Netherlands Travel Guide
The rich cultural heritage that flavours much of Dutch life can be traced back through the centuries. During the 1600s the Netherlands dominated the world both economically and culturally, with the Dutch East India Company establishing trading links with the East and West Indies and bringing back an abundance of merchandise and cultural influences. The Golden Age reached its zenith in the artworks of the Dutch Masters: Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Vermeer. Today, their paintings hang from the walls of the country's numerous world-class museums and galleries.
Most people travelling to the Netherlands head for the unique experience of its capital city, Amsterdam. The other parts are largely unaffected by tourism, particularly the areas outside the Randstad. The southern parts of the country are transformed by undulating landscapes of shifting sands and heath moors, best experienced within the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Further south, tucked between the German and Belgian borders, lies the historical city of Maastricht.
Since the collapse of Napoleon's empire in 1814, the Netherlands has taken a neutral stance throughout most of the world's conflicts, including the First World War in which it took no part. In spite of this independent stance it still suffered severely in World War II during the Nazi invasion of 1940. Its neutral political position, combined with its tradition of liberalism and tolerance, has made the Netherlands the logical choice for the establishment of the International Court of Justice, which is situated in The Hague.
Anne Frank House
Address: Prinsengracht 267 (Westerkerk) Amsterdam
Admission: €9 (adults), €4.50 (children aged 10 to 17) Open daily from 9am to 7pm, and Saturdays 9am to 9pm (November through March); from 9am to 9pm daily, and Saturdays 9am to 10pm (April through October). Note that the queues can be very long, but that tickets can be bought online in advance.
This museum is dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank, whose
famous diary, recorded over a two-year period, describes the
experiences of a Jewish teenager during World War II. Part of the
house that is now the museum was used as a hiding place by the
Franks and others to escape Nazi persecution. The hidden attic area
where eight people lived in hiding can be explored and brings home
to tourists the cramped and fearful existence described by Anne in
her diary. The families were later discovered and sent to their
deaths in the concentration camps. Otto Frank was the only
The original diary is on display as part of the permanent exhibition and there is plenty of information on the lives of the people involved - it is not necessary to have read the diary to appreciate the museum. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits that focus on related issues. One of Amsterdam's most famous tourist attractions, Anne Frank House is a must for visitors of all ages. Due to its popularity, however, queues outside the museum can get excruciatingly long, especially in peak tourist season, so it is recommended that visitors book online enabling them to use a separate entrance, or arrive as early as possible.
Van Gogh Museum
Address: Paulus Potterstraat 7 Amsterdam
Admission: €15 (adults), children under 17 are free. Open daily from about 10am to 6pm (until 10pm on Fridays). There are slight variations in opening times according to season - check the website for details.
The Van Gogh Museum is a definitive tourist attraction in
Amsterdam. Situated in a modern building, the simple architecture
subtly underscores the artists' colourful and extraordinary work.
The museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh's work in the
world, comprised of more than 200 paintings, 437 drawings and 31
prints. Many of his most famous and recognisable paintings are on
display in this remarkable museum. The collection is organised
according to three criteria: the first of these is the work of the
artist, which is divided into five notable periods; then there is
the display of work of other artists, including those of his
friends and contemporaries; and finally the third section is the
showcase of the museum's history, recording its progress with a
feature on the development of the new wing designed by Japanese
architect Kisho Kurokawa, built to house the temporary exhibitions.
The written information provided is good and sufficient for many
visitors, but the audio guide is definitely worth hiring for Van
Gogh fanatics who want a more in-depth analysis. Photography of the
art itself is not permitted, though visitors can take pictures in
the main hall. Large bags will have to be left in the cloakroom
facilities as they are not permitted in the museum.
Address: Jan Luijkenstraat 1 Amsterdam
Admission: €17.50 (adults). Under 18s are free and concessions are available. Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
The Rijksmuseum was opened in 1885 and is best known for its
collection of 17th-century Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt,
Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. The most notable of these
paintings is Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch which has
pride of place. The museum contains thousands of other paintings
spanning from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, in its Asiatic
collection, Print Room, Dutch History, and Applied Arts sections,
and although it is most coveted for its paintings, the collection
also includes stunning furniture, jewellery, ceramics and other
artefacts. Nestled within the garden is a collection depicting five
centuries of Dutch architecture.
