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Travel / Tours / Netherlands / Amsterdam
Visit Amsterdam in the Netherlands (Holland)
  Centraal station
  Canal tour
  Schreierstoren / St Nikolaaskerk
  Cat boat (de Pozenboot)
  Red light district
  Coffee shops
  Anne Frank
  Van Gogh Museum
  Coster Diamonds
  Heineken Experience
  Flower market
  Ajax football stadium
  Further information


This page describes things to see and do in Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands (Holland).

Amsterdam: The Ultimate Pocket Guide and Map
Authors: Terry Carter, Lara Dunston
Publisher: Lonely Planet Publications
Date: January 2007
Amsterdam (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Date: February 2007
"Time Out" Amsterdam Guide
Publisher: Time Out Group
Date: June 2005
Amsterdam Pocket Map and Guide (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley
Date: May 2006

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The main train station in Amsterdam is called Centraal Station. This is the starting point for many of the local tram, bus or metro services. Day-trips by coach to other parts of the Netherlands can be booked here. The main Tourist Information office is in a building in front of the station.

Front of the station, designed by Pierre Cuypers
(the entrance to Tokyo station in Japan is based on this design)

The dial on the left side shows the wind direction
(N=north, O=east, W=west, Z=south)

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A good way to see Amsterdam is to take a boat cruise around the canals. Boats run both during the day and evening. The most popular boarding places are located in the area in front of and Centraal Station.

Cruise boat

Oude Kerk tower

Many small bridges allow traffic to cross the canals

On average one car falls into a canal each week!

Clipper boat

Maritime Museum

(a science museum, built in the shape of a ship)

Sea Palace Chinese restaurant
(based on a similar restaurant in Hong Kong)

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Amsterdam has been a major trading port for hundreds of years. Sailors leaving the port would often be away for many months before returning, assuming that they could come back safely. One of the last buildings which they could see before leaving is called the Schreierstoren (crying tower): the partners of the sailors would gather here and cry as their loved ones went out to sea. The church nearby is called St Nikolaaskerk - it is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, who is the patron saint of travellers.


St Nikolaaskerk

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In 1966 a lady called Henriette Van Weelde found a family of stray cats sheltering near her house and decided to take them in and look after them. More homeless cats soon joined them, and she became known as the "cat lady" of Amsterdam. People started to bring more stray or unwanted cats to her, but soon there was not enough space in her home. She decided to buy a houseboat and to use this as a place where these cats could be looked after, and where people could come if they wanted to give a home to one of them. Although the founder has died, local volunteers continue to look after cats here.

The cat boat (de Poezenboot) is moored in front of house number 40 on the Singel canal. It is usually open to visitors from 1pm-3pm (not on Wednesdays). Donations are welcomed to help the work of the cat boat to continue.

Henriette Van Weelde
(this painting is by Catanya)

One of the stray cats
living on the boat

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The Netherlands has more liberal attitudes to sex than many other countries. This is obvious if you walk around Amsterdam's red light district, which is located close to the main train station (Amsterdam Centraal), around Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Warmoesstraat.

As well as various sex shops, cinemas and sex shows, there are also two museums: the Sex Museum (Damrak 18) and the Erotic Museum (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 54).

Amsterdam has a lively gay and lesbian scene, centred mainly around Reguliersdwarsstraat, Amstelstraat and Warmoesstraat. There are many gay nightclubs, bars, shops and hotels.

Outside the Casa Rosso

Entrance to the Sex Museum

Gay cinema

Prostitution is legal in Holland. You can see these women through the windows, with a red light on in the room (when they are busy, they close the curtains). Do not take a photo of a prostitute: if you do, a gang member may approach you and destroy your camera's film or rmove its memory card.

Erotic Museum

Do not take photos of the prostitutes

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In Amsterdam it is legal for cannabis to be sold in coffee shops ("Koffieshop"), which are regulated by Amsterdam city council. Do not confuse a "coffee shop" with a "cafe", which in Amsterdam means a bar, or a "coffee house" ("Koffiehuis"), which is where you can drink coffee. You can smell the smoke coming from the coffee shops as you walk down the streets. The cakes or biscuits sold in these places (sometimes called "space cakes") contain marijuana or hashish (anyone who eats these should drink lots of sweet liquids). Note that these drugs are illegal outside of the Netherlands - you must not try to carry them with you when you leave the country (you could be arrested or fined).

Do not confuse a coffee shop (top)
and a coffee house (bottom)

Coffee shops (where marijuana is smoked/eaten)
are often brightly coloured

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One of the main squares in Amsterdam is called Dam. In the centre is a national monument. The Koninklijk Paleis is a palace belonging to the Dutch royal family, although it is used mainly for State occasions rather than as a place to live.

The palace

Dam Square

National Monument

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Anne Frank was a 13-year old girl living in Amsterdam when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands in World War Two. Because her family was Jewish, her father created a secret room in their house and the family hid there for two years, from 1942 to 1944. Anne Frank started to keep a diary. In 1944 someone informed the German soldiers about their hiding place, and the family was sent to concentration camps. Anne was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp: she died there shortly before the war ended. Fortunately Anne's diary was kept safe by a housekeeper, and her father (the only member of the family who survived the war) decided to publish it. This moving story became an international bestseller, and a film version made in 1959 won an Oscar.

