Amsterdam, the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, situated in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The city, which had a population of 747,290 on 1 January 2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of around 6.7 million. Whether it is celebrating Amsterdam Queensday, taking in a tour, visiting the Red Light district, studying the historic buildings, cruising the canals, or just relaxing in the cafes and restaurants dotted around the city, Amsterdam is a beacon for travelers the world over.

Information on holidays and travelling in Amsterdam

The European city of Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. It is notable for its  architecture, and canals that traverse the city. It is also a  shopping paradise with welcoming locals and staff in the hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops, most of whom are English-speaking. It doesn't matter what your interests are, you will find something you want to come here for, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city. Amsterdam has over a million inhabitants in the urban area, and is located in the Province of North-Holland. Amsterdam is not the seat of government (which is in The Hague), but it is the biggest city and the cultural and creative centre of the Netherlands.

The 'Amsterdam' that most people know is the city centre, the semicircle with Central Station at its apex. It corresponds to the old city, as it was around 1850. Five major concentric canals ring the old city; the Singel, the Herengracht, the Keizersgracht, the Prinsengracht, and the Singelgracht (not to be confused with the Singel), which runs alongside the roads Nassaukade, Stadhouderskade, and Mauritskade and marks the location of the former city moat and fortifications. Almost everything outside this line was built after 1870. The semicircle is on the south side of the IJ, which is called a river, but is more exactly an estuary. Going east from central station, the railway passes the artificial islands of the redeveloped Eastern Docklands. North of the IJ is mainly housing, although a major dockland redevelopment has started there too.

The river Amstel flows into the city from the south. Originally, it flowed along the line Rokin-Damrak. The dam in the Amstel, which gives the city its name, was located under the present Bijenkorf department store. The original settlement was on the right bank of the Amstel, on the present Warmoesstraat: it is therefore the oldest street in the city. The city has expanded in all directions, except to the north of the ring motorway. The region there, Waterland, is a protected rural landscape of open fields and small villages

The radius of the semicircle is about 2 km. All major tourist destinations, and most hotels, are located inside it or just outside it. As a result, much of Amsterdam is never visited by tourists: at least 90% of the population lives outside this area. Most economic activity in Amsterdam, the offices of the service sector, and the port, is located on or outside the ring motorway, which is four to five kilometers from the centre.

Many people choose to visit Amsterdam because of its reputation for tolerance, although part of this reputation is attributable to cultural misunderstandings. Prostitution is legal and licensed in the Netherlands, and in Amsterdam it is very visible (window prostitution), and there are large numbers of prostitutes. The sale, possession, and consumption of small quantities of cannabis, while illegal, is condoned by authorities (the policy of gedogen). This does not mean that you can get away with anything in Amsterdam. In any case, public attitudes and official policy have hardened in recent years. For more on coffee shops and drugs, see below in Stay safe.

Depending on your viewpoint some people will consider Amsterdam an unwholesome city whereas other people will find their relaxed attitudes refreshing. Amsterdam is not generally seen as a family destination, but if you avoid the red light district, it is no more objectionable for children than any large city.

When to visit Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a large city and a major tourist destination, so you can visit it all year round. However, in winter the days are short (8 hours daylight around Christmas), and the weather may be too cold to walk around the city comfortably, let alone cycle. Some things are seasonal: the bulb fields flower only in the spring, and Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) is always on 30 April, unless that is a Sunday. Queen Beatrix was in fact born on 31 January, but since January is too cold, the celebrations are held on the birthday of her mother Juliana. The color of Queen's Day is orange, symbolizing national pride in the royal House of Orange-Nassau.

Media in the City

Amsterdam Weekly. An English-language free cultural weekly published every Wednesday. It provides coverage of Amsterdam city life, and an arts and entertainment calendar.

Uitkrant. A free monthly magazine, listing all concerts, classical, jazz, pop etc., exhibitions, museums and anything cultural to do in Amsterdam. It can be picked up at many spots in the city, e.g. at the Uitburo at the Leidseplein.

Amsterdam Spoke. An English magazine featuring Amsterdam’s daily life, its ambiance and trends.

The Airport

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (IATA: AMS) (ICAO: EHAM) is one of the busiest airports in the world, situated 15 km south-west of the city. Jet2.com, Easyjet and other low-cost carriers serve Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other spots in Europe. As Amsterdam is a very popular destination, the cheapest tickets may be gone, and in that case a traditional carrier might be cheaper. So it pays to check a number of airlines before booking, to get the best deal. The former national carrier for the Netherlands is KLM, now merged with Air France. With partner Northwest Airlines they offer worldwide connections. The US, Asia and Europe are particularly well served at Schiphol.

For very frequent visitors to Amsterdam (6 or more times a year) it may pay to invest in a Privium card. This is available to EU passport holders only, but allows you to cut the queues at passport control. Instead of showing your passport you go to a special lane with an iris scanner, this will save a significant amount of time if the passport lines are long. Cost is currently €99/year + €55 for a partner (from October 2008: €119 and €65 for a partner).

When leaving Amsterdam, give yourself enough time to get to your plane and through security (especially when flying to the United States) Schiphol is a large airport - be there at least an hour in advance.

Schiphol by train

From Schiphol there is a direct train to Amsterdam Central Station, for € 3.80, in 15 minutes. Buy the ticket from the machine (yellow with blue writing), at the counter you will pay extra charge (€ 0.50); beware: most machines may not accept credit or debit cards, however, there is a machine that accepts cash on the side of the main airport hall closer to terminal 1 and 2. Moreover, you'll find there is no problem getting tickets at the ticket office for €0.50 more, and you will also be given advice as to the next train and at what platform. The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall. Watch out for pick-pockets and baggage thieves: a common trick is a knock on your window to distract you, so that an accomplice can steal your luggage or laptop. Another one is to have an accomplice jam the doors and then to steal your luggage. The thief jumps out and the door immediately closes, making it impossible to catch them. However, in recent years, railway police has done a great effort to reduce this sort of crime; nowadays it is at 'normal', big-city like levels.

Trains run all night, although between 01:00 and 05:00 only once an hour. The price and duration of the journey are the same as during the day.

Schiphol by local transport

If you are desperately trying to save money or are staying near Leidseplein, you could use local transport from Schiphol to central Amsterdam, provided that you use a strippenkaart (see below). A trip takes about thirty minutes and leads directly to the south-west of the centre of Amsterdam (namely Museumplein and Leidseplein). The price depends on which bus you take: on local bus 197 the trip would cost you 5 strippen, that's €2.30 on a 15 strippenkaart, or €4.00 on board; on "interliner" bus 370 (an express bus, although in this case the local bus is equally fast) you pay €3.40.

