"A'dam - as the locals call it" Amsterdam by annase

Amsterdam Travel Guide: 10,700 reviews and 22,666 photos

The name 'Amsterdam' literally derives from 'Amstel dam'. This compact and picturesque city has many interesting sights, several museums (including the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House), culture and other entertainment (opera, cinemas, concerts, ballet, theatre, world-class symphony orchestra), parks, beautiful architecture, interesting history, lots of different cuisine, international and lively atmosphere, two large universities, excellent transport facilities etc.

Despite this, the main city centre is relatively small and most distances are short enough to walk. Although walking is slow, it provides you the best chances to appreciate the local architecture and way of life.

Be aware that walking on bike paths can be dangerous. These paths are distinguished from the walking paths by their red colour and occasional cycle symbols. There are lots of cyclists in the city and they are pretty ruthless, ringing their bells vigorously should you wander in front of them. Also take care when crossing roads, even if the pedestrian light was green.

The main city centre of Amsterdam is structured as a half wheel. The old city centre which is in the middle of it all contains a quaint maze of small streets and quiet canals which were built during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The retaining dam walls in the old centre that were initially created in medieval times are surrounded by canals. The walls are named and used as district like partitions to grid the city.

The city is partitioned further into the old side and new side, east and west of the Damrak, which leads from the central station to the Dam Square. This street used to be a canal, but was filled in during the 19th century.

There are also the main university buildings, the Royal Palace at the Dam, several pedestrian shopping streets, the Nes theatre street, several bars, restaurants and hotels within the old city centre which is bounded by a canal called the Singel. In addition to Singel, there three concentric ring canals called Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht, surrounding the old centre. It can help to note that they're in alphabetic order in case it's confusing to remember otherwise.

The canals provide pleasant surroundings for a relaxed stroll. The innermost canal the Herengracht (Lord's Canal) is the grandest, especially along the 'Golden Crescent' (to the east of the Leidsestraat). Beyond it lie the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal) and the Prinsengracht (Prince's canal) that houses several houseboats. The streets that connect the ring canals, especially the area called "The Nine Streets" in the section between the Brouwersgracht and the Leidsestraat is not to be missed since they boast many charming individual shops and boutiques.

To the west of the ring canals, in the area on the map where the streets all run at an angle to the canals, is the Jordaan, a lovely area to walk, with quiet canals, and tiny streets that are too small for cars to drive ;-), and many unusual shops. You'll find a lot of interesting restaurants and bars there too.

The other kind of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famous (or infamous, however you like it!) for its Red-Light district, de Wallen (literally 'walls') (or the 'Walletjes' or 'Rosse Buurt'), that enables the functioning of brothels as licensed legal businesses. The individuals working in these establishments are treated like any other self-employed tradespersons. They have access to the social security system, may join unions and pay income tax. The district is centred mainly around the Oude Kerk and along major canals.

There are several coffee shops, selling cannabis, magic mushrooms (and whatever else there is.. I never have been interested in too much detail about different stuff although I live in Holland for two years) around the Wallen. Although selling cannabis is not completely legal, it is tolerated when small quantities (up to 5 grams) are involved.

Amsterdam has also got a well established gay scene. There are a couple of streets that are geared towards gay clientele. The main gay areas include Kerkstraat, which is the oldest gay area in town and where the most gay hotels are located. Warmoesstraat consist of leatherbars (erm.. whatever they are..) and a disco. Regulierdwarsstraat together with Amstel area are the more trendy areas. They are about 2min apart. The latter is known for its Dutch sing-a-long establishments.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Amsterdam caters for pretty much every taste.
  • Cons:The neighbourhood around the Central Station can be dirty, off putting and unpleasant
  • Last visit to Amsterdam: May 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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