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World > Netherlands > Amsterdam
City Guide Amsterdam
General Information
Amsterdam is named after the river Amstel and has a population of over 740.000 people. As as a result of centuries of land-reclamation projects the city now borders the freshwater of IJsselmeer although it was originally built on the Zuiderzee. The centre of the old city is shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by three well known canals called the "Herengracht", "Keizersgracht" and "Prinsengracht". To the north of the city you will find the impressive 19th Century Central Train Station, with it's interior painted ceiling and ornate brickwork. Amsterdam is one of the world's most popular destinations for travellers and offers a wealth of cultural and social activities. The city has a wide range of major tourist attractions, such as the Rijksmuseum with Rembrandt's "Nightwatch" and some exquisite Vermeer's. The constructed Van Gogh museum is also worth visiting and very accessible. This striking modern building not only houses many landscapes and interiors by the infamous Dutch painter, but also temporary exhibitions. Unlike some of the other most frequently visited cities in Europe, Amsterdam is best explored on foot. With its extensive network of canals, visitors can walk along peaceful, tree-lined streets, past elegant Seventeenth Century houses and converted warehouses. The inner ring is one of the most beautiful areas, with an often confusing circular layout of streets, known as the Grachtengordel, or "Girdle of Canals". It is enjoyable to wander along the four main routes, from Singel, with its five star restaurants to Prinsengracht where there are lots of delightful cafes by the water. Even in colder weather, there is plenty to do and see, as numerous town houses owned by illustrious Dutch citizens have been turned into museums. You will find yourself admiring the marble floors, hand-made Delft tiles in the kitchens and grand staircases leading up to sumptuous bedrooms.
The weather in Holland is usually mild. Rarely dropping below freezing in the winter or becoming too hot in the summer. It can be beautiful when the canals freeze over, (but not much fun if your bike lock has frozen solid). Rain is spread pretty evenly throughout the year, so it is advisable to pack umbrellas and rainwear.
The local language in Amsterdam is Dutch. Touristy places, such as museums and train stations have English speaking people. Usually most of the Dutch are fluent in English.
Religion is not very popular in the Netherlands. Most of the people stopped going to church long time ago but nevertheless, some old churches were not destroyed because of their value. They are today used as houses or museums. People are living respectfully of each other and are open minded. Their spiritual orientation seems to be more cosmic than religious.
The currency which is used in the Netherlands is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05.
Although a service charge generally is included in restaurant prices and taxi fares, it is customary to give taxi drivers and waiters a tip of about 10 percent. Porters, doormen and room service will expect a small tip for their services.
Public telephones can be found on streets all over the city, at railway stations, post offices and some bars. There are different types, one where you can use cash (which is not very common anymore) and others for which you need a telephone card. Phone cards are available for € 5, € 10 or € 20 at post offices and most tobacco shops. The country code of the Netherlands is +31 and the local area code for Amsterdam is 020. To dial Amsterdam from abroad, dial 00 31 (0)20, followed by the local number.
Internet cafés are all over the city. Most coffee shops and a lot of cafés have at least one computer or a wireless internet access. Some offer the service even for free. Internet cafés are for example: Easyeverything: Damrak 13 and Reguliersbreestraat 22, Cybercafé: Nieuwendijk 19, Giga Plaza Internet Plaza: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 62, Internet Café: Martelaarsgracht 11, Internet coffee shop: Prinsengracht 480, ect.
Emergency numbers
First aid, police, fire department: 112 Central Emergency Call: +31 (0)20 5923434 Tourist Medical Service: +31 (0)20 5923355 Hospital with First Aid: Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis (OLVG): +31 (0)20 5999111
Opening times
Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9 am to 4 / 5 pm. Exchange offices are indicated by the letters GWK, and you can also book theatre and concert tickets here. GWK offices can be found in the city centre, (Leidesplein) major railway stations, Schiphol airport and at the border crossings with Germany and Belgium. Note: visa cards are a rarity in the Netherlands. Most chain stores don't take them and you need to show proof of identity when buying something (passport,ID-Card).
