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Amsterdam, situated in North Holland, at the point where the Amstel and IJ rivers converge, is the capital of Holland. The city, built on 90 small islands, linked by over 500 bridges, spans out from its old historic district, located at the water’s edge.
Amsterdam is a double-sided city, of water and land, of orderliness and beauty and a network of canals, islands and waterways that blend harmoniously with the surrounding houses.
The two eras, sea trade and industrial, are easily recognised within the fabric of the city. The nucleus of the port area, housing 16th century buildings and factory warehouses, has three concentric canals(Grachten) running through it, with the Singelgracht indicating the zone’s outer limits.
This historic area is home to the city’s administration centre, various large business organizations, the stock exchange and the Dam and Rokin banks.
The 18th century part of the city, housing the residential area of the port and factory workers, lies beyond the Singelgracht. Those companies linked to the port industry(Buiksloot and Tuindorp) are situated to the north of the river Ij.
The ancient city contains two centres, the Oude Zijde and the Nieuwe Zijde. The circle of canals in the centre of this zone are lined with numerous buildings dating back to Amsterdam’s “ Golden Era”, while the “Plantage” parkland area of this zone, houses the Hortus Botanicus, built in 1682 and which now contains over 6000 species of plants.
The Singel is the oldest circular canal in Amsterdam and indicates the confines, which separate the old medieval city from the circle of canals to the west and centre. The historic buildings and monuments, located within the Oude Zijde, include: the Trippenhuis; the Montelbaanstoren, a 16th-century tower; the Waag , Amsterdam’s oldest port and the Pinterhuis Public Library. The city’s museums comprise: the Cannabis Museum; the Museum Het Rembrandthuis, which contains hundreds of Rembrandt’s watercolours and the Joods Historisch Museum, a complex housing four synagogues, displaying artistic and religious artefacts, narrating the history and culture of Judaism in the Netherlands.
The Oude Kerk, a 13th-century Gothic church, which today has become a basilica, was a medieval refuge for the poor and homeless. The basilica’s Chapel of the Virgin possesses magnificent stained-glass windows.
Nieuwe Zijde (new part) is located in the western zone of medieval Amsterdam and is easily reached by public transport. Dam square forms the main centre of this zone and the starting point for two bustling streets. These two streets house two of the city’s finest monuments, the classic Royal Palace (1648–55), which today is the site of the Town Hall and the late Gothic Nieuwe Kerk “new church”, built in the 15th century. The city also has numerous examples of baroque architecture both in its religious and civil buildings: Koninklijk Paleis, National Monument, Centraal Station, Postkantoor, Lutherse Kerk, Madame Tussauds Scenerama and the Amstelkring Museum .Some of the streets around the lively Kalverstraat shopping area, follow the route of ancient paths and alleys.
The Rokin and Nes streets are renown for being the home of the city’s financial institutions and the location of alternative theatres. Visitors should spend time to visit: the Begijnhof district, with its meeting square and beautiful houses, now considered to be a historical monument; the Houten Huys, the oldest house in Amsterdam, the Catholic chapel and the English church. Jordaan, situated to the west of Grachtengordel, at only five minutes walk from the Dam and Centraal Station, is home to the most important canal-side houses. The zone is a labyrinth of narrow streets and canals with lively bars and “dark” cafés, which spread onto the pavement during the summer months. Iit is also home to the Anne Frank Foundation, which purchased the house, where, during the Nazi occupation, the Jewish families Frank and Van Daan hid for over two years, until the moment of their arrest.
The best way to visit Amsterdam is on foot. The city lay-out is simple with circular canals and intersecting streets. Using Singel as the departure point, the canals are arranged in alphabetical order: Herengracht, Keisergracht, Prinsengracht and Singelgracht. The houses, starting from Centraal Station, are numbered, increasing in value as they approach Amstel .
The well developed public transport network, comprising bus, train, tram and barge, has its nucleus based around the Centraal Station. A book of tickets (strippenkarten) can be purchased direct from the driver, or the automatic ticket dispensers or the local tourist office(VVV). These tickets are valid for travel anywhere within Holland. Previously, Amsterdam was divided into 11 zones with the cost of a ticket depending on the distance travelled between one and the other. Currently, however, one purchases a one-hour OV card aboard the tram which allows for one hour unlimited travel on different busses and trains in the city. A simpler solution could be to purchase a one-day travel card (dagkaart). There are 17 tram routes in Amsterdam which operate from 6am to midnight. Those routes of major interest to the tourist are the lines which travel south from Centraal Station along the Damrak and the Nieuwezijds Vooburgwal. Lines 13,14and 17 run to the Jordaan.The metropolitan is rarely used by visitors to Amsterdam, it has only 3 lines and serves only 4 stations, all of which are located to the east of the city: AmsterdamCS, Nieuwmarkt, Waterlooplein and Weespseplein. Without a doubt the best method of transport within Amsterdam is the bicycle, with the city’s traffic system having been studied specifically to cater for the cyclist. The system includes cycle routes (fietspaden), maps, traffic lights and link roads.