It is advisable to consult a map or purchase a CD audio tour to help navigate through the extensive collection of the Rijksmuseum and to allow plenty of time for your visit - at least a few hours are needed to explore thoroughly. Surprisingly, photographs are permitted inside, but flash photography is not. Overcrowding is a problem in the Rijksmuseum and it is best to avoid the busiest times: the museum is most crowded between 11am and 3pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Buy tickets in advance online to minimise queuing, but note that when the museum is full even those that arrive with tickets may have to wait. The Rijksmuseum is one of the Netherlands most famous and most popular attractions and a must-see in Amsterdam; it has recently reopened after an extensive renovation project and is more impressive than ever.
Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art
Address: Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam Amsterdam
Admission: €15 (adults), €7.50 (children 13 to 18), children under 12 free. Concessions available. Admission costs may be upped when special exhibitions are featured. Open daily from 10am to 6pm. Thursdays 10am to 10pm.
The Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art closely traces the
developments in art of the second half of the 20th century,
showcasing the most impressive collection of modern art in
Amsterdam. The permanent exhibition focuses on De Stijl, Cobra,
Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art, Colorfield Painting, Zero and Minimalist
Art, while temporary exhibitions on design and applied art are
housed in the new wing.
Many of the masters of modern art are represented here, including Cezanne, Chagall, Picasso, Warhol, Pollock and Lichtenstein, and there is a huge range of mediums, as one would expect from a modern art exhibition. The building is cool and artistic and seldom crowded which makes it a breath of fresh air after some of the packed tourist spaces in Amsterdam. Numerous events, like workshops and book launches, are hosted in the museum and there is a shop, restaurant and library.
There are audio guides available in at least six languages and guided tours by experienced professionals every Sunday. The guided tours are free and conducted in Dutch and English but cannot be booked in advance - those keen to join must sign up at the museum on the day of the tour.
Address: Jodenbreestraat 4 Amsterdam
Admission: €12.50 (adults), €4 (children 6-17). Concessions available. Open daily from 10am to 6pm.
This museum provides an insight into the life and times of the
famous Dutch master. Rembrandt lived here between 1639 and 1658,
the pinnacle of his career. The famous artist went bankrupt in 1656
and a list of his possessions was drawn up to pay his debts; this
list has allowed the historic interior of the house to be restored
faithfully with exactly the kinds of furnishings the artist owned.
The museum presents a permanent collection of Rembrandt's work
(including etchings and sketches as well as paintings) and a
reconstructed 17th-century studio, together with regular temporary
exhibitions and a collection of paintings done by his teacher,
Pieter Latman, as well as some of the work of Rembrandt's pupils.
In the painting studio there are daily demonstrations on how
etchings and paintings were made in the 17th century, including an
interesting demonstration on his use of colour and where he would
have gotten the paint. Although the admission cost is quite steep
for a small museum, the price does include a great free audio guide
and Rembrandt House is a very popular attraction in Amsterdam. An
hour is enough for a self-guided tour, unless you want to linger
and bask in the 17th-century time bubble.
Address: Kalverstraat 92 Amsterdam
Admission: €12 (adults), €6 (children aged 5 to 18). Open every day from 10am to 5pm. Closed on some public holidays.
Housed in a lovely 17th-century building that was formerly an
orphanage, the Historical Museum explores Amsterdam's development
from a small medieval settlement along the river into a thriving
modern city. The museum's galleries showcase the progress of each
century, with particular emphasis given to Holland's Golden Age.
