Here are, according us and our local team, the things to do and see in Amsterdam in order to get the real vibe, real essence of the city.
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1. Of course you could do all of the following or just register to our cultural scavenger hunt!
2. Take a look at this map of the city to have a real idea on how it is built and organized.
3. Visit the Rijksmuseum
One of Amsterdam's most popular attractions - and certainly its most important art repository - the Rijksmuseum was founded in 1809 to house the country's huge collection of rare art and antiquities. The museum's impressive collection includes some seven million works of art, among them more than 5,000 important paintings spread across 250 rooms of this sprawling building. In addition to its paintings, the Rijksmuseum boasts a well-stocked library of more than 35,000 books and manuscripts, as well as numerous fascinating displays dealing with the development of art and culture in the Netherlands. Of special note are its collections of traditional handicrafts, medieval sculpture, and modern art styles. A variety of themed English language guided tours are available. For a special experience, try the fun art history canal cruise taking in many of the sites represented in the Rijksmuseum's collections. Get Google maps directions>
4. The Van Gogh Museum
Widely regarded as one of the world's most important art galleries (it's also the second most visited museum in the Netherlands), it opened to great acclaim in 1973 and houses the world's largest collection of Van Gogh paintings. All told, more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters from Van Gogh are included in the collection, as well as numerous works and related materials from his contemporaries. Get Google maps directions>
5. The Rembrandt House Museum
Rembrandt, along with his wife Saskia, spent the happiest (and most successful) years of his life in the house on the Jodenbreestraat, now home to the Rembrandt House Museum. It was here, in the Jewish Quarter, that he found models for his Biblical themes, and where he painted the sights from his many outings along the canals. Rembrandt lived here for 20 years, and the house has been furnished in 17th-century style with numerous etchings and personal objects.
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6. The Anne Frank Museum
On the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank Museum is dedicated to the all-too-short life of one of the world's best-known Holocaust victims. In the actual home in which Anne's family hid for much of WWII - it was here that Anne wrote the diary that became an international bestseller after the war, just a few years after her death at age 15 (she died just two months before the war ended). Much of the home has been kept as it was during Anne's time, and it serves as a poignant monument to a tragic period of history. Get Google maps directions>
7. The West Church
Amsterdam's West Church (Westerkerk), famous as the location of the wedding of former Queen Beatrix in 1966, is the most popular church in the city. Completed in 1630, this Renaissance church is unusual due to its many internal and external Gothic features. Its 85-meter tower, popularly known as "Langer Jan" (tall John), is the highest in the city, and on the tip of its spire is a large replica of the emperor's crown, placed there in memory of Emperor Maximilian of Austria who, in 1489, was cured of illness in Amsterdam and gave the city his protection and the right to include his crown in its coat of arms. Inside the tower, a carillon proclaims the hours, its hammer weighing an impressive 200 kilograms, while the largest of its 48 bells weighs some three-and-a-quarter tons. Other highlights include a fine organ dating from 1622, along with an interesting marble column placed there in 1906 in memory of Rembrandt, who was buried outside the church (he was later reinterred inside the church). Get Google maps directions>
8. The Royal Palace
Formerly the Town Hall, the Royal Palace serves as the King's residence when he's in the city. Its construction was a monumental task when started in 1648 and required the sinking of 13,659 piles to support the mammoth structure. Based upon the architecture of ancient Rome, the exterior is strictly classical, while the interior is magnificently furnished, its apartments decorated with a wealth of reliefs, ornamentation, marble sculptures, and friezes, along with ceiling-paintings by Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, pupils of Rembrandt. Other highlights include one of the finest furniture collections in the world; the City Treasurer's room with its marble fireplace and ceiling paintings by Cornelius Holsteyn; and the Hall of the Aldermen, also containing paintings by Bol and Flinck. The largest and most important room is the Council Hall, sumptuously decorated and one of the most beautiful staterooms in Europe. Get Google maps directions>
9. The Begijnhof
This stunning old corner of Amsterdam simply begs to be strolled. Although most of the old homes are occupied, the tiny lanes and pathways around them provide public access, so don't be shy to explore. You'll be rewarded with views of well-kept green lawns - the courtyards - surrounded by some of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, including its only remaining wooden house from the 14th century. Originally occupied by a commune of pious Catholic women (begijnen), the area's small chapel (still open for services) saw the last of these women buried here in 1971.
