Amsterdam

The combination of a long, intriguing history and a liberal approach to life makes Amsterdam, the Capital of Holland one of the most interesting, cosmopolitan and modern cities in the world.

In the 12th century there was a small fishing village in this spot which was, according to legend, founded by two Frisian fishermen who landed on the bank of the Amstel River in a small boat. They erected a bridge over the river as well as a dam, and thus began the history of present-day Amsterdam - previously known as Amestelredamme. Thanks to the connection with the North Sea built in the 19th century, the city enjoys its present-day status as the country's capital, the second-largest ocean port and the largest city in Holland.

Most of the over 3.5 million annual visitors to Amsterdam begin their adventure at the Schiphol Airport, which is located 18 kilometres from the city centre and is well connected to it. It is one of the airports with the lowest altitudes in Europe (3 metres below sea level) and the fourth-largest airport in Europe. Here we can already begin to notice how multicultural this city is, not only due to the travellers arriving here from various corners of the world, but also because of the fact that people from 177 different countries live in this city. It's a genuine ethnic melting-pot. Places worth visiting in Amsterdam include the numerous museums, for example the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and Heineken Experience - a museum devoted to beer and to the Heineken brand, which will delight all beer connoisseurs. Dam Square with the Royal Palace and the numerous diamond-cutters of Amsterdam are also must-see attractions of this city.

In Amsterdam there are places that are less popular but equally interesting. One of these is Begijnhof, a beautiful courtyard unknown to tourists which is hidden behind historic doors on Spui Square and marked only by a stone on the wall. Surrounded by small houses, it was once the site of a Beguine convent and a shelter run by them for widows. In the middle of the yard there is a small church, and in the corner, portraits of outstanding residents of the city. It’s a beautiful place to find some respite from the tumult of the city.

An inherent attribute of Holland are windmills, and thus another attraction worth visiting is the windmill heritage park situated in Zaandam (Zaanse Schans), about 35 km from the city centre. This place enchants us with its numerous, still operational windmills, the interiors of which can also be visited. They previously served to drain the terrain, and now serve production purposes. In addition, visitors can purchase souvenirs, and on the heritage park's grounds there are manufacturers of traditional Dutch clogs and pewter dishes, and a cheese farm where it's possible to watch products being made. It's worth keeping in minde that in Amsterdam there are eight windmills, each of which has its own name. Particularly worthy of attention for beer-lovers is the Gooyer windmill, also known as Fuenmolen, located at 7 Fuenenkade. It contains Bierbrouwerij 't lj, a brewery which sells traditional beer. An additional attraction of this place are the windmill's arms which are set in motion on the first Saturday of every month.

One of the attractions of the Red Light District is Museum Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic Museum) at Oudezijds Voorburgwal. One of the lesser-known museums in the city, it's a former Catholic church dating from the era when Catholicism was oppressed in the Netherlands and the religion was practised in secrecy. The church is hidden in the attic of an old residential building. Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder charms visitors with its beautifully preserved interior and the simplicity of its furnishings.

If visiting museums and windmills is not what you're looking for in Amsterdam and you need some rest, relaxation and a bit of inspiration, coming to this city is a very good decision. In every Dutch town we can find at least one beautiful park. In Amsterdam there are several. One of the most well-known parks is Vondelpark, located in the very centre of the city. Both residents and tourists very eagerly visit this place. In the middle of the park there is a summer theatre where performances and concerts take place every day, and on the grass residents and tourists can indulge in various forms of relaxation ranging from family picnics to dance and gymnastics, ending with a lazy observation of passersby. You can find here play areas for children - there are six playgrounds in the park, a rollerblade rental service in summertime, and performances for children in the theatre. There is a historical pavilion inside the park with Vertigo Restaurant, where the food and atmosphere are ideal for lunch or a late breakfast. In order to feel the unique atmosphere of this place, you simply need to visit it.

Vondelpark borders on a square called Leidseplein. This place is one of Amsterdam’s centres of nightlife and shopping. By day it's a large transportation hub with many intersecting tram and bus lines, as well as a large number of interesting shops and various artists and performers, ranging from visual artists to dancers and street musicians. Night transforms this place into an entertainment centre with many cafés, pubs and clubs. Fans of night time entertainment will enjoy Melkweg, the Milky Way, a club close to Leidseplein. In a former milk factory, it is one of the most popular clubs in Amsterdam, where different music parties take place simultaneously in five separate rooms. Another popular club not far from Leidseplein is Paradisco, an alternative music club situated in an old church. The club offers both concerts by well-known international bands as well as parties with DJs from all over the world. These are, of course, only a few tips. The rest will be suggested to you by Amsterdam's open and attention-grabbing urban space.

Tags: Holland