Bus 197 currently runs every 15 minutes for most of the day, from 0507 to 0022 daily; bus 370 runs every hour during the day and every 30 minutes during peak hours (but stops running at about 2000). From midnight to five a.m., night bus lines go to and from the airport: either bus N97 (5 strippen) or bus 358 (€3.50). Together, these buses run about twice an hour.

Schiphol by taxi

Taxis from Schiphol are expensive and priced unexpectedly. You pay around €7.50 (as of Oct 08) as a minimum charge and that includes the first two kilometers. Then the meter starts racing. The ride costs about €40-50 to go to, say, the Leidseplein. Depending on the time of day and traffic levels, it could take only 25 minutes. If you're unlucky, it could take twice as long. Choose the nicest cab as that driver is more likely to be reputable. You don't have to pick the first taxi in line.

Schiphol, other modes of transport

Many hotels in Amsterdam share a paid shuttle bus service, and some hotels around the airport will send a free van for you.

If you plan to rent a car for the duration of your stay, Schiphol has several car rental companies on site. Typical opening hours are 06:30 to 23:00 daily (some are open longer, 06:00-23:30). The car rental desk can be found in Schiphol Plaza, on the same level as the arrival halls. The A4 motorway leads straight from Schiphol to the Amsterdam ring road A10, in about 10 minutes.

If you decided to bring your bicycle on the plane with you, there is a 15-kilometer sign-posted bike route from the airport to Amsterdam. Turn right as you leave the airport terminal: the cycle path starts about 200 metres down the road.

Other airports servicing Amsterdam

Using airports other than Schiphol could prove cheaper in some cases, as some budget airlines fly to Eindhoven and Rotterdam Airports. Then buses and trains can be used to get to Amsterdam. Renting a car is also an option. A taxi is not advisable, from Rotterdam to Amsterdam a taxi would cost €130, and from Eindhoven even more.

From Eindhoven Airport take a local bus (Hermes bus 401, duration 23 minutes, frequency about four times per hour, €3.20 on board or €1.80 using a 15 strippenkaart) to the train station, from there take a train to Amsterdam (duration 1:20 hour, frequency four times per hour, single €17.40). Alternatively, take the express bus directly from the airport to Amsterdam central station, which takes 2:15 hours. This service goes quite infrequently; see their website for a schedule. The ticket price is €22 for a single or €38 for a return.

From Rotterdam Airport ("Zestienhoven") take a city bus (RET "airport shuttle" bus 33, duration 20 minutes, frequency every 10-20 minutes, €2.40 on board or €1.40 using a 15 strippenkaart) to Rotterdam Centraal train station, from there take a train to Amsterdam (duration about an hour, frequency every 10-20 minutes, single €13.20).

By train

Sign for Platform 2b at Amsterdam Railway Station. Train stations in Amsterdam (in orange; centre in bright orange). Black lines: railways. Red lines: metro lines.Most trains arrive and depart from Amsterdam Centraal Station (with one extra 'a' in Dutch), located between the old centre and the IJ waterfront. Other train stations are Duivendrecht, Bijlmer-ArenA, Amstel, Muiderpoort (all southeast), RAI, Zuid-WTC (both south), Lelylaan and Sloterdijk (both west). Schiphol airport also has its own train station, which functions as a major hub within the Netherlands. It has at least seven trains an hour to Amsterdam Central, with additional trains going to other Amsterdam stations.

Direct international trains run to Brussels (connecting with Eurostar trains to London St Pancras and Ebbsfleet (Kent) in England), Paris, Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, Milan, Vienna, Prague and Moscow. See NS Hispeed for an international journey planner for trains into/out of the Netherlands.

By bus

Most international bus services are affiliated to Eurolines, which has a terminal at Amstel Station (train station, metro station 51, 53, 54, tram 12). One bus per day is usually the maximum frequency on these routes. There are other international bus services, but they are often aimed at very specific markets, e.g. Polish migrant workers. There are almost no long-distance internal bus services in the Netherlands, and none to Amsterdam.

By car

The western part of the Netherlands has a dense (and congested) road network. Coming from the east (Germany), the A1 motorway leads directly to Amsterdam. On the A12 from Arnhem, change at Utrecht to the A2 northbound. From the south (Belgium), the A2 goes directly to Amsterdam: the A16 /A27 from Antwerp via Breda connects to the A2 south of Utrecht. From The Hague, the A4 leads to Amsterdam. All motorways to Amsterdam connect to the ring motorway, the A10. From this motorway, main roads lead radially into Amsterdam (the roads S101 through S118).

In most cases, you should want to avoid going to the city centre by car: traffic is dense and parking spaces are expensive and nearly impossible to find. Instead, when on the A10, follow the signs to one of the P+R-spots (P+R Zeeburg to the east, P+R ArenA and P+R Olympisch Stadion to the south, P+R Sloterdijk to the west). Here, you can park your car, and take public transport to the city centre, for a single fare. There are also a few places a short walk from outer tram stops to park for free.

The speed limit on Dutch motorways is 120 km/h, except where indicated. On the A10 ring motorway around Amsterdam, the maximum speed is 100 km/h, and 80 km/h on the Western section. These limits are strictly enforced and there are many speed cameras.

By sea

The maritime Passenger Terminal Amsterdam is close to the city centre, but is only for cruise ships. The nearest ferry port is IJmuiden (ferry from Newcastle upon Tyne). There are also ferry terminals at Rotterdam Europoort (ferry from Kingston Upon Hull), and Hook of Holland (ferry from Harwich). More information, timetables and ticket prices for these ferries is available online at Ferries to Amsterdam.

Getting around Amsterdam

Amsterdam's centre is fairly small, and almost abnormally flat, so you can easily get to most tourist destinations on foot - from the train station, within a half an hour.

A pleasant way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bicycle. There are approximately three-quarters of a million people living in Amsterdam and they own about 600,000 bicycles. The city is very, very bike-friendly, and there are separate bike lanes on most major streets. In the city centre, however, there is often not enough space for a bike lane, so cars and cyclists share narrow streets. Cyclists have the right of way. If you are not used to that, be very careful, and also watch out for other cyclists. Avoid getting your tire in the tram rails; it's a nasty fall. Always cross tram rails at an angle. There are bike rental shops at stations, and several others in and around the city centre. Bikes cost about € 9 to € 20 per day.

A good map for cycling (routes, repairs, rentals + also public transport) is Amsterdam op de fiets (a Cito-plan). When preparing a route, there's a digital bicycle route-planner for Amsterdam, see Routecraft.com

Make sure to get a good lock, and to use it. Amsterdam has one of the highest bicycle theft rates in the world, see the Netherlands page. Note also that if buying a bike, prices that seem too good to be true are stolen bikes. Any bike offered for sale to passers-by, on the street, is certainly stolen. There's an old Amsterdam joke; if to a large group of bicycles going by, you yell out, "Hey, that's my bike" about five people will jump off "their" bikes and start running.

