Travel to Amsterdam
Amsterdam's airport Schiphol is the 4th-largest air traffic hub in Europe. So, flying into Amsterdam should be easy wherever you are. Schiphol airport has a railway station right underneath the terminal building. Trains to Amsterdam Centraal depart every few minutes and take 15-20 minutes for less than 5 EUR. Taking a taxi is usually not a good idea: taxis are very expensive and much slower than trains. Taking a taxi from Amsterdam Centraal station to your hotel may be an option, still expensive compared with other countries though.
High speed rail services connect Amsterdam to Brussels (1h50), Paris (3h15), Cologne (2h30) and Frankfurt (4h00). Direct trains from Hannover and Berlin, sleeper services from Copenhagen, Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow, Prague, Munich and Zurich or the overnight ferry from Newcastle can be further alternatives to air travel. See Thalys for connections from Belgium and France, Deutsche Bahn for connections from Germany and the rest of Europe or Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways) for domestic rail services.
Getting around in Amsterdam
With about 800,000 inhabitants, Amsterdam is by far the largest city of the Netherlands, but certainly one of the smaller capital cities in the world. Large parts of the historic center date back to the 17th and 18th century making Amsterdam an open-air museum inviting you to stroll alongside the famous canals. Unless you have mobility issues, almost any distance in the historic center of Amsterdam, which can easily be identified on a map as anything inside the outermost canal ring, may be considered walking distance.
Notwithstanding, a large number of tram lines as well as a few bus lines criss-cross central Amsterdam with Amsterdam Centraal being the main hub of exchange. Tickets are available from either the tram driver (enter at the front of the tram or bus) or better from the conductor (enter at the rear part of the tram). Single tickets are fairly expensive. If you plan to make more extensive use of public transport within Amsterdam, there are attractive 24/48/72-hour tickets available from vending machines at Amsterdam Centraal metro station or the GVB office opposite the main entrance of Amsterdam Centraal station. All tickets are interoperable between tram, metro and city buses. See local transport operator GVB for more details.
One of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, Amsterdam is a compact, charming and cosmopolitan city that deserves exploration. Known as the "Venice of the North" for its more than 100 canals, the capital of The Netherlands offers easy sightseeing adventures by foot, bike, or boat. From the city's fine art museums to its colorful flower markets, from cannabis-selling "coffee shops" to the red light district, there's something exciting and unique to discover in Amsterdam at every turn. Nevertheless, there are places in the city you should not miss during your visit. Here is our list of the best of the best.
Canals of Amsterdam
The famous canals were built during the 17th century to control the flow of the Amstel River and to add acres of dry land to the city. Amsterdam's wealthy merchants soon discovered that the canals were ideal for showcasing their mansions as well. A boat or bike ride along the city's 100 canals offers visitors a relaxing way to view traditional Dutch architecture.
The Rijksmuseum is the largest and the most attractive museum in The Netherlands, with more than one million visitors each year. The museum has a wonderful collection of the 17th century Dutch Golden Age masterpieces; the famous "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt as well as other celebrated paintings like Vermeer's "The Milkmaid" and "Woman reading a letter", "The Windmill at Wijk bij Duurstede" by van Ruisdael, "The Burgomaster of Delft and his Daughter" by Jan Steen and many more. Unique sculptures and various antiquities as traditional furniture, Delftware, silver, ship models, and doll houses complete the show.
Van Gogh Museum
This modern museum houses some 200 paintings and 550 sketches showing Van Gogh in all his moods. This biggest in the world collection, combined with hundreds of letters by Van Gogh, and selected works by his friends and contemporaries, form the core of the museum's collection.
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam's most visited attraction, the Anne Frank Huis is situated along the Prinsengracht canal. The structure that once hid Anne Frank, her family, and four other Jewish people from the Nazi authorities during World War II has been viewed as a memorial to the Holocaust since 1947, when Anne's father published the world-famous diary that Anne wrote while they lived hidden within the building.
The Bloemenmarkt is the world's only floating flower market. Seven days a weeks, flower sellers load stands and floating barges with all of the flowers and bulbs for which The Netherlands is famous. Founded in 1862, the Bloemenmarkt includes more than a dozen different florists and garden shops as well as souvenir stalls.
De Wallen is Amsterdam's famous red-light district, the city's designated area for legalized prostitution. More than one hundred one-room apartments are rented by sex workers who entice onlookers from behind windows illuminated with red lights. A strong police presence keeps the neighborhood very safe. Although taking pictures is not allowed, tourists are welcome. As the oldest section in Amsterdam, the district is also home to several historic buildings, including the city's oldest church, the Gothic-style Oude Kerk.
Pictures on top right, coprighted to Yuri Demchenko.