Welcoming more than 4.63 visitors and 16 million-day trippers every year, Amsterdam has acquired the title of being one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Europe. As there has been an increase in number of tourists that Europe expects, a sizeable growth rate has been observed in tourism at Amsterdam. The lavish hotels in the heart of the city have attracted many tourists. The history of the country offers it to behold various cultural festivals from time to time which can be cited as one of the reasons of growing tourism.
History of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has been known as one of the best planned cities of Northern Europe and has also played a major role in the history of Netherlands. The country was known as the Centre of world Economy in the 17th century. The city is known for its tolerant character in the present times. Amsterdam came into being in the thirteenth century as a fishing village. At the end of 12th century, Amsterdam was founded near the Amstel River around a dam.
Amsterdam started developing during the 14th and 15th century which led to the foundation of the Golden Age. The Golden Age of Amsterdam was from 1585-1672 as it was the period of Amsterdam’s commercial success. Many historic buildings were developed during this period and the Amsterdam cityscape developed. The Golden Age came to an end when the French and English attacked the Dutch republic. The city still maintained as a major staple market and retained its position as the financial centre of Europe. But during 1795-1813, Amsterdam faced economic recession and the French were to inhabit the country. The duration of 1813 to 1940 was highlighted as the period of recovery and from 1870 onwards, it was marked as the time of expansion.
The population in the country started increasing and there was also the rise in many developmental activities. It also faced the damage of many historical centers because of modern constructions, new traffic inventions and filling of the canals. Thus, the history of Amsterdam was filled with ups and downs but still the country fought hard to sustain and develop rapidly.
Though located in the domain of North Holland, Amsterdam is not its capital. It is the capital of Netherlands with a population of around 1,351,587 in the urban area, 851,373 within the city and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The metropolitan area includes most of the northern part of the Randstad. Amsterdam derived its name from ‘Amstelredamme’ which is symbolic of the fact that the city originated around a dam in the river Amstel.
Originated in the late twelfth century as a small fishing village, Amsterdam became the world’s most significant ports during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. However, in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, there was further expansion with the planning and building of many new suburbs and neighborhoods. The Defense Line of Amsterdam and the canals of Amsterdam are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Major canals of Amsterdam are connected to the river Amstel that ends in the city center. The city lies two meters below sea level and is surrounded by the flat land formed of large polders. In the southwest of the city, lies Amsterdamse Bos, a man-made forest. The North Sea Canal connects Amsterdam to the North Sea.
With a wide spectrum of highlights, Amsterdam is one place in Europe which you must include in your itinerary if you are traveling to Europe. Here is a list of few major highlights that you must not forget to visit
As compared to London and Paris, Amsterdam is a small city that can be easily accessed by the visitors. It is small enough for the visitors to easily sightsee the entire city in just a few days on public transportation, walking tour or a bike. Hence it is a kind of urban village where you can create memories by taking a real feel of its neighborhoods, people, and sights. Likewise, to visit cities or towns outside Amsterdam, it takes just 15 minutes by train.
City of Canals
The city is popularly known for its canals. There are 165 canals that are connected by 1,281 bridges, thus apparently forming a floating city of ninety islands. For a true magical feel, you must take a canal cruise to go through the narrow, winding streets of Amsterdam along the waters. You can also admire Amsterdam canal houses that have been rehabilitated into public museums.
Trove of ecclesiastical architecture
Known for ecclesiastical architecture, Amsterdam boasts of 6,800 buildings and houses secured as monuments. In fact it is the chief historical city in Europe. The most distinctive architectural features are the stylish homes and towering, sturdy warehouses that line the city’s canals. Amsterdam is also home to several churches. Basilica is the most popular historic church in the city. Visitors can also hike the church towers for the best panoramic view of the city.
The dam is the major part and lies in the center of the city. It is one of the major highlights in Amsterdam. There may be prettier locations to visit but Dam square is worth the time and effort. It has a blistery history with many dramatic situations in the past but currently it is a calm and peaceful place and home to hundreds of pigeons and visitors.
Attractions and Activities
There is a wide range of attractions and activities for cultural and recreational sightseeing in Amsterdam. These may comprise remarkable old buildings and fascinating museums. Here is a list of some of its top attractions that are worth visiting if you are in this beautiful city
Located at the core of the Freneric Red Light Area, Oude Kerk is an old church with small buildings clinging to its sides. It is a calm and peaceful place.
Surrounded by old buildings and houses, Begijnhof is a beautiful garden with a narrow, curved passageway at the entrance. Beguine nuns had once occupied the houses in the courtyard but today they are a home to single women. The oldest house in Amsterdam stands here. There also lies a medieval church in the center of the lawns. Though the entry to the garden is free but you are expected to maintain silence.
Due to its large number of canals, the city is also known as ‘The Venice of the North’ and a canal cruise is a must-do activity in Amsterdam. The canal cruise can be both romantic and enchanting at night when buildings and houses are well-lit and fascinating during daytime. The four major city center canals are Herengracht, Singel, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. You can also visit to see various smaller canals in the neighborhood of Jordaan which includes the Bloemgracht, Leliegracht and Brouwersgracht.
One of the major attractions in Amsterdam, are these eight stunning windmills located at the core of Holland. The visitors get so much enchanted by these windmills and the scenic beauty that they do not fail to capture them in their cameras.
It has become a popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam with picturesque canals, narrow streets, art galleries, brown cafes and unique shops. Especially the converted warehouses are worth watching. Inhabited by well-to-do businessmen, colorful mixture of students and creative professionals, Jordaan is a wonderful place to live as well as to stroll through the enthralling streets.
