Amsterdam is home to one of Europe’s largest historic city centres. Founded in the 13th century as a humble fishing village, the city soon saw massive changes as it developed into a bustling commercial hub by the end of the 15th century.
In 1602, the world’s first multinational company was founded – which Amsterdam had a major share in. This resulted in the city enjoying unprecedented prosperity – making the 17th century in Amsterdam known as the Golden Age.
During the Golden Age, the city underwent massive expansions – this is when both functionality and beauty were taken into consideration. The now-famous canals and Jordaan district were products of this.
Following this, the city saw a period of decline and increased poverty, which was counteracted by the introduction of the North Sea Canal in 1876. This gave Amsterdam direct connection with the sea, therefore increasing trade opportunities.
This new-found period of prosperity can been seen in the monumental, architectural masterpieces the city is famous for today.
Amsterdam is known for its free-spirited liberalism, diversity and tolerance. Prostitution is legal in here and red-light districts are clearly marked on maps. Coffee shops are also allowed to sell small amounts of high quality cannabis and its by-products.
For all things cultural, Amsterdam has plenty to offer. The Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk Museum, Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House are of great interest. Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam’s symphony orchestra, is world-class.
Once you see how many people use bicycles, you’ll too realise it’s the best way to get around. The flat terrain is very welcoming for sometimes-cyclists and bicycles have right-of-way over cars. You can take in much of the local scenery, but you do have to keep an eye out for thieves – around 80,000 bicycles are stolen every year in Amsterdam.
If you’re short of time and want to get a feel of the city, a visit to De 9 Straatjes – the Nine Streets – is a great way to spend time. In the heart of Amsterdam’s canal district, and just two minutes from the Royal Palace, these pretty streets straddle the 17th century canals from the Singel to the Prinsengracht.
There are bars, cafes and restaurants to visit between shopping or having a beauty treatment. Discover designer shoes and bags, Art Deco pieces, Japanese clothing, vintage clothing, jewellery, accessories and perfumeries.
According to locals, Loekie is the best delicatessen in Amsterdam. There is a marvellous array of delicious food and their sandwiches have people queuing.
Follow this with a free cruise (a donation towards the vessel’s upkeep is always very welcome). Your boat captains know all there is to know about Amsterdam and provide entertaining commentary.
Boom Chicago is a must-see: a comedy institution that has been operating since 1993. It’s a mix of sharp writing, quick thinking, video, music and technology. To book a show and to find out more visit their website.
WHAT TO WEAR: August is the hottest month in Amsterdam with an average temperature of 17°C. The coolest month is January – 3°C. So rug up!