Multifaceted and modern. The soul of Amsterdam, capital of the Netherlands is explained by these two adjectives. The city is spread over 100 canals, crossed by 600 bridges connecting 90 islands. Cycling and public transport have been the main transport for zero-emission sustainable mobility for years, with taxis to boats sailing along the canal belt. Its history is full of culture, contamination and transformation. Discover the 20 things you can't miss, also thanks to Costa excursions. From the Van Gogh Museum, to Anne Frank's house, from the canal tour to the flower market. And if you go slightly out of the city there will be other surprises too.
  • Amsterdam's centre and canals
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Stedelijk Museum
  • Rembrandt House
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Anne Frank's House
  • Concertgebouw
  • Bloemenmarkt and other Amsterdam markets
  • Heineken Experience
  • Dam Square and the Royal Palace
  • Mint Tower
  • Western Church
  • New Church
  • Red Light district
  • Around Amsterdam: Delft
  • Around Amsterdam: Haarlem
  • Around Amsterdam: The Hague
  • Around Amsterdam: Keukenhof's Garden
  • Around Amsterdam: Zaanse Schans
  • Around Amsterdam: Alkmaar

Amsterdam's centre and canals

The centre of Amsterdam has a unique charm thanks to its beautiful buildings with traditional Dutch architecturepicturesque canals and small hidden alleys where you can find fashionable boutiques, exceptional museums and unmissable cafes. The heart of Amsterdam is the Mediaeval Centre, the oldest district in the city and the most touristy, where you can still breathe the atmosphere of the lush past. Nieuwmarkt, a neighbourhood full of clubs and bar is also nice and lively. 

One of Amsterdam's greatest beauties is linked to its past and history. The seventeenth century, the famous Golden Age, brought riches and glory, but also posed new challenges, such as the population explosion. It was to cope with this emergency that the canal belt was built around the old city. The main ones are: The Singel (old mediaeval moat outside the walls); Heren, Keiser and Prinzen. Around these 4 a very dense network of secondary channels (160 in all) developed, connected by an equally dense network of bridges (600). An absolutely sui generis urban structure that Unesco listed as a World Heritage Site in 2010. It is in the Amsterdam Canal Belt that you will find many of the main city attractions, not forgetting that the canal boat tour is itself an attraction not to be missed.

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum (National Museum) is the most important Dutch museum and is located in Museumplein, a manicured square-park that also includes the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum, a museum of modern and contemporary Dutch art. Entering will be like taking a trip into the history of Dutch art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. For the first time visitors can now travel through the centuries, savouring moments of intense beauty and thus gaining a new awareness of the time. The history of the Netherlands is presented in an international context, along a chronological path set up on four floors of the museum in 80 rooms.

The Rijksmuseum houses the richest collection of paintings from the so-called "Golden Century", the 17th century that saw the commercial and colonial expansion of the Netherlands. The museum building is elegant and majestic and drags you into the atmosphere of Flemish art before you even cross the threshold. 

The most famous work is "The Night's Watch" by Rembrandt, a painting, which many critics have assumed to be the watershed in the life of the Dutch artist marked by a youth of success and, on the contrary, an increasingly problematic maturity. The museum's library is also worth a visit (Rijksmuseum Research Library) the most comprehensive public library on the history of art in the Netherlands. 

Stedelijk Museum

If Flemish art is not in your interests, you can take refuge at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam's museum of modern and contemporary art. From Picasso to Chagall, continuing until the end of Pop art and industrial design. Temporary exhibitions are set up in the modern part of the museum, while in the old building there is a permanent collection of works by Manet, Mandrian, Appel, Chagall, Picasso Jackson Pollock, Gerrit Rietveld, Ettore Sottsass and Andy Warhol, (I), amongst others.

A collection that spans over a century of history – from 1870 to the present day. The spectacular architecture of the building, located in Museumplein Square, has made the museum a true icon of the modern landscape. Currently its collection, one of the most significant in the world, boasts 90,000 items. The ground floor of the Stedelijk is dedicated to collection-based themed presentations, which analyse works from new and current perspectives. The first floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions in continuous rotation. An opportunity to fill your eyes with colours and your head with ideas and suggestions. 

Rembrandt House

The house where the famous Dutch painter lived between 1639 and 1656 is now a museum. Inside you can see a part of his paintings and 250 etchings and even furnishings and locals of his era, an important insight into the daily life of the largest city of the Dutch seventeenth century. Rembrandt bought this house in 1639 for 13,000 forints, a considerable sum for that period.