Canal trips leave from Centraal Station and run along the Prins, Hendrikkade, the Damrak and the Rokin. The Canalbus offers a round trip from Singelgracht via Rijkmuseum to Centraal Station, calling at Leidesplein, Leidsestraat/Keizergracht and Westerkerk for Anne Frankhuis. Visitors are free to get on and off as they please.
Hotels, lodging, and Hostels in Amsterdam
- OctopusTravel.com Hotels in Amsterdam and all over the World
- Cocomama Amsterdam Hostels, the first boutique Hostel and 5 Star Hostel in Amsterdam
- Ecomama Amsterdam, the 2nd 5 Star Hostel in Amsterdam
Attractions in Amsterdam
Amsterdam provides something for all tastes. The city’s continuous restaurant activity allows the visitor to sample a wide variety of food in any of its numerous bars and cafes. Eetcafes are small, reasonably priced restaurants. The more typical of these restaurants are the bruine kroegen (dark cafés), so called because of their ceilings and walls, stained by smoke and nicotine. The city is one large market, where it is impossible not to find what you are looking for. Notable areas include: Nieuwendijk, a pedestrianized zone, parallel to Damrak; Dam Square; Rokin, which is a continuation of Damrak, and the large bustling pedestrianized Kalverstraat. The Jordan District, between Prinsengracht and Lijnbaansgraacht, is the area which offers incredible surprises with its array of extraordinary shops.
Amsterdam offers a wide range of entertainment at international level. American Jazz is played in various locations around Amsterdam and the city annually hosts the Blues Festival and the Drum Rhythm Festival. The main jazz club in the city is the Bimhuis, with the Café du Lac and the Zilver Café offering jazz music Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Amsterdam has many street artists, cafés open until late and in the summer months, offers its visitors various open air theatres: Vondelpark, Nederlands Filmmuseum, Amsterdamse Bs and Amstelpark.
A calendar of events is detailed in the monthly Amsterdam Times; the weekly What’s On in Amsterdam; or the free Uitkrankt, available in cafés and bookshops.
The Museumplein is lined with the city’s main museums and cultural centres. The Rijksmuseum houses the world’s largest collection of Dutch masterpieces, from the earliest religious works to masterpieces from the golden era. The tour starts with 17th Century paintings by artists such as Vermeer and Haks and finishes with Rembrandt’s Ronda.
The Van Gogh Musem, houses 200 paintings and 500 designs by the famous artist, together with the 800 letters which passed between Van Gogh and his brother Theo.
The Stedelijk Museum has works of art by Matisse, Mondriaan, Monet and Picasso together with displays of sculpture and artistic and industrial design.
The Anne Frank House is the most famous attractions in the city of Amsterdam. It is the preserved building in which Anne Frank and her family resided until they were caught by the Nazis. It contained a lot of notes left by the talented, conscientious young girl who died in the concentration camps, and lets us recall one of the human tragedies of the last century.
Maps and transportation
Getting to Amsterdam
Getting to Amsterdam is easy. Unlike some popular destinations Amsteram has the benefit of being accessible by air, rail and sea.
Amsterdam's and Holland main airport 'Schiphol' welcomes thousands of visitors through its doors every day, from all over Europe which contributes to a significantly large proportion of its tourism. However Amsterdam also has the added advantage there is a regular ferry to Amsterdam from Newcastle, which transports around 1.4 million visitors a year.
Amsterdam, situated at the heart of Holland’s transport system has fast and efficient links to the towns and villages in the Netherlands. The bicycle, however, still remains the best way to travel and is ideal in order to see the wonderful fields of flowers around the city. There are many interesting sights within easy reach of the city. Haarlem and Ledia are located just 15 minutes away, the historic town of Utrecht lies to the south of the city and the town of Edam is just 22 km north of Amsterdam.
Departing from Haarlem, it is possible to tour the wonderful fields of flowers. This 30 km strip of land between Haarlem and Ledia is referred to as the Bloembollenstreek, and is best viewed from the middle of April to the end of May, when the tulips and lilacs are in their full splendour. The VVV supplies all the necessary information to visit the area together with details of hiring bicycles from Haarlem station.
Practical information and resources
Currency : Euro
Climate : The climate is temperate with a large amount of humidity. The sky is often cloudy and rainfalls are frequent.
Opening hours : Shops are open from 8:30am to 5:30pm except for Thursday when they close at 9pm and Saturday when they close at 5pm. Restaurants stop serving at 10pm and close at 11pm. Bars and cafés close at 2am. Post offices are open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. The state museums are open on Sundays and close on Mondays.
Telephones : Country code 0939 followed by the area code without the initial zero. To call Italy from Holland dial 0031 followed by the area code without the initial zero.
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