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Amsterdam Travel Information

Built around a spider's web of canals, wherever you go in Amsterdam you always seem to be walking beside or over water!

Visitors return to sample the world class museums, beautifully preserved architecture and friendly, cosmopolitan atmosphere that is unique to this vibrant city.


In the evening, try a candlelight cruise, the nightclubs of Leidseplein, or an eye opening visit to the infamous Red Light district!

You'll find tiny bars and smoky 'brown cafes', exotic nightlife, grand canalside houses - and flowers everywhere.

All these things together conspire to a pageant of enjoyment which is fresh at any time of year.

Amsterdam Travel and Flight Information

Amsterdam is a unique, colourful capital of Holland and major port with a lively, multicultural mixture, Amsterdam offers a range of experiences, whether you visit for the fine 17th-18th century architecture, lots of museums and galleries, or the well-known tolerance of its 700,000 or so citizens. It was formed out of marshland in the early 13th century, when the area around the river Amstel was dammed (so giving the city its name).


By the 17th century, it had grown to be a centre of commercial and naval power, headquarters of the Dutch East India and West India companies, and Europe's richest city. It was during this "Golden Age" that the semicircle of concentric canals fanning out from Centraal Station were constructed along with the elegant merchants' houses that line them; an ancient tax on the width of buildings explains their tall, narrow construction – some even slant forward to allow furniture to be hoisted up.
Occupying a wider area of 12 km east to west and 6km north to south, the city has an attractive, compact centre crisscrossed by tree-lined canals (with around 1,200 bridges), and an atmosphere reminiscent of a provincial town. Its focal point is Dam Square, a lively, tourist-orientated meeting place that also houses the Royal Palace. Between Dam Square and Centraal Station lies the old town with its busy shopping streets, medieval buildings and varied entertainments, including the red-light district (in an area known as De Wallen).

Amsterdam has a famously liberal attitude to drugs and sex; prostitutes – who pay taxes – can be seen openly in windows and some "coffee shops" sell marijuana legally (take note if you just want a cappuccino!). However, the De Wallen area is usually busy – particularly during the day – and reasonably safe, although street drug dealers should be ignored and the usual precautions taken with regard to personal property.

To the southwest of the centre, on the outer side of the Singelgracht canal, can be found the Museumplein area boasting 3 major museums, the Concertgebouw (concert hall), Vondelpark and Leidseplein, another bustling square of shops, restaurants and bars, not dissimilar to London's Leicester Square. Also worth exploring is the fashionable, slightly off-beat Jordaan and 9-Streets districts, to the west of the centre, with their narrow shopping thoroughfares, charming courtyards and canals.

Local Area
In north Holland province. 53km north east of The Hague. 61km north of Rotterdam. 14.5km north east of Schiphol Airport with frequent trains to Amsterdam Central Station.

Built on 90 islands on the south side of the River Ij, at its confluence with the River Amstel, forming a long inlet at the south west corner of Ijsselmeer (inland sea). Connected to the North Sea by a 27km ship canal.

Places to Stay
Full range from luxurious to modest, from old-world charm to modern sophistication. Reservations advisable at any time, especially in tulip season (March to June). You will generally pay more for a canalside spot.

Things to Do
Daytime: walking tours (guide books from the tourist office), taking in the city's 7,000 or so listed buildings and monuments; over 40 museums and 140 art galleries, including the famous Rijks (Dutch masters) which has an "annexe" at the airport, Van Gogh and Stedelijk (modern art), all in or near Museumplein (Rijks partially closed for renovation until 2008; Stedelijk similarly closed until mid-2006; main works on display at other museums); Rembrandt's house; Anne Frank's house; Royal Palace; diamond-polishing factories; Heineken brewery; Erotic Museum and tours of red-light district; Madame Tussaud's; Westerkerk church with panoramic city views from the tower; Nemo science and technology centre; Hortus Botanicus gardens; Artis Zoo; Tropenmuseum for anthropology; Vondelpark; canal trips; pedal-boating on canals; ice-skating in winter (when canals often freeze over); sailing and windsurfing; cycling; flower shows in spring and autumn.

Nightlife: numerous bars, clubs, discos, cabarets and a thriving music scene – Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein are particular night-time hotspots; more than 1,000 Bruine (brown) cafes (traditional Dutch pubs); rich offering of theatres (some with shows in English), cinemas and concert halls, especially Concertgebouw and Muziektheater; walks or boat trips along flood-lit canals; famous red-light district; casino.

Must See
View the Royal Palace on Dam Square and visit the West Church, with a golden orb, carillon of 47 bells and superb views of the city.

Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, overlooking Dam Square

The floating flower market on the Singel canal is an impressive sight, as are the diamond cutters and polishers whose expertise can be viewed in traditional workshops.

Must Do
Visitors are really spoilt for choice from Amsterdam's wealth of high quality museums. For art visit the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum; for history don't miss the Anne Frank House, the Maritim Museum and the Amstelkring; for science try the interactive New Metropolis Museum, while for a glimpse of a unique Amsterdam lifestyle, step aboard the Houseboat Museum.

Over 700 restaurantes to eat, which tend to be intimate and characterful. There are a large amount of Indonesian restaurants and Argentinian steakhouses, plus a wide range of international options including Chinese, Indian, tapas, Turkish, Lebanese and Japanese sushi. A very good selection in the Jordaan district. The Dutch are not known for their own cuisine, except for pancakes; fish is often heavily on menus, and cheese or cabbage soup are the local specialities. For a delicious, cheap snack have a falafel with self serve salad like the locals.

Excellent, with a wide variety throughout the city centre. Main shopping areas include fashionable PC Hooftstraat and pedestrianised de Kalverstraat; upmarket shops around Museumkwartier and Spiegelkwartier; antiques on Nieuwe Spiegelgracht; innumerable small speciality stores in the lanes of the old town and around Jordaan district. Magna Plaza is a pleasant shopping centre (one of the few in the city). De Bijenkorf on Dam Square is a well-established department store. 21 markets including Cuypstraat, the oldest street market, and Singel Canal's floating flower market.

Half day: Edam and windmills; tulip fields (in season); Volendam and Marken. Full day: Aalmeer flower auction; The Hague and Delft; Alkmaar cheese market; Brussels and Antwerp.

Getting Around
An excellent network of trams and buses, though Amsterdam is best explored on foot; Centraal Station is the city's public-transport hub. Circle tram 20 stops at all the main tourist attractions. A pass allows unlimited travel on bus, tram and metro (4 lines). Many locals ride bicycles and these are widely available for hire – although cycling on the roads can be dangerous. Water and regular taxis (both expensive). Four ferry boats. If you are taking your car, be aware that parking is very limited and it may be better to park outside the city and use public transport.

Amsterdam is a delight to explore on foot, but for the best views take a boat trip along the historic canals. Alternatively join the locals and hire a bike, or take advantage of the city's cheap and comprehensive tram service.

Who is it for?
Mostly younger crowds may enjoy the relaxed laws; art lovers will go for the museums and galleries; historians for the buildings and monuments; couples for the sheer romance. Particularly attracts British and American visitors.

Getting There
Various direct flights from the UK to Amsterdam airport are available at discount rates from your local airport with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and British Airways. The flight time to Amsterdam is approx 1 1/2 hours.

To Relax
Amsterdam is a strollers and shoppers paradise, with something for everyone. Try the narrow streets of the historic Jordaan area for charming boutiques and unusual specialist shops, and the Spiegel Quarter near the Rijksmuseum for art and antiques.

There is a great choice of high street stores on the Kalverstraat and for exclusive designer items there is the PC Hoofstraat. Good buys in Amsterdam include cigars, diamonds, bulbs, cheese, Delftware and Marken pottery which all make great souvenirs.

There is an amazing choice of restaurants from modest local cafe's to international restaurants. Amsterdam's thriving cafe society really comes to life in the summer when pavement cafes fill the streets and squares, while the traditional Brown Cafes (pubs) will give you a taste of local social life.

Leidseplein is a lively area, day or night, and here you will find bars and smoky jazz clubs. Finally, no visit would be complete without a stroll round the infamous Red Light district - flagrant but fascinating, it shows yet another aspect of this unique city.

Red Light District
The Red Light District, Amsterdam

Daily average temperatures (Approx) 'C

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Amsterdam Highlights

> Amazing Amsterdam lives its life on the street

> Come and catch the spirit of your warm hosts

> Experience a 'brown cafe' or join the Dam Square crowd

> Canals, bicycles and trams galore

Take a ride on the trams

> Pulsating night life - not for the faint hearted!

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