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The Netherlands has been made world-famous through reports of its lax drug laws, liberal structure, and legal prostitution. These aspects may or may not be reasons for visiting this beautiful country, but allow me to tell you that they do not begin to compare with the glory and wonder of the landscape, combined with the impressive and fascinating historical sights and museums. The scenery alone is intoxicating, and the musical performances and shopping facilities are stupendous. But even with all of the incredible activities and interesting engagements, something must be said for experiencing a hashish brownie at one of the local bakeries. The scenic splendor of Amsterdam is in excess, and this exquisite city houses some of the finest museums anywhere. The Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum are both extraordinary, and the Anne Frank House is a haunting yet fascinating glimpse into the life of one of history's most tragic heroines. Amsterdam features one of the lowest crime rates in the world for a major metropolitan city. The locals are eager to help you, and no one seems afraid to be walking around at night. (Why should they be?) The government is stable, and the close-knit communities ensure safety on the streets virtually all of the time.
 
Queen's Day, celebrated on April 30, is a sprawling street festival that is typically the most rousing and fun-filled day of the year. The Holland Festival of the Arts is a cherished event, and it seems as if on any day in Amsterdam, you will be treated to a spectacular display of lights, sites, music, and entertainment.
 
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at Passenger Terminal Amsterdam just east of the Central Station or Felison Terminal by the entrance to the North Sea. If docked at Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, there is a tram stop outside where you can take tram 26 one stop to Centraal Station (the city's main transport hub) or you can easily walk to the station (15 minutes)
 
Amsterdam has a wonderful public transportation system, consisting of buses, trams, and electric trains. Your best bet is to purchase a 24 Hour Ticket, valid for a full day of travel on any of Amsterdam's public transportation facilities. You can purchase the ticket (costing approximately $10) from any bus, tram, or train conductor. If you'd like to take a taxi around the city, one can be hailed from most street corners. If one can't be found, contact Taxi-Centrale (020/777-7777) for a pick-up. Lastly, you can rent a car while in Amsterdam. Contact Avis (020/683-6061) for more information.
 
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 cruise 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. Be sure to include a visit to the National Maritime Museum (Scheepva art museum) in a former naval storehouse on the Oosterdok and home to an impressive collection of model ships, globes, navigation instruments, and paintings. Another nearby attraction is Science Center Nemo, a first-rate science museum housed in a stunning piece of architecture that juts over the port area like the hull of a large ship. To cross to the opposite bank of the IJ to the north of Amsterdam by car, you can drive through the IJ Tunnel from the city center
 
Local Interests
The Rijksmuseum is located at Stadhouderskade 42 (020/674-7047) and is home to the finest art collection in Amsterdam. The Frans Hals works are glorious, and Rembrandt's Nightwatch is one of many remarkable paintings housed here. The collection of artwork from the Orient is tremendous, and there are rooms dedicated to fantastic sculptures, beautiful furniture, and ancient crafts. The Vincent Van Gogh Museum can be found at Paulus Potterstart 7 (020/570-5200) and features 500 drawings and 200 of the artist's best paintings. This extraordinary museum also contains works of other 19th century artists, but the focus is on the splendor of Van Gogh's artistic accomplishments.
 
The Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht 263 (020/556-7100) is an inspiring site and the location where Anne Frank lived from 1942-1945. The tour of the building gives you a glimpse into the struggle and dedication that the Frank family exhibited in living in this tiny space for so long. Emerging from this tragic ordeal was the Diary of Anne Frank. Since 1947, this emotional, extraordinary literary achievement has been translated into over fifty languages.
 
The Amsterdam Historisch Museum is located on Kalverstraat 92 (020/523-1822) and traces the origin of this great city thorough a series of spectacular showcases and exhibits. Everything in the museum is in fabulous shape, and the highlight here is the display illustrating Amsterdam's role in world commerce in the 17th century, when it was the most affluent and powerful city of trade in the world. The galleries are marvelous, and the replications of old churches, as well as the splendid paintings, are fantastic.
 
Dam Square is the official heart of the city, located in the middle of town and regarded as the center and primary meeting place of the citizens of Amsterdam. It was constructed in the 12th century, and the weigh house used to be stationed here as well. In the old days, ships used to be able to pull right up to the weigh house, but all of this came to a bitter end in 1808, when tyrant King Louis Napoleon destroyed it because it blocked the view from his bedroom window. In 1956, the monument found in the square was constructed as a tribute to the Netherlands liberation that came at the end of World War II. Overall, it is an enchanting and charming location where you will truly get a sense of the culture and daily routine of those living in Amsterdam.
 
