Category Archives: Amsterdam Guide

Amsterdam Guide

Artis Royal Zoo (Amsterdam Zoo)

Amsterdam ZooStroll in nature’s oasis in the midst of the bustling city of Amsterdam. See more than 200 species of trees and more than 900 species of animals. Admire the gardens with their flowering bulbs in spring and study their rich vegetation in summer and autumn.

Founded in 1838, it was the first zoo in the Netherlands and with its gardens, museums and library it soon became a vibrant centre of social life. Just like the rest of Amsterdan, Artis boasts some of the most beautiful 19th century architecture, the Aquarium is a fine example.

On your visit to the zoo you will marvel at the stories nature has to tell you. See giraffes strolling with wildebeest, zebras, springbok and oryx. Walk among butterflies and experience lemurs up close. Look under the water of an Amsterdam Canal and study planets and stars in the Planetarium. Artis Royal Zoo is a truly remarkable place where nature meets culture and where knowledge merges with pleasure.

What to see on your visit?

The Aquarium – Located in the Great Hall you’ll become aquatinted to the wonders of the sea and the wildlife that live in the North Sea and the Zeeland estuary. See sharks, rays and other subtropical sea creatures too.

Butterfly Pavilion – The largest of its kind in the Netherlands, covering a thousand square meters and housing thousands of butterflies. The butterflies flitter through the air, settling briefly on flowers in the colourful borders along the walkways, where you can move freely. Twice a day, butterflies that have just crawled out of their cocoons are released into the pavilion.

Insectarium – In 2005, the former food storage facility was converted into an Insectarium. Insects are the most successful creatures on earth; there are more than 750,000 species in this class. Artis has a large collection of insects for you to see.

Botanical Gardens – This section is everywhere …  As you wander around Artis you will see a large array of flowers, bulbs and tulips native to Holland. In greenhouses you will also see the flowers found outside of Holland.

The Zoological Museum – Here you can learn about the relationship between man and nature. There are exhibits from nature conservationists Jac P. Thijsse and Eli Heimans. These exhibits include books and guides that they produced and the photographic equipment they used in their day.

Geological Museum – The general theme of the Geological Museum is the way in which life, atmosphere, water and Earth are all interrelated. Also home to precious stones and crystals you will receive a full and detailed explanation of how certain animals have adapted to suit their ever-changing surroundings.

Planetarium – This ‘Cosmosphere’ presents visitors with a series of highly informative displays about the stars, sun, moon, planets and the very universe itself. With fun interactive quiz games you can learn everything there is to know about space travel in all its glory.

Visitor Attractions in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of the busiest and most popular tourist destinations in the world and because of this there are many things to see and do. Whatever your looking for from a city break to Amsterdam your sure to find something that will interst you.

There are a few attractions that we’ve given more information on than others and so have there own page, these are

Sightseeing Tours in Amsterdam – Amsterdam has over 100km of canals and one of the best ways of seeing the city is on one of the many boat canal tours. Get more details on Amsterdam Canal Tours

Museums and History in Amsterdam – There are so many musuems in Amsterdam, we have special section on Amsterdam Museums.

Amsterdam is steeped in History and perhaps one of it’s most famous inhabitants in the last 100 years is Anne Frank – You can discover all about the Jewish wartime diarist who hid from Nazi persecution in Amsterdam during world war II. The Anne Frank house museum is an exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, the museum also has exhibitions to highlight all forms of persecution and discrimination. If you are only spending a short time in Amsterdam, here is our top 3  history and Museums attractions in Amsterdam.

  • The Rijksmuseum (National Museum)
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Anne Frank’s House

Other Attractions in Amsterdam

Shopping in Amsterdam – If you love to shop when your holiday then Amsterdam offers you a wealth of choice from department stores like De Bijenkorf to boutique and designer stores, or maybe it’s markets that excite you, whatever it is you can find out more with one of our two guides.

Amsterdam is also a major centre of the diamond trade and there are many shops and deals to be had. If shopping does interest you then you might also like the some of Amsterdam’s smaller museums like the Museum of Bags and Purses or Amsterdam’s Fashion Museum, get more info on these other Amsterdam museums.

Royal Palace Amsterdam

Royal Palace Amsterdam
Royal Palace Amsterdam

The Royal Palace Amsterdam is one of the four palaces in use by the Dutch Royal family. When the Royal family aren’t around, the palace is open to the public. Even if it is not open to the public when you are in Amsterdam, you can still come along and view the magnificent architecture of this beautiful and historical 17th century.

The Palace is located on the west side of Dam Square in the centre of Amsterdam, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk.

