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Amsterdam

by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair  |  August 2nd 2021

Amsterdam is a vibrant city filled with water canals, art museums, and an abundance of bicycles.

Aeme-stelle, which is Old Dutch, means “water area." When a dam was built in the 12th century to stop floods, a fishing village known as Aemestelredamme grew around it. The rest is history. 

Today, the capital city is a thriving metropolis, where locals and tourists enjoy its unique layout and eclectic mix of old and new.  Whether you visit for a day or a month, Amsterdam surely won't disappoint. Below is a list of the top sights and things to do. Enjoy!

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Walk Along the Canals

What is Amsterdam known for? Its canals! There are more than 160 canals in Amsterdam, one just as beautiful as the next. People flock from all over the world to cruise up and down these picturesque waterways by bicycle, foot, or boat. Numerous shops and hotels decorate the water's edge, while groups gather to dine at the diverse cafes and restaurants. Walking is a great way to have a slow, steady pace around this captivating city. 

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Rent a Bicycle

There are four times more bicycles than cars in Amsterdam. It's an easy and fun way to get around town. Local bicycle rental shops can be found right in the city center, and offer the perfect pick-up and drop-off location. For $10/day, you can ride all over the city, visiting the most treasured landmarks. 

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Canal Boat Ride

You really can't visit Amsterdam and not go on a canal boat ride. It's an exhilarating and unique way to see the city. There are numerous boat tours to choose from — some stop at the Anne Frank house, while others offer a romantic dinner cruise. Whichever one you choose, you'll most certainly enjoy this popular mode of transportation. 

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Damrak Narrow Houses

These stunning canal-facing houses have become one of the most recognized symbols of Amsterdam. Located in the busy city center, the Damrak houses connect Dam Square and Centraal Station. Whether you visit during sunrise, sunset, or during the ever-busy afternoon, these stunning houses will offer one of the prettiest sights in all of Amsterdam. 

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Anne Frank House

During World War II, Anne Frank and her family hid from Nazi soldiers inside this house for two years. The front has been renovated into a museum that gives visitors insight into the atrocities Jewish people faced, while the annexe has been preserved in its original condition. A visit here is often an emotional experience, and one that has a lasting reminder of the inhuman persecution of Jews and minorities. Tickets are usually sold out weeks in advance, so be sure to book online ahead of time.

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Stroopwafels

First made in the Dutch city of Gouda, a stroopwafel consists of two crispy waffles joined by a caramel filling. Found all over the Netherlands, fan favorites are definitely found in Amsterdam at van Wonderen, Rudi's, Melly's, and Lanskroon. Nibbling on this sweet treat while strolling up and down Amsterdam's beautiful canals is a superb way to spend a day. 

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Van Gogh Museum

This splendid museum houses more than 200 paintings from Vincent Van Gogh -- the largest collection in the world. It also displays some of his drawings and personal letters, offering an indepth look into the life of the 19th century artist. Tickets can be purchased online at the official website, where you can also find hours of operation and exhibition details.

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Rijksmuseum

Founded in 1809, the Rijksmuseum houses more than seven million pieces of art. There are over 250 rooms to explore, and a library with more than 35,000 books. This may be one of the coolest museums in the world.

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Red Light District

The Red Light District is definitely the most curious area in Amsterdam. While prostitution and marijuana consumption are illegal in other countries, they are accepted and regulated here. Red lights line the windows and doors of shops found in this neighborhood, giving it the distinctive nickname. There are also three unique museums to visit in the area -- the Hash Museum, The Erotic Museum, and the Museum of Prostitution. This neighborhood certainly isn’t for children, nor narrow-minded individuals. 

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Additional Tips

When to Go:  Amsterdam is a great destination to visit year-round, however, I think the best months to visit are April, May, September, and October. The temperatures are comfortable and the crowds are much lower than the summer months of June, July, and August. Christmastime is another great time to visit. The canals are beautifully decorated, and if you're lucky, you may witness some snowfall.

Where to Stay: Amsterdam has so many great hotels to choose from. A couple favorites are the Kimpton De Witt Amsterdam and the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

The euro is the main currency of The Netherlands, and 1 euro is equal to $1.16 USD.

Dutch is the main language of The Netherlands, but English is widely-spoken.