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Europe’s most non-conformist capital welcomes you with its arms full of sunflowers and tulips, tantalising all your senses. The erstwhile fishing village at the mouth of the Amstel River, which wrote some the most important pages in the history of the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), has a lot more to offer than the licentious hedonism of the Red Light District.
Behind the curtain of smoke rising from the notorious coffee shops, the Dutch capital daily discovers the joy of life in the edgy brushstrokes of Vincent Van Gogh, in lush green parks, booming nightspots and cutting-edge boutiques.
The ideal way to see this entirely flat city is by bicycle: rent a city bike and go for a relaxed ride on the special bicycle paths alongside some of the 165 canals, past the picturesque 17th century houses and across some of the 1,400 bridges of this dreamy city which looks as if it has jumped straight out of a watercolour.
Sightseeing in Amsterdam
an absolute must for all art-lovers, the national museum of the Netherlands is a genuine treasure chest of masterpieces dating from the Middle Ages to the present. Of the more than one million works of art housed in the imposing building on Museum Square, the most famous collection is that of the great Flemish masters, with Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in pride of place.
Address: Museumstraat 1.
a visit to the house-museum of the 13-year-old Jewish diarist brings to life one of the most barbaric periods of the 20th century. Visitors of all ages and from all over the globe flock to the house and Holocaust-memorial where young Anna hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people. Wander the room behind the revolving bookcase, known as the Secret Annex, where Anna wrote her gripping diary
dedicated entirely to one of the greatest painters of all time, the Van Gogh Museum hosts the largest collection of the works and letters of the Dutch master with the distinctive painting style and turbulent life.
a labyrinthine network of waterways in the centre of Amsterdam whose charm and ambience vie with those of the Serene Republic of Venice. Starting out as concentric half-circles, the canals created in the 17th century to check the flow of the Amstel River enclosed the heart of the city. They quickly evolved into a showcase where Amsterdam’s high and mighty competed with each other over to build the most impressive front house on the water. Go on a canal cruise, day or night, under the bridges and along some of the city’s oldest canals.
founded in 1862, the Bloemenmarkt is the only floating flower market in the world. Black, red, blue and white tulips transform the placid waters of the Singel canal into a kaleidoscope of colours. Most of the plants are hardy enough to survive the return journey, so buy seeds and bulbs and turn your balcony into a little corner of the Land of Tulips.
Address: Singel canal.
if you have come to Amsterdam for the flowers, don’t let the 44 km from here to the town of Lisse stand between you and the largest flower garden in the world – seven million flowers forming an intoxicating patchwork of aromas and colours!
Visit the two-story house that cost Rembrandt all his savings and which he bought to live in with his beloved wife, Saskia. The house, now a museum, is home to paintings by one of the famous Dutch masters of the golden age of Dutch art. Check out the artist’s studio and his kitchen, complete with plates and cutlery.
Come and see how “artists” like Cruyff and van Basten worked their magic on the pitch of the historic Dutch football club. Buy a red and white club t-shirt as a souvenir and your menfolk will surely be delighted.
Whether “Diamonds Are Forever”, as claimed by the James Bond movie which was filmed in Amsterdam, or “a girl’s best friend” according to Marilyn Monroe, one thing is certain: the finest and costliest diamonds are cut and set in Amsterdam, continuing a centuries-old tradition in trading and polishing these precious stones. Find out how a rough stone is transformed into an impressive brilliant by joining a tour to one of the world-renowned diamond companies.