Amsterdam is one of the greatest small cities in the world, a renowned cultural, scientific and commercial center. The Dutch capital has always been a well-known name in world history and played a central role in the history of The Netherlands. The city is known for its tolerance and diversity. The Dutch are multilingual, and will welcome you warmly. Even though it has all the advantages of a big city: rich culture, lively Amsterdam nightlife, international restaurants and good transport - it is also informal, quiet, and has little road traffic. It is well-known for its architecture and design, not only because of 17th century rings of canals; modern architecture developed organically between facades of historical buildings. Since it is not a very big city, all sites of interest are easy to reach. From Amsterdam canals to world-famous Amsterdam museums and historical Amsterdam sights, it is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe. Canal cruises are a popular way to see the city from the perspective of its canals. For an authentic local experience, rent a bike and cycle your way around.
Amsterdam developed round a dam in the Amstel river at the end of the 12th century. During the 14th, but especially the 15th century, Amsterdam underwent a rapid development, which laid the foundation for the Golden Age. Only very few medieval buildings survive today, since houses were generally built of wood.
During the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world. During that period, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. The rings of canals in the old city center date from this period with residents of the wealthy citizens. Because of lack of space, these houses were mostly narrow with big narrow windows, decorative gable tops, very narrow stairs inside and a pulley outside to transport larger objects to upper floors. Like in Venice the canals were the main way of transporting the goods. When the Golden Age came to an end, Amsterdam remained a major staple market and managed to retain its position as the financial center of Europe for a long time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built.
Virtually all points of interest are well within walking distance. Amsterdam's main attractions include the historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded, and many new neighborhoods and suburbs were planned and built. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Museums are the main tourist attraction in Amsterdam: the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, but there is much more. Amsterdam has over fifty museums which attract millions of visitors each year. See our suggested itineraries to explore these attractions.
The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is an international museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design. It has one of the richest modern art collections in the world. Along with all important names of modern painting movements as Impressionists, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, it has a unique collection of paintings by Casimir Malevich, an exceptional collection of De Stijl and Cobra movement, superb Dutch photography collection, a very good collection of Dutch design and furniture, and an interesting collection of European and American trends in art since. The collection, housed at first at the Rijksmuseum, was moved in 1895 into the Museum’s own building, designed by A.W. Weissman. In September 2012, after eight years of renovation and a construction of a new building next to the old one, the museum was reopened. Designed by the world-famous firm Benthem/Crouwel, the Stedelijk is dubbed ‘The Bathtub’ by locals for its bulbous, ceramic look.
With its magnificent exhibit of more than 8000 works, including those of the masters Rembrandt, Vermeer, and van Ruysdael, the Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam's must-see attractions. After ten years of rebuilding, renovation and restauration, an entirely renovated Rijksmuseum opened its doors to the public again in April 2013. They are greeted by a stunning building, amazing interior design, wonderful exhibitions, lively events, and many fine amenities for young and old.
At the Rijksmuseum, art and history take on new meaning for a broad-based, contemporary national and international audience. As a national institute, the Rijksmuseum offers a representative overview of Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages onwards, and of major aspects of European and Asian art. The Rijksmuseum keeps, manages, conserves, restores, researches, prepares, collects, publishes, and presents artistic and historical objects, both on its own premises and elsewhere.
A visit to the Van Gogh Museum is a unique experience. Step into Van Gogh's world. Discover the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum, featuring masterpieces such as Almond Blossom and The Bedroom. The museum provides the opportunity to keep track of the artist's developments, or compare his paintings to works by other artists from the 19th century in the collection.
Vincent’s are full of references to books and paintings. They also express his great love of nature and –in his younger years especially– the Bible. He collected pictures of all things that appealed to him. The result was a highly personal ‘database’ of prints and magazine illustrations: Vincent’s ‘Pinterest’.