Despite his acquired fame, in fact, the pressure of the mortgage instalments led the artist to no longer be able to bear the expense, so much so that his subsequent bankruptcy, in 1656, forced him to move to a smaller house where he lived until his death (1669). In 1906 the city of Amsterdam bought the now dilapidated building and shortly afterwards sold it to Rembrandthuis Stichting, the Rembrandt Foundation. Thanks to the documents transcribed during the post-bankruptcy declaration inventory, it was possible to carry out a careful reconstruction Dutch painter’s life path.

The museum is divided into two parts: the seventeenth-century house, where you can visit the rooms and the new wing of the museum, and in which visitors will find the permanent exhibition of almost all Rembrandt's etchings and the rooms that welcome the temporary exhibitions.

Van Gogh Museum

A key stage is the beautiful Van Gogh Museum. Here is the widest collection of Van Gogh paintings of the world. In fact, it is more than just a museum: it is a journey into the life of the painter, through all his emotional stages, which led him over time to change his vision of the world and his way of portraying it. The collection consists of 500 drawings, 200 paintings and over 700 letters.

The museum path develops along two buildings and accompanies visitors through van Gogh's various artistic stages, from the gloomy canvases typical of Dutch art to the brightly coloured landscapes of the Impressionist style. The permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum is organised chronologically into five periods and is exhibited on three levels; In addition to paintings and drawings there are personal items such as brushes, temperas, desks and letters written to his friend Paul Gauguin and his brother Theo. The exhibition is enriched by works by other painters who were friends with Van Gogh, and we find paintings of ManetMonetGauguin, Rodin, Bernard, Breton and Signac. 

Anne Frank's House

The history of Amsterdam intertwined with the history of Europe and the tragic events of the World War II. Some buildings and places in the city are testament to that period of horror. One of them is Anne Frank's house, the one where the little girl wrote her famous diary. It is a museum where you can relive the atmosphere of World War II, in the days of occupied Holland.

Everything has remained as it was then, thanks to careful restorations that preserved the testimonies of the clandestine life to which members of the Frank family were forced. Anne Frank's House is recognised by the queue that every day forms at the entrance and that winds along the canal that it overlooks. It's a place full of history and emotion. Passing through the revolving library leading to the Frank family's hiding place, we take a leap back in time live for a moment in her diary.

Visitors to the Museum find themselves before all the secrets of those rooms: photographs, postcards and even Anne Frank's favourite images, those of the British royal family with pictures of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret placed in front of a desk. 

 

Concertgebouw

One of Amsterdam's most beautiful buildings, located in Museumplein, is home to one of the most famous concert halls in the world. The Concertgebouw offers extraordinary acoustics and world-class programming. It is the headquarters of the Concertgebouw Royal Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world. Other internationally renowned orchestras, such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic perform periodically in the Main Hall. The Concertgebouw was inaugurated in 1888 and has since hosted all the great names in the history of music. Composers as famous as Mahler Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky played their works here. Legendary musicians like Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin and Vladimir Horowitz have performed on this stage. In addition, unforgettable pop and jazz concerts have taken place here, with protagonists such as Aretha Franklin, (Istha), The Who and Sting.

Bloemenmarkt and other Amsterdam markets

A rainbow of colours and a cloud of perfumes: This is what you will find at Bloemenmarkt, Amsterdam's flower market. The stalls are attached to each other and the passages between them are narrow because they are filled with flowers in every corner. The whole market is floating: every stall is actually a barge floating on the water. It is located on the Singel Canal, between Koningsplein and Muntplein.

Daily fresh flowers are brought from the surrounding cultivated areas. Most tourists buy tulip bulbs to take home or typical Dutch souvenirs in one of the many small shops in the area. Amsterdam is a city famous for its markets, the best known is Albert Cuyp, in the De Pijp district. It's the biggest outdoor market in Europe with more than 260 stalls. You can find everything from tropical fruit to fish, books, electronics, and clothing. Another rather popular market is Waterlooplein.

The best flea market is located behind the Stopera in Amsterdam. Here you will find old records, old photos, vintage clothes, second-hand sunglasses and lots of fun curiosities.

Heineken Experience

The brewery of the famous Heineken beer has been a tourist attraction since 1991. Here you can go on a fantastic interactive and dynamic tour around the world of Heineken, discovering the natural ingredients of beer, observing the fermentation process and visiting the tasting room. There is so much information and curiosities to discover, including partnerships with the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup. And of course at the end of the visit there will be the tasting and the chance to learn how to pull a pint of beer perfectly.

