Words Edel Cassidy
A charming city full of history and culture, Amsterdam is famed for attractions such as its traditional narrow brick houses, its water canals that criss-cross the city and its many bridges. The Dutch capital is also loved for its relaxed, easy-going way of life. It has to be one of the most friendly and hospitable cities in the world.
Popular as a weekend city destination, it is essential to do a little forward planning to make the most of your time there. It’s also important to choose a hotel that’s situated close to all the major attractions. The Albus Hotel is ideally located in the vibrant city centre and is perfect for those wishing to just step out and start exploring.
Here’s my list of the top ten Amsterdam attractions not to be missed:
1. Canal Cruise
An absolute must is to take a canal cruise through the city’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed canals. It’s the best way to get to know the city and its main attractions. Canal tours typically take an hour, or you can avail of the hop-on, hop-off canal bus.
Cruising along the Amstel River watch out for the row of ‘Amsterdam dancing houses’ that appear to ‘dance’ because the pylons or stilts that the houses are built on have sunk unevenly. Oddly, the only building in the row that stands straight is the one flying the Irish flag, Mulligan’s Irish Music Bar!
This is one of the world’s finest museums with over 8,000 works on display, including many masterpieces from the Dutch Golden Age. With over two million visitors annually, it is advisable to book in advance.
A unique feature of the museum building is a glass passageway that connects the two sides of the atrium to allow cyclists a shortcut across the city and a glimpse of the beautiful atrium as they whizz by.
This museum houses the world’s largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh as well as the artist’s own collection of Japanese prints. In addition to the permanent collection, exhibitions related to the artist’s contemporaries and artists that have been influenced by him rotate throughout the year.
4. The Concertgebouw
Home to the famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and renowned for its superb acoustics, this is among the world’s finest concert halls. Enjoy a great classical concert or take a guided tour to learn about its rich history. From September to June there is a free thirty-minute concert every Wednesday at 12.30pm.
5. Anne Frank House
The house where Anne Frank, her sister and parents spent two and a half years hiding from the Nazis is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam. Book tickets in advance or expect to spend up to two hours queuing.
6. Nine Streets
Nine picturesque little streets within the western canal bank are full of quirky stores selling clothes, shoes, bags, antiques and houseware. This area is also renowned for its cosy cafes and trendy restaurants.
Considered Amsterdam’s most charming district, Jordaan was once a working-class quarter and home to the city’s large population of immigrants. It is now one of the hippest places to live and work. Located in the city centre, it is full of cafes, patio restaurants, art galleries and street musicians, and is popular with artists, students and young professionals.
This frenetically busy square is one of the nightlife hotspots in the city. There is an abundance of restaurants, clubs, theatres, casinos and bars, including the popular Dan Murphy’s Irish Bar. Some amazing street entertainers – musicians, dancers, acrobats, jugglers and fire-eaters – are to be found here.
Another hive of activity both day and night, this square in the heart of the city is home to a large statue of Rembrandt who looks down on a set of life-sized sculptures of characters from his most famous painting, The Night Watch.
10. Floating Flower Market
This unique market is made up of flower stalls floating on a series of houseboats and is full of the vibrant colours and scent of fresh flowers. It’s a great place to buy flower bulbs and all sorts of typically Dutch souvenirs to bring home.