Amsterdam – A Young and Exciting Global City
You know you’re in Amsterdam when you look outside your hotel window and you see a beautiful canal with bridges, elegant building facades and green trees mirrored by the calm water. The view is very similar to the romantic ones in Venice, but there is an unmistakable charm about this city that will not let you make the confusion.
The young capital of the Netherlands was first recorded in writing in 1275, when it was known as Amstelledamme. Before becoming one of the most important ports in the world, Amsterdam was just a small 12th century village where the main occupation was fishing. At the beginning of the 14th century, it was granted city rights, but the most important era in its evolution was the so called Golden Age, when Amsterdam became the world’s wealthiest city.
This happened in the 17th century, when the Dutch were controlling the commerce with the East Indies (south-east Asia), importing exotic spices for the entire Europe. The flourishing city was amazingly built on five million wooden pillars, a foundation that still exists today, with a slight difference: the pillars are now made of concrete.
Today the city boasts more canals than Venice, the three most important ones – dug during the Dutch Golden Age – being part of the UNESCO World Heritage List: Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht. On their shores visitors can admire narrow but beautiful buildings, initially populated by merchants.
Another lovely part of the city is De Jordaan, a district that was once a working class neighborhood which the French protestant refugees called Le jardin, meaning The Garden. Today this is one of the most expensive areas of the capital, an upscale district with numerous art galleries, beautiful homes with small gardens, boutiques, restaurants and shops. It is a unique village in the middle of the city, mostly populated by artists and eccentrics.
There are two things that make Amsterdam interesting for most tourists: its hundreds of thousands of bicycles and the fabled cannabis coffee shops. It is definitely fun and exciting to discover a world where it is not illegal to buy small quantities of marijuana from licensed coffee shops. But there is also another side of the capital, one with a very different appeal. The 3.66 million international tourists that come here every year are also attracted by the beautiful historical buildings and monuments, as well as the overwhelming number of museums.
On your list of things to visit (on a bike!) you must include The Royal Palace, the Nieuwe Kerk and the War Memorial, all in Dam Square. You should also get your camera ready for the Begijnhof inner court surrounded by historic buildings, the vast Vondelpark, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge), and the Waterlooplein Square with its daily flea market. And if you can’t decide what museums to visit, allow us to recommend the Van Gogh Museum, the Jewish Historical Museum (the largest one outside Israel), and the famous Rijksmuseum.
- Amsterdam is an excellent city to visit all year round, but especially from April until July.
- You must try the Vietnamese and Indonesian restaurants in the capital.
- If you like symphonic music, then you can’t miss a concert at The Concertgebouw.
- Absolutely charming, the floating flower market in Amsterdam- called The Bloemenmarkt – is the only such market in the world.
- If you come here for a few nights, make sure you choose a hotel with views towards the canals, such as Hotel Pulitzer.