Dam Square and the Royal Palace

Giant, crossed by pedestrians, trams, tourists and bicycles. Dam Square is the heart of the city, animated by fairs, rides, markets and street artists who flock to this huge cobblestone square at any time of year. It has always been the scene of greatest protests and demonstrations, such as student demonstrations, but it was also the heart of hippy culture in the 1960s and still today is a favourite destination for street artists. Dam Square overlooks the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis), the Nieuwe Kerk (literally "New Church", to distinguish it from the Oude Kerk, the "Old Church"), the Nationaal Monument (a 22-metre obelisk to remember the fallen of World War II).

Among the main attractions of the square is the Royal Palace. Il Koninklijk Paleis is a majestic building. When not used by the Dutch royal family or it is not hosting state visits and ceremonies, it can be visited as well as admired from the outside. Discover the rooms, paintings and a collection of empire-style furniture that is amongst the most important in Europe. Originally the majestic building had been built to house the Town hallits construction began in 1648, the year of independence of the Netherlands, in the period of greatest economic splendour. The building was all too luxurious and majestic to be used as a town hall; In fact, it "only" remained such for 150 years.

In 1808, Luigi Bonaparte, appointed King of the Netherlands by his brother Napoleon, decided to restructure it and make it the Royal Palace. When the Empire crumbled a few years later, and King Louis Bonaparte fled Amsterdam, he left antique furniture of great value and real artistic masterpieces inside the palace, some of which can still be observed today.

Mint Tower

La Munttoren, the Mint Tower, is a famous Renaissance-style bell tower in Amsterdam's Muntplein. It was built in the 1720s by the architect Hendrick de Keyser the Elder on the ruins of the Regulierspoort, part of the mediaeval walls dating back to the 1580s. The tower was mainly to mint coins until it was burned in 1618. The guard house, which had survived the fire, was almost completely replaced with a neo-Renaissance-style building at the end of the 19th century. The Baroque dome which since 1620 has topped the tower was designed by Hendrick de Keyser. The carillon, added in 1699, is attributed to the famous bell-maker Francois Hémony, who had opened a workshop with his brother Pierre, also a bell-maker.

Western Church

The most important meeting place of Amsterdam's reformed Dutch community is Westerkerk, the "Western Church". The building, built in the Baroque style between 1620 and 1631 on the design of Hendrick de Keyser, is located within the Jordaan district, on the banks of the Prinsengracht canal, in the western canal circle. For many this is the area that best represents the restrained, but polite style of the Dutch capital. Here the great painter Rembrandt is buried, although no one knows exactly where.

Some believe he is buried in an unspecified place along the northern perimeter of the church. Together with the artist, his partner Hendrickie Stoffels and perhaps his little son Titus van Rijn. Westertkerk is often mentioned in Anne Frank's diary, as she drew great consolation from the peal of the church bells when exiled. Reaching the top of the tower allows you to admire one of Amsterdam's most beautiful views, even if the company is not available to everyone.

In addition to its great spiritual value, Westerkerk holds an enviable record: it is the highest church bell tower in the city: (85 metres) and is the largest Protestant church in the Netherlands. Outside the church is a memorial statue dedicated to Anne Frank and, not far from it, theHomonument, a memorial formed by three triangles in pink granite to remember the gays and lesbians persecuted during Nazism.

New Church

The New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) is located in the central Dam Square: this is the place where the coronation ceremony for Dutch royalty takes place, the other major city celebrations are celebrated including the National Day of the Fallen, scheduled for May 4. It's an imposing fifteenth-century building that attracts the gaze of passers-by with its flamboyant Gothic style: a riot of spires, stained glass windows, plums and rampant arches. Born as a Catholic church, in name of the Virgin and Saint Catherine, it was soon converted to Protestantism Over the centuries it has been destroyed (there were three fires) and rebuilt several times and currently it is no longer a spiritual building, but location of organ concerts and anthropological exhibitions. Inside, you can also see temporary installations, an organ of 1655, some tombs, mausoleums, epitaphs and a pulpit dating back to the second half of the 15th century.

Red light district

The De Wallen, also called red light district (Rosse Buurt in Dutch), is perhaps the most visited neighbourhood in Amsterdam. The area is almost entirely dedicated to entertainment for adults. It has a reputation for being Amsterdam's most transgressive place, but it has much more to offer. Here the oldest craft in the world is legal but the Red Light District is also a vibrant and historic place to explore and get to know. The Red Light District is a multi-faceted neighbourhood. Of course it is famous worldwide for its sexy shops, night-clubs and for its women in the shop windows, but it's also an area full of bars, shops, restaurants. In addition, the area is home to some of Amsterdam's best-known coffee shops.