MacBike Bicycle Rental. Perhaps the most ubiquitous bicycle rental agency in Amsterdam, their bicycles are painted red with a MacBike sign on the front, everyone will know you're visiting. The bicycles are reliable, and in very good condition. Several locations around the city centre for assistance or repairs. Online bicycle reservations at their Web site.

Orangebike, Rentals & Tours. Their bikes are not so obvious coloured, more discrete, reliable and sturdy. Even the typical Dutch Grandmother bikes are available at Orangebike. Every day you could go on the 3 hour historical city tour and discover the hidden treasures by bike for 19.50 euro only. Online reservations on their website.

The bicycle is ideal for exploring the surrounding countryside. Within half an hour you're out of town. Go North, take the ferry accross the IJ to Waterland. Or go South, into the Amsterdamse Bos (a giant park), or follow the river Amstel where Rembrandt worked. You can also take your bike on the metro (with a reduced fare ticket, see public transport gvb.nl to end of line Gaasperplas, and cycle along rivers and windmills to old fortified towns like Weesp , Muiden and Naarden.

Another unusual but entertaining way of getting around Amsterdam is the beer bike or bierfiets.

It provides for up to fourteen people to travel around the streets of the city, even if under the weather or stoned. Regulations however require that at least one driver not be drinking. A bus-type bike was always going to happen as the Dutch just love bicycles.

The latest word however is that the authorities are looking at outlawing them. This follows a couple of accidents. Karsten, the company that owns the bikes and rents them to to visitors, is negotiating with the authorities, and at the very least is likely to regulate use of the beer bikes more tightly.

Public transport

Public transport within the city is operated by the GVB (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf. The tram (18 lines) is the main form of public transport system in the central area, and there are also dozens of bus routes. Regional buses, and some suburban buses, are operated by Connexxion and Arrival. All tram stops have a detailed map of the system and the surrounding area.

There is a four line metro, including a short underground section in the city centre, that serves the neighbourhoods of the South East. It takes 15-20 minutes from Central Station or Waterlooplein to the Bijlmer (Amsterdam Arena stadium, Heineken Music Hall and Pathe Arena cinema and IMAX).

Tickets can be bought on bus or tram, but it will often be cheaper to buy a strippenkaart before boarding. They are available from machines in the metro and railway stations, from the GVB office opposite Central Station, and from supermarkets, newsagents and tobacconists. In Central Station, purchase them at the red GVB machine (bills and coins) or at one of the Albert Heijn To Go mini marts. Purchase multi-day passes at the Amsterdam Tourist office (ACTB) or GWK Money Exchange.

A strippenkaart is also valid for use on NS trains within Amsterdam, validate them on the platform. They are not valid for train trips to Schiphol airport. You can use them on buses to Schiphol but generally it's faster to get there by train.

The strippenkaart ticket consists of a number of strips, which must be stamped in a yellow machine prior to entering the metro, or by the driver or conductor when boarding a tram or bus. Travel for one hour through a single zone costs two strips; two zones cost three strips, and so forth. Typically tourists will only be travelling through the central zone of Amsterdam, unless they plan on visiting outer areas. Multiple people can share one strippenkaart but must be validated respective to the number of travellers (e.g. for two people travelling in one zone, the strip can be validated on the second and fourth strip from the last validation stamp). A strippenkaart of 15 strips costs €6.90 (€7.30 from 1 January 2009).

Alternatively, you can get a 1, 2, 3 or 4 day pass. Although convenient, it is usually cheaper to use strippenkaarten, especially for people who stay in the city centre. (€7/1 day, €11.50/2 days, €14.50/3 days, €17.50/4 days).

Don't forget to stamp it before your first journey. If you stay longer in Amsterdam, you can buy discounted weekly or monthly tickets from most post offices or other ticket sale points which are really cheaper.

A new national ticketing system is being introduced, based on a contactless card (swipe card), called OV-chipkaart ("Public Transport chip card"). The system is operational on the Amsterdam metro, trams and buses run by GVB, at first in parallel with the old system. No decision has been made yet about when the old system will be abandoned, but the proponents plan for this to happen at some time in 2009. Three types of OV-chipkaart are available: a personal card on which you can load weekly/monthly/yearly subscriptions; an anonymous card on which you can load money which can be spend on public transport; and a disposable card which can be used for one or two trips only. The first two types carry a fee of €7.50 for the card itself. Note that the old system works with travel zones, whereas the new card system uses a fixed price per kilometer, so in some instances one system can be cheaper or more expensive than the other. The OV-chipkaart can be obtained from GVB vending machines in all metro stations or from the desks at some bigger stations (including Central Station). To travel with a card, one has to check in at the start of the journey and check out at the end.

Most trams these days have conductors, near the rear of the tram. Board by the driver or the conductor. If you have questions, the conductor will be sure to respond to your query.

Enter buses only via the front door.

For current information on the Dutch Public Transportation-system ('Openbaar Vervoer' or O.V. in Dutch/NL) check online Openbaar Vervoer (O.V.).

There are several free ferry services across the IJ river, to Amsterdam North, the most frequent runs every seven minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern (rear) side of Centraal Station.

The nicest one is the fifteen minute service to NDSM Werf, a funky, up and coming, industrial neighbourhood with a nice cafe-bar (Ijkantine) restaurant (Noorderlicht), indoor skateboard park, and the Pancake Boat (Pannekoekenboot) which sails many times each week. Ferries leave every 30 minutes from Central Station and from NDSM Werf. Double frequencies during rush hours.

Trains

For journeys outside the city, the train is usually the best option. Besides some exceptions, all trains in the Netherlands are operated by the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS, "Dutch Railways"). Their website has English-language information.

Ticket machines are the standard way to buy a ticket, it costs 50 cents extra to buy a ticket at ticket counters, and at Central Station, there are often long lines at these counters. Older machines are not in English and as such can be difficult to interpret. New machines come with a language selection, and support English, Dutch, French and German but usually only accept credit and debit cards (note that many foreign credit and debit cards do not work in most NS ticket machines). In Central Station, there is a machine that accepts cash and is located in the hallway in front of the ticket office.

You face a fine of 35 euros, due immediately, if you are caught on the train without a ticket. The chance of getting caught without a ticket is almost certain on main routes during the day, but there is always a random element.

For discount tickets and rail passes see the Netherlands page.

Getting around by car

Using a car in central Amsterdam is something of a pain. Many of the streets are narrow, the traffic (and parking) signs are baroque and obscure, and cyclists and pedestrians may get in your way. Plus, gas is about 8 Euros (11 dollars) per gallon. You can try parking at one of the secured parking garages, for example under Museumplein, or near the Central Station, and then walk around the city centre, or use a tram. Car parking is very expensive in Amsterdam and it's often hard to find a place to park. You can choose to pay by the hour or for the whole day. Parking is free outside the centre on Sunday. There is always a spot available on the Albert Cuypstraat (which is a market during the rest of the week). From there, it is a 5 minute tram ride or 15 minute walk downtown.