The museum provides a showpiece of Dutch Master paintings,
archaeological discoveries, gold, silver, glass, earthenware and
other artefacts. It is an extremely popular and interesting museum
which generally receives rave reviews from tourists. Visitors
should allow at least two to three hours to explore as the
exhibition is large - there are also frequent temporary
exhibitions. There is a pleasant little museum cafe selling
refreshments which is worth checking out, and an outdoor iamsterdam
display which is popular for photographs. The museum fee also
covers entry to the Civic Guards Gallery. This is a glass-roofed
gallery stretching between Kalverstraat and the Begijnhof, lined
with portraits of Amsterdam's Civic Guards dating back to the 17th
Red Light District (De Wallen)
A visit to Amsterdam would not be complete without a stroll
around the notorious Red Light District. The atmosphere can be
chaotic, with throngs of tourists jostling for space alongside city
slickers, pimps and drug dealers. The prostitutes of De Wallen are
part of a legal and regulated industry that includes compulsory
health checks and taxable income. Prostitution is by no means the
only attraction of the area. The district's architecture comprises
a scenic mix that dates back to the Middle Ages. Areas to explore
include Waterlooplein, Zeedijk and Nieuwmarkt Square. Waterlooplein
is the location of the modern City Hall and Muziek Theatre. The
square was created in 1880 from two canals that were filled and
then allocated to Jewish traders who used to ply their wares on its
pavements. Nieuwmarkt Square was also once home to a thriving
Jewish community, mainly Portuguese Jews who had fled from
persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. The cultural diversity
of this area extends to Zeedijk Street, which is often referred to
as Chinatown. The street runs from the Saint Olof Chapel to De
Waag, and is lined with many excellent bars, restaurants and
Visitors should be respectful and note that photography in and around the actual brothels is frowned on, and could lead to confrontation.
The Dutch Resistance Museum (Verzetsmuseum)
Address: Plantage Kerklaan 61 Amsterdam
Admission: €10 (adults), €5 (children aged 7 to 15). Concessions available. Open Tuesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm; Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday and public holidays from 11am to 5pm.
Between May 1940 and May 1945, during World War II, the
Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany, and this museum documents
the everyday effects of this foreign invasion on the Dutch
population as well as the resistance movement. A trip to the Dutch
Resistance Museum, or Verzetsmuseum, is a fascinating step back in
time, providing wonderful insight into ordinary life in the 1940s
as well as the exciting and extraordinary espionage activities of
the resistance fighters. Displays include authentic period
artefacts, lots of everyday objects, photographs, weaponry, false
documents used by the resistance, maps and footage to evoke the
wartime period in the Netherlands. The resistance included the
secret aiding and protection of Jews and this museum is well
combined with a visit to Anne Frank House. The collection makes use
of individual experiences and stories which is a good way of
personalising history. The permanent exhibition is bilingual,
catering to both Dutch and English visitors, and there are free
audio guides available in English, German, French, Spanish and
Dutch. Guided tours are available by appointment only and
reservations must be made a few weeks in advance.
The Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis)
Address: Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 147, Dam Square Amsterdam
Admission: €10 (adults), under 18s free. Concessions available. Open most days between 11am and 5pm, but closed for royal events.
Although the Royal Palace is the official royal residence, it is
mainly used for functions and is one of three palaces that the
royal family of the Netherlands reside in. Visitors should check
the calendar on the official website listed below to ensure that
the palace is not closed for an event during their stay, but it is
open most days of the year. The building dates back to 1648 and was
originally designed for use as Amsterdam's City Hall. A large
collection of furniture from this period adorns its magnificent
interiors and there is also some valuable art on display. The
palace is comparatively small by European standards and only part
of it is open to visitors, but exploring it is still a fantastic
experience, helped along by an excellent free audio guide which
gives a great history lesson. Guided tours are offered to visitors
(although they must be booked two weeks in advance) and they are
conducted by qualified art historians or art history students in
Dutch, English, German, French and Spanish. Official tours take
about an hour, but those who are exploring alone with the audio
guide may take up to three hours if they linger and listen to all
the information provided. Photography is permitted in the palace,
but not flash photography.
Address: Maastricht is located 133 miles (215km) from Amsterdam Amsterdam
Maastricht is the oldest city in the Netherlands, peacefully
perching on the banks of the Maas River. It is also one of the
sunnier spots, located at Holland's southernmost point, squeezed in
between the Belgian and German borders. Once a humble Roman
settlement, Maastricht now boasts almost the highest number of
national heritage sites in the Netherlands, second only to
Amsterdam. The city is not just notable for its age and history
though: Maastricht is the birthplace of the European Union and the
single European currency, the Euro.
Ancient fortifications provide pleasant walking routes and some of these can be explored on the city's western outskirts. The Bonnefantenmuseum traces the city's historical roots, and makes for a good introduction to the city. Another must-see is the Basilica of Saint Servatius, a medieval cruciform basilica with a significant collection of religious artefacts, as well as being the burial place of Holland's first bishop. In the old centre of Maastricht there is a selection of shops and department stores and it is known as a good shopping destination. Here one can also savour the fine food and wine that Maastricht has developed a reputation for. Maastricht is a university town with a large and vibrant student community that adds energy to the ancient city.