Around Amsterdam: Delft

South of Amsterdam is a little gem worth visiting: Delft. This town gave birth to the painter Vermeer, and is famous throughout the Netherlands for its beautiful white and blue ceramics. The wonderful Vermeer Centrum Delft is dedicated to the famous artist. It is a small museum that preserves some of his works, especially landscapes and in which you can retrace all the stages of his life with the help of technology. Its old town retains the charm of the old and typical Dutch towns, where strolling amongst the traces of a sumptuous past to then take a break at one of the many restaurants and bars with terraces from which to admire the city.

Around Amsterdam: Haarlem

With an abundance of historic sites, dating back 800 years, cultural attractions and hidden gems enclosed in a relatively small city, a visit to Haarlem it's a great option for a trip, as it's thirty kilometres from Amsterdam. The centrepiece of daily life in Haarlem, Grote Markt Square, regularly hosts festivals, concerts and markets. Strolling around the city's old town you will also encounter mediaeval buildings, quiet courtyards and picturesque views of the Spaarne River. And right in front of the water is the Molen de Adriaan windmill.

Around Amsterdam: The Hague

The Hague is the only major city with a beach directly on the North Sea coast. The city boasts several monuments, luxurious hotels and is a political headquarters. The Historic Binnenhof houses the headquarters of the Dutch government, while Noordeinde Palace is the king's work place. Here you can visit beautiful art museums and spend a day of shopping in style. Internationally, it is known as the "judicial capital of the world", as several international tribunals are based here. These include the International Court of Justicethe International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia

And the International Criminal Court. The Hague is also home to more than 150 international organisations, as well as many EU institutions, multinational companies and embassies. The city's inhabitants consider Zeeheldenkwartier to be the most beautiful neighbourhood. This unique area of the city sees an alternation of palaces of international institutions and characteristic 19th century mansions, with their beautiful courtyards.

Around Amsterdam: Keukenhof's Garden

Keukenhof, which is located not far from Amsterdam, is the world's best-known and largest flower park. It's a green area that contains over 7 million flower bulbs, planted every year. The gardens and four greenhouses offer a fantastic collection of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, lillies and many other flowers. A show of colours and perfumes that is unparalleled.

Around Amsterdam: Zaanse Schans

Just over a quarter of an hour by train north of Amsterdam, there's Zaanse Schans, the area famous for its mills: a walk here will take you back in time quite a few centuries. In this place you will find authentic mansions, windmills, a pewter factory, a farm for cheese production and other artisanal activities. The traditional local style is clearly visible both inside and outside. In the 17th century, the Zaanse Schans area had more than 600 windmills, which together went on to form the first industrial site. The mills were used, for example, for grinding spices as well as for producing paints, wood planks and oil. Some of these mills still exist and can be visited. You can see, both from the outside and from the inside, how wind-driven machines work. Several museums can be visited in Zaanse Schans. One of these is Museumwinkel, where there will be access to an old grocery store. Al Bakkerijmuseum you can find out how artisan bread was made.

Around Amsterdam: Alkmaar

Alkmaar is a small town, about 40 km from Amsterdam, with a centuries-old tradition of cheese. The Alkmaar cheese market is one of the four traditional ones that still exist: here the speciality is local products, which deviate from the big Dutch brands. As far back as 1365, since there was only one set of scales, the cheese was sold in Waagplein Square.  

The "load" arrived early in the morning and inspectors and traders checked that the forms were stacked properly. About 30,000 kilos of cheese, equivalent to 2,200 forms, are lined up in wait for buyers. In a cheese market, of course, there can be "kaasdragers", i.e. cheese-carriers. But "zetters" (operators), "ingooiers” (pullers) and "waagmeesters" (weighers) also play essential roles for the market. They belong to an association rich in traditions. Overall, the Alkmaar cheese market is a fascinating spectacle, which contains several anecdotes and interesting traditions.

Visit Amsterdam with Costa Cruises

 

Amsterdam is a special city: born in the 17th century and famous all over the world. Here you can admire the historic buildings visit wonderful museums or enjoy the neighbourhoods in a climate that knows how to expand and be at the same time transgressive, tolerant or innovative. Many occasions for colouring your holidays, exploring the canals on a boat tour, walking in parks or between lanes or shopping in theancient old town. Amsterdam is a unique city. And it deserves to be discovered.

Depart with Costa Cruises