Another option is to park your car further outside the city-centre. For € 5,50 you get a full day of parking and a return ticket downtown. The ride takes about 15 minutes. Look for the P+R (Park and Ride) signs.

You can also park for free in some parts of Amsterdam outside the city centre though this may be slowly changing. Parking is still free everywhere in Amsterdam-Noord, and you can just take the bus from the Mosplein stop to the city centre easily. Plenty of buses run through here.

Taxis

Taxis in Amsterdam are plentiful but expensive. Hailing taxis on the street is usually a positive experience, although it is not unheard of for passengers to be cheated by shady drivers.

Some drivers, traditionally at Centraal Station, will refuse short trips, or else they'll quote outrageously high fares, even though all taxis are metered. For reference, no trip within the historic centre should cost more than €10 or so.

The Netherlands (including Amsterdam) is in the middle of a huge taxi liberalization scheme which has been jarring to all involved. After many missteps, the government has introduced an unusual pricing scheme. First you feel sticker shock as the initial fare is now €7,50 (as of Feb 08). Luckily, that includes the first two kilometres of travel and there is no charge for waiting in traffic. If you need to run in somewhere, you need to negotiate a waiting fee with the driver. 50 cents per minute is customary.

Unlicensed, illegal, cabbies operate mainly in Amsterdam Zuidoost. These aren't easily recognized as such, and most certainly don't drive Mercedes cars. They are known as snorders and most easily reached by mobile phone. Rides within Amsterdam Zuidoost (the Bijlmer) range from €2.50 to €5, whereas Zuidoost-Center can run up to €12.50. Snorders have a shady reputation, so consider their services only if you are adventurous.

Tuk-Tuks

A Thai-influenced transportation service using three-wheeled, open-air (but covered) motorized vehicles was introduced in August 2007 and may be a more economical and fast way to get around the city centre compared to taxis. Tuk-tuk pricing is based on a zone system. Within a zone, a ride is €3.50 per person, €5.00 for 2 persons and €6.50 for 3. If you go to another zone, €3.50 is added (irrespective of number of persons). This service is handy if it is past the regular tram/bus/metro service hours (approximately half past midnight) as they take reservations 24 hours a day at 0900 99 333 99 (note to call, there is a fee of €0.55 per conversation).

Architectural heritage

Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, with about 7,000 registered historic buildings. The street pattern is largely unchanged since the 19th century - there was no major bombing during World War II. The centre consists of 90 islands, linked by 400 bridges. Its most prominent feature is the concentric canal ring begun in the 17th century. The city office for architectural heritage (BMA) has an excellent online introduction to the architectural history, and the types of historical buildings. The website includes a cycle route along important examples.

The oldest parts of the city are Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk. Two mediaeval wooden houses survive, at Begijnhof 34 and Zeedijk 1. Other old houses are Warmoesstraat 83 (built circa 1400), Warmoesstraat 5 (circa 1500) and Begijnhof 2-3 (circa. 1425).

The Begijnhof is a late-medieval enclosed courtyard with the houses of beguines, women living in a semi-religious community. Beguinages are found in northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and north-western Germany.

There are several large warehouses for more specific uses. The biggest is the Admirality Arsenal (1656-1657), now the Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) at Kattenburgerplein. Others include the former turf warehouses (1550) along the Nes, now the municipal pawn office; a similar warehouse at Waterlooplein 69-75 (Arsenaal, 1610), now an architectural academy, and the warehouse of the West India Company (1642) at the corner of Prins Hendrikkade and s-Gravenhekje. The 19th-century warehouses, along the Oostelijke Handelskade, are surrounded by new office buildings.

The trading city of Amsterdam was ruled by a merchant-based oligarchy, who built canal houses and mansions in the most prestigious locations, especially along the main canals. The BMA website has a chronological list of the most important:

  • Singel 140-142, De Dolphijn (circa 1600).
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 14, Wapen van Riga (1605).
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 57, De Gecroonde Raep (1615), in Baroque Amsterdam Renaissance style.
  • Herengracht 170-172, Bartolotti House (circa 1617).
  • Keizersgracht 123, House with the Heads (1622).
  • Herengracht 168 (1638).
  • Rokin 145 (1643).
  • Kloveniersburgwal 29, Trip House (1662).
  • Oudezijds Voorburgwal 187 (1663).
  • Singel 104-106 (1743).
  • Singel 36, Zeevrugt (1763).

The Jordaan was built around 1650 along with the canal ring, but not for the wealthy merchants. For a long time it was considered the typical working-class area of Amsterdam, and included some notorious slums. It was probably the first example of gentrification in the Netherlands, even before the word was used. The name probably derives from the nickname 'Jordan' for the Prinsengracht. Apart from a few wider canals, the streets are narrow, in an incomplete grid pattern.

19th-century architecture is under-represented in Amsterdam. Immediately outside the Singelgracht (former city moat) is a ring of 19th-century housing. The most prominent buildings from this period are Centraal Station (1889) and the Rijksmuseum (1885), both by P. J. H. Cuypers.

Churches

There are five main churches in the historic centre. The oldest is the Oude Kerk (1306) on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, in the red-light district. It was followed by the Nieuwe Kerk (15th century) on the Dam. The late-medieval city also had smaller chapels such as the Sint Olofskapel (circa 1440) on Zeedijk, and convent chapels such as the Agnietenkapel on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 231 (originally 1470), now the University of Amsterdam museum. Around 1600, three new Protestant churches were built:

Zuiderkerk (1603) at Zuiderkerkhof, now an information centre on housing and planning. Noorderkerk (1620/230) at Noordermarkt on the Prinsengracht. Westerkerk (1620/31) on Westermarkt is the largest of the three.

The church is open (free) for visitors from Monday to Friday, 11.00 -15.00, from April to September. You can also climb the tower, only with guide, every half-hour, € 6. In good weather you can see all of Amsterdam, and as far as the coast.

Later churches included the Oosterkerk (1669) in the eastern islands, and the heavily restored Lutheran Church on the Singel (1671), now used by a hotel as a conference centre. Catholic churches were long forbidden, and only built again in the 19th-century: the most prominent is the Neo-Baroque Church of St. Nicholas (1887) opposite Central Station.

The most prominent synagogue is the Portugese-Israelite Synagogue (1675) at Mr. Visserplein, in an austere Classicist style.

Also, try and investigate on some of the "hidden churches" found in Amsterdam, mainly Catholic churches that remained in activity following the Reformation.

Modern architecture

Since there was little large-scale demolition in the historic centre, most 20th-century and recent architecture is outside it. The most prominent in architectural history are the residential complexes by architects of the Amsterdam School, for instance at Zaanstraat / Oostzaanstraat.

