Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It derives its name from the fact that it is situated where the Amstel River was joined by a sluice dam built around 1240.
Amsterdam is one of Europe's great destinations. The city is built around semi-circular rings of canals crossed by over 400 bridges. People are prone to calling it the "Venice of the North" but Amsterdam takes a back seat to no one in the travel interest department.
When to go to Amsterdam
The Netherlands have a temperate maritime climate with cool winters and mild summers. The best weather in Amsterdam is April-October. April and May are good for viewing those famous tulips. Winter can be cold, soggy and gray, but who could resist canal skating or sitting around the fireplace in a medieval Dutch home with a hot toddy in hand? Consult Amsterdam climate and precipitation charts for a historic look at Amsterdam's Weather.
Amsterdam Art and Museums
Yes, there really were quite a number of Dutch masters. They knew the light. My favorites are portraits of peasant life infused by the ruddy glow of firelight, or maybe it's Holland's famous gin (genever).
Amsterdam, as you can imagine, has numerous art museums. Rembrandt is well represented at the Rijksmuseum, along with other important Dutch artists. The Van Gogh museum is a must for art lovers as well, and the house of Anne Frank museum should be a must for everyone who might be inclined to view arbitrary hate as a solution to social problems. See Amsterdam Museums for more.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
The Grand Hotel Krasnapolski is the luxury choice for a stay in Amsterdam. Less expensive is the highly rated Bed and Breakfast Amsterdam4Holiday - Amsterdam, where you'll find rooms inside a typical 17th century house near the Flower Market.
If you're staying longer than a couple of days, you may wish to rent a home or apartment in Amsterdam. HomeAway (book direct) has a nice selection of user-rated vacation rentals.
Think bicycles, trams, boats and buses. You probably don't want to drive here. But then again you don't have to; the public transportation options are easy, fast, and in the case of canal boats, sometimes romantic.
How Amsterdam Trams and Buses Work
Amsterdam is divided into zones. A ticket to ride within a single zone costs 1.60 Euros. Each additional zone crossed costs .80 Euro. You can get discount (stripcard or "strippencard") cards at tobacconists as well as GVB (the transport company) outlets. Each strip on the card represents an .80 euro journey. If you ride the bus or tram a lot, you can get a one, two or three day pass at the same outlets as well.
The Canal Bus
For 16 Euros you can glide to many tourist destinations in Central Amsterdam on the Canal Bus. Your ticket to ride is good all day and until noon the next. Kids ride for 11 Euros.
Airports and Trains
Amsterdam's Central Station is smack in the middle of the concentric circle of canals. It is a busy station, and you might think of reserving tickets in advance for your trip out of Amsterdam.
The main Amsterdam Airport is Schiphol. The train is the fastest and most convenient way to get to Schiphol. From Schiphol, you can get trains to anywhere in the Netherlands.
Dangers: Be aware that pickpockets frequent the train from Schiphol to the central station, as well as ATM locations.
Get More Amsterdam Transportation Information
Get detailed information on transportation in Amsterdam from our Amsterdam transportation category.
Food in Amsterdam
Try Indonesian rijsttafel, a "rice table" that came to Amsterdam as a result of Dutch colonial exploits. Beware that many restaurants have adjusted seasonings toward the bland to fit local and tourist taste, so the food may not be as authentic as you think. Here are some suggestions for where to eat it: Best Indonesian Restaurants in Amsterdam.
As in US cities, Amsterdam has a wealth of different cuisines represented. You'll be able to eat outside or in a garden in many restaurants in the summer.
The Concertgebouw is considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world, as well as being home to one of the greatest orchestras.
Begun as an herb garden for doctors and pharmacists in 1682, the Amsterdam Botanical Garden grew when it added East India Company's exotic offerings. Now there's tons of greenhouses and a peaceful cafe.
Het Koninklijk Paleis te Amsterdam (The Royal Palace of Amsterdam)
The Royal Palace is a 17th century elaborate town hall turned into a royal palace by Napoleon in 1808, from whence comes the large collection of Empire style furniture, chandeliers and clocks. The palace is still used for official functions by the Queen. In the Summer the palace is open to the public.
Amsterdam is represented in the devilishly clever Crumpled Cities Maps of Europe
For more Amsterdam, see our Amsterdam Travel Directory for information on all the important museums, lodging, restaurants, printable maps, and tourist sights in Amsterdam. Also see the about.com site completely devoted to Amsterdam.