Address: Carnegieplein 2 Amsterdam
Admission: Tours: €9.50. The Peace Palace is only accessible on organised tours, which are run on certain weekends.
The Peace Palace was so named to emphasise its significance as a
place for arbitration and for the maintenance and promotion of
world peace. Situated in The Hague, the building houses the
International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration
and The Hague Academy of International Law. It was here (in 1946)
that the first session of the International Court of Justice was
held. The building itself is impressive, with beautiful interiors
and wonderful gardens, and houses some magnificent art gifted to
the palace by various countries. Guided tours of the palace are
conducted regularly with the dates announced on the official
website - these tours must be booked in advance online. Tours take
about 45 minutes and are fascinating. No photographs are permitted
inside the palace and no luggage (including handbags) is permitted
either, but lockers are provided. Guided tours of the gardens are
also available and dates are announced on the website. The
Visitor's Centre, which is really a museum, provides a free audio
guide and is a great option for those who can't make the tours. The
Hague is located approximately 35 miles (57km) from Amsterdam.
Address: Stationsweg 166A, 2161 Am Lisse, Netherlands Amsterdam
Admission: €16 (adults), €8 (children aged 4 to 11), free for children under 3. Open daily from about 20 March to mid-May annually, between 8am and 7:30pm (ticket office closes at 6pm).
One of the top attractions in the Netherlands, and the best
reason to visit in the spring, Keukenhof is one of those magical
places that frequently earns itself a spot on lists like 'Places
You Have to Go in Your Lifetime'. A huge spring garden that is home
to more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths,
Keukenhof is 32 hectares of colour and fragrance. The gardens have
been expertly and creatively designed and landscaped, with works of
art scattered among the blooms. There are many restaurants and
cafes in the grounds for refreshments and shops and stalls selling
souvenirs, gardening equipment and seeds and bulbs. There are also
numerous pavilions doing demonstrations on things like flower
arranging and the latest trends in gardening. The main joy of the
place, however, is just getting lost in the wonderland of flowers
and taking photographs. Many visitors to the Netherlands expect to
see the famous vistas of tulip fields stretching as far as the eye
can see; Keukenhof is surrounded by such bulb fields and it is
possible to arrange cycling and boat tours from the park to explore
these areas. It is best to allow at least a few hours to thoroughly
enjoy the area.
National Maritime Museum
Address: Kattenburgerplein 1 Amsterdam
Admission: €15 (adults), €7.50 (ages 5 to 17 and students). Open every day from 9am to 5pm.
Covering four centuries of Dutch naval history, the National
Maritime Museum, or Het Scheepvaartmuseum, allows visitors a
glimpse into the adventurous seafaring past of Dutch explorers and
merchants through exhibits of antiquarian maps, navigation
instruments, paintings and ship models, creating one of the most
extensive collections of maritime memorabilia in the entire world.
A major attraction is the life-size reconstruction of a Dutch East
India Company ship called the Amsterdam, which is docked behind the
museum and can be explored, allowing an exciting experience of what
living on one of these ships must have been like.
Learn about the maritime trade, naval combat, fishing and whaling and the intrepid journeys that took the Dutch fleet to remote destinations as far away as modern day Indonesia, India and South Africa. The exhibition on the slave trade is fascinating but disturbing and perhaps not suitable for young children. There are, however, several exhibitions dedicated exclusively to kids, with lots of fun interactive activities. The museum building is imposing, set on the water and with a main hall overarched by a beautiful glass ceiling. Widely considered one of the best museums in Amsterdam, the Maritime Museum is a must for anybody with an interest in ships or naval history.
Address: Stadhouderskade 78 Amsterdam
Admission: €18 (at the door), €16 (online booking), €12.50 (children aged 12 to 17). Monday to Thursday 10:30am to 7:30pm; Friday to Sunday 10:30am to 9pm. In July and August open 10:30am to 9pm daily.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, and
indeed in the Netherlands, the Heineken Experience is not to be
missed. After opening its doors in 2001, the Heineken Experience
has been attracting international beer-lovers for almost a decade.
