Things to see and do - Amsterdam
Leaving for the Netherlands
Amsterdam, a Dutch masterpiece :
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Amsterdam, a Dutch masterpiece
Amsterdam, a Dutch masterpiecePedestrian, 10 km, 2 days
With its 160 canals, 1,281 bridges and 550,000 bikes, Rembrandt’s city inspires a feeling of incomparable well being. Amsterdam continues to maintain a lifestyle all of its own...Customise this route and add it to My travel book
Lying around the Dam, Amsterdam's main square, and covering the area of the medieval city as delineated in the 16C (before the cutting of the great canals to the west), the historic centre has numerous important buildings: the New Church, The Royal Palace, the Amsterdam History Museum. Stroll along a canal and stop at a café to savour the atmosphere of the Golden Age.
Formerly a defensive moat, the Singel is the border between Medieval Amsterdam and the "urban" developments of the 16th Century onwards. Initially focused on the transport of goods, little by little this canal took on a residential aspect. As on the neighbouring canals, a fine collection of warehouses, churches and houses can be seen here. Sometimes thought of as girdling the city, it does enclose the western part of the historical centre.
The Herengracht or Patricians' Canal is the principal of the four canals along which the wealthy merchants based themselves. The houses rival each other in decorative richness, especially when it comes to their gables.
Cut from 1586 onwards, these nobly-named canals ("Emperor's", "Prince's", "Patricians'") have majestic quaysides, bordered by narrow gabled façades, opulent patrician residences, old warehouses and houseboats. Venture into the nearby Jordaan district and wander between the canals, taking in the House with the Heads, Bartolotti House and Anne Frank's House.
In 1586, the authorities decided to dig a network of concentric canals (Grachtengordel) around the cramped historic centre. The Emperor's Canal was christened in honour of Maximilian I, who granted the city the right to bear his arms in 1489. The proliferation of house-boats makes this one of the prettiest canals in the city.
An obvious area for development with the cutting of the four central canals, Jordaan sprang up in the 17C and was home to working people and immigrant groups. Regenerated in the second half of the 20C, it is today a delightful network of little streets (filled-in former canals) and canals named after flowers. Its atmosphere and populist feel draws students and bohemians to live here.
Situated at the southern end of the Singel, this open-air market has existed since the 17th Century. Some of the stalls are aboard the barges that deliver the bulbs and cut flowers. The charm of this place cannot fail to please, and a visit is also an opportunity to appreciate some gems of Amsterdam's domestic architecture.
A tourist cliché for some, a marvellous escape for others, a boat excursion certainly offers new and different perspectives. The water-level view of the series of seven bridges on Reguliersgracht, for example, is alone worth the trip. The companies do not all offer the same route, but they all follow the Herengracht and the IJ, and many take the Oude Schans and the Amstel. The ticket offices can explain the variations.
Traditionally the aristocratic district, this southern part of the canal belt, between the Leidsegracht and the Amstel, is more refined than the northern part but also more commercial and animated. Culture and nightlife are centred on two squares, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein. For a good canal view, head to the charming Reguliersgracht, from where seven bridges (lit up by night) can be seen.
The Museumplain is the focus for the city's cultural life, boasting three of Amsterdam's greatest museums: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum (covering 1850 to the present day), drawing tourists from around the globe, here to see Vermeer's The Milkmaid, Rembrandt's The Night Watch and Van Gogh's Sunflowers. Nearby is the Vondelpark, a green lung in the city centre and an ideal spot to pause after museum visits.
Opened in 1973, this museum contains hundreds of Van Gogh's paintings, drawings and letters, through which his development can be followed from the Nuenen period (1883-1885) to the Auvers-sur-Oise period (1890). There are also some works by artists who were friends of the painter. To visit this museum is to discover a body of work by one of the greatest Dutch painters, a man who fled his country to explore the light of the South. The experience is unforgettable.
The name reflects both the famous concert hall built in 1888 and its great symphony orchestra. In 1988, on the orchestra's centenary, Queen Beatrix awarded it the title "royal" (Koninklijk).
Built in the 12C, the Trencavel Palace was turned into a citadel after 1226. Since the reign of St Louis, an immense ditch and a semi-circular barbican have made it a fortress within the olf walled town. It houses a lapidary museum (note the Calvary of Villanière) and also has two inner courtyards of remarkable architectural interest, boasting numerous towers (west ramparts). On the second floor you can see a film and exhibition explaining the restoration work at Viollet-le-Duc.