Concertgebouw (Concert Building) is the best concert hall in the Netherlands. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, as well as many other international groups, play here quite often. The performances are outstanding, and the architecture of the building is glorious. Concertgebouw is located at Concertgebouwplein 2-6 (020/675-4411).
 
A testament to Amsterdam's liberal policies on the common vices is The Red Light District. Known as De Rosse Buurt locally, this region is immensely popular with tourists (and unfortunately with pickpockets as well -- so guard your belongings carefully and stay in the well-lit areas at all times). Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam. Strictly regulated by the government, the sex industry centers around these few square blocks. Although you might be tempted to snap a couple photos of the ladies of the night, young and old, as they patiently wait in their windowed storefronts for a tempted passerby, refrain from photographing them, or you might find yourself out of a camera! Instead, stroll the streets of De Rosse Buurt, and be sure to stop in one of the many bars, restaurants and great bookstores that can be found in the area as well.
 
Thins to See & Do
The Rijksmuseum
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. Address: Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam -- Official site: www.rijksmuseum.nl/en
 
The Anne Frank Museum
On the Prinsengracht, the Anne Frank Museum is dedicated to the all-too-short life of one of the world's best-known Holocaust victims. In the actual home in which Anne's family hid for much of WWII - they were Jewish refugees from the German city of Frankfurt - it was here that Anne wrote the diary that became an international bestseller after the war, just a few years after her death at age 15 (she died just two months before the war ended). Much of the home has been kept as it was during Anne's time, and it serves as a poignant monument to a tragic period of history. Address: Prinsengracht 263-267, 1016 GV Amsterdam Official site: www.annefrank.org/en/
 
The Van Gogh Museum
Few 19th-century artists have captured the imagination quite like Vincent Gogh. Whether inspired by his tragic life or his remarkable talent, some one-and-a-half million visitors are drawn to the superb Van Gogh Museum each year. Widely regarded as one of the world's most important art galleries (it's also the second most visited museum in the Netherlands), it opened to great acclaim in 1973 and houses the world's largest collection of Van Gogh paintings. All told, more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 700 letters from Van Gogh are included in the collection, as well as numerous works and related materials from his contemporaries. (English language audio guides and phone apps are available.) Address: Paulus Potterstraat 7, 1071 CX Amsterdam -- Official site: www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en
 
The West Church
Amsterdam's West Church (Westerkerk), famous as the location of the wedding of former Queen Beatrix in 1966, is the most popular church in the city. Completed in 1630, this Renaissance church is unusual due to its many internal and external Gothic features. Its 85-meter tower, popularly known as "Langer Jan" (tall John), is the highest in the city, and on the tip of its spire is a large replica of the emperor's crown, placed there in memory of Emperor Maximilian of Austria who, in 1489, was cured of illness in Amsterdam and gave the city his protection and the right to include his crown in its coat of arms. Inside the tower, a carillon proclaims the hours, its hammer weighing an impressive 200 kilograms, while the largest of its 48 bells weighs some three-and-a-quarter tons. Other highlights include a fine organ dating from 1622, along with an interesting marble column placed there in 1906 in memory of Rembrandt, who was buried outside the church (he was later reinterred inside the church). Address: Prinsengracht 281, 1016 GW Amsterdam
Official site: www.westerkerk.nl/english

Rembrandt House Museum
Rembrandt, along with his wife Saskia, spent the happiest (and most successful) years of his life in the house on the Jodenbreestraat, now home to the Rembrandt House Museum. It was here, in the Jewish Quarter, that he found models for his Biblical themes, and where he painted the sights from his many outings along the canals. Rembrandt lived here for 20 years, and the house has been furnished in 17th-century style with numerous etchings and personal objects. English language guided tours are available.
 
A two-minute walk from Rembrandt House Museum, is Zuiderkerk (South Church) where three of Rembrandt's children are buried as well as one of his pupils. Constructed between 1603 and 1611, it was the first Protestant church to be built in Amsterdam after the Reformation and was designed by architect Hendrick de Keyser, who is also buried here. After extensive restoration, it is now a center for local cultural activities and events. Another Rembrandt-related destination in the city is Rembrandt Square, home to numerous cafés and restaurants, along with a statue of the famous painter.
Address: Jodenbreestraat 4, 1011 NK Amsterdam -- Official site: www.rembrandthuis.nl/en/
 
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. (English language guided tours are available.) Location: Dam, Amsterdam -- Official site: www.paleisamsterdam.nl/en