Housed in the original brewery, visitors will learn about the
history of the famous Heineken Company and its unique brewing
process, visit cutting-edge interactive exhibits and enjoy free
Heineken beer at the two pit stops along the way. And visitors
won't go away empty handed either: a gift of Heineken memorabilia
is given to each visitor to ensure they remember their Heineken
Experience. The site underwent major renovations in 2007 and is now
better than ever. The new and improved Heineken Experience features
a mini brewery, a new tasting bar and an opportunity to view
Heineken's iconic Shire horses. The layout is impressive and the
whole tour very sophisticatedly done - so much so that even those
who aren't beer lovers should enjoy it. To avoid queues and perhaps
get a reduced price book tickets online. Check out the official
website listed below for more details.
Amsterdam's coffeeshops are an iconic part of the city, and for
many tourists they constitute a unique and essential element to any
visit to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, 'coffeeshop' means a place
where cannabis is openly sold and smoked, while 'café' refers to
somewhere that sells coffee, tea and cakes. The coffeeshops sell
controlled amounts of marijuana to adults over 18 years of age.
Travellers are warned, however, that the personal possession of
drugs is illegal, if frequently overlooked; cannabis is not legal
in the Netherlands, recreational use is simply tolerated if it is
not socially disruptive. There are a variety of coffeeshops in the
city, from laid-back and mellow to psychedelic and loud. It is
expected of customers to consume not only the cannabis but also a
beverage or snack while at the venue. Most coffee shops offer
several kinds of weed or hash listed on a 'menu', and the staff can
give advice on the different strains and strengths before you place
your order. The prices vary according to the quality and be warned:
the local skunk is very strong!
For most of the country a law has now come into effect that makes it illegal for tourists to be admitted to coffeeshops. Most cities in the Netherlands enforce this prohibition, but Amsterdam is fighting the law and has so far managed to continue selling to foreigners; however, as the laws and social norms are currently in flux travellers are advised to check up on the situation prior to travel.
Address: Plantage Kerklaan 38-40 Amsterdam
Admission: €19.95 (adults); €16.50 (children aged 3 to 9). Concessions are available. Ticket also provides admission to Planetarium, Geological Museum, Aquarium and Zoological Museum. March through October: Open daily from 9am to 6pm; November through February: Open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Locally known as the Plantage, the Artis Zoo is something of an
oasis in the centre of Amsterdam and a must for children and other
animal lovers. Boasting more than 700 species of animals and 200
species of local and exotic trees, many of which are on the verge
of extinction, the Artis Zoo will captivate and amaze visitors of
all ages. The grounds are huge and can easily keep visitors busy
for hours; it is advisable to get a map to avoid getting lost or
missing something you want to see. Although the zoo is best on a
sunny day, there are plenty of indoor attractions and undercover
areas for when the weather isn't ideal. The animals appear to be
healthy and well cared for and even those who tend to get upset by
seeing large animals in captivity will find plenty of attractions
to entertain them, like the aquarium, butterfly house, planetarium
and a handful of museums. There are several restaurants in the
grounds and a shop selling souvenirs like postcards, books and
toys. Tickets can be bought in advance online to avoid queues at
the entrance - check out the official website below for
Admission: Tickets range from about €35 to €65, with concessions and plenty of specials available. Open daily from at least 11am to 6pm, with extended hours in summer (July through August).
Built in the 1950s, and still one of the leading theme parks in
Europe, the popular theme park of Efteling is a must for children
of all ages. Its fairytale theme captivates children and transports
them into their favourite imaginary world. Complete with a
fairytale forest, lakes and trails, kids will delight in special
attractions like the water show, the maze, the bobsleigh course,
miniature three-dimensional worlds to explore, beautiful gardens, a
swinging ship ride said to be the largest of its kind in the world,
a creepy ghost castle for scares and a whitewater rafting ride.
They will also find all the theme park classics including several
roller coasters, carousels and playgrounds and the chance to go on
boat trips and train rides. There are also plenty of games and
activities to enjoy and theatrical performances for entertainment.
There are also plenty of restaurants and refreshment stands.
Although some of the story-telling attractions are less impressive
if you don't understand Dutch, the majority of the park can be
enjoyed no matter what language you speak. Queues get very long at
Efteling, particularly in peak tourist season (summer) so it is
best to arrive early.