The Palace is normally opened from 12:00 – 17:00 every day during the peak of summer. It usually closed on Mondays the rest of the year. There is also many weeks when the palace is shut to public, when there is royalty staying there. You should check with the calendar though this is always subject to change.

It was originally built as city hall in the 17th century during the “Dutch Golden Age”, but the building became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon (brother of Napoleon Bonaparte) in the early 1800s. It would not stay a royal palace for long though and it soon became the home to French governor, Charles François Lebrun. A few years later after Amsterdam was made the official capital of the United Kingdom the Town Hall again became a royal palace.

There are currently four official palaces of the Dutch royal family, the Royal Palace Amsterdam, Soestdijk Palace in Baarn, Huis ten Bosch in the Hague and Noordeinde Palace also in the Hague. Noordeinde Palace is used as a work place for Queen Beatrix and the other 3 are all used as residences.

Amsterdam ArenA – AFC Ajax – Stadium Tour and Museum

The Amsterdam ArenA is the largest sporting stadium in all of Holland and is located at the south-eastern part of Amsterdam. It is the current home of AFC Ajax, probably the most famous Dutch football team.

A guided tour through the stadium with an experienced guide is available, which includes a visit to the Ajax Museum. The tour is about an hour in length and then you’ll spend about 30 minutes in the museum. Tours are run daily between 11am and 5pm* except on event days. If you are a wheelchair user, you need to make a reservation in advance for the tour.

Amsterdam ArenA
Amsterdam ArenA

Prices for 2010

  • Adults € 12.00 per person
  • Children 5 – 12 years € 10.00 per person

To get to the Stadium take Metro lines 50 and 54 stop at Strandvliet of at station Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA.

The Amsterdam ArenA was completed in 1996 and was used for the UEFA Champions League final in 1998 and the Euro 2000 semi-final, it has a retractable roof which can be closed during bad weather. Total capacity is 51,715 seats during sports matches and 68,000 during concerts if a center-stage setup is used. The arena has featured some of music’s biggest stars including U2, The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Robbie Williams.

*Opening hours and tour departure times are subject to change on and around event days.

Canals in Amsterdam

By far the best way to see Amsterdam is by boat!  From the canals, you have the best view of Amsterdam, and there are a couple of ways to get around on the canals.

Amsterdam Canal Tours – Taking a canal cruise in Amsterdam is probably the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Holland, over 3 million passengers a year choose to enjoy a canal cruise from one of Amsterdam’s many operators. They do so for a very good reason, as the city was built to be seen from the canals.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise
Amsterdam Canal Cruise

With over 3 million tourists and locals to accommodate, there are many companies offering canal cruises all with different locations, prices and boats! You’ll find a very comprehensive list of canal tour companies on Google

Canal Bus - (www.canal.nl) does several circuits between Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum between 9.50am and 8pm. Day passes cost €18/12 per adult/child.  The day pass is valid until noon the next day.

Canal bikes – The Canal Bus company also offers canal bike (pedal boat) rental (www.canal.nl/bike/en/).  Canal Biking is the ultimate way to enjoy the capital city: you can forget the traffic and in your own tempo take a truly memorable and fun trip round the canals.  These cost €8 per person per hour, and are open from 10am until 6pm (10pm in summer).  Moorings are at Rijksmuseum, Leidseplein, Anne Frank House and Keizersgracht/Leidsestraat.

Renting a boat – You can rent a boat with friends, family or colleagues and spend a few hours or an entire day cruising through the Amsterdam canals, and could potentially see many Amsterdam events from your own private boat.  You can either opt for a boat with a skipper or a boat without a skipper.  There are many boat companies who offer trips on an hourly basis or private party boats.  All boat companies are collectively listed on www.rentaboatamsterdam.com.



Museums in Amsterdam – Museumplein

With more than 50 museums, Amsterdam packs a big cultural punch.  From long-established institutions famous around the globe to lesser-known hidden treasures, the permanent and temporary collections in Amsterdam offer art and history, alongside the unexpected and the unusual.

Museumplein

Although you are likely to enjoy them more than once, first-time visitors will most likely want to visit some Amsterdam’s most famous museums.  The most important museums of Amsterdam are located on het Museumplein (Museum Square).

rijksmuseum amsterdam
Rijksmuseum

The northern part of the square is bordered by the very large Rijksmuseum; home to the largest and most important collection of classical Dutch art.  Artists work displayed here include a large selection of Rembrandt paintings, and paintings from artists like Van der Helst, Vermeer, Frans Hals, Ferdinand Bol, Albert Cuijp, Van Ruysdael and Paulus Potter.

