"Amsterdam: An Old Town with New Ideas" Amsterdam by von.otter

Amsterdam Travel Guide: 10,662 reviews and 22,645 photos

“Amsterdam, where I took my first Dutch walk, is a stately city, even though its street vistas do look as if they were pictured on a tea-caddy, or a hand-screen. They have for the most part a broad, sluggish canal in the middle, on either side of which a row of perfectly salubrious, but extremely attenuated trees grow out of a highly cultivated soil of compact yellow bricks.”
— Henry James (1843-1916) from his travels of August 1874

You will love Amsterdam. It is truly a unique city; a thriving, world-class metropolis in small format.

Amsterdam is best experienced on foot; it is a city made for walking. Enjoy wandering about, browsing and sampling all that it has to offer. There is much to see, to do, and to taste around every corner; you’ll soon find yourself becoming part of Amsterdam’s laid-back style. With its many unique, quirky museums (one dedicated to pocket books!) you can fill hours amusing yourself.

The seat of government for the Netherlands is in The Hague; Amsterdam, though, is its nominal capital. With a population of more than 750,000 it is also the country’s largest city. Although officially named the Netherlands, people often call it Holland. This is likely because two provinces are called North Holland and South Holland; these Holland provinces form only part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam is one of the most meticulously planned cities of northern Europe. It has always played a central role in the history of the Netherlands. During the 17th century, country’s so-called Golden Age, Amsterdam was the center of world trade. Today, the city is known for its tolerant nature. It is a wonder how a town that was ruled for centuries by sour-faced Calvinists evolved into such a live-and-let-live place.

The three photos of this introduction highlight three traditional symbols of the city of Amsterdam.

First, is its coat-of-arms. Amsterdam’s coat of arms can be seen throughout the city in traditional and more contemporary versions. The coat-of-arms is made up of a red shield and a black pale with three white Saint Andrew’s crosses, the Imperial Crown of Austria, for the time when the Netherlands was ruled by the House of Habsburg, two golden lions, and the motto of Amsterdam. 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. Some times the coat-of-arms is combined with the city’s motto, Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate.

The second traditional symbol of Amsterdam is tulips. Tulips are what the Netherlands and Amsterdam are known for the world over. All green park spaces are planted with them. These flowers form an embarrassment of riches. It is possible, in the spring, to buy 50 tulips for 10 $US. This is what we did, producing this photo: an arm full of tulips.

The third traditional symbol of Amsterdam is its bicycle system. There are special bike lanes on the streets of Amsterdam. Yet it seems as though the streets are given over to bikes entirely. These two-wheeled modes of transportation are taken seriously here; it is how many citizens get around and they do it fast. Look both ways when crossing the street and then look again.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A relaxed city filled with friendly people
  • Cons:Oh! those bicyles take some getting use to.
  • In a nutshell:It is small and friendly, close to other great Netherlandish towns.
  • Last visit to Amsterdam: May 2011
  • Intro Updated May 19, 2012
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Reviews (80)

Comments (4)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Nov 6, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    What a comprehensive page about Amsterdam here. Well done.

    • von.otter's Profile Photo
      Nov 6, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      Thank you, Horscheck. I really enjoy travel, very passionate about it and sharing my experiences.

  • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo
    Feb 19, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Saw a typo at your Things to do: "Leos of Amsterdam" . PJ

    • pieter_jan_v's Profile Photo
      Nov 6, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      I had to explore that tip again. It's at Photo #5: Leos of Amsterdam, Beigenhof, April 2011. I think you mean the Begijnhof. And I saw Dutchwoman in the text; maybe adding a space is better (?). BTW Excellent tips you have written. PJ

    • von.otter's Profile Photo
      Nov 6, 2012 at 2:08 PM

      Many thanks. I have corrected the errors.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Thanks for your splendid page about this Great City!~

  • alza's Profile Photo
    Dec 8, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    hi von.otter, Your writing made me discover another Amsterdam, one I love as much as the Amsterdam I knew of old. I didn't know about the circles of Camus but I thought of Dante's Inferno, the deepest circle being the most cramped and cruel. Love these poetic openings to your texts. Thanks so much, this was a delightful read.


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