Address: George Maduroplein 1, The Hague Amsterdam
Admission: €15.50 (Adults). Concessions are available and bookings can be made online. Open daily from about 9am to 8pm; there are seasonal fluctuations to opening times.
Located around 30 minutes outside of Amsterdam, in The Hague,
and first opened in 1952, Madurodam is quite literally the smallest
city in the Netherlands, featuring hundreds of miniature Dutch
structures. The park features houses and factories that reflect
real Amsterdam architecture, exact replicas of famous Dutch
landmarks, and incredible little transport systems like railways,
ships and airports. Children will be captivated by the sheer genius
of this little city and adults should enjoy it just as much. Like a
giant toy railway with a model city, this attraction is
old-fashioned, quaint and delightful, but it has recently been
renovated extensively and feels brand new and impressively
well-constructed and designed as well. For a small cost, usually
just a few cents, parts of the miniature models will actually start
working, such as trucks moving down the little highway and planes
landing and rolling down the little runway at Schiphol Airport. The
detail is incredible and families will have fun taking photographs
and playing with scale. There is a shop and restaurants at
Madurodam, but visitors should note that the restaurants have
different opening times to the park itself.
Amsterdam Canal Tour
Amsterdam's famous canal tours are an essential experience for
visitors to the city, and continue to delight and amaze tourists
from all over the world. Amsterdam's UNESCO-listed canals were
essential to the city's transport and defensive strategies in the
17th century, but these days their function is largely aesthetic,
providing a picturesque method of seeing the historic city centre
from its characteristic waterways. Tourists looking to take a canal
tour of Amsterdam have two main options: the large glass-topped
canal boats, which can accommodate hundreds of tourists and travel
along predetermined routes; or a more personal tour, like those run
by the St. Nicolaas Boat Club, a non-profit organisation. The St.
Nicolaas Boat Club makes use of the traditional tuindersvletten
boats (once used to transport vegetables and animals around
Amsterdam), which can only accommodate 10 people per tour and which
can navigate the tiniest canals and fit under the lowest bridges in
the city. Tour guides in these smaller craft commonly ask visitors
to nominate 10 Amsterdam sights they want to see and will construct
tours around these highlights.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Admission: €8.80 (adults), €4.40 (children). Opening hours vary from month to month, but are generally from at least 9am to 8pm
For exercise fiends unsatisfied with simply walking around
Amsterdam's historic city centre, a trip out to the Hoge Veluwe
National Park is a fantastic way to enjoy the Netherlands'
(somewhat limited) great outdoors. The Hoge Veluwe National Park
covers an area of 55 square kilometres (5,400 hectares) and has an
interesting topography, featuring woodland, heathland, peat bogs
and even sand dunes. The park is home to a high concentration of
fauna, including red deer, roe deer, wild boar, foxes, badgers and
mouflon (a kind of wild sheep), and provides ample walking and
cycling opportunities out in nature for visitors. There is even a
fleet of 1,700 white bicycles which are free to rent. Also housed
within the park is the St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge, a beautiful
building designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage; the Kroller-Muller
Museum, which contains artwork by such luminaries as Van Gogh,
Picasso and Mondrian; and a Scupture Garden. An ideal way to get
some exercise and take in a bit of culture in one fun excursion, a
trip to the Hoge Veluwe National Park is highly recommended for
visitors to Amsterdam wanting to get out of the city.
