Houseboats & Canals
The big reasons why I love Amsterdam so much. The huge network of canals, narrow streets, the wide bigger canals, you can wander around for hours, find a cafe here and a pub there, just sit down and enjoy the city for a while, watch the boats on the canals, touristy and local.
And then the houseboats, my big dream to have such a floating home with a terrasse to have a party with friends or just relax and read a book... I still haven't made it to the Houseboat Museum, it's closed on Mondays... Whenever I see a great looking houseboat -or see an old one that needs refurbishing - I think about the big "what if", or simply the "when..."
The streets in Amsterdam seem (mostly) wide and open, bright, with trees and light. Not like Venice, which is similar with its canals and nice old houses. But everything seems to be cramped and old and run down and smelly, it's just stones and water... I don't like Venice. But I love Amsterdam!!
My highest reccomendation is...
My highest reccomendation is one of the many tours. You can get on a bus or a cannal barge and see everything, amazing buildings, markets, the bridges and even the 'red-light district' which is not as bad as people expect. try a tour... it's great. this isn't for everyone but the 'double reggae' bar and coffee shop is the boy-o.
I had great beer (if you ask for 'big-beer' you get a litre) nice smoke and real old-school reggae and dub beats. the guy serving was friendly and made me real welcome. Its a nice laid-back place. some may find coffee shops a bit intimidating but don't, go in, inhale and grab a drink.
Lost? Confused? Why not ask someone for help. A little bit of English can do wonders as most people will speak it. Yes, most (not all, that's a myth) Dutch people speak English and are more than happy to help you. But that may not be enough. I recently experienced that this is a two-way thing. I met a guy, I think he was Portuguese, who asked me where the Bangkokmuseum was. The WHAT? I thought. Never heard of a museum about the city of Bangkok, but you never know. In the end it turned out he meant the Van Goghmuseum, only pronounced Van Gogh as Bangkok. Better show the word instead of trying to say something you can't pronounce anyway. Don't be embarrassed, you are a tourist.
Churches and Cathedrals
There are not as many churches and cathedrals in Amsterdam as one might expect. Although the ones that do stand are very beautiful and of interesting architectural style. They include the Nieuwe Kerk, Noorderkerk, Oosterkerk, Ouderkerk, Sint Nicolaaskerk and Westerkerk. The other presenting probelm with the churches is their limited access. For example, the Noorderkerk was locked up tight when we ambled by and I understand that it is really only accessible when weekly concerts are held. The tower of the Westerkerk is available for touring (for a price) but the interior of the church is closed except for services. And the Nieuwe Kerk is not even a church anymore--it has been transformed into an art gallery. As such, you can view the impressive architechture and altar pieces only if you are willing to fork over the price of admission to the gallery (which is something like 10 euros).
Don't forget to look up at the houses along the canals to see some beautiful gables (frontpieces at roof level) these also helped identify houses prior to house numbers & hid the roof from view. The main types of gable is the spout gable, the neck or bottle gable, the clock gable, the bell gable and the step gable
The hoist built into the gable is to lift furniture into the large removable windows as the stairs are too narrow & winding to get any furniture up that way.
You'll also notice the way the houses lean this is for various reasons I think something to do with rain water, the other is so the furniture don't bump into them, also it makes it easier to admire the facade from the street which is good news for us tourists.