Museum of the Amsterdam School. The best-known example of their architecture. Open Wednesday to Sunday 1PM to 5PM, entrance € 2.50.

Eastern Docklands. The largest concentration of new residential buildings. The zone includes three artificial islands: Borneo, Sporenburg, and Java/KNSM, together with the quayside along Piet Heinkade, and some adjoining projects. Accessible by tram 10, tram 26 to Rietlandpark, or best of all by bicycle.

The largest concentration of box-like office buildings is in Amsterdam Zuid-Oost (South-East) around Bijlmer station (train and metro), but the area does have some spectacular buildings, such as the Amsterdam ArenA stadium and the new Bijlmer ArenA station (nearing completion and already in use).

Amsterdam is replacing older sewage plants by a single modern plant, in the port zone. Connecting existing sewers to the new plant requires long main sewers, and the use of sewage booster pumps - a new technique at this scale. The new booster pump stations are a unique type of building, designed by separate architects. The three complete pumps are located at Klaprozenweg in the north, on Spaklerweg (just east of the A10 motorway), and beside and under Postjesweg, in the Rembrandtpark. 

Windmills

Windmills were not built in urban areas, since the buildings obstructed the wind. The Amsterdam windmills were all originally outside the city walls. Nearest to the centre are De Gooyer and De Otter:

  • De Gooyer (1814, restored) on Funenkade currently holds a microbrewery.
  • De Otter (1631), a restored and functioning sawmill, opposite Buyskade, west of the Jordaan.
  • De Bloem (1878) on the Haarlemmerweg 465 at Nieuwpoortkade.
  • De 1200 Roe, Haarlemmerweg 701 near Seineweg.
  • De 100 Roe (1674), in the Ookmeer sports fields along Ma Braunpad.
  • D'Admiraal (1792), Noordhollandschkanaaldijk 21, on the bank of the Noordhollands Kanaal in the north, ferry from Central Station.
  • Riekermolen (1636) on the bank of the Amstel river at Kalfjeslaan.
  • De Jonge Dikkert in Amstelveen (corner of Molenweg and Amsterdamseweg) is now a restaurant.

Only the Molen van Sloten and De Gooyer are open for visitors. The Molen van Sloten at Akersluis 10, about 10 minutes walk from the terminus of tram line 2, open daily from 10:00AM to 4PM. De Gooyer at Funenkade, Bus 22, Tram 7, open Wednesday to Sunday from 3PM to 7PM.

Museums

An English-language list at the GVB (public transport) website includes the tram and bus routes for each museum: Museums and attractions.

The Museumkaart (museum card) costs €39.95 (or €22.45 for those under 25 years old). It gives free admission in over 400 museums across the Netherlands. You can buy it at most major museums. It is valid for an entire year, and you will need to write your name, birthday, and gender on it. If you are going to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, those are at least €10 each, so this card can quickly pay for itself.

The tickets to the major museums, including the audio guide; can be bought early from the tourist information desk at no extra cost.

Allard Pierson Museum. The Allard Pierson Museum is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam . The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Cyprus, the Greek World, Etruria and the Roman Empire are revived in this museum. Art-objects and utensils, dating from 4000 B.C. till 500 A.D. give a good impression of everyday-life, mythology and religion in Antiquity.

Amsterdams Historisch Museum. The city’s historical museum. Two entrances, at Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 and Kalverstraat 92. Open 10AM to 5PM, opens one hour later on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Entrance € 6 adults, € 3 children.

Anne Frank House. The house where the Jewish girl Anne Frank wrote her diary while hiding with her family from the Nazis. Don't let the long line (or maybe a very short line if you're lucky) discourage you; it moves quickly and the experience inside the hiding places on the top floors is moving. The museum lacks any exhibits to explain the historical context at the time of Anne's diary, however. Go in the early evening around 5PM to avoid any lines, or alternatively skip the lines entirely by reserving tickets from the official website. The Anne Frank House is open later during the summer. Entrance €7.50 for adults, museumkaart not valid.

Diamond Museum. This brand new exhibition about the history of diamond trade in Amsterdam is located opposite the Van Gogh Museum.

Filmmuseum. A non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of contemporary and historical films. Multiple screenings daily. The Filmmuseum is located in the Vondelpark, between park entrances Roemer Visscherstraat and Vondelstraat. Despite the name the "Filmmuseum" this is not a museum, rather just an alternative cinema funded by the government.

Katten Kabinet. A cat museum. Housed in a beautiful restored palatial home in an upscale area street - very Masterpiece Theater. It was opened by the homeowner after his favourite cat died... and he still lives in the home. Lots of cat-related art, and two real felines. The admission fee is € 5. The exhibition is spread across the first floor of the house.

Museum Amstelkring. Most locals don't recognize the official name, but will know what you mean if you say "Our Lord in the Attic." This is a Catholic church stuffed into the upper stories of a house built in 1663, when Catholics were persecuted and had to disguise their churches. It's a beautiful place to visit, and amazing to see how they fit worshippers, an organ, and an altar into such a narrow place. Now a museum, open Monday-Saturday 10AM to 5PM, Sunday 1PM to 5PM, admission € 7, under 18 € 1. Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40, in the red-light district.

NEMO. NEMO is the biggest science centre in the Netherlands; an educational attraction where you can discover a world of science and technology in an entertaining way. NEMO takes you on a voyage of discovery between fantasy and reality. You will discover how scientific phenomena influence your daily life. You will learn about technology and engineering, ICT and bio- and behavioral sciences. This is a great place to take kids and is best for those ages 11 and below - teenagers will probably get bored. Admission € 11.50 adults 6.50 for students. Free for kids 3 and below.

Rembrandt House. This is where the artist Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn and his wife, Saskia, lived between 1639 and 1658. The house is a reconstruction of the painter’s life at that time and provides interesting insight. You will be able to see 260 of his 290 etchings, find out about how they were created, see where he worked and explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating building.

Rijksmuseum - Masterpieces Exhibition. The largest and most prestigious museum for art and history in the Netherlands: works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and other Dutch masters. The museum is being completely renovated, but the major masterpieces are still on show. Open 9AM to 6PM, open until 10PM on Fridays. Admission € 10 for adults, under 18 free, no discounts for students. In the garden is a small temporary exhibition on the renovation plans.

Royal Palace. This former City Hall (built in 1651) is currently closed for renovation. (It is mainly used for diplomatic receptions and to welcome visiting heads of state, not as a royal residence).

Schutters Gallery. Located between Kalverstraat and Begijnhof, shows 17th-century portraits, free.

Scheepvaart Museum. The Netherlands Maritime Museum is closed until 2009, for complete renovation.

