Amsterdam, the Netherlands' capital city has been a center of creativity and culture for centuries. From a 13th-century fishing village to its current role as a major hub for business, tourism and culture, Amsterdam has a strong tradition as a center of culture and commerce. The people have made the city unique; with its highly individual, spirited and young-at-heart character. Amsterdamers are known for their friendly, tolerant and cosmopolitan nature, and not surprisingly, most speak at least two languages (English is almost always one of them). Amsterdam is one of the top three most diverse cities in the world with inhabitants from over 177 different cultures.
Amsterdam has something for everyone, but the sheer number of sights means that you might need some suggestions for where to start.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN AMSTERDAM
Hop on a bike
There are over 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam. That's more bikes than people! Cycling in Amsterdam is a way of life and there is no better way to explore the city's streets, canals and attractions than with a bicycle. Cycling in Amsterdam is safe, enjoyable and energizing - so join the locals and hop on your bike.
Soak up some culture
Museumplein, the cultural beating heart of Amsterdam, is home to the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art. This is an art lover's utopia where the open square between the buildings is packed with activity all day, with open-air exhibitions, markets and in the winter months, the square transforms to a vast outdoor ice rink.
Cruise on a canal
Created in the 17th century to keep the sea at bay, Amsterdam's canal is the classic picture-postcard vision of Amsterdam, and an unbelievably pretty sight with a magical feel. Floating along the canals with a guided boat tour is a great way learn fascinating facts along the way.
Try herring from a herring cart - Street food the Amsterdam style
Raw herring may sound a little scary to the unexperienced, but every visitor to Amsterdam should give it a go. "Haringhandels" (herring carts) serving up this Dutch specialty are all over the city where the fish is served in a small sandwich with pickles and onions. This fish is a bargain snack and makes for an authentic Dutch eating experience.
Visit Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is where Anne Frank, one of Amsterdam's most well-known former residents, lived in hiding with her family for more than two years during World War II. Converted into a museum, the house contains a moving exhibition about the persecution of the Jews during the war, as well as discrimination in general. Anne's diary from the period was published and became a bestseller worldwide.
Albert Cuypmarkt - Amsterdam's most famous street market
Albert Cuypmarket, the largest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands, operates six days a week with hundreds of stalls selling everything from handmade jewelry to delicious local foods. This is the place to discover Amsterdam's typical sense of humor and laid back atmosphere. The market is situated in the heart of the De Pijp district, one of Amsterdam's liveliest areas, packed with (ethnic) shops, cafés, restaurants, and cozy bars.
Discover the Begijnhof
Established as a 14th-century convent, the Begijnhof offers a secluded garden and courtyard where traffic sounds dim and the bustle of the city fades into the distance. It formerly housed the religious and liberated sisterhood of the Beguines. In the center of the courtyard stands the Engelse Kerk, the primary place of worship for the local English community. It's a surreal experience and well worth finding.
Dutch cheese has a more than a 600 year long tradition where the names of different sorts of cheese are often taken from different cities in the Netherlands – Gouda, Edam, Leerdammer, Leyden, Maaslander, Maasdam and of course, gourmet Old Amsterdam. Cheese is big business in the Netherlands, so don't go home without visiting one of Amsterdam's many 'kaas' shops, markets or cheese museum.
Drink beer at a windmill
There are eight remaining windmills in Amsterdam and the most easily to visit is the de Gooyer. This isn't just any windmill, as for under the sails of this striking landmark is the "Brouwerij 'Tij", an award winning artisan microbrewery with a large outdoor drinking terrace and 30-minute guided tasting tours. The brewery produces a range of organic standard and seasonal ales – including the 9% 'Columbus' amber ale, guaranteed to put the wind in your sails.
Stop and smell the tulips
The Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world, and one of the most fragrant places in Amsterdam. There You will find all sorts of tulips, narcissus and other bulbs and flowers. The bulbs are ready for export, so you can enjoy them at home too. This fascinating collage of color is the world's only floating flower market.
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