Don't believe everything you hear about Amsterdam. Yes, this Netherlands city takes a lax look at women beckoning business in the Red Light District and "coffeeshops" selling an unorthodox type of herb to a toking clientele, but these descriptions only scratch the surface. At some point, during an excellent Indonesian meal, a twilight canal-side rambling or a shopping excursion through the boutiques of Nine Streets, you'll realize -- as many travelers have before you ... continue»
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The best times to visit Amsterdam are between April and May or September through November -- right before or directly after the summertime high tourist season. You’ll contend with fewer tourists, you’ll enjoy somewhat mild temperatures (the city's weather is notoriously finicky), and you’ll also experience Amsterdam as the locals do -- at its laid-back best. But if it’s a deal you’re after -- and you don’t mind temperatures in the 30- to 40-degree range -- you should plan a winter vacation; you’ll find lowered hotel rates and depleted crowds at the city’s top things to do.Best Times to Visit Amsterdam»
Amsterdam is a web of canals -- the city itself is about 20 percent water -- which can pose difficult to maneuver. At the center of the city is an area called Centrum, in which the Royal Palace of Amsterdam rises, as if to orient tourists. The verdant Canal Belt area -- which refers to the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht canals, as well as the thin stretches of land found amongst them -- forms a half-circle around Centrum. To the southwest, you'll find Museumplein and farther south De Pijp. Jordaan lies to the west and Jodenbuurt and Plantage to the east.
Accessible via Trams 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 16, 24 and 25.
The Centrum (center) is located in central Amsterdam and comprises Oude Zijd (Old Side), Nieuwe Zijd (New Side) and the Red Light District. Containing Amsterdam's oldest building, aptly named Oude Kerk (Old Church), the Medieval Center also holds the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), an old convent called Begijnhof, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam and Amsterdams Historisch Museum (Amsterdam Historical Museum).
Just east of the central Royal Palace of Amsterdam, the brazen yet legal temptations of the Red Light District beckon. Let's Go Amsterdam says, "The fun really begins on Warmoesstraat. The street runs from St. Nicolaaskerk to Dam Sq. and serves as the debaucherous heart of Amsterdam, lined with bars (many of which offer Happy-hour discounts), coffee shops, backpacker hostels, and sex shops." The area is heavily policed, but women travelers should be weary of touring the area alone late at night. Also, visitors traveling with children should probably book accommodations elsewhere; hotels are dominated by large groups of men and inspire a party atmosphere.
Accessible via Trams 1, 2, 5, 7 and 10.
Located southeast of Centrum, Leidseplein prickles with excitement. Plentiful coffeehouses and other more traditional nightlife venues fill the area, including the De Rokerij coffeehouse, Jimmy Woo's nightclub and De Stadsschouwburg theater house. Fodor's says, "Eat, drink, be merry! This is the city's hub for concerts, clubs, cinemas, gambling, and ganja. Rivaled only by the Dam, Leidseplein can be a bit too much on the weekends, but the Vondelpark is just an amble away if you seek some post-thrill chill."
- If you are desperately trying to save money or are staying near Leidseplein, you could use local transport from Schiphol to central Amsterdam, provided that you use a strippenkaart." -- Wikitravel
Accessible via Trams 9 and 14.
A bronze statue of famous Dutch artist, Rembrandt van Rijn, rises in the popular grassy square in Rembrandtplein, located just about a mile southwest of the city center. The area is rife with cafes, bars and nightlife opportunities. Hugging the square to the south and west is Reguliersdwarssatraat, a street along which many gay bars and clubs cluster.
Accessible via Trams 3, 13, 14 and 17.
Along the lush canals of the northern gentrified neighborhood, Jordaan, are lines of galleries, boutiques, cafés and restaurants, which make for an ambient stroll on a sunny afternoon. "Head to the Jordaan when you need to relax in style," says Let's Go Amsterdam. "Amsterdam's most fashionable neighborhood is low-key and cozy; here, some of the city's best-preserved historical homes lean over the canals adorned by overflowing flower boxes."
Accessible via Trams 13, 14 and 17.
"This zone includes the 16th-century Singel canal, hotels of all sizes, restaurants, antiques shops, and attractions like the canal-house museums and the Anne Frankhuis," says Frommer's. Known as one of the most delightful areas in Amsterdam, the Canal Belt, which is a series of canals which wrap around the city center, is a lovely even languorous place to spend an entire day. Touring the Anne Frank House, people-watching at the many cafés, boutique-hopping in Nine Streets, dining on traditional Amsterdam fare, or simply strolling hand-in-hand along the romantic tree- and lamp-lined canals should take an entire day, if you do it right.
"The Eastern end of the Canal Ring is known as the Gouden Bocht (Golden Bend), where elaborate gables, richly decorated facades, colored marbles, and heavy doors create an imposing architecture that suits the bank headquarters of today as well as it did the grandness of yore," says Fodor's.
Museumplein & Vondelpark
Accessible via Trams 2, 3, 5 and 12.
Crowded by day and emptied out by nightfall, Museumplein and the surrounding area, located southwest of the city center, is filled with museums: the Rijksmuseum (State Museum); the Van Gogh Museum; and the Stedelijk Museum (or National Museum of Modern Art), to name a few. Adjacent is the expansive Vondelpark, an enormous city green, perfect for whiling away an afternoon. "Located inside the Vondelpark is the Openluchttheater, or open-air theater, where music and dance shows, as well as all manner of film screenings, are held throughout the summer months," says Let's Go Amsterdam.
Accessible via Trams 16 and 24.
De Pijp, located about a mile south of central Amsterdam, contains the Heineken Experience, a four-level interactive museum located in the former Heineken Brewery. Travel writers recommend strolling through the chic Ferdinand Bolstraat, popping into pubs and cafés along the way, haggling with the market vendors at Albert Cuyp Market and enjoying some of the many ethnic restaurants that have assembled in this interesting enclave.
Jodenbuurt & Plantage
Accessible via Trams 9 and 14.
Since the 17th century, the Jodenbuurt (or Jewish Quarter) housed much of the city's Jewish population. Sadly, after World War II the Jewish population in the city dwindled to only a tenth of its former numbers. Today, the area houses a handful of museums and memorials dedicated to Jewish and Dutch resistance, as well as the Het Muziektheater Amsterdam (Amsterdam Music Theater) and Museum het Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt Museum).
Plantage, located southeast of Jodenbuurt, is a sprawling area that contains a number of natural attractions, including the Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden); Artis Zoo, the Amsterdam Zoo, which also contains an aquarium, a botanical garden, a zoological museum, a geography museum and a planetarium; and Wertheim Park, as well as several historical museums.
Although the Netherlands government takes a lax look at prostitution in the Red Light District and marijuana use at the coffeehouses throughout the city, travelers should be careful. Visitors, especially women, should be weary of wandering around the Red Light District in the evening alone, as the area tends to attract unruly groups of men. Possession of marijuana and definitely the possession/use of other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can get you into a lot of trouble with the authorities. And before you visit, you might want to follow local news: According to USA Today, new laws could enforce stronger punishments for tourists smoking pot.
The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Once you’ve flown into the nearby Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and settled into your hotel, we suggest you inquire about getting one. Numerous canals, impatient drivers and narrow roads (ringing the canal belt) make maneuvering the city via car interesting, to say the least. Plus Amsterdam is known for its biking, and you'll find that rental shops canvas the city. Pedaling through an unfamiliar place might not be everyone's schtick; for those travelers, there's also a perfectly respectable public transport system -- the GVB -- which offers metro, bus and tram service.Getting Around Amsterdam»