Public Holidays
• 1 January: New Year’s Day • Good Friday • Easter Sunday • Easter Monday • 30 April: Queen’s Day • 5 May Liberation Day • Ascension Day • Whit Sunday and Monday • 25 and 26 December Christmas
Amsterdam is as safe as any other touristy city. Crowded place like the Central Station, at the tourist information, on Leidseplein, in the big museums, in trams or in the shopping areas you have to be careful and watch out for pickpockets. The best thing is to leave most of your belongings at home. Don’t present yourself as a tourist! Have a coffee in a nice café and check your map over there. Everybody who is coming by car should take care of the radio! Please don’t leave any valuable things in your car when parking it!
Amsterdam Grachten
Amsterdam is especially famous for its many grachten, no matter if big or small they there are hundreds of them. Many people are surprised by the amount of water in Amsterdam. Because of that the city is also often called Venice of the North. The canals were used for the transport of goods between the harbour and the houses of the merchants. But they were also used for sewage disposal, so the city must have been reeking very badly. The main grachten that were built circular around the core of the city are Singel, Herengracht, Keizergracht and Prinsengracht. Along the Herengracht the richest people of the city have their elegant houses. They can be easily recognized as they are bigger than the usual houses in Amsterdam. The grachten are very nice during the night because of all the lights in the houses. A lot of tours on the canals are offered especially by providers around the central station and the Damrak.
A charming part of Amsterdam is the neighbourhood called Jordan where you find small cafès and shops and can relax from the hectic of the touristy city centre. Nice old buildings in quiet streets and fantastic backyards give a possibility for a nice stroll. On the Noordermart you can make the best bargain buys in the city. On the Boerenmarkt which is only taking place at the weekend you can buy fresh food and second hand things. Close by lies the Haarlemerstraat with small but advisable shops like special chocolate or bread shops, confectioneries and clothing.
Artis Zoo
The Amsterdam Artis Zoo attracts hundreds of visitors every year. The huge area hosts not only a lot of known animals but also a kind of rain forest for night animals and a simulation of the canals of Amsterdam. Here you can find eels and other water animals that are usually not visible in the dreary water of the actual canals. Apart from that the geological museum, the aquarium and the children’s playground are worth a visit. The Zoo also offers a tour into the world of gay animals. Discover that there are also gay elephants, apes or dolphins on this planet! Opening times: Daily 9 am – 5 pm Entrance prices: 14 € Adults, 12 €, 65+, 10 € children between 4 and 11, children below the age of 4 are free of charge
The Rembrandtpark lies in the eastern part of the area Slotervart, on the border to the area De Baarsies. At the west side the park limited by the Ringweg, the A 10, at the east side by the Postjesweg and the Orteliuskade.
The park is located at the beginning of the Haarlemerweg close to the Nassauplein and the Haarlemerport. The Westerpark is designed in an English landscape style. The cultural park Westergasfabriek and the century old Polder landscape close to the cemetery Sint Barbara form the green space of the Westerpark.
At the east side of Amsterdam lies this special city park. Because of its unique location ate the edge of the city and close to the water of the Nieuwe Diep you can find animals and plants over here that cannot be found that easily in the more isolated park as the Vondelpark. The park is located outside any living area what makes gives a bigger distance to the city life.
This part, which lies in the district Oost / Watergraafsmeer, was designed by Leonard Springer in 1891. He got inspired by nature itself. He wanted to create a piece of nature in the city. The lake is the highlight of the park. With its swinging appearance it resembles a creek. In the middle an island is placed like a sand bank in a river. The park seems endless because of its style. One time mysterious, another time like a painting of nature. The park is more than a hundred years old but still maintained in its original state.
The Dam
This is the most famous place of Amsterdam and the traditional place to start your trip through the city. It is a meeting place for tourists and locals likewise who sit on the steps of the National Monument. The name Amsterdam derives from this place where people built an embankment which separated the IJ and the Amstel. In the middle of the Dam there is a white obelisk which is the Dutch National Monument, which was built for the victims of WWII. Here you can see the old ambition for strength and royal self-importance. Behind the obelisk you find the Grand Hotel Kransnapolski and one if the oldest taverns “De Gekroonde Wildmann”.
