than Venice: With over 100 kilometers of canals and 90 islands, Amsterdam has more canals than any other city in the world, including Venice.
  • Bicycles outnumber people in Amsterdam: Amsterdam is known for its bike culture, with over 880,000 bicycles in the city, which outnumber its population of around 850,000 people.
  • Amsterdam is the birthplace of gin: Gin originated in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam played an important role in its development and production.
  • Amsterdam has more museums per capita than any other city in the world: With over 50 museums, Amsterdam has more museums per capita than any other city in the world.
  • Amsterdam was originally a fishing village: Amsterdam began as a small fishing village in the 12th century, and grew to become an important trading hub in the 17th century.
  • The Dutch royal family lives in Amsterdam: The Dutch royal family’s official residence is in Amsterdam, at the Royal Palace on Dam Square.

Overall, Amsterdam is a city full of surprises and interesting facts that make it a unique and fascinating place to visit. From its canals and bicycles to its museums and gin, Amsterdam has something for everyone to enjoy.


Amsterdam’s cultural scene is unparalleled, boasting over 50 museums, including world-renowned institutions such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The city’s vibrant arts and music festivals, along with its lively nightlife, contribute to its reputation as a cultural capital. Also, it’s bike-friendly culture, with more bicycles than people, allows for an enjoyable and eco-friendly way to navigate the city.

Beyond its cultural offerings, Amsterdam’s open-mindedness and progressive attitudes are reflected in its relaxed approach towards cannabis and its historical significance as the birthplace of gin. The city’s culinary scene also showcases a wide array of international cuisines and traditional Dutch delicacies.

Amsterdam’s history as a fishing village turned trading hub, along with the presence of the Dutch royal family, further add to its intriguing story.

Amsterdam is a captivating city that seamlessly blends its historical charm with a vibrant and modern atmosphere. With its iconic canals, cultural richness, and progressive spirit, Amsterdam offers a unique and memorable experience for visitors from around the world. Whether exploring the picturesque streets, immersing oneself in world-class museums, or enjoying the city’s lively nightlife, Amsterdam delights at every turn.