Amsterdam is a city filled with captivating stories, breathtaking art and architecture that have endured for centuries. It's a destination that appeals to both young and old alike. If you're in search of a relaxing day or weekend away, this 700-year-old capital of the Netherlands is the ideal spot to unwind. Plus, it boasts some of Europe's most captivating sights.
The Red Light District
The iconic Red Light District in Amsterdam is one of the city's most beloved attractions, and for good reason. Here you'll find an intriguing blend of old buildings, winding alleys, and canals all within a short stroll from one another.
Rosse Buurt (De Walletjes in Dutch) has been a legendary tourist destination for centuries. The medieval area known as De Wallen (De Walletjes) stands out due to its stunning combination of age-old architecture, leaning canal houses and narrow alleyways lined with classic bars. City officials are concerned about the area's reputation as a hotbed of drugs and prostitution, so they're actively working to improve it. In 2020, guided tours were banned from passing sex workers' windows, and discussions continue about whether brothels should be relocated out to an outer neighborhood.
Some sex workers and their families have expressed dismay about these new restrictions, with some even fearing a move outside their current neighborhood would force them out of the industry altogether. However, surveys conducted in 2020 revealed that most women still felt comfortable working where they currently resided.
In addition to window brothels, the RLD also boasts many sex clubs and coffeeshops. Some remain open all night while others open for only a few hours in the morning until around midnight. Tourists to the RLD may find history and culture fascinating, but there's much more to do here than just shop! For instance, Oude Kerk - an old church dating back to 14th century that's surrounded by canals - hosts cultural events, concerts and exhibitions throughout the year.
In the Red Light District, there are numerous museums that provide fascinating glimpses into both history and present. Ons lieve heer op solder is one such example - it conceals an ornate Catholic church within its 17th-century attic. Other attractions worth exploring in the Red Light District include the Red Light Secrets Museum of Prostitution and Amsterdam House of Sexuality. Both attractions provide an insightful look into the history and practice of prostitution as well as sex itself.
The Rembrandt House Museum
One of Amsterdam's most beloved sights is Rembrandt House Museum. This historic house, home to the Dutch painter between 1639 and 1658, must be visited by all tourists visiting Amsterdam. The Rembrandt House Museum is situated on Jodenbreestraat, a hipster area popular with wealthy merchants and artists in the 17th century. Restored to look just like Rembrandt's house and featuring his art work, this museum provides visitors with an authentic experience of his works.
At the museum, you'll have a rare opportunity to step back in time and observe Rembrandt's most celebrated works up close. Rooms have been recreated faithfully to their original appearance, plus there are numerous items from his daily life that have been preserved. Rooms important in the artist's life included his studio, where he painted paintings between 1639 and 1658. Additionally, there was an anteroom where he would meet clients, as well as a cabinet filled with seashells, weapons and other objects he collected.
At the museum, you can explore Rembrandt's life through an audio guide that is available in multiple languages. This is an excellent way to gain more insight into this renowned artist and his home; plus, you can listen on your phone or tablet while inside the exhibit. The museum features an impressive collection of Rembrandt's etchings and sketches, with around 250 on permanent display. Plus, you can witness a demonstration on how Rembrandt prepared oil paint in his reconstructed studio.
Visitors to the museum in Amsterdam can make a day trip out of it or take a short train ride or walk. Parking spots at Waterlooplein and Muziektheater/Stadhuis are just minutes away by foot or bicycle. For those interested in Rembrandt's life and works of art, the Rembrandt House Museum should not be missed. Spend some time exploring its rooms while learning about Rembrandt's legacy - you won't regret it!
The Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Boasting the world's largest collection of works by Van Gogh, it's an attractive destination both for locals and tourists alike. The Museum is situated on Museumplein, only a short walk away from the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum. Designed by Gerrit Rietveld after his death in 1973, its main building features an elliptical exhibition wing designed by Kisho Kurokawa which opened its doors to visitors in 1999.
A highlight of the Museum is its permanent collection, which documents Vincent Van Gogh's artistic development over time. You can view works from his early career in the Netherlands, his time spent in Paris, and finally his later years spent living in Arles. Witness Van Gogh's style evolve and feel its influence on those who followed in his footsteps. A series of archival recordings of his letters to his brother Theo offer a fascinating insight into Van Gogh's motivations and aspirations.
For an even more educational experience at the Van Gogh Museum, book one of their educational tours led by an expert guide who will explain each painting and the art movement surrounding them. On your tour you'll gain insight into Vincent's techniques and tools used to craft his masterpieces. Additionally, you'll discover the pigments he employed as well as how his artwork was influenced by others in his circle of artists.
Once your tour is over, head over to the cafe at the museum for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. It boasts stunning views of Museumplein and makes an ideal spot to unwind after a long day. On Friday evenings, the museum remains open until 9 pm, drawing in a younger crowd who appreciates DJs and music while they take in the collection. For a complete schedule of events, visitors should visit their website. Planning ahead and purchasing tickets with an established starting time can make for a smoother journey at the Van Gogh Museum. Alternatively, skip-the-line tickets are available online so that you can skip the lines and ensure your visit runs as planned.
Take a break from Amsterdam's busy streets at Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest). Situated on the outskirts of town, this 2,000-acre park has plenty to offer visitors. It's a popular destination for both locals and visitors alike, featuring waterways, woodlands, farm animals and well-marked cycling and walking paths.
When you visit, you can enjoy picnicking under the trees, swimming or kayaking and other fun activities for all ages. In summertime especially, the forest provides welcome respite from the heat. Kids and adults alike will love feeding the baby goats at Ridammerhoeve, a biodynamic farm. Here, the goats graze on organically grown grass while their milk is used to make cheese and ice cream.
There's also a petting zoo with goats, an outdoor pancake restaurant and Scottish Highland cattle that graze freely in the meadows surrounding the park. Dogs are welcome almost everywhere here too - making it an ideal spot for pet parents to exercise their furry friends. In 1934, the city of Amsterdam launched a work relief programme to assist unemployed citizens during high unemployment levels. Unfortunately, World War II interrupted construction and only ended after 1970 with the planting of the last tree.
Today, Amsterdamse Bos is one of Europe's largest city parks and a beloved recreation spot for both residents and tourists. At three times its size, this park features numerous animal parks, sporting clubs, rowing courses and gardens that make it one of the top recreational spots in Europe. There's plenty to do and see, including playgrounds, climbing areas, paddling ponds, animal parks and petting zoos. Plus you can go horse riding, watch concerts or play sports!
Not only is the forest a recreational park, but it's also host to national and international sport events. Furthermore, tourists flock to this popular tourist spot for various cultural experiences like music festivals.