The Jewish Historical Museum
The Jewish Historical Museum (Joods Historisch Museum) is housed in four redundant synagogues, one of which, the Grote Synagogue, dates back to 1670. Highlights include a large collection of religious artifacts such as silver Torah containers, Torah robes, and decorated Torah headdresses, as well as hangings and ceremonial canopies (of particular interest is the white marble Holy Shrine). The museum also has a large library, while in the Upper Synagogue, the Obbene Sjoel, there's a kosher restaurant. Of note outside the museum is the Docker Monument, erected to commemorate a strike in 1941 when workers refused to co-operate with the deportation of their Jewish fellow citizens. Also of interest is the Portuguese Synagogue, a late 17th-century temple that houses the Ets Haim Library, the oldest of its kind. For a more in-depth look at this fascinating history, join one of the special English language tours of the Jewish Historical Museum that includes the historic Jewish Quarter. Address: Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, 1011 PL Amsterdam -- Official site: www.jhm.nl/english.aspx

The Stedelijk: Amsterdam's Municipal Museum
Founded in 1895, the Stedelijk Museum - Municipal Museum Amsterdam - is one of Europe's most impressive modern art collections. With a focus on 19th and 20th-century Dutch and French painting, the museum features works by a number of renowned art movements, including De Stijl, with examples from Van Doesburg, Mondrian, and Rietveld; Pop Art, with works by Rosenquist and Warhol; and painters such as Chagall, Dubuffet, De Kooning, and Matisse. The sculpture garden also contains examples by Rodin, Moore, Renoir, and Visser. English language guided tours are available, as are fun family workshops.
Address: Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ Amsterdam -- Official site: www.stedelijk.nl/en
 
The Begijnhof
The Begijnhof is one of those rare tranquil inner-city spots that many tourists simply don't notice as they hustle from attraction-to-attraction. And that's a shame, as this stunning old corner of Amsterdam simply begs to be strolled. Although most of the old homes are occupied, the tiny lanes and pathways around them provide public access, so don't be shy to explore. You'll be rewarded with views of well-kept green lawns - the courtyards - surrounded by some of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, including its only remaining wooden house from the 14th century. Originally occupied by a commune of pious Catholic women (begijnen), the area's small chapel (still open for services) saw the last of these women buried here in 1971. Official site: www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl/home-en
 
The Old Church
The Old Church (Oude Kerk), built in 1306 and the first hall church in North Holland, became the model for many other churches in the region. Numerous additions were built over the centuries, such as the large side chapels from the early 1500s. Also dating from this period is a portal leading to the Iron Chapel, where documents showing the city's privileges, including the freedom from tolls granted in 1275, were kept locked behind an iron door. The tower was added in the 16th century and has a carillon from 1658 that's considered one of the finest in the country (it also offers great views over the city). The interior of the church has features dating from before the Reformation, including three magnificent windows from 1555 from the Dutch High Renaissance, and finely-carved wooden choir stalls. After exploring this beautiful historical building, take a two-minute stroll across the bridge to Zeedijk, one of Amsterdam's oldest streets. Many houses along here lean at an angle from the vertical, and the 15th-century house at No. 1 is thought to be the oldest surviving building in the city. Address: Oudekerksplein 23, 1012 GX Amsterdam -- Official site: www.oudekerk.nl/en/

The New Church & the National Monument
The New Church (Nieuwe Kerk), the official coronation church of Dutch monarchs since 1814, lies in the heart of Amsterdam next to the Royal Palace in Dam Square ("The Dam"). This historic square was built around 1270 to separate the Amstel from the IJ and gave the city its name. Today, the square and the church are used for public functions such as antique fairs and art exhibitions. Regular organ concerts also take place in this 15th-century church. A striking feature is its magnificent pulpit from 1649, a marvel of Baroque wood carving decorated with the four evangelists and figures symbolizing Faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, and Prudence. The church also has an organ from 1670, an exceptionally beautiful choir screen cast in bronze, and fine choir stalls. Also of interest are the tombs of famous Dutchmen including PC Hooft and Nicolaes Tulp, and the Baroque tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter who died in 1679. The stained glass windows are beautiful; one of them dates from 1650 and depicts the granting of the city's coat of arms by William IV, while the Queen's Window from 1898 commemorates the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina.
 
On the opposite side of The Dam, the National Monument, a 22-meter-high obelisk, was erected here after the Second World War as a memorial for its victims and a symbol of Liberation. It was designed by J. J. P. Oud and decorated with sculptures by J. W. Rädeler symbolizing, among other things, War (four male figures), Peace (woman and child), and Resistance (two men with howling dogs). Embedded in the obelisk are urns containing earth from the 11 provinces, and a 12th urn contains earth from the cemetery of honor in Indonesia. The monument was dedicated by Queen Juliana on 4 May 1956, the national day of remembrance. Every year on this date, wreaths are laid here and a two-minute silence is observed throughout the Netherlands. During other times, the monument is a place where young people from all over the world meet. Address: Dam, 1012 NP Amsterdam -- