What to see
To leave Amsterdam without having seen a windmill (or tulip) should be a crime, punishable by looks of bewilderment from other travellers who hear about it.
Amsterdam’s pretty wind turbines are so rooted in the city’s culture and so celebrated as an integral part its landscape that a ‘National Windmill Day’ was inaugurated some 40 years ago – that should give you an idea how seriously the Dutch take their windmills.
There’s only a grand total of 8 of them left in the city and all are distinct and spectacular, so there’s no excuse not to visit the whole lot!
The obligatory windmill shot in Amsterdam. Photo Credit: Thinkstock
2. Amsterdam-style Architecture
Apart from windmills, Amsterdam is also known for its gorgeous old buildings. Feast your eyes upon architectural brilliance at the picturesque Begijnhof, an old béguinage court consisting of a group of ancient buildings that served as dwellings for the community of Beguines (religious women who were under similar but less binding vows as nuns) back in the day.
Admire classic tall townhouses standing regal in the court along with one of the Amsterdam’s few remaining old wooden houses, and take a selfie with a set of imposing old gates that have been standing since the early 1900s.
Check out the digs of ancient Beguines at the Begijnhof. Photo Credit: Thinkstock
3. The Vondelpark
In the midst of a beautiful city lies an even more beautiful, tranquil oasis of greenery, peace and serenity – Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest city park and one of its most popular tourist attractions. Vondelpark receives 10 million visitors annually, and for good reason – a stunning landscaped area characterised by lush green grass, a big reflective lake, pretty pavilions and leafy trees, its the perfect place for everything from a family day trip to a romantic stroll with your other half.
Picnic lunch by the lake, anyone? Photo Credit: Thinkstock
What to do
4. Take a boat cruise along the canal
Amsterdam is known as the ‘Venice of the North’ for pretty self-explanatory reasons – like the Italian gem, this city is crisscrossed with a myriad of little waterways. Take a boat cruise to experience Amsterdam from the water – there’s nothing like watching one of Europe’s prettiest cities go by as you drift idyllically along gorgeous canals and under arched bridges.
You can sing ‘That’s Amore’ in these boats, too. Photo Credit: Thinkstock
5. Visit the Anne Frank Museum
For art and history lovers, Amsterdam is the place to be. With countless museums of extremely diverse themes, there’s no lack of amazing artefacts for history buffs to gawk at. Don’t miss the most famous of them all – Anne Frank House, the restored home of the young Jewish refugee who made the world weep with her soul-touching diary.
Enter the tiny annex in which Anne and her family had hidden within during the atrocities of the Holocaust, and marvel again at how one young girl’s innocence and precocious intelligence had managed to withstand such horrors to unite the world in empathy.
Get a feel of the life and times of Anne Frank. Photo Credit: n8 / Flickr
6. Visit the Rembrandt House Museum
Follow that trip with a more uplifting one to the Rembrandt House Museum. Visit the place where world-famous Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn – one of the greatest contributors to European art – lived and painted during the Dutch Golden Age.
Fancy being Rembrandt’s house guest? Photo Credit: Nenyaki / Flickr
7. Visit the Museum of Bags and Purses
There’s even something cultural for the shopaholics: the Museum of Bags and Purses, one of the world’s largest collections of historic purses, suitcases and handbags all in one place.
Who said that fashion has no soul?
Every shopaholic’s dream come true. Photo Credit: bert knottenbeld / Flickr
Where to eat
8. Alfresco Dining at Dam Square
Dining isn’t just about food – with the proper ambience, feel and vibe, the act of feeding yourself can become a magical sensory experience. For one such unforgettable experience in the most Amsterdam-y of places, alfresco dining in Dam Square right in the heart of the city is highly recommended.
Once there, try the charming Café Het Paleis on for size – the cafe’s apple tarts are renowned for their unbelievable flakiness and butteriness.
Feel the beat of Amsterdam’s heart in the middle of it all, Dam Square. Photo Credit: Abir Anwar / Flickr
9. Romantic dinner along a canal
Visiting Amsterdam with your other half? Then give him or her a well-deserved treat by booking a table at Restaurant Johannes, a top-rated establishment situated just one skinny street away from a picturesque canal. Prepare yourself for a magical night of wining and fine-dining; you may just find it harder to leave Amsterdam at the end of it.
What better way to score brownie points with the significant other? Photo Credit: Restaurant Johannes
10. Have a beer at Rembrandtplein
If you want to be where the action is, then Rembrandtplein is your place. The area for the young and the hip, Rembrandtplein is known as the centre of nightlife in Amsterdam and is, naturally, chock-full of hopping bars, pubs, clubs and discotheques. Round your sightseeing day off with a good beer and some fish and chips in the cozy interior of popular pub The Old Bell.
Rembrandtplein is the centre of nightlife in Amsterdam. Photo Credit: Martin de Witte / Flickr