Lined with restaurants, hotels, cafes and pubs, Rembrandtplein is a popular place for nightlife. You can enjoy the real Dutch music in traditional Dutch pubs. In summers, these pubs are packed with visitors. There is a pleasant park in the center of the square where you can either relax or pay tribute at the statue of Rembrandt. You will also find respectable diamond dealers, gay venues, quality night clubs and some tacky souvenir shops.
This is another popular place for nightlife attractions in Amsterdam. The place is livened up with fire-eaters, jugglers, street musicians and other performers. There are numerous clubs, theatres, coffee shops, cinemas and restaurants in the area that makes Leidseplein all the more colorful and vibrant. The terraces remain packed on warm summer evenings by the locals and tourists who take advantage of outdoor sitting and enjoy drinks with friends.
The Albert Cuyp
Held in the Pijp district, the Albert Cuyp is the busiest and the best-known market in Europe. It attracts several visitors everyday particularly on Saturdays. The market has more than three hundred stalls that sell a variety of goods ranging from fresh produce to many other items on cheaper prices.
Located in the south, Vondelpark is the most popular park in Netherlands. It is just a walking distance from the Stedelijk Museum, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Every year, nearly 10 million visitors get drawn to this park for sightseeing.
This oldest zoo of Holland is located right in the heart of the city. It comprises of four chief areas such as Planetarium, Geological and Zoological museum, Botanical Gardens and Zoo. A wide variety of animals can be seen in the zoo. Moreover, there is an exclusive canal aquarium which shows which animals stray the canals. In the peaceful gardens of the zoo, you can also find tropical, impressive rainforest greenhouse, statues of modern artists and many old trees.
This large and beautiful botanical garden is one of the world’s oldest gardens with more than six thousand plants. Some of its plants are however, unique such as old agave cactus. The place remains a pleasant oasis of peace in the crowded and busy center.
Also known as ‘Skinny Bridge’, Magere Brug is the most popular traditional double-leaf bridge that connects the banks of the River Amstel. The boats are let through the bridge after every twenty minutes. Built in 1670, the original bridge was quite narrow. But as the traffic increased, it was replaced by a wider one.
Food and Culture
Amsterdam offers a variety of typical foods that express the city and its residents. Tourists are open to try as many dishes as they can, from salty frites to imported spicy treats and sweet dishes to traditional Dutch fish.
Kaas is one of the most common dishes in Amsterdam which is quite popular among the cheese-lovers. The locals take pride in their delightful cheeses, Edam and Gouda being the most common of them. The Oud variety has a sharper taste while the Jong is creamy and mild. Goat cheese is often used on a delicious salad of mixed walnuts, greens and honey. If you are in Amsterdam, make sure you taste this Dutch specialty. Stroopwafel is another specialty of Amsterdam which is much appreciated by the sweet-toothed visitors. This rich Dutch cookie is basically a thin sandwich of buttery waffles joined together with a sweet, gooey molasses. These are easily available at souvenir shops, small corner markets and grocery stores.
Pannekoeken and Poffertjes are two types of Dutch pancakes which are quite popular all over the city. Made with buttery batter and served with Dutch syrup, pannekoeken is a thin pancake which is neither savory nor sweet. Poffertjes are puffed pancakes which are served with powdered sugar and butter. Vlaamse frites are the favorite snacks of the masses in the city, particularly the kids. Similar to French fries, this snack is commonly served with mayonnaise.
Amsterdam has a diverse population and a rich cultural life. This international city is multi-faceted and vibrant due to its wide range of arts, culture, history and society. Amsterdam boasts of various world-famous museums, such as Rijksmuseum, Rembrandt House Museum, Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum. These museums are fine examples of contemporary and modern design, art and architecture.
You can also discover the latest developments in the international and Dutch art scene by visiting any of the art galleries or art fairs in Amsterdam. The city is also packed with various options for theatre lovers. Amsterdam’s ballet and opera are world-renowned. The main theatre hosts festivals like the Holland Festival and international productions as well. Music lovers can also find almost everything in Amsterdam from choral music, ensembles and symphony orchestras to opera and chamber music in inspiring venues. With a diverse range of festivals, Amsterdam is packed with festival calendar with everything from dance music parties to outdoor film extravaganzas, from chamber music to culinary fetes and from fashion and art events to kid’s festivals.
Best Time or Season to Visit
Amsterdam is beautiful and charming throughout the year whether you see it through little drizzle, under blue skies or along the biggest crowds of peak season. But here are certain guidelines to help you plan your trip accordingly
The most favorable time to visit the city is between April and September as temperatures are milder and the days are longer. With countless open-air concerts and cultural festivals, Amsterdam is worth visiting during summers before the large crowds arrive. However, to save your pockets, you can look for cheapest accommodations and flights from November to March. The holiday season in December is the only exception here. The airfares become cheaper when it is cold in northern Europe.
Cost of Living Expenses in Amsterdam
Living in Amsterdam is not a cheap affair. This city involves much expenditure than you would normally expect for living. Cost of transportation is very high if you choose to travel by public transport. However, if you wish to travel at cheaper rate, then hire a bicycle. To add to your difficulties, it is problematic to find a job in the city if you are not well versed with the native language.
Though your cost of living depends upon your lifestyle yet it usually varies from €1000 to €1500 per month for a person. This cost fluctuates depending upon how much you are willing to spend on insurance, accommodation, daily needs such as groceries, etc.
There are variety of things that must be tried in Amsterdam which includes admiring the art of the city of Jordaan, ride a ferry to north Amsterdam, experience the canal cruise, go shopping in the shopping streets of Amsterdam and last but not the least do not miss its late-night museum parties where you will find yourself engrossed in never-ending entertainment.