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10.The Old Church
The Old Church (Oude Kerk), built in 1306 and the first hall church in North Holland, became the model for many other churches in the region. Numerous additions were built over the centuries, such as the large side chapels from the early 1500s. Also dating from this period is a portal leading to the Iron Chapel, where documents showing the city's privileges, including the freedom from tolls granted in 1275, were kept locked behind an iron door. The tower was added in the 16th century and has a carillon from 1658 that's considered one of the finest in the country (it also offers great views over the city). The interior of the church has features dating from before the Reformation, including three magnificent windows from 1555 from the Dutch High Renaissance, and finely-carved wooden choir stalls. After exploring this beautiful historical building, take a two-minute stroll across the bridge to Zeedijk, one of Amsterdam's oldest streets. Many houses along here lean at an angle from the vertical, and the 15th-century house at No. 1 is thought to be the oldest surviving building in the city.
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11. The harbor
The Port of Amsterdam, almost 19 kilometers from the open sea on a former bay named the IJ, is unaffected by tidal activity and remains a busy harbor. From here, regular passenger and freight services head up the Rhine to cities such as Dusseldorf, Koblenz, and Basel. The port installations were built in 1872 in conjunction with the construction of the North Sea Canal, the objective being to restore the former importance of the capital city, which was being overtaken by Rotterdam. It's well worth spending a pleasant hour or two joining a cruise around the harbor and canals, especially in the evening when the houses and bridges are illuminated. Be sure to include a visit to the National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) in a former naval storehouse on the Oosterdok and home to an impressive collection of model ships, globes, navigation instruments, and paintings. Another nearby attraction is Science Center Nemo, a first-rate science museum housed in a stunning piece of architecture that juts over the port area like the hull of a large ship. To cross to the opposite bank of the IJ to the north of Amsterdam by car, you can drive through the IJ Tunnel from the city center.
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12. The New Church & the National Monument
The New Church (Nieuwe Kerk), the official coronation church of Dutch monarchs since 1814, lies in the heart of Amsterdam next to the Royal Palace in Dam Square ("The Dam"). This historic square was built around 1270 to separate the Amstel from the IJ and gave the city its name. Today, the square and the church are used for public functions such as antique fairs and art exhibitions. Regular organ concerts also take place in this 15th-century church. A striking feature is its magnificent pulpit from 1649, a marvel of Baroque wood carving decorated with the four evangelists and figures symbolizing Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, and Prudence. The church also has an organ from 1670, an exceptionally beautiful choir screen cast in bronze, and fine choir stalls. Also of interest are the tombs of famous Dutchmen including PC Hooft and Nicolaes Tulp, and the Baroque tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter who died in 1679. The stained glass windows are beautiful; one of them dates from 1650 and depicts the granting of the city's coat of arms by William IV, while the Queen's Window from 1898 commemorates the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina.
On the opposite side of The Dam, the National Monument, a 22-meter-high obelisk, was erected here after the Second World War as a memorial for its victims and a symbol of Liberation. It was designed by J. J. P. Oud and decorated with sculptures by J. W. Rädeler symbolizing, among other things, War (four male figures), Peace (woman and child), and Resistance (two men with howling dogs). Embedded in the obelisk are urns containing earth from the 11 provinces, and a 12th urn contains earth from the cemetery of honor in Indonesia. The monument was dedicated by Queen Juliana on 4 May 1956, the national day of remembrance. Every year on this date, wreaths are laid here and a two-minute silence is observed throughout the Netherlands. During other times, the monument is a place where young people from all over the world meet. Get Google maps directions>
Karina is our Amsterdam local representative, we asked her what an ideal day of leisure in Amsterdam could look like, what would she'd suggest doing from early morning to late at night?
Here is what she suggests. Don't hesitate to contact Karina on Twitter @bigcitychase #Amsterdam #questionforKarina if you have questions for her, we may publish your conversation in this blog if she thinks it might be useful to other Amsterdam visitors.
Karina from Amsterdam for Big City Chase Amsterdam :
"Hello, Ik ben Karina (meaning I am Karina in Dutch), I lived all my life here in the Netherlands even though I was raised in Rotterdam. I moved to Amsterdam a few years ago for work and here is where I'd go to spend a great leisure day in Amsterdam :