The Concertgebouw (literally, 'concert building') is one of
Amsterdam's top-rated tourist attractions, and is widely regarded
as one of the finest concert halls in the world, easily comparable
to the Vienna Musikverein or the Moscow Conservatory. Not only is
the Concertgebouw a building of rare elegance and beauty, but it
features a fantastic resident orchestra and peerless acoustics,
making it an unmissable experience for classical music lovers on
holiday in Amsterdam. For those who aren't into classical music the
venue also hosts some jazz and pop concerts. The Concertgebouw puts
on about 900 concerts a year to an audience of over 800,000 people
so tourists looking to take in some high culture will be spoilt for
choice in terms of what to see. For those on tight budgets, bear in
mind that being in possession of an I Amsterdam card can get you up
to a 25 percent discount on ticket prices, and that free concerts
are often given on Fridays. There are also highly recommended
'behind the scenes' tours of the graceful 19th-century building,
operating on Saturdays and Mondays. For details on the concert
schedule and ticket prices check out the official website listed
Address: Koninginneweg 34-36 Amsterdam
Sometimes when you're on holiday in a foreign city, it's nice to
take a break from sightseeing and experience the city as the locals
do. Amsterdam's Vondelpark, dating back to 1850, offers visitors
the chance to do just this, in a relaxed and beautiful public space
that sees about 10 million visitors each year. Although the park
features several notable attractions - including an impressive
statue of Joost van den Vondel (the author for whom the park is
named), a film museum, an open-air theatre, a playground, and
numerous snack bars and cafes - its great charm is in providing a
tranquil space in which to spend a couple of hours doing nothing
but watching native Amsterdammers going about their daily business.
Vondelpark is the perfect place to get some exercise on holiday,
with well-kept and extensive pathways for cycling, walking and
jogging - those who are just wandering at their leisure should
watch out for all the bicycles zooming around. Although Vondelpark
is a great place to take the kids on a picnic, and a peaceful
respite from urban sightseeing, sensitive parents are warned that
the smell of marijuana smoke will probably taint the air. There are
sometimes free performances and concerts in the park as well.
Just a short, 15-minute train trip from Amsterdam lies Haarlem,
a quaint city that has the distinction of boasting more museums per
capita than any other city in the Netherlands. With its cosy,
small-town feel and cheaper accommodation rates, many tourists are
choosing to make Haarlem their base during their Netherlands
vacation. It's not hard to understand why Haarlem is such an
attractive choice: with its great mix of youthful energy and
historic sights, its wide array of cafes, restaurants and bars,
several fantastic live music venues and a bustling market, Haarlem
truly caters for travellers from all walks of life. Must-see sights
in Haarlem include the Grote Markt (Market Square), where 10
streets converge around the town's 700-year-old centre and - on
Mondays and Saturdays - fantastic shopping opportunities abound;
and the Saint Bavo Church, which contains an organ dating back to
1738 that was once played by GF Handel, composer of The Messiah.
Haarlem is said to boast one of the highest qualities of life of
any city in Europe, and more and more international visitors to the
Netherlands are descending on the genteel city to discover exactly
Sex Museum Amsterdam
Address: Damrak 18 Amsterdam
Admission: €4 Daily 9:30am to 11:30pm.
Amsterdam's fame as the home of legalised prostitution is
well-known to visitors, so it is only fitting that the world's
oldest sex museum be situated here. The museum opened in 1985 with
just a few displays of 19th-century erotic objects and there was
some doubt originally about how the idea would be received - it has
been increasing in size ever since and is now one of the most
popular museums in the city, with about 500,000 visitors a year.
The Sex Museum Amsterdam is in the centre of the city (near the
central train depot). Exhibits range from bawdy to downright
graphic, with examples of ancient and modern art, historic sex
symbols, photographs going back 150 years, and a walk-through model
of the famous Red Light District. Exhibits are a mixture of art and
porn and different aspects will appeal to different people. The
visual representation of the evolution of cultural approaches to
sex through the ages is fascinating, and there is an extensive
collection of modern sex paraphernalia too. Definitely not suited
for the squeamish or easily offended, the museum winds its way
through several levels and photography is permitted. Visitors must
be at least 16 years old to enter.
Blauw aan de Wal
Address: Oude Zijds, Achterburgwal 99 Amsterdam
Food Type: French
One of Amsterdam's delightful secrets, this charming restaurant
is peaceful and tranquil in the midst of the bustling Red Light
District. An alley leads patrons to the tiny square where Blauw aan
de Wal (Blue on the Quay) is hidden, a modern minimalist restaurant
with a courtyard that was once part of a monastery. The fare is
Mediterranean inspired and the service renowned for its excellence.
Reservations necessary. Closed Sunday. Dinner only.
D Vijff Vlieghen
Address: Spuistraat 294-302 (opposite the Amsterdam Historical Museum) Amsterdam
Food Type: Local
The 'Five Flies' is one of the world's famous restaurants,
oozing old-world charm with antiques and Rembrandt etchings on the
Spui, and offering New Dutch Cuisine, created using only fresh
Dutch products. Brass plaques on the chairs remind diners of the
famous names like Orson Welles and Walt Disney who have patronised
the rambling establishment that occupies five adjoining historic
houses. D'Vijff Vlieghen also offers an organic five-course
vegetarian meal. Open daily for dinner. Reservations advised.
