When walking through the old Amsterdam I find the city quite typical but not monumental.
I miss the monumental buildings, palaces, one sees along the avenues of Paris, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Budapest or Venice.
The houses of Amsterdam are very "middle class" for the simple reason I think that they were not build by noblemen who wanted to show their power and richness like in the other European countries but by the merchants of a Calvinist republic.
No Louvre, no Buckingham Palace, no Schönbrunn in Amsterdam!
The citizens of the Gouden Eeuw were actually working hard, discreet about their money, preferring to decorate the inside of their houses with these wonderful Dutch paintings and porcelain decorative objects.
A walk along the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht shows townhouses or merchant houses, built in or after the 17th century, who served as a residence as well as a workshop. They are often characterized by the facade and entrance, the door above the stairs was for high visit, the door under the stairs for staff and vendors. Because space was scarce, the houses are often narrow and high, with a lifting beam just below the roof furniture. Furthermore as the city was built on piles in the mud it is not surprising that so many houses have problems with verticality.
One of the great walking cities of the world, everywhere you look is a new scene that is just as interesting as the last. The old town section of Amsterdam is quite large and takes a couple of days to just walk and see all of these different scenes. During the week, Amsterdam is a busy city. Everyone walks fast, drives fast, bicycles fast. Everything is purposeful. In the evening, everything slows down (except for the young people). The apartments, homes, and houseboats light up (well, that too), the restaurants and pubs fill with tourists and locals. The city relaxes. The beauty of dusk with both daylight and artificial light brings about scenes of tranquility everywhere. Windows are open wide, with people sharing glasses of wine and beer. Couples and small groups gather on the rooftop gardens of the houseboats along the canals. Parks fill with walkers, joggers, bikers, senior couples, young lovers. Sidewalk cafes and pubs ring with shared laughter and there is a peace that settles in before bed and the next days return to work. Unlike many cities, one does not have to look far serenity in this marvelous city.
Photo 1 One of the countless small parks located all over the city.
Photo 2 Oude Kerk (Old Church). Notice the hook at the top of the building opposite.
Photo 3 Moving day. The hook is used to get the furniture in/out of the apartment.
Photo 4. Traffic Jam on the canals. Sometimes these are funny. Not usually though.
Photo 5 Low bridge. One of the best parts of the boat trip is the skill of the driver.
A friend of mine just recently was asking for help to go visit the sights of Amsterdam - had been living in London for a number of years and not been to Amsterdam and mentioned that she wanted to walk around and see the canals - and in the end she didnt! She said her family had said they were too tired to walk!
and what a shame to miss how beautiful the sights are - at various times of the day and night!
Ive been up early to head to the Aalsmeer flower auctions and thats a beautiful time to see the canals before the glare of the sun - when i walked from where i stayed in a hostel in the Red light district and walked up to catch a bus from Leidesplein, but it is beautiful at any time of the day - even if its raining!
So heres some pics for encouragement?!
I wouldn't bother with the Hop on Off Bus Tour or a sightseeing Tour of Amsterdam as its very easy to walk around the City. Take with you a map that you can follow,showing the main sights. I just headed to the Rijksmuseum and then walked from there. If you get tired, you can always catch the Tram. You see so much more when walking.
In the surroundings of Amsterdam, you can escape the city for a moment and enjoy the suburbian nature.
Marked walks from the Dutch Touring Club ANWB in the nature around Amsterdam:
The Demmerikroute near Vinkeveen is about 20 km from Amsterdam: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/1ca004/
Additionally, there are marked hikes in the Amsterdam Forest: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/19afe9/
The Goudriaan route, a walk near the village Durgerdam along the IJmeer lake, just north of Amsterdam: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/1e60a5/
On my page about the Netherlands, there is more information about hikes in the Netherlands, please see the link below:
Too good to be true? No, this is for real...
Two times a day (11.15h and 13.15h), a FREE 3 HOUR GUIDED WALKING TOUR starts from the National Monument at Dam Square.
EVERY DAY except Queens Day, in every kind of weather. Tours are in English or Spanish.
