Amsterdam for the weekend: attractions and guide to the Dutch capital
Picturesque canals, old churches, museums tempting with masterpieces of brush masters, but also the world-famous red light district – Amsterdam attracts with diversity that is at your fingertips.
Amsterdam is a stinking city. I do not know what its inhabitants did to clean the air, but I think that a large part of the 40 or 50 million that they spent unnecessarily would be saved if they thought about how to widen the streets, wash them twice a day with pumps, deepen channels and forbid to immediately wash their underwear and throw dirt in it ”- this is how French philosopher Denis Diderot wrote about one of the largest cities in the Netherlands. Less than two and a half centuries have passed since the release of Travel to Holland, but looking at Amsterdam today, it’s hard to resist the impression that this distance should be measured in light years. Or maybe just Diderot’s assessment was unfair and resulted from his prejudices?
Because Amsterdam can delight. It is like a stunning potion composed of land and water. The churches, old houses, galleries full of masterpieces of brush masters, picturesque streets and canals crisscrossed with a thousand bridges can make you dizzy. On the other hand, somewhere between the products of human genius, the dark core of the city pulsates – a district of red lanterns with prostitutes grating in the windows and cafes, where you can legally buy soft drugs.
Here is a city that does not leave anyone indifferent. And that’s why you have to see them. The more that it is at your fingertips.
Two faces of the city, or what to see
So channels. It was thanks to them that Amsterdam gained the name of Venice of the North. There are as many as 160 of them in the city. The most important were created in the early seventeenth century, when the extensive expansion of the city began. They were bound in a system called Grachtengordel, which consisted of three main feet: Emperor, Lords and Ducal. They entwine the old city, and next smaller canals depart from them. Four years ago, Grachtengordel was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Among the canals beats the heart of Amsterdam – Dam Square, i.e. translating from the Dutch Dam Square. Centuries ago it grew between two dams built on the Amstel River. Today, its individual ends close the Royal Palace, the popular wax chamber Madame Tussaud, the historic Hotel Krasnapolski and the department store Bijenkorf (from the Dutch “ul”). In the center stands the Nationaal Monument, i.e. a monument commemorating the victims of World War II. Dam Square is a place where young people spend hours not only from Amsterdam. There are also organized many official and less official celebrations, such as the celebration of Liberation Day, fairs and book fairs. And it is Dam Square that can be turned into the beginning of a wandering around the city – necessarily leisurely, with thoughtfulness and an open head.
There are over 700 monuments in Amsterdam. It’s impossible to see everyone, so let’s focus on a few most important.
These certainly include the already mentioned Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis). The building was built in 1648 and for centuries was the seat of the city authorities. It was only changed by Louis Bonaparte, proclaimed King of the Netherlands by his brother Napoleon. In 1808 he decided that the Amsterdam City Hall would become his headquarters and ordered to rebuild it. Today, the palace is one of the three residences of the royal family, but the king is usually in the Hague. When it’s not in Amsterdam, the palace is open to the public. You can admire the splendid interiors (Italian marble floors and ceilings decorated with paintings by Rembrandt students), as well as a collection of French furniture and chandeliers. Prices: adults 10 euros, students – 9 euros, children up to 18 years old – free admission.
It is also worth paying attention to the Amsterdam churches. Westerkerk prides itself on having the highest tower, antique clock and organ in the city. Every Tuesday, organ concerts are organized in the temple. Rembrandt was also buried here, although the exact location of his grave is unknown.
In turn, Oude Kerk is the oldest church in Amsterdam. He was consecrated in 1306, and during the Reformation he was almost completely stripped of the supporters of Calvinist asceticism. Today it is known even from the oldest wooden vault in Europe and that … it stands in the heart of the red light district.
Museums are a separate chapter. There are over 50 of them in Amsterdam. The largest and probably the most famous is the National Museum (Rijksmuseum), where you can see, among others, five thousand paintings by authors such as Rembrandt and Vermeer. It was established in The Hague and was brought to Amsterdam thanks to the already mentioned Louis Napoleon. It is open daily from 9.00 to 17.00. Adults must pay 15 euros for tickets, children and young people under 18 – free admission. More information: https://amsterdamonline247.com/
Being in Amsterdam, you must also visit two museums, which were dedicated to great painters. The first is the Van Gogh Museum. Inside, the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works is exhibited (200 paintings, 500 drawings, plus 700 letters and personal belongings). The museum is open all year round, from March to September it can be visited from 9.00 to 18.00 (on Fridays to 22.00). The ticket costs 10 euros, with children and young people up to the age of 17 entering for free. More information: www.vangoghsmuseum.nl.
The second museum mentioned is the Rembrandt House. It is housed in a historic building (from 1606), where he lived and created the author of “Self-portrait with Saskia” for years. In the meticulously recreated interiors of his time, you can admire a large collection of paintings, drawings and engravings. The museum is open daily from 10.00 to 18.00. Adults will pay 12.5 euros for the ticket, children from 6 to 17 years old – 4 euros, while younger ones will enter for free. Details: www.rembrandthuis.nl
While wandering around Amsterdam, it’s worth remembering the home of Anne Frank. It was there that the family of a Dutch Jewish entrepreneur hid from the Nazis for two years. His teenage daughter wrote a diary all this time. In 1944, the hideout was exposed, and the Franko family was sent to a death camp. Years later, Anna’s diary was found and published. He quickly became a bestseller. The museum can be visited every day, and the opening hours depend on the season and day. Adults will pay 9 euros for the ticket, half the price for children and adolescents aged 10-17, children under the age of ten will enter for free. More information: Amsterdam Tours & Tickets
And those who get tired of communing with high culture products and a shocking history can look at one of the many exhibitions dedicated to far more mundane things. It is enough to mention the Museum of Marijuana, Hashish and Hemp or the Sex Museum.
And so we slowly reach the reverse, go to the dark side of the big city. The red light district has become one of the symbols of Amsterdam over the years. Once there was a harbor in the immediate vicinity, which is why it was full of taverns and houses of debauchery. Much of that climate has remained there to this day. In the marina district found a lot of pubs, clubs, cofeeshops, or cafes, where you can legally buy small amounts of so-called soft drugs. Her trademark, however, are shop windows, from which they are grateful to the prostitutes’ passers-by. Although the district is considered safe, the owners of many shrines are people of suspicious provenance. Therefore, since 2007, the city authorities are implementing a program that is to lead to their removal. As a result, some premises were closed. Anyway, the red light district is worth seeing, because it is one of the important elements determining the color of the city. However, it should be remembered that children should not necessarily take part in this part of the trip.