Sexmuseum. The largest and most prestigious museum for sex art and sex history in the Netherlands. It shows a lot of sex oddities. Open daily 9AM to 10PM ages 16 and up. It charges 3Euros as admission. Located at: Damrak 18, 1012 LH Amsterdam. +31 (0) 20 622 8376

Stedelijk Museum. The Amsterdam municipal museum of modern art. Temporarily located east of Central Station, 10 minutes walk from there.

The Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum. Opened for over twenty years, the Hash Museum is dedicated to debunking the lies and demonization about one of our most useful plants, the hemp plant. Although small, busy and seriously overpriced, it is a well-done museum where people go to get informed.

Tropenmuseum. Ethnographic / cultural museum about Africa, Asia, and South America.

Van Gogh Museum. This museum is dedicated to this late 19th century Dutch painter. Do not expect to see all of Van Gogh's works however as they only have a portion at this museum, others are at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and elsewhere. Still worth the visit though as there are many famous examples of his work like the Sunflowers and Potato Eaters. Also, there are selected works of Monet exhibited there. Consider the audio tour at only € 4,00, in the language of your choice, will give you a much better understanding of Van Gogh's life and his paintings. Entry is 12.50 Euros for adults, no student nor group rates. Open late on Fridays.

Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). Award-winning museum showing what Amsterdam and Holland were like during the Nazi occupation. 

Zoo and botanical gardens

Hortus Botanicus. The 'Hortus' as it is called by locals, was formerly the Botanical Garden of the University of Amsterdam. Monday to Friday 9AM to 5PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM to 5PM, open until 11PM in July and August, admission € 6.

Artis Zoo. An entry ticket for Artis also provides admission to the Planetarium, the Geological Museum, the Aquarium and the Zoological Museum. Artis is also a botanical garden, with plants and trees gathered from all over the world, just like the animal species.

Parks and countryside

The nearest open countryside is north of the city, about 20 minutes by bike. Cross the IJ by ferry behind Central Station, and follow the cycle signs for the villages of Ransdorp, Zunderdorp, Schellingwoude or Durgerdam. Cycling along the Amstel River for about 30 to 40 minutes will also take you into open countryside, and the village of Oudekerk.

Vondelpark. The only large park in the older part of the city. Especially in the summer it's lively and crowded. Meet the locals there. A lovely place to hang out and if you chose to try magic mushrooms, do them here.

Rembrandtpark. Not too far west of the Vondelpark, but much bigger and quieter.

Museumplein. Not exactly a park, but a large grassed open space. Around its edges are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Concertgebouw, and the temporarily closed Stedelijk Museum.

Wertheimpark. A small park opposite the botanical gardens. Has a Second World War memorial and lies on one of the nicest canals in Amsterdam.

Westerpark. Newly expanded park, at the western edge of the centre, with cultural activities in a former gas factory. Access from Haarlemmerweg.

Oosterpark, behind the tropical museum, at the eastern edge of the centre, holds several multicultural festivals throughout the year.

Sarphatipark, at the southern edge of the centre, is a place where people sunbathe and have picnics in the summer.

Amsterdamse Bos. A much larger forest-type park on the outskirts of the city. Access from Amstelveenseweg. Horse rental, canoe rental and an open air theatre are part of the attractions.

The Beach

The whole coast west of the Netherlands is a single long beach. The nearest stretch is at Zandvoort - 27 minutes by train from Central Station, every 30 minutes. In summer there are extra trains, change trains at Haarlem. Zandvoort is very crowded on warm days in summer: parts of the beach attract the in crowd, others the somewhat less so. The long beaches continue north of IJmuiden, they are more family oriented. For the most accessible of these, take the train to Castricum, and then bus (or minibus) 267. Or, you can take the hydrofoil (Fast Flying Ferries from behind the Central Station to IJmuiden, and then take a bus to the beach.

There is a temporary artificial beach at Blijburg, surrounded by construction sites, in the new suburb of IJburg. Tram 26 to the last stop, then a few minutes walk, follow the signs.

City attractions and tours

Former Heineken Brewery (Heineken Experience), Stadhouderskade 78. Not a functioning brewery any more. Tuesdays to Sundays 10AM to 6PM. Shameless promotion for Holland's leading export beer, but they charge tourists € 11 to get in. That includes three drink coupons and a take home a souvenir bottle opener inside a fake

Holland Casino operates fourteen casinos around the Netherlands. The one in Amsterdam is conveniently located, is an attractive building, and provides gaming and entertainment of a first class standard.

Holland Casino in Amsterdam is one of the largest casinos in the Netherlands and attracts around one million visitors a year.  Games include American roulette, blackjack, Punto Banco, poker and slots.

Heinken bottle. They no longer offer the souvenir beer mug. It is currently closed until September or October 2008. Heineken doesn't taste any better in Holland.

Organised city tours. Several operators offer tours, visits to diamond factories, other guided visits, and canal cruises. Unless you really need a guide - for instance if you speak only Chinese - it is cheaper to visit everything yourself.

New Amsterdam Tours offers a free three-hour guided tour (tips accepted at the end of the tour) of the major Amsterdam sites and history twice a day at 11:00AM and 1:00PM and once a day in Spanish at 11:00AM. Meet in front of the tourist information office across from Amsterdam Centraal Station, near the tour guide in a red "Free Tour" shirt. The company also offers a two-hour guided tour through the Red Light District at 6:45PM that meets at the same location for 10 euros per person (8 euros for students).

Amsterdam Insider is a tour company offering bike, boat and walking tours. Their guides are artists, musicians and writers. Tours are € 15 per person. E-mail AmsterdamInsider@yahoo.com for more information.

Amsterdam City Guide Is Amsterdam City Guide with touristic articles, attractions, tips, tours services, concert tickets & accommodation. Customized Amsterdam maps are available as well and answers to most touristic questions.

The Red Light District

The Red Light District consists of several canals, and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. Known as 'De Wallen' (the walls) in Dutch, because the canals were once part of the city defences (walls and moats). Prostitution itself is limited to certain streets, mainly side streets and alleys, but the district is considered to include the canals, and some adjoining streets (such as Warmoesstraat and Zeedijk). The whole area has a heavy police presence, and many security cameras. Nevertheless it is still a residential district and has many bars and restaurants, and also includes historic buildings and museums - this is the oldest part of the city. The oldest church in Amsterdam, the Netherlands-gothic Oude Kerk on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal at Oudekerksplein, is now surrounded by window prostitution. The area has many sexshops and peep show bars. Note: Don't try to take photos of prostitutes even from the streets, or you might lose your camera without any warning. This section of town is a common attraction for bachelors celebrating a stag night, if you ever get hassled, a firm and loud "Leave me alone" will work most of the time.

Entering and exiting the premises is half of the job that might take some strength for first timers as you might hear some chuckles from people you'll never see again in your whole life. This part of town gets very crowded, especially on a normal weekend night, sometimes up until 3AM.

