I have been to Amsterdam twice, and I can’t help but start my notes saying that I find it a fascinating and beautiful city. The city center is in excellent condition, and strolling around the streets is an exciting experience, especially if you move away from the tourist and crowded areas.
Hosting a lot of attractions in a relatively small space is another strong point of Amsterdam so that you can easily visit it on foot or by public transport.
For those who love northern European red bricks (Baroque) buildings, Amsterdam is a true architectural paradise.
But it’s not all a bed of roses. Unfortunately, Amsterdam is an expensive city, and perhaps only London, Paris, and the Scandinavian cities beat its rates. For this reason, I preferred to stay slightly outside the tourist area and had to travel fifteen minutes by tram or bus to reach the center. In the end, it was a good idea because it was not a high loss of time, and I saved about 200 Euros on the overnight stay.
Finally the bicycles. They are a kind of city landmark, but sometimes a pain for tourists. The cyclists keep cropping up all over the place, even on the zebra crossing as you cross the road by the green light.
Amsterdam in a nutshell
The following is an interactive map. Some monuments and general points of interest are marked with blue pins, and some of the most famous churches are marked with red pins. Moreover, some parks are marked with green pins and some museums with brown pins.
The orange pins mark some picturesque districts, famous places, markets, etc., and starting from the Central Station, I also drew a sort of one-day walking itinerary.
It does not matter if you visit Amsterdam starting from the central station or your hotel. You can quickly go anywhere you want and reach all the attractions on foot or by public transport.
If you run as if it was a half marathon, you could even see many things in just one day. The essential but better than nothing. But if you have at least two days, you could save some time on the second day and visit the museum district.
Finally, at the end of this post, I have also added a suggestion if you have extra time.
It is the most famous square in Amsterdam and hosts some of the city’s best-known monuments.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam
Formerly built in Dutch Baroque style as a City Hall, it is now one of the residences of the Dutch Royals, even if used only occasionally.
New Church (Nieuwe Kerk)
It is located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace, and is no longer used as a church, it is today a venue for events and exhibitions.
A 22 meters high concrete obelisk covered by white travertine stone. It was built in honor of the victims of World War II.
Districts, streets, and canals
I liked Amsterdam, even more, when I moved away from the tourist and busy areas.
Probably the most famous quarter of all is the De Wallen red-light district, located right in the heart of the city. Wherever you want to go, it is impossible not to go through it. Everything has already been said about De Wallen (clubs, nightlife, parties, rivers of tourists, etc.) and it is not worth spending here other words. Depending on your personal interests, pass it by or stay there as long as you like.
Walking along the streets of the center and after crossing some canals, you will arrive in a few minutes from the De Wallen district to the Negen Straatjes quarter (the nine streets). This area is full of shops, restaurants, and clubs, and is made of nine parallel and perpendicular (pretty) busy streets.
eaving the Negen Straatjes quarter, you reach in a few minutes what I think is the most beautiful and enjoyable neighborhood in the city center: Jordaan. Streets, floral decorations, bridges, craft shops, vintage shops, cafes, and much more in a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere.
Well-maintained old houses, antique shops, art galleries, and picturesque landscapes await you in Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. This is also the perfect place for those who go hunting for unique or vintage art objects.
Basilica of Saint Nicholas
Located in front of Central Station, it is impossible not to notice it as soon as you arrive in Amsterdam. It is a pretty young neo-baroque catholic church (late 1800) with amazingly gorgeous interiors.
Old Church (Oude Kerk)
It dates back to 1300 and is the oldest church in Amsterdam. Located right in the middle of the crowded red-light district, De Wallen, it is an example of Brabant Gothic (or Dutch Gothic).
Southern Church (Zuiderkerk)
It is a Protestant church built in the Baroque style at the beginning of the 1600s.
Western Church (Westerkerk)
It is a Baroque church from the 1600s with the tallest bell tower in Amsterdam. It is located next to the Anne Frank House.
A red brick Catholic church with magnificent interiors. It was built in the neo-Gothic style in the late 1800s and is the church in the first picture of this post.
The floating flower market is probably the best-known tourist market in Amsterdam. However, florists rarely sell fresh flowers here, most of the trades take place for dried tulips bulbs.
Albert Cuyp Markt
It takes its name from its founder: the painter Albert Cuyp. Open now every day, it is the principal market in Amsterdam, and here you can really find everything. From vintage objects to culinary delights, from clothing to furnishings.
Amsterdam offers several green spaces that are worth visiting to stop for a moment and relax after long walks through the center.
Among the most famous city parks, it is located near the Museums area. The Vondelpark is an English-style park with ponds, flower beds, fountains, playgrounds, etc. It also includes an outdoor theater (the concerts are free) as well as a few food service facilities.
It dates back to the early 1600s, it is, therefore, one of the oldest existing with a collection of plants and trees from all over the world.
Westerpark and Oosterpark
Two very nice parks, located the first north-west and the second south-east of the city center.
Being a capital, the presence of some significant museums is, let’s say… obvious. Fortunately, some of these are located next to each other in the so-called museum district. The museums in Amsterdam are not only excellent for their rich collections, but they also offer many interesting photographic ideas because of their original architecture.
It hosts works of modern and contemporary art.
Van Gogh Museum
It houses the biggest collection of works by the famous painter.
It is a Dutch national museum designed in a mix of Dutch Gothic and Renaissance styles. It houses a large collection of works dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam.
Anne Frank House
This is the house where Anne Frank hid for two years during the Nazi occupation. Today this house has become a museum with photos and audiovisuals. The museum is located in the Jordaan district (see above) right next to the Western Church (Westerkerk).
Other museums of particular interest are:
- Rembrandt House Museum (Rembrandthuis).
- NEMO Science Museum. It is not far from the central station and was designed by Renzo Piano as a large boat with a big staircase.
- Eye Film Institute. It is located in front of the Central Station but on the other side of the Ij river (the river that crosses the north of Amsterdam). The museum houses all kinds of materials related to films screened in the Netherlands.
Other points of interest
Central Station. It’s 100% the first picture you make when you arrive in Amsterdam.
Weight House (De Waag). It was formerly a city gate and is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam.
Theater Tuschinksi. Si tratta di un teatro di varietà costruito in stile art decò e situato poco distante dal mercato dei fiori e dalla Torre della Zecca, lungo la strada Reguliersbreestraat, ricca di ristoranti e street food.
Mint Tower (Munttoren). It is a tower built in the Renaissance style, located between the flower market and the Theater Tuschinksi.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ. It is a small brewery whose peculiarity is that of being in a mill. What can I say more: fantastic!
Beijnhof. It is a complex of ancient houses with gardens, statues, decorations, and an English church. It dates back to 1400-1600.
If you have extra time
If you have some extra time, you can reach the northern districts of Amsterdam, its port, and eventually the NDSM by ferry from the central station (it is in 2019 still free).
The NDSM is the old shipyard of a Netherland shipbuilding company. Today the buildings are partly renovated and transformed into a cultural center. Events, concerts, bars, and clubs await you here.