Enthusiastic young guides will take you through the center of Amsterdam for three hours. Our guide did not only tell us the facts, but also threw in a good dose of humor. As a local I really liked the tour, and so did all the tourists in our group.
Of course, you are expected to give the guide a GOOD TIP if you liked the tour...The smart thing about this concept is that the guides really do their best to give you a good tour, because the better they are, the better their tip will be (in contrast to tours where you pay first and the guides can be as boring as they want).
Besides the free tour, they also offer a Red Light District tour and a Biking tour, for which you do have to pay.
See the website for most up-to-date information.
get a map and just walk from sight to sight and look at everything along the way!! look at the excellent architecture, and the variety of it. look at the hundreds of canals and bridges over them! and even the parked bicycles can be photogenic! did you know that only 2 million of the population of the netherlands dont have a bicycle!! (statistically).
and do one for the night view too , and another for the Queens Day visit!! well worth that wander!
Walking Amsterdam took us to the world famous 19th century Museumplein, which is arguably the cultural hub of the city. It is home to the three major museums in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum which makes this an art lover’s paradise par excellence. The Rijksmuseum which is home to the largest Rembrandt collection in the world is a giant impressive several blocks long building. On another day, we came back to the same area to visit the Van Gogh (say goahk?) museum, which has the largest Van Gogh collection in the world! Both were busy places but very enjoyable. I had a Heineken in both places to recuperate from such exhausting culture events. The museum square also caters to children with its skateboard park and a wading pool, which in the winter doubles up as an ice rink. Between the museums is a pretty park setting in which on our winter trip had a large and popular skating rink. We remarked that many of the European cities in winter seem to have a skating rink in the center of town. Both museums had lines to enter, but within 20 minutes we were inside the doors. Using the audio headphones really enhanced the self guided tour. Some places you can take a photo of an art piece, while at others you were quickly yelled at.
If you enjoy walking tours led by people that really love this city Mee in Mokum is for you.
It is a group of senior citizens that know Amsterdam very well and are happy to share it with you.
Very small groups only. I lucked out and was alone - a private tour for Euro 4 !!
All tours begin at 1100 hours.
The tour was originally supposed to be 2 1/2 hours but became extended...we took a coffee break, started to talk and altogether spent almost 4 hours chatting, walking and visiting the inner city.
The site is in Dutch only, but if you write to them in English they will answer in the same language.
When arriving at Amsterdam's main train station eg from the airport then talk a brief walk in the direction of the harbour (ie out the railway station's back door) instead of straight into Amsterdam central, and look out into the harbour, watch the variety of boat traffic travelling past.
Id missed this harbour view not even aware it was just there the previous two visits to Amsterdam.
Particularly nice on a sunny warm day or when you are in need of a cool breeze.
“Het doel van de staat is de vrijheid.” (“The purpose of the State is freedom.”)
— Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) the inscription on the Spinoza memorial
On Monday, 24.November.2008, at 13:26 a bronze tribute to the 17th century Amsterdam philosopher Baruch Spinoza was unveiled by Mayor Job Cohen. This date was the philosopher’s 376 birthday!
Calling himself Benedictus (the Blessed One) later in life, Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher, born in Amsterdam, of a Sephardic Jewish family. The ideas he advocated were freedom of expression, tolerance and freedom of religion. Classified as a rationalist, his philosophy laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment. His radical ideas resulted his expulsion from his synagogue, the Portuguese Synagogue.
Nicolas Dings designed the bronze for the Spinoza Monument Foundation, which made of it a gift to the city. Located in Zwanenburgwal, where Spinoza was born, the bronze consists of Spinoza’s head and face and by his side there is an icosahedron, a geometric form with 20 sides symbolizing the universe created by man’s imagination. The birds covering his cloak are rose-ringed parakeets (see photo #4), an exotic bird that has settled in Amsterdam in the past 20 years. These bright green birds first settled in the Vondelpark, but today they be seen throughout the city. These birds are meant to symbolize Amsterdam as an immigrant city, both in the 17th century and today. The roses on his cloak refer to his name; spinoza is Portuguese for thorn.
