Introduction to Amsterdam

When someone mentions their travels to Amsterdam they are inevitably met with a smirk of sorts, one alluding to a wayward city of stoners and red light ladies. It's suitably ironic though that such smirks come from those who have never set foot in the capital of the Netherlands. Their knowledge merely developed from the cliche's that have plagued the city for far too long. Yes there is a red light district and yes the ‘coffee shops' sell more cannabis than coffee (although they are on the decline), but these features define the city about as much as hotdogs define New York. To put it simply, there is so much more.

From one aspect Amsterdam is a quaint and cosy city, lined with canals, gabled buildings and charming streets that wouldn't look out of place in a 17th century painting (for which it has many of them too). The other side to Amsterdam is a lot more urban, with a modern flair, eccentric street style, artistic graffiti and many, many bicycles. In places it buzzes with modern energy, while in others, time looks as if it has stood still for decades. Such are the contrasts of a city with multiple personalities, each with something to offer and a story that will captivate you long after the coffee shop buzz has worn off. So next time you're faced with an inevitable smirk about your Amsterdam holiday, you just smirk right back.

Top Attractions

As one of Europe's most visited cities Amsterdam is no stranger to tourist attractions. It's most famed landmark is undisputedly the Anne Frank Museum, a site where the diary of Anne Frank comes to life. For those not familiar with the harrowing story, Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who lived, for the most part, in Amsterdam during the Nazi persecution of Jews. She recorded her time, hiding in what is now the museum, in the pages of her diary which went on to become a bestselling book. Whether you know of Anne's story or not, the Anne Frank Museum is a must for visitors to Amsterdam, a harrowing site where World War II is shown in a particularly human light.

Amsterdam's other notable museum is the Van Gogh Museum. As the name suggests the museum is dedicated to the Dutch post-impressionist painter and showcases the largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings in the world.

Despite you're preconceived notions, the Red Light District is also worth taking a peak at. From the outset it may seem seedy, with sex shops luring patrons with neon lights and prostitutes posing in windows, but for the most part the Red Light District is safe and home to some fascinating history. As the oldest area in Amsterdam (home to the world's oldest profession) the district, known locally as De Wallen, has fantastic architecture and can be explored easily with a tour.

Away from the typical attractions however, the must-dos in Amsterdam are more in line with what the locals do. Wander around the canals, hire a bike and go for a ride on one of the city's bike paths (Amsterdam has a total of 400 kilometres of bike lanes and paths), purchase a bunch of blooms from the floating flower markets and order your raw herring to go.

For more must-dos in Amsterdam, check out our things to do page and start planning your Amsterdam holiday.

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