You can book a tour of the Red Light District via the I amsterdam information booths. The tour starts at 5PM at the VOC Cafe and is found to be very informative and entertaining. Remember that there is so much more to Amsterdam than the red-light district - broaden your horizons.

What to Do

Several companies offer canal cruises - usually about one hour. Departures from: Prins Hendrikkade opposite Centraal Station; quayside Damrak; Rokin near Spui; Stadhouderskade 25 near Leidseplein.

The Canal Bus. Runs a fixed route, stopping near major attractions. You can get off or on at each stop and as often as you like, but it is expensive - €18 for a day pass.

With a canal bike or rented boat, you can cruise the canals yourself, without the commentary.

Canal Company. Has four rental locations; four-seater canal bikes cost €8/person/hour. Rent a boat Amsterdam.

Smoking cannabis in public is something enjoyed by those who would be persecuted for doing so back home, but it is considerate to give some thought as to whether the location is appropriate. Amsterdam, as some tourists seem to forget isn't an adult Disneyland and as such it is appreciated if you for instance don't light up in the quieter residential and family areas outside the centre. Places such as the Damsquare and the Vondelpark on the other hand are fine, and even historically known for this as this is where people gathered in Amsterdam in the sixties to exercise their freedom. Avoid the Bulldog chain of touristy coffeeshops.

Grey Area.

The Bluebird - one of the best selections of pot in Amsterdam. Global Chillage - Good produce and nice tunes but uncomfortable seating. Barney's. Coffeeshop. Rokerij. Four coffeeshops. Hill Street Blues - lively atmosphere but buy cannabis elsewhere. Club Media - Completely organic menu, fair selection, good prices, lovely staff, free fruit Katsu - Just around the corner from Media, good prices + nice atmosphere. The Greenhouse - usually pretty crowded but when warm or if you can get a seat definitely one of the nice coffeeshops near the red light. Also has a bar next door. Pink Floyd. De Kroon. Abraxas. Homegrown Fantasy. Kadinsky.

Queens Day. The national holiday, nominally in celebration of the Queen's birthday (in fact the previous Queen's birthday) is hard to describe to anyone who's never been there. The city turns into one giant mass of orange-dressed people (all Amsterdam locals, and another 1 million or so from throughout the country visit the parties in the city) with flea markets, bands playing, and many on-street parties, ranging from small cafes placing a few kegs of beer outside to huge open-air stages hosting world-famous DJ's. An experience you'll never forget April 30th - but if that is a Sunday, it is one day earlier (to avoid offence to orthodox Protestants).

MEETin Amsterdam. A not-for-profit social group to help expats meet new people away from the bar and dating scene. The site's primary focus is to provide a relaxed, 'non-pickup-scene' social environment for people to enjoy without paying membership fees. For people who have either just moved to Amsterdam or lived there for a while, this group can be a great way to meet new people in the area. Events are arranged by MEETin members and include a variety of activities such as pub crawls, potlucks, movies, concerts, day trips and much more. You have to register and create a profile in order to participate. The group consists mostly of expats from around the world and has grown to more than 1,400 members (January 2008). The site is financed through voluntary donations.

Canal Pride. Amsterdam gay pride on the first weekend in August. One of the biggest festivals in Amsterdam with parties, performances, workshops and a boat parade on the Prinsengracht on Saturday afternoon which is always well worth seeing.

CityNavigators. Offers handheld GPS tourist maps for rent through participating hotels or online. The GPS devices are pre-programmed to take you to popular attractions or to guide you through walking (or bicycle) tours. E-mail info@citynavigators.com for more information.

Play Futsal. Football tour organisers Eurofives stage special tournament weekends in Amsterdam at which you can enjoy some Dutch-style five-a-sides.

Amsterdam Weekly. It is an Entertainment magazine in English on the Internet. You can find weekly Amsterdam events.

De Poezenboot. You really like cats? The poezenboot (cat boat) is an refuge for cats awaiting adoption. Located in the centre of the city, a must for any cat lover.

Rialto Cinema. For all arthouse cinema freaks. All films are shown in their original language with Dutch subtitles. They have late night and classic showings too. Just a short walk from the Albert Cuyp-Market/Heineken Brouwery, in a nice non-touristy neighbourhood.

Wynand Fockink. Pijlsteeg 31 - 1012 HH Amsterdam - 020 639 26 95 - contact@wynand-fockink.nl Wynand Fockink is a distillery started in 1679. Right near Dam Place, they offer distillery tours (must reserve at least a week in advance as they fill up quickly), great liquors, and a great time in the back alleys of Amsterdam. They have numerous liquors, brandies, and jenevers and encourage you to try them all. It is traditional to stoop and sip the first drink and not spill.

Education

Amsterdam is home to two universities, both offer summer courses and other short courses (with academic credits).

Vrije Universiteit (VU University). Founded in 1880, the VU campus is located southwest of the city centre, and approximately 20 minutes away by bicycle. It is the only Protestant general university in the Netherlands.

Universiteit van Amsterdam. Founded as the Athenaeum Illustre in 1632, in 1877 it became the University of Amsterdam. With about 25 000 students, the UvA is located on three separate campuses in the city centre, plus smaller sites scattered over Amsterdam.

The Volksuniversiteit. Despite the name, it is not a university, but a venerable institute for public education. Among the many courses are Dutch language courses for foreigners.

Working in the city

Many people plan to move to Amsterdam for a year to relax before "settling down". This plan often falls apart at the job phase. Many people will find it difficult to get a suitable job, if they do not speak Dutch. However, hostels and hotels in Amsterdam may need bar staff, night porters etc, who speak English and other languages. There are also specialist websites for English and non-Dutch speakers looking to work in Amsterdam and they are a often a good place to start - Undutchables, Unique and Xpat Jobs are all useful resources.

Immigration matters are dealt with by the Immigration Service IND. Registration is done by both police and municipalities. Immigration policy is restrictive and deliberately bureaucratic. That is especially true for non-EU citizens.

European Union citizens do not require a work permit. Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians are afforded a one year working-holiday visa. In general the employer must apply for work permits. Immigration is easier for "knowledge migrants" earning a gross annual salary of over € 45 000 (over € 33 000 for those under 30).

Shopping in Amsterdam

The main central shopping streets run in a line from near Central Station to the Leidseplein: Nieuwendijk, Kalverstraat, Heiligeweg, Leidsestraat. The emphasis is on clothes/fashion, but there are plenty of other shops. They are not upmarket shopping streets, and the north end of Nieuwendijk is seedy. Amsterdam’s only upmarket shopping street is the P.C. Hooftstraat (near the Rijksmuseum).

Other concentrations of shops in the centre are Haarlemmerstraat / Haarlemmerdijk, Utrechtsestraat, Spiegelstraat (art/antiques), and around Nieuwmarkt. There is a concentration of Chinese shops at Zeedijk / Nieuwmarkt, but it is not a real Chinatown.

The ‘interesting little shops’ are located in the side streets of the main canals (Prinsengracht / Keizersgracht / Herengracht), and especially in the Jordaan - bounded by Prinsengracht, Elandsgracht, Marnixstraat and Brouwersgracht. The partly gentrified neighbourhood of De Pijp - around Ferdinand Bolstraat and Sarphatipark - is often seen as a 'second Jordaan'.

For general shop info and their openings hours you can visit 'Openingstijden Amsterdam' it shows an overview of the most popular shops and their location on the map.

The Nine Streets, De Negen Straatjes. Nine narrow streets between the main canals from the Prinsengracht to the Singel, south-west of Dam Square. Boutiques, specialist shops, galleries and restaurants.

Santa Jet, Prinsenstraat 7, tel (020) 427 2070. This little boutique specializes in hand-made imports from Latin America. You can find everything from mini shrines made of tin, to lamps, to kitschy postcards.

De Beeldenwinkel Sculpture Gallery. This is a gallery for sculpture lovers, with bronze statues, pottery, abstract sculpture, raku-fired statues and marble figures sculpture to suit every budget and taste.

Jordaan. One of the most picturesque 'village' areas of Amsterdam, the Jordaan has always been a centre for artisans, artists and creatives, today, this area has a wonderful selection of goldsmiths and jewellers, fashion boutiques, galleries, designer florists, and specialist shops.

Museum Quarter. Located in Amsterdam Zuid, this is considered the chic area for shopping in Amsterdam, close to the Museum district, the PC Hooftstraat and the Cornelis Schuytstraat have some of the finest designer shops in the city, including designer shoes, health and well-being specialists, massage, fashion boutiques, designer interiors, designer florists and specialist shops.

In the older areas surrounding the centre, the main shopping streets are the Kinkerstraat, the Ferdinand Bolstraat, the Van Woustraat, and the Javastraat. The most 'ethnic' shopping street in Amsterdam is the Javastraat. There are toy stores and clothing shops for kids in the centre, but most are in the shopping streets further out, because that's where families with children live.

You can find plus size clothing in the center of Amsterdam. C&A, and H&M are both on the main shopping streets from the Central station. A bit further from the city center you can find Mateloos, Promiss, Ulla Popken as well as several stores by chain M&S mode.

A give-away shop can be found at Singel 267, open Tuesdays and Thursdays 1700-1900 and Saturdays 1200-1700.

For books, your best bet is The Book Exchange at Kloveniersburgwal 58 (tel (020) 6266 266), diagonally across from the youth hostel. It is a second-hand bookstore specialising in English books, and has a large selection, with an especially good selection of travel writing, detectives, and SF/fantasy. Open Mon- Sun 10AM- 4PM, Sun 11:30-4:30PM. For English literature and books, you can also try The American Book Center store on Spui square. Large Dutch bookstores also carry a selection of foreign language books.

Cracked Kettle. Located at Raamsteeg 3, 1012VZ Amsterdam, this beer, wine, and spirits shop carries independent, unique, and rare bottles. The staff are friendly, but the space is quite confined and obtaining bottles from the very top shelves requires assistance and a dust rag. 12.00 - 22.00 everyday

The Street markets

Street markets originally sold mainly food, and most still sell food and clothing, but they have become more specialised. A complete list of Amsterdam markets (with opening times and the number of stalls) can be found at online at Hollandse Markten and Amsterdam.info in English.

Albert Cuyp Market in December 2006Ten Cate Market. 3rd Largest in Amsterdam. Monday to Saturday from about 8AM until around 5PM. Food, households, flowers and clothing.

Albert Cuyp. Largest in Amsterdam, best-known street market in the country. Monday to Saturday from about 9AM until around 5PM.

Dappermarkt. In the east, behind the zoo, and was voted best market in the Netherlands. Monday to Saturday from about 8AM until around 5PM.

Waterlooplein. Well-known but overrated flea market. Monday to Saturday until about 5PM.

Lindengracht. In the Jordaan, selling a wide range of goods, fruit and vegetables, fish and various household items. Saturday only. 9AM to 4PM. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein, and a short walk along the Lijnbaansgracht.

Spui. Fridays: Books. Sundays: Art and Antiques.

Bloemenmarkt. Flower market, open daily on Singel, near Muntplein. Buy pre-approved bulbs if taking them to the US or Canada. It was becoming a tourist trap market but the council told the stall owners to stop selling tourist junk.

Lapjesmarkt. Westerstraat, in the Jordaan. A specialist market concentrating on selling cloth and material for making clothes, curtains etc. Mondays only. 9AM to 1PM. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein.

Noordermarkt. In the historical Jordaan area of the city. On Monday morning (9AM to 1PM) the Noordermarkt is a flea market selling fabrics, records, second-hand clothing etc, and forms part of the Lapjesmarkt mentioned above. On Saturday (9AM to 4PM), the Noordermarkt is a biological food market, selling a wide range of ecological products like organic fruits and vegetables, herbs, cheese, mushrooms etc, there is also a small flea market. Tram 3 or 10 to Marnixplein, and a short walk down the Westerstraat.

Dining out

For food during the day, the Albert Heijn supermarkets (largest national chain) usually have cheap ready-to-go meals on hand, from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads to microwavable single-serving meals. There is one right behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square, on the Nieuwmarkt, on Koningsplein and in the Vijzelstraat.

For vegetarians, the Maoz chain of falafels is a blessing. The falafels are excellent, offering a variety of options to load onto the falafel and pita bread. One of the Maoz is in the north end of Amstel street.

Take advantage of the diversity of restaurants, especially Asian. The influence of the Dutch colonial past is apparent; Indonesian food is usually excellent, while Indian is often expensive and of poor quality. Surinamese food is widely available and worth a try. The highest concentration of Surinamese restaurants can be found in the Albert Cuypstraat. For Chinese food (generally good and cheap), check out the Zeedijk/Nieuwmarkt area. Also very good value are the numerous falafel bars scattered around town, often sporting a "all you can pile" salad bar. And the Vlaamse Frites -- large french fries served with mayonnaise -- are great. Eetcafe's are pubs serving dinner too. Many restaurants of all kinds can be found in the Haarlemmerstraat and the Haarlemmerdijk, and in the narrow streets crossing the two. Also worth trying is the Van Woustraat in the Pijp, or continue to the Rijnstraat in the Rivierenbuurt. Exquisite but expensive restaurants can be found in the Utrechtse Straat.

Local cheese is marvellous, buy some at the Albert Cuyp market, or at specialist cheese shops found around central Amsterdam. Dutch cheese is traditionally firm, and is made in large wax-covered wheels, and falls into two main categories - Young and Old. Within those categories, there exists a rich variety

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