The western part of the square is bordered by two of Amsterdams most popular museums, the Stedelijk Museum and Amsterdams most visited museum, the Van Gogh Museum.

The Stedelijk Museum is Amsterdams largest modern and contemporary art museum, and contains works from artists like Piet Mondriaan, Karel Appel, and Kazimir Malevich.

The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the early works of Van Gogh (he lived in Amsterdam for a little while).  Here, you can marvel at some of Vincent’s most famed brush strokes; indeed, some of Van Goghs most famous paintings are housed here including the Aardappeleters (The Potato Eaters) and Zonnenbloemen.  But this museum also teaches about the artist himself, and you can find out more about the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Vondelpark

Vondelpark
Vondelpark

The Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s most popular park; a busy gathering place and a hub of entertainment.  The park was opened in 1865 and originally named the “Nieuwe Park” (New Park), but later renamed to “Vondelpark”, after the 17th century author Joost van den Vondel.  The park is home to a number of Amsterdam’s popular attractions, and is a great place to unwind after a busy morning or afternoon sightseeing!

Several cafes, bars & restaurants are available within the park.  These include the Groot Melkhuis café & restaurant, Café Vertigo (the bar/restaurant of the film museum), Vondeling (the bar/restaurant of the open air theatre), and the Blauwe Theehuis bar/restaurant (‘Blue Tea House’).

Filmmuseum
Filmmuseum

Located within the Vondelparkpaviljoen (a 19th century pavilion), is the Netherlands Filmmuseum, the national film museum.  The museum holds 46,000 film titles, 35,000 posters and 450,000 photographs.  The earliest materials held in the Filmmuseum date from the start of the film industry in Holland in 1895.  Within this pavilion, there is also the Filmmuseum movie theatre.  The museum also organizes exhibitions, lectures, debates, and in the summer there are open air films on the terrace.

Vondelpark
Vondelpark

The film screenings range from 19th century silent films to contemporary digital productions, and are screened regularly.  Every two years newly restored films from the collection are screened during the Filmmuseum Biennial.

The Vondelpark Openluchttheater (open-air theater) is an open air theatre with shows from June until August.  There are performances from all sorts of music genres and groups, including classical music, pop music, world music, dance, musical theatre and cabaret. The theatre receives a subsidy from the city government.  Although visitors are asked for a donation of one euro, all performances have free entry.

Cycling in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is quite a compact city.  Although most distances can be walked, if they can’t, they can most definitely be biked.  Bikes are probably the most effective way of getting around Amsterdam, and certainly the most popular.  If you walk through the city, you can see as many as 700,000 bikes, and probably 4 times a many padlocks.  Despite this, around 100,000 bikes are stolen each year in Amsterdam.

Cycling in Amsterdam
Cycling in Amsterdam

To carry a bike aboard a train, you’ll need to purchase a bike day pass (€6), valid throughout the country, and carriage is subject to availability of space.  Collapsible bikes can be carried for free.

Bike hire

All the companies listed here require ID plus a credit card imprint or a cash deposit with a passport. Many rental agencies require that you bring your passport as proof of ID.

  • Bike City (www.bikecity.nl) there isn’t any advertising on these bikes, so you can pretend you’re a local!
  • Damstraat Rent-a-Bike (www.rentabike.nl) – largest stock of tandem bikes in Amsterdam
  • MacBike (www.macbike.nl) Centraal Station; Visserplein; Weteringschans. – Well known in Amsterdam for their distinctive red bikes

If you stay longer than a week in the city, it might be worthwhile buying your own bike.  A good second hand bike should cost you about €70, plus €40 for a couple of locks. People in the street will approach you sometimes offering bikes for sale a whole lot cheaper than this – in all likelihood it’ll be one of those 100,000 stolen ones.  Get yourself at least two good locks and make sure your bike is tied to something secure.

Other Museums in Amsterdam

Although the busiest museums and those most popular with tourists the ones located on the Museumplein, Amsterdam boasts a huge number of other museums. Discover some of these hidden treasures on your visit to Amsterdam.

