- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Travel to Amsterdam
Amsterdam, the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. With its universities, academies, and research institutes, along with more than 40 museums, numerous theaters, and entertainment venues, Amsterdam is the country's leading cultural center. In addition, the city is famous for its historic homes, laid out in a pattern of concentric segments in the shape of a fan and built on piles driven through an upper layer of mud into the firm, sandy bottom up to 18 meters below. All told, some 6,750 buildings dating from the 16th to 18th centuries are crowded into an area of 2,000 acres, dissected by 160 canals (grachten), themselves home to numerous houseboats. Many picturesque bridges link the city's 90 islands, eight of them old wooden bascule bridges, including the Magere Brug (Mager Bridge), one of the city's most frequently photographed.
Here are top tourist attractions in Amsterdam
This old church with little houses clinging to its sides, remains a calm heaven at the heart of the freneric Red Light District. Its buildings, especially the Gothic-renaissance style octagonal bell tower, was used by sailors to get their bearings.
A narrow, vaulted passageway leads to this charming garden surrounded by old houses. Begijnhof belongs to the more poetic Amsterdam attractions. The houses in the courtyard were once occupied by devout celibate Béguine nuns and are still home to single women today. In the centre of the lawns is a medieval church and at No.34 stands the oldest house in Amsterdam. The entrance is on the Spui and is indicated by a carved sign. Entry is free, but you must be quiet!
One of Amsterdam's most popular attractions - and certainly its most important art repository - the Rijksmuseum was founded in 1809 to house the country's huge collection of rare art and antiquities. The museum's impressive collection includes some seven million works of art, among them more than 5,000 important paintings spread across 250 rooms of this sprawling building. In addition to its paintings, the Rijksmuseum boasts a well-stocked library of more than 35,000 books and manuscripts, as well as numerous fascinating displays dealing with the development of art and culture in the Netherlands. Of special note are its collections of traditional handicrafts, medieval sculpture, and modern art styles. A variety of themed English language guided tours are available. For a special experience, try the fun art history canal cruise taking in many of the sites represented in the Rijksmuseum's collections.
The Royal Palace
Formerly the Town Hall, the Royal Palace serves as the King's residence when he's in the city. Its construction was a monumental task when started in 1648 and required the sinking of 13,659 piles to support the mammoth structure. Based upon the architecture of ancient Rome, the exterior is strictly classical, while the interior is magnificently furnished, its apartments decorated with a wealth of reliefs, ornamentation, marble sculptures, and friezes, along with ceiling-paintings by Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck, pupils of Rembrandt. Other highlights include one of the finest furniture collections in the world; the City Treasurer's room with its marble fireplace and ceiling paintings by Cornelius Holsteyn; and the Hall of the Aldermen, also containing paintings by Bol and Flinck. The largest and most important room is the Council Hall, sumptuously decorated and one of the most beautiful staterooms in Europe.
The Port of Amsterdam
The Port of Amsterdam, almost 19 kilometers from the open sea on a former bay named the IJ, is unaffected by tidal activity and remains a busy harbor. From here, regular passenger and freight services head up the Rhine to cities such as Dusseldorf, Koblenz, and Basel. The port installations were built in 1872 in conjunction with the construction of the North Sea Canal, the objective being to restore the former importance of the capital city, which was being overtaken by Rotterdam. It's well worth spending a pleasant hour or two joining a cruise around the harbor and canals, especially in the evening when the houses and bridges are illuminated.