Amsterdam may be famous for its red light district and its friendly stance on marijuana, but the capital of the Netherlands has much more to offer. A city steeped in history, Amsterdam is home to beautiful historic buildings, numerous parks, fields of tulips that bloom in the spring, about 40 museums, and a system of canals and bridges that rivals (and in fact, is larger than) the one in Venice.
Due to the city's climate, most tourists descend upon Amsterdam in the spring and summer months. But while winter can be cold, no season in Amsterdam is unbearable, and many locals travel by bicycle all year long. Navigating the city can be tricky; it is divided into nine districts that are divided further into neighborhoods -- Jordaan offers funky boutiques and markets, Rembrandtplein is home to the nightlife, Leidseplein has all kinds of international cuisine, and De Wallen's streets are lined with quaint bookshops (and in its famous red light district, brothels).
With historic mansions lining the canals and numerous museums, Amsterdam is a cultural city. Many visitors consider the Van Gogh Museum, with the largest collection of Van Gogh's works in the world, a must-see; Rijksmuseum, filled with old masters' paintings, is also a popular spot, and the Anne Frank home -- a difficult but significant and touching landmark -- often has a long line of tourists waiting to enter. For outdoorsy ventures, many like to do as the locals do -- visit the 120-acre Vondelpark, with ponds, gardens, and occasional concerts, or rent bicycles to cycle along the canals. A more touristy option is to take a boat tour along the canals or rent pedal-boats.
Like many other European cities, Amsterdam is known for pick-pockets, and some areas can be dangerous at night. But for the most part, the evening scene is lively, with groups spilling out of the "brown cafes," restaurants, and nightclubs. And Amsterdam is generally a friendly city, where many locals speak English and are happy to assist confused tourists.
Amsterdam is home to many hotels that can accommodate all kinds of budgets; visitors can opt to stay in small bed and breakfasts or amenity-scarce hostels, historic grand dames or massive chain hotels. Most hotels can be found in the historic Old Center.
June - August
November - February
Varies; visitors from the United States, Canada and Europe do not need a visa
230 V, 50 Hz
In restaurants a service charge is included in the bill. For exceptional service an extra 10% is appreciated.