  • Life in Amsterdam & the Netherlands

Amsterdams Historisch MuseumThe Amsterdam Historical Museum (Historisch Museum) tells the story of the growth of the Dutch capital. Discover seven centuries of Amsterdam’s history; once a small settlement on the banks of the Amstel, and now a busy, diverse metropolis.  The collections of works of art, objects and archaeological finds within the Historisch Museum bring the history of Amsterdam to life. The museum will aslo usually have on a number of other exhabitions, you get more on these at the official Amsterdams Historisch Museum‘s website

Amsterdam has seven exquisite canal houses, each of which has its own distinct character, reflected in its collection, exhibitions, and the style of each wonderfully unique building.  But all conjure up images of a bygone-era, offering an opportunity to appreciate some of the many different interiors of this historic city.  The Canal museums are: the Biblical Museum/the Cromhouthouses, Huis Marseille, the Museum for Photography, Museum Our Lord in the Attic, Museum Van Loon, The Rembrandt House Museum and the Willet-Holthuysen Museum.

The Houseboat Museum (Woonbootmuseum) gives you the exclusive chance to experience what life is like onboard a houseboat in an Amsterdam canal.  The picturesque location in the Prinsengracht canal on the edge of the Jordaan provides an appropriate background for the museum vessel. On board the Houseboat museum you can see how this genuine barge was transformed into a cosy houseboat, equipped with genuine skipper’s quarters including a sleeping bunk, living room, kitchen and bathroom.

In the Museum Het Rembrandthuis, you can imagine yourself in a day in the life of Rembrandt; Holland’s most renowned artist.  The years Rembrandt spent in this house were the high point of his career, when he was regarded as a star and ran the largest painting studio in Holland. The historic interior has been restored to its former glory and furnished with items and works of art from Rembrandt’s time.  You can see where his son Titus was born, the workroom where he printed his etchings and, of course, the master’s studio.  The museum exhibits approximately 250 etchings by Rembrandt and paintings by his predecessors and pupils.

amsterdam tupilsThe Amsterdam Tulip Museum (Tulpenmuseum) details Holland’s fascinating horticultural story, including a phenomena known as Tulipomania (a period when a craze of trading in tulips bulbs took root in the Netherlands when people even sold their houses to invest in tulip stock exchanges).  Located in the Jordaan, the Tulpenmuseum pays tribute to this delicate flower.

  • Sports & Olympics

A permanent homage to Dutch sportsmen/women, the Olympic Experience is an interactive centre in the Olympisch Stadion, which was built as the main stadium for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam.  The exhibition represents the past, present and future of Dutch sports through an original multimedia exhibition, allowing visitors to take a journey through the catacombs of the Olympisch Stadion, and to experience what it is like to be a professional sportsperson.

The Ajax Museum is situated, of course, within the Amsterdam ArenA stadium, home grounds of Ajax.  The Ajax museum covers the rich history of the club; the most famous in Holland.  The Ajax Museum holds a huge array of items including football boots, certificates, contracts and shirts.  Guided tours of the stadium are also available…

  • Fashion

The National Museum of Spectacles allows you to travel through 700 years of art, culture and history of spectacles!

Apparently considered to be one of the top fashion museums in the world, the Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrikje) in Amsterdam demonstrates the history of the ladies bag from the Middle Ages to present day.  It is the only museum in the world with such a wide-ranging collection of bags, and in fact houses a collection of more than 4000 bags, pouches, cases, purses and accessories.

Located in the WestCord Fashion Hotel, Amsterdam’s Fashion Museum is now open seven days a week to showcase fashion designers from many countries.

Amsterdam Red-Light District

Amsterdam’s red-light district is perhaps one of the cities most famous tourist attractions – the largest and most well known red-light district is De Wallen, also known as Walletjes or Rosse Buurt, and is a designated area for legalized prostitution.  It consists of a network of roads and alleys containing several hundred small, one-room apartments rented by female sex Amsterdam Red-Light Districtworkers who offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.  The area has a number of sex shops, sex theatres and peep shows, amongst other attractions.

Located within the red light district is the world’s first and oldest sex museum: the Venustempel.  A leading museum on the theme of sensual love, the Venustempel contains an extensive collection of erotic pictures, paintings, objects, recordings, photographs and other attractions.  Since opening its doors in 1985, the “Venustempel” is now visited by some 500.000 visitors every year, making it one of the best-visited museums in Amsterdam!  You do need to be at least 16 yrs old to enter, so don’t attempt to take the kids along…

Alongside these attractions is Amsterdam’s Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, which details the history, present and future of the cannabis plant.  The scent of genuine cannabis plants welcomes the visitor when entering the museum, and once inside, all aspects of the cannabis plant are explained in detail using a variety of media. The museum contains a large collection of traditional smoking devices from all over the world.  There is also an extensive library of books, photos, posters, and magazines related to the culture of cannabis, which range from the 19th Century to the Jazz era and on to contemporary pop culture.  Also around this area are a number of coffee shops which offer various cannabis products.