by Sandy Lai
Amsterdam conjures up different images for different people. A prominent one centers around its red light district and coffeeshops. But let’s not forget its idyllic canals, gorgeous architecture and art. Each of the city’s districts has its own character and atmosphere, which makes exploring all the more interesting. Most of the places of interest are found in the historic centre, which is one of the largest in Europe. Besides the red light district, below is a list of highlights for you to check out depending on your fancy.
For Architecture Fans
Amsterdam is pleasing to the eye because of its beautiful architecture. With 7000 historic buildings and 400 bridges in the city centre alone, it is not surprising that you’d need to stop every ten seconds to take a picture. Take a walk around this very pedestrian- and bike-friendly area to enjoy the view.
Begjinhof: The inner part of the city centre, the Old Centre dates back to medieval times. Although little survived from this period, as most buildings were made of wood, one of the most substantial remainders is the Begjinhof. This enclosed courtyard is surrounded by the houses of Roman Catholic women, who lived in a community.
Canal Ring: This concentric ring of canals dates back to the 17th centre. Traditional white drawbridges such as Magere Brug provide great views. Soak in the architecture of the merchant-class houses and mansions along here. A tour by canal boat is a definite highlight of my trip.
Windmills: These iconic symbols of the Netherlands can be found in Amsterdam West, though none are open to the public. The windmill village of Zaanse Schans located 20 min away has more of an open-air museum feel and makes for a great family outing.
For the Curious and Cultured
Rijksmuseum: While this world-class museum is under renovation, it still has a great exhibition of masterpieces that you don’t want to miss. The museum features works from the Dutch Golden Age, including Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Van Gogh Museum: As you’d expect from the name, this museum has the largest collection of the post-impressionist painter’s work.
Nemo Science Museum: Feeling hands on? This very interactive museum is an engaging experience for children and adults alike. You can’t help but be interested, but even if science is not your thing, the building itself is a fine piece of modern architecture.
For the Hip and Trendy
Jordaan: This “village-y” area of Amsterdam was home to the working classes for centuries. This is now home to the hip and artsy and has some of the coolest little boutiques in the city.
Fashion & Museum District: This is a high concentration of chic. Designer shops are the name of the game in this area of Amsterdam Zuid.
For the Foodies and Party Animals
Van Kerkwijk: Feel at home at this urban yet relaxed restaurant/café. They have a way of make you feel welcome and the service is excellent. Don’t bother looking for a menu; there isn’t one. Your waiter will present you with their options.
Fries: This city is famous for its French fries, so one can hardly make a trip without finding out why. There are many shops and most of them are fantastic. Eat some Vlaamse Frites (Flemish fries, which is actually more accurate) the typical Dutch way: smothered in mayonnaise.
Tonight (at Hotel Arena): Popular with both locals and tourists, this club is located in a former chapel, which is enough to make me want to go. Now a spacious but intimate club, it has two dance floors, different theme nights, and international DJs providing the tunes. Talk about fun.
Café Abraxas: This beautiful coffeeshop has got the goods and a great atmosphere. Whether you’re here to partake in the legal highs or simply to have a good ol’ cup o’ joe, this friendly spot is a fun place to meet new people.