Cafe de Jaren
Address: Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20-22 Amsterdam
Food Type: Gastropubs
Contemporary and stylish, the chief attraction of the Café de
Jaren is its waterfront terrace overlooking the Amstel River, in
the heart of the city. It makes for a great place for a pre dinner
drink, the sampling of a superb bottle of wine or enjoying a strong
coffee. The menu is varied and attractive, with fare ranging from
soups and sandwiches to steaks and pastas. With a classic French
feel to it, the high ceilings and tiled floors of the Café de Jaren
exude a refined elegance. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Address: Reguliersdwarsstraat 30 Amsterdam
Food Type: Oriental
Amsterdam is well supplied with oriental restaurants
particularly in its rejuvenated Chinatown district. One of the most
popular institutions, serving a mix of Asian cuisine from Chinese,
Thai and Vietnamese, to Malay and Filipino, is Dynasty. The themed
interior is exceedingly colourful, the ceiling adorned with
upturned paper umbrellas. A big attraction is the beautiful
Canalhouse Garden, usually packed out for summer dining.
Reservations essential. Closed Tuesdays.
Pasta E Basta
Address: Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 8 Amsterdam
Food Type: Italian
The lively Pasta E Basta restaurant has hit on a gimmick that
draws customers as much as the delicious plates of pasta it serves:
the waiters and bartenders sing opera arias while they tend the
tables. This makes for a jovial atmosphere, where guests enjoy the
excellent wine list and superb Italian fare in an intriguing
environment. Bookings should be made well in advance. Open daily
from 6pm for dinner.
Address: Reguliersdwarsstraat 38-40 Amsterdam
Food Type: Spanish
Amsterdam's most popular Mexican-style bar buzzes with warm
Latin-American ambience and serves up notoriously potent margaritas
along with a number of food specialities. The menu includes regular
Mexican favourites like burritos, nachos and enchiladas. Fillet
steak and burgers are also available and are well complimented with
Mexican beer. Open daily from 5pm.
De Silveren Spiegel
Address: Kattengat 4-6 Amsterdam
Food Type: Local
The elegant Silveren Spiegel (Silver Mirror) is one of
Amsterdam's best known traditional restaurants, featuring a
romantic atmosphere enhanced by beautifully decorated candlelit
rooms in two historic houses. Highlights on the menu include
seafood and meat dishes both of which are cooked in traditional
Address: Spuistraat 24 Amsterdam
Food Type: Gastropubs
A large established eatery, Café Luxembourg's affordable prices,
traditional atmosphere and superb food continue to draw crowds
throughout the year. With heavily wooded tables, a long, well
stocked bar, soft lighting and a pleasant atmosphere, Café
Luxembourg is the ideal place for a lunchtime salad or sandwich,
evening drink accompanied by a mouth-watering array of snacks or a
laid back wholesome evening meal. In summer patrons can
people-watch from the bustling sidewalks and in winter friends and
couples can cosy up with a nice bottle of red or a crisp pint. If
you're looking for a great meal at an affordable price, Café
Luxembourg is the ticket. Open daily from 9am for lunch and
Address: Peperstraat 23-25 Amsterdam
Food Type: Local
The place to go for authentic Dutch food. Greetje is located in
a district that includes many beautiful old buildings, and has a
great view of Montelbaanse Tower. It's known for having some of the
best service in Amsterdam, and offers up traditional Dutch recipes
with a modern flair. Try the taster platters for a sampling of many
different dishes. Greetje is open for dinner only, from 6pm, seven
days a week.
Address: Grimburgwal 2, Medieval Centre Amsterdam
Food Type: Local
At the top of a precipitous staircase, hungry visitors can pack
into this tiny pancake house for tea and sustenance. This two-man
operation serves up savoury and sweet pancakes at reasonable
prices. There are only four tables in this charming eatery, and
hundreds of teapots hanging from the ceiling. The service can be
slow, but locals swear it's worth the wait.
"Schuko" plug and receptable with side grounding contacts.