Amsterdam for First-Timers

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An orientation full of popular stops

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One of Europe’s top short-break destinations, Amsterdam is a city of culture, history and more liberal entertainments. With a never-ending supply of side-streets and hidden corners to explore, it is easy to get distracted, missing the most significant and popular attractions. To ensure that doesn’t happen to you, make time for the following:

Museums of Amsterdam

Whether you decide to be hard-core and do all the museums at the same time or prefer to mix them in amongst other leisurely pursuits, be prepared to spend more time than you might first imagine—these are paintings from the great masters after all!

Tip: Museums in the Netherlands are not free and if you plan to visit several of them you will soon see the numbers add up. However, many of the museums participate in the Museum Card initiative. You buy the card for a one off payment and then have free access to over 400 museums arounds the country. You will need to cancel the card before it renews the following year (minimum four weeks before), but the effort is well worth the savings. Cards can be bought online or at most of the participating museums.

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Art in Amsterdam

The Netherland’s largest museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum are both near each other on Museumplein. So is the Stedelijk Museum if you also want to throw some modern art into the mix. Don’t forget to pop to the back of the Rijksmuseum for the infamous I amsterdam letters. They provide the perfect backdrop for a photo op.

History of Amsterdam

Historical sites you’ll want to visit are the Royal Palace, Museum Het Rembrandthuis and the Anne Frank House. Ticket availability for the Anne Frank House, where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II, will determine a lot of your agenda, so book as soon as you can.

While exploring, you’ll probably pass the Royal Palace in Dam Square a few times. Make sure you step inside one of those times. The palace is still used for official functions and is closed off-season, so check the website first. If it is closed, try substituting the Stedelijk Museum, the Heineken Experience or a stroll in Vondelpark. The later, a park that dates back to 1864 when leading Amsterdammers came together to turn the soggy marshland into a landscaped park, provides a welcome break from the busy streets of the city.

And if time allows, visit the Museum Het Rembradthuis to be able to say you visited Rembrandt’s house or to learn the art of paint preparation.

Eat, Shop and Travel in Amsterdam

Head to the Nine Streets for some atmospheric shopping in historical streets before stopping at the Vlaams Frietshuis Vleminckx for fries and 25 different sauce options. Don’t forget to visit Amsterdam Centraal Station (apart from your travel time) to appreciate the neo-renaissance building from the 1880s.

The Red Light District

Many people want to dip a toe into the Red Light District just to say they have been. If that’s you, put the cameras away and head to the area around Oudezijds Achterburgwal. If you’d rather not, that’s okay too!

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