The house were Anne Frank and her family lived has been turned into a museum (the entrance is from a neighbouring building - Prinsengracht 263). You can see a statue of Anne Frank outside the Westerkerk (the city's western church, at Prinsengracht 281). There is a memorial to the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp in the Amstel area of the city (see below). There is also a monument in the shape of a pink triangle in memory of the homosexuals who were also killed by the Nazis (homosexuals were forced to wear a pink triangle on their clothes, while Jewish people were forced to wear a star of David) - this is called the Homomonument, and is located on Keizergracht, not far from the Westerkerk.

Signs on Anne Frank's house
(top) and statue (bottom)

Anne Frank's statue
(outside Westerkerk)


The Diary of a Young Girl
(Anne Frank's diary)
Author: Anne Frank
Publisher: Puffin Books
Date: February 2002
The Diary Of Anne Frank [1959] (DVD)
(Academy Award winning 1959 film based on the life of Anne Frank)
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Date: July 2005
The Diary of a Young Girl (Penguin Readers: Level 4)
(version for students with intermediate-level English)
Author: Anne Frank
Publisher: Longman
Date: December 2001

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Vincent van Gogh is a famous Dutch painter. He suffered from mental problems, cut off his own ear, and shot himself in 1890 when only 37. Many of his most famous paintings were painted during the 4 years he spent in France.

The Van Gogh Museum is in Paulus Potterstraat (close to the Rijksmuseum). It contains hundreds of the painter's sketches and paintings, as well as works by Vincent's younger bother Theo and by other painters of that period such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet and Gaughin.

Self-portrait by
Van Goch

The main
museum building

The modern extension designed by Kishio Kurosawa
(nicknamed "The Mussel")

by Van Goch

Van Gogh
Editor: Ingo F. Walther
Publisher: Taschen
Date: August 2001
Van Gogh (Basic Art Album series)
Editor: Ingo F. Walther
Publisher: Taschen
Date: May 2000

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Coster Diamonds (Paulus Potterstraat 2-6) was founded in 1840. It is one of Amsterdam's oldest diamond factories. You can watch craftsmen as they work on the diamonds. Replicas of some famous diamonds are displayed, including the Koh-I-Noor diamond which is found in the crown used by the British king or queen (Coster Diamonds was used to repolish this diamond). There is no entrance charge.

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The Rijksmuseum (Stadhouderskade 42) is a large art gallery, and is the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam. It contains thousands of paintings, including those by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt.

The Rijksmuseum building, designed by Pierre Cuypers
(who also designed the Centraal Station building)




William of Orange

Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Treasures from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Author: Ruud Priem
Publisher: Portland Art Museum
Date: August 2007
Netherlandish Art in the Rijksmuseum 1400-1600 &
Netherlandish Art in the Rijksmuseum 1600-1700
Publisher: Yale University Press
Date: October 2001

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The Heineken brewery (Stadhouderskade 78) was originally the headquarters of Heineken, and beer was made here until 1988. Since May 2001 it is the home of a visitor attraction called the Heineken Experience. You can learn about the brewing process and the history of the company, see the Shire horses (used to pull beer carts through the streets of Amsterdam) and of course you can sample the beer in the bar.

The Heineken Experience: inside this former brewery


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Holland is famous for its flowers (it holds the world's largest flower auction). Many local people decorate their houses and balconies with flowers. There is a floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt) on the Singel and in Muntplein.

The main tulip season is in March and April

Tulip bulbs are available all year

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The Rembrandthuis (Jodenbreestraat 4) is the house bought by the famous artist Rembrandt in 1639, during the most successful part of his life (in 1656 he went bankrupt and the possessions in his house were sold). The interior of the house has been recreated, and a selection of his etchings is on display in the museum there.

Not far away is the Auschwitz Memorial, created to remember the people who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War.

Rembrandthuis Museum

Auschwitz Memorial

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Visitors to Amsterdam ArenA can take World of Ajax tours. You will see the stadium of the famous Amsterdam football team Ajax as well as the football museum and shop.

Group photo outside the stadium

Merchandise on sale in the stadium shop

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* Tours
Anderson Tours: Travel/Tours/Company/AndersonTours
International Friends: Travel/Tours/Company/InternationalFriends
From Amsterdam there are half-day excursions by coach to Volendam: Travel/Tours/Netherlands/Volendam
In spring (late March-late May) there are excursions by coach to Keukenhof: Travel/Tours/Netherlands/Keukenhof

* Visitor information
Amsterdam tourist office:
City guide:
Cat boat (de Poezenboot):
Anne Frank's House:
Van Gogh Museum:
Coster Diamonds:
Heineken Experience:
Amsterdam ArenA:

Amsterdam Hotspots (a visitors' guide to Amsterdam):

* Transportation
To travel independently to Amsterdam from London, flying to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is probably the easiest option.
Book flight tickets from the UK to Amsterdam: KLM (UK)
Airport information: (information in English is available)
Frequent trains run from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal station
An alternative is this combination of train and fast ferry:
Street map:

* Weather forecast
Weather forecast for Amsterdam:

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Other places to visit in the Netherlands: Travel/Tours/Netherlands
Tours to Belgium: Travel/Tours/Belgium
European train travel: Travel/Transport/Train
European coach travel: Travel/Transport/Coach
Useful links relating to the Netherlands and the UK: Links/Netherlands

Home page: Home

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