This is not the first sculpture of Spinoza in Amsterdam. For decades one has stood in front of the Spinoza Lyceum, a high school in Amsterdam South.
We strolled through a fancy Department store (Birjenkorf) and somehow found very fancy lacy women’s bras for only 169e. Such a deal! Then we heard that you ‘shop at Birjenkorf but buy at Herma’, a much cheaper little sister store. We never did find a Herma. We feared that the weather in Amsterdam was going to the coldest and worst of our December trip – just the opposite, it was great there. Still winter, but it was very reasonable for us to get around.
European beer drinkers always have their beer served in a glass with the logo of the beer they are drinking. Amstel is served in a special designed Amstel glass, etc. I already had some ‘Stella Artois’ glassware from Belgium, but on this trip I added some Peroni glasses from Italy, and an ‘Amstel Bier’ glass from beloved Amsterdam. I figure I can get a Heineken glass later, which I did.
This grand 19th-century building, once the main post office, has many upscale fashion, gift and jewelry stores. We walked through this big historic shopping complex which is not actually a department store, but a mall, located amid the extravagant 19th-century neo-Gothic architecture. The Plaza's four elegant, column-lined floors are filled with around 50 specialist stores of all kinds. Up on the fourth floor we enjoyed taking an ‘Aquamassager’ – we climbed into a long tube like an iron lung, and then the water pressure moves up and down pounding your body. Before we started I asked the lady clerk if credit cards were ok, and she said Yes, of course. When we were done, the woman’s credit card machine or the telephone line was not working properly after several tries. I had to leave Joan there as a security deposit and/or hostage, while I ran the streets of Amsterdam in the dark looking for an ATM banc mat machine. I came back and found them now appearing to be the best of friends, just chatting away.
Staalstraat is a narrow street with some nice shops and pubs. Very touristy, I admit, but lively. I'll put some photo's in the Shopping Tips section.
Halfway Staalstraat you cross the Groenburgwal (canal) with a grand view of the Zuiderkerk again.
“Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I do not wonder that the artists have gone mad over it. Imagine having in front of your door a row of trees, then a broad beautiful river, then on the other side another row of tall elms, and on the bosom of the river the most quaint and most impressive of Dutch galleons, of that dark-brown color like old mahogany, for which Dutch ships and Dutch sails seem to have taken out a patent. Yes, a dozen of them, with families living on the ship. Even the family washing, which the boatman’s wife hangs out, with an occasional red shirt, helps the picture. It is a dream of color and tender tones.”
— Mary Elizabeth Wilson Sherwood (1826-1903, American writer)
Amsterdam’s coat of arms can be seen throughout the city in traditional and more contemporary versions.
In its most simple form (see photos #3 & #5), the coat-of-arms is made up of a red shield with a black pale emblazoned with three white Saint Andrew’s crosses. Additionally, it is topped by the Imperial Crown of Austria, referring a time when the Netherlands was ruled by the House of Habsburg; and two golden lions flank the shield (see photo #4). Sometime the motto of Amsterdam, Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate, is included.
The city’s use of XXX dates to 1505, when Amsterdam was a fisherman’s town. As the symbol for the city and as its flag, which flew on all ships registered in Amsterdam, the city made its connection with St. Andrew, patron saint of fishermen, through the style of cross on which he was martyred. St. Andrew, fisherman and Christ’s apostle, was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
What a coincidence: XXX symbolizes the sex industry; something that Amsterdam knows a thing or two about.
Having read the things to do list I decided to get to Singel and walk down to see if could find Anne Frank's house and the floating flower market. Despite a nice long picturesque walk down the graacht i didn't find my way through. But I got loads of pictures of bridges and canals It totally reminded me of my trip to Venice a couple of years ago, the only difference being the buildings were not totally in water and vehicles plied the road.
Small quaint restaurants by the canal- one of which offered cheesecakes and carrot cakes-lured me in for a tasty lunch! More walking and ther I was at the floating flower market! The other side of it looked a little shady so I kept my distance for the fear of chancing upon the famous/infamous RLD of amsterdam. So I headed back to the central business district and took a bus back to bos en lommerplein!