A vivacious downtown, a fascinating skyline, an intriguing network of unbiquitous canals, an eclectic food and drink scene and a bustling nightlife. To say that Amsterdam is a multi-faceted city is definitely not an understatement. With world class museums and royal palaces, quirky neighbourhoods, local markets and an endless assortment of places to eat and drink, there is a lot you can see and do in Amsterdam. And if you are visiting just for a day, here is a quick look of what you can do to enjoy the most of this multifarious city. Most of Amsterdam Centrum is best explored on foot, so make sure you are wearing a pair of comfortable shoes!
Dam Square: Just a five minute walk from the Central station which is like the nerve centre of the city, the Dam Square is one of the most popular spots in Amsterdam and is filled with heritage buildings. Teeming with people all day, this one houses architectural gems like the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Palace), New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) and Madame Tussauds amongst several others.
Damrak: A prominent street which connects the main railway station to Dam Square and the Royal Palace, this one is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the city’s famed narrow gable houses. These tall and deep houses date back to the 17th century and most of them have a sturdy hook on top which was used to transport goods from the ground floor. Given that the houses were tax based on their width, they were built tall and narrow. Beurs van Berlage, which originally housed a commodity exchange is a famous building on this street.
Museum Hopping: One of the city’s most prestigious neighbourhood is the Museumplein which houses the famous Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum and Concertgebouw. The Anne Frank house museum is another prominent one in the city and since it is very popular, it is always recommended that you book your tickets in advance. If you are in a mood to see something more offbeat, the Houseboat museum and Tulip museum are worth a visit.
Jordaan neighbourhood: often described as one the city’s most charming neighbourhoods, this one takes you back in time with its quaint streets, charming boutiques and attractive eateries. If you are lucky, you can also shop at a flea market selling everything right from clothes, fabric, artefacts and knick knacks of all kinds.
Begijnhof: it is a unique historical neighbourhood dating back to the 14th century. It is one of the city’s best known hofjes (almshouses) where the women of the Catholic sisterhood lived. The chapel, timber houses and medieval inner courtyard are some of the main points of interest here.
Take a canal tour: This one is a must do for it is the best way to experience the vibe of the city while traversing through its iconic bridges, the UNESCO world heritage canals and heritage architecture. There are plenty of options to choose from and if possible you can also explore taking a tour in the night. The canals are lit beautifully and it is a sight to see.
Amsterdam’s Flower Market: while the name sounds a bit deceptive, this one is a complex of shops retailing tulip buds, seeds of flowering plants, dry flowers and loads of souvenirs. I could find fresh flowers in just one shop in the end. Probably it was not the peak flowering season and during the tulip season, I guess the market would be full of fresh flowers. Nevertheless, it is a great place to pick up souvenirs like windmills, magnets, clog shoes, wall plates, blue pottery and the like.
To explore Netherlands beyond Amsterdam, read my article in Khaleej Times here.