A place of absolute peace and silence, an idyllic oasis, a sudden asylum from the hectic of the Kalverstraat! A roomy courtyard inherits a cultivated Greenland around which a couple of small, neat houses are located. Here you can find old ladies drinking tea or having a walk in the garden. Everywhere seems to be an atmosphere of unbelievable friendliness. The Begijnhof was founded in 1346 by a religious group which did not keep up to strict religious rules. They lived in their own small houses keeping their own freedom and dedicated their lives to the poor and sick.
…seems to be the home of the world. Cafés, theatres, pubs, clubs, taverns, artists make this place to one of the most attractive meeting points of Europe. Here you can find everything from Shakespeare to Striptease. The Paradiso, a former church and the Melkweg, a former cheese factory are well known across the borders of the Netherlands.
Portuguese Synagogue
This synagogue belongs to the most beautiful synagogues of the world. It was built between 1671 and 1673 by Elias Bouman and resembles a gigantic cube of red bricks. The interior is a baroque hall with three wooden arches. The small houses that surround the building hosts of one the most famous libraries of the world where you can have a look at precious books reflecting the complex history of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Opening times: 1. April – 31. Oct Su – Fr 10 am – 4 pm, 1. Nov – 31. March So – Thur 10 am – 4 pm, Fr 10 am – 3 pm, closed on Jewish holidays
The Westerkerk was built in the style of the Dutch Renaissance. It is the biggest Protestant church of the Netherlands. The 85 m high tower with the imperial crown of Maximilian of Austria is the best known in the whole city. Rembrandt van Rijn was buried over here in 1669, unfortunately, nobody knows today where. The church is also famous for the regular organ concerts. Opening times: April – Sept Mo – Fr 11 am – 3 pm
The leafy Sarphatipark provides a welcome splash of green amongst the surrounding brick and concrete. The park, complete with footpaths and a sinewy lake, was laid out before the construction of De Pijp got underway, and was initially intended as a place for the bourgeoisie to take a picnic.
Nieuwe Kerk - the New Church
The Nieuwe Kerk is famous for its beautiful exhibitions. It has become famous for its exhibitions presenting the cultural treasures of distant lands, or revealing the religious beliefs of other civilisations. This historic building stands at the heart of Amsterdam, next door to the Royal Palace. The building itself is well worth a visit. One of the oldest churches in Amsterdam, it is also used for the inauguration ceremony for the Dutch monarchs. In 1980, the present queen of the Netherlands, Beatrix, was sworn in here. Also, once a year the ceremony of remembrance for the war victims of the twentieth century, is held in this church.
Known as the ''Jewel in the crown'' of Amsterdam, this open space in the Oud West is a wooded park with lakes and footpaths, surrounded by grand, ornate houses and embassies. During the summer concerts and performances are held at the weekend, and children''s shows on Wednesday afternoons. There is an open air theatre in the centre of the park, with raked seating, but get there early as concerts are free, and everyone in the city seems to appreciate a bargain night out. You might find yourself watching an evening of Dutch cabaret, or flamenco dancers or even joining in an Egyptian dance class on stage. For details +31 (0)20 6731499 or try There are a few places to eat and drink. The Blue Tea House and the Groot Melk Huis. They are open 10 am - 6 pm in winter and 10 am until late in the Summer. Cafe Vertigo that is part of the Film Museum near the Vondelstraat entrance can get very crowded on Summer evenings, but sitting outside under the huge chestnut tree, with a good Dutch beer until the early hours of the morning is worth doing at least once during your stay in the city. Open 11am to 1am daily.
Discovering Amsterdam
Amsterdam is an astonishing city that is in the list of top locations in Europe. In comparison to other big cities Amsterdam seems to be quite small and cosy. It is the home to many historic places but nevertheless you won’t find as many attractions as in other touristy towns. The atmosphere is created by the city itself, the canals that cover the whole city, the old stylish ware houses and the many green places. Especially during the night Amsterdam is fabulous; light flooded streets and house boats make it to a cosy place you don’t want to leave that quickly. But also the Red Light District and the numerous coffee shops contribute to Amsterdam’s reputation. Dreamy and nevertheless gloomy and wicked, that is Amsterdam. The best way to discover the city is by bike and of course by foot. Nearly everything is in walking distance and can be discovered easily.
Oude Kerk – Old Church
In the middle of the Red Light District you find this very interesting and presumably oldest church of Amsterdam where a lot of admirals are buried. The church is known for its light flushing simplicity which goes back to the Calvinists who destroyed paintings, figures and other artistic works in 1566 believing that they bar them from living their religion. The most impressive piece of the church is the organ that was built in 1724. During the many concerts held over there the building comes to life. The high bell tower can be viewed in a guided tour and the fantastic windows attract not only art fanatics. Opening times: Mo – Sat 11 am – 5 pm, Sun 1 pm – 5 pm Entrance prices: € 4 Adults, € 2 65+, children below 12 are free of charge
Koninklijk Paleis – Royal Pala
The Koninklijk Paleis is located in the heart of Amsterdam on the Dam Square. The palace was formerly used as city hall and was only called a palace when Napoleon put his brother Louis as king of the Netherlands. From that moment on different kings used the building as a residence. During the summer months the palace can be visited by the public. Especially the pompous bourgeois hall is impressive but also the court room and the empire furniture left behind by Louis Bonaparte are worth a visit. Opening times: July – August daily 1 pm – 5 pm Entrance prices: € 4,50 Adults, € 3,60 Children 5 – 15 years, children below 4 years are free of charge
Red Light District
Visiting Amsterdam also means visiting the famous Red Light District which is located between the New Market, the Central Station and the Dam Square. The area is not only at night an attraction. Also during the day there is a special atmosphere created by the many red curtains and lights in the windows. Women of every age and every nationality can be viewed in the many windows along the streets. But be aware of pickpockets who are over there in masses especially at the weekend when the streets are packed with tourists.
by bus
Amsterdam has 37 bus lines which run from 6 am to 11.30 pm. The night buses run after the other services have stopped. For further information please contact: 0900 9292 (€0.50) p/m) – service is for bus, train and tram Mini Bus - De Opstapper Look out for the white vehicle, with red and black lettering on the side saying ''De Opstapper''! It is a small nifty bus with 16 seats which takes the route from Prinsengracht through the smaller canal routes. There are no designated stops so you can get on and off whenever you like. Public transport tickets such as strippenkaarts are valid on this route: stamp ''one zone''.
by tram
Trams operate Monday to Friday between 06.00 and 24.00 (Saturday from 06.30 and Sunday from 07.30). Most trams leave from Centraal Station. Circle tram 20 runs past almost all the main tourist attractions and many of the major hotels, but runs in two directions so be careful to check the route before getting on. It departs from Central Station and runs roughly every ten minutes from 09.00 to 19.00. The trams serve the city center and suburbs in nearly all direction. The yellow ones are difficult to use with pushchairs and wheelchairs but the blue one offers a smoother ride and have well-designed low flooring.
With their blue license plates with black letters and figures taxis can easily be identified. They could be ordered by phone or picked up at a taxi rank.! Ranks are at Leidseplein and Centraal Station! Order a taxi: Tel.: +31 (0)23 532 3132 Amsterdam Central taxi service: Tel.: +31 (0)20 6777777
by bike
This is probably the best and the cheapest way to see the city. So you can see all the amazing things from the near. Besides the local bike rental shops you can also hire bicycles at: MacBikes - has two rental offices (and repair shops) at Waterlooplein and on Weteringschans. Macbike Mr Visserplein 2, Tel.: +31 (0)20 6208391; Macbike Weteringschans 2, Tel.: +31 (0)20 528 7688 (near Leidesplein) Bike City in the Jordaan are also cheap and friendly, and very accustomed to renting bikes to visitors, Bloemgracht Tel.: +31 (0)20 6263721.