Feb 11, 2014

Visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam has something that will appeal to every visitor. With Europe’s largest historical inner city Amsterdam is easy and comfortable to explore without becoming overwhelming.  

1. First stop: Stop by the Amsterdam Tourist office to purchase your I-Amsterdam City Card. Included is a Smart Card for free public transportation, free admission to some of the most popular attractions, discounted offers on other attractions and restaurants. It is available for one, two or three days. 
2. Second Stop: Near the tourist office is the Holland International
Canal Cruise dock. The one hour boat tour of the canals offers an excellent overview passing by mansions, churches and warehouses from Holland’s Golden Era. 
3. Old Church: The city’s oldest monument and first parish
church is Oude Kerk. Admire the beautiful stained glass windows in the Lady Chapel, the 1724 organ, and look for the grave of Saskia, Rembrandt’s wife, who is just one of the many people buried in the church floor.
4. Church in the Attic: The chapel is located on the top floor of what was once a private home of a wealthy Catholic merchant named Jan Hartman. Catholic Mass was outlawed in Amsterdam in 1578 when the city became Protestant. However, Protestant authorities tended to be tolerant of private Catholic worship as long as it was kept hidden.
5. Anne Frank: Deeply moving is the story of Anne Frank who
with her family and the Van Pels Family remained hidden from the Germans for 25 months during World War II. Only her father survived the war. Anne died in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp at the age of 15 just weeks before the camp was liberated.
6. Van Gogh: The Dutch have more than their fair share of famous artists including Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Vincent Van Gogh.  The Van Gogh Museum has the most comprehensive collection of his work.  Works of other artists are also on display. 
7. Family: From a zoo to adventure lands to boat rides to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum there is plenty to keep families occupied for days.  However, not to miss is NEMO, the science and technology center.  Besides the hands-on activities there are great views from the deck of the ship-like structure. 
8. Bols: Discover the world behind genever and liqueurs at the House of Bols, one of the world’s oldest distilleries. Experience the unique taste experiment in The Hall of Taste and visit the Flair Booth to practice your bartending skills. At the end of the short tour enjoy a cocktail of your choice.
9. Take a break: Consider combining location and history with a stop at the NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. Their lounge is perfect for afternoon tea or luscious hot chocolate on a cool or rainy day. Located in a building which dates to 1865 the Lounge offers a fantastic view of bustling Dam square.
10. Dining out: From Dutch pancake houses to the Hard Rock Café the dining options are numerous. For that special night out head to the Café In de Waag in Nieuwmarkt. Originally built in 1488 as the Weigh House the restaurant is aglow with 300 candles creating a unique atmosphere.

In keeping with Amsterdam’s long tradition of tolerance there is a Red Light District and marijuana use is overlooked but street prostitution and hard drugs are illegal.  However, they are just small facets of a city filled with great art, beautiful houses, 47 miles of canals, and friendly people.