Amsterdam is not only the political capital of the Netherlands, it is also the cultural and financial capital. This city of seven million residents originated as a small fishing village in the twelfth century and during the Dutch Golden Age became one of the most important ports in the entire world. It was during this period that Amsterdam grew from a simple fishing village to a world class city leading the world in finance and the diamond trade.
Located in the Northern portion of Holland, Amsterdam is located on the Armstel River. The city is highly urban with a population density of forty five hundred people per square kilometer. Its central government structure consist of a mayor and a legislative body known as the city council that has aldermanic representatives from the various districts representing the people of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s transportation infrastructure consist of a freeway system that is a major hub of the entire motorway system of the Netherlands. This system directly connects Amsterdam with various European destinations as Germany, Leiden and Utrecht. This city also has an extensive rail and bus system that services the entire region.
But, this city is mainly known for its vast network of canals. There are over one hundred and fifty canals dissecting the city into a number of miniature islands. This network is connected by over one thousand bridges. At one time these canals were the main method of transportation throughout the city. Today they are used for small barge traffic, tour vessels and private boats. Most of these canals are really beautiful and are full of historic value. No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without checking a few of them out.
One of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam is the Van Gogh Museum. This museum consists of two buildings that were built in 1973 to house the work of Vincent Van Gogh. Of the eight hundred and sixty-four surviving Van Gogh paintings, this museum contains about two hundred of them. It also has over thirty prints and four hundred drawings done by the artist. This museum also has over eight hundred letters penned by Van Gogh and a substantial collection of works done by other post impressionistic artist.
Rijksmuseum is currently Amsterdam’s largest museum. This museum was built in 1885 and houses over a million objects. Some of the works of art featured here were done by artist such as Rembrandt, Steen, Hals and Vermeer. This museum also chronicles the history of the Netherlands through the display of various objects from the Middle Ages all the way through the twentieth century.
The Scheepvaartmuseum, or Maritime Museum is another favorite destination among tourist. This ominous looking building was originally built three hundred and fifty years ago to serve as a weapons cache for the Admiralty of Amsterdam, but now serves as an museum that has the important role of preserving Dutch naval history. Inside this large building there are over twenty rooms filled with various maritime objects such as navigational instruments, maps, weapons and ship replicas. Just outside of the museum is also the VOC Amsterdam. This full size ship replica chronicles the importance of the Dutch East India Company and its important role in the history of international trade.
Another great location to visit is the Koninklijk Paleis or Royal Palace. This impressive building was first built in 1655 to be the city hall for the magistrates of Amsterdam. It continued in this capacity until the early nineteenth century when it was transformed by Louis Napoleon when he became the king of Holland. It continued to vacillate between being a municipal administrative building and a royal palace until 1936 when it once again became a public building.
Anne Frank’s House is the location that anyone with even a casual knowledge of World War II will recognize. Its the place where Anne Frank hid from the Nazi regime in the secret annex and penned her famous diary. Visitors here can experience the location in all its authenticity, as well as peruse the many exhibits located there. One of these exhibits is a copy of Anne Frank’s diary that is placed alongside many pictures, postcards and other memorabilia.
There is no symbol more closely associated with the Netherlands then the windmill. At one time they dotted the landscape of Amsterdam, but now only a few have survived the onslaughts of time. One of these is the De Gooyer Windmill. This windmill was built in 1725 and is the ever present sentinel of the Nieuwevaart Canal. Originally this structure was erected to grind corn, but has since become a brewery and gathering place. its a great place to stop for a brew or a snack.
For Amsterdam visitors that are looking for a diverse collection of shops for shopping, dining or entertainment then the district of Rembrandtplein is the place to visit. This square, which is also known as Rembrandt Square was originally established in 1688 as a dairy market. Today, the square is alive with tourist and many shops, bars, and nightclubs. Some of the more popular eateries here are the Café Schiller and the Grand Café l’Opera. In the center of the square is a cast iron statue of Rembrandt. Also in the vicinity is the Eden Rembrandt Square Hotel.
Those visitors who are looking to take a break from the crowded streets of Amsterdam can check out
Vondelpark. This is the biggest park in Amsterdam and is close to many popular tourist attractions. This majestic park was built in 1865 and is situated on about twenty acres of land. It was designed in the English landscape style and was designed by L.D. Zocher. Besides the great stretch of green space, this park also has a couple of popular amenities. These include six playgrounds and a number of bike trails. Also located in the park is the Film Museum. This museum offers nightly film shows from its vast thirty thousand title collection. During the summer months, visitors can also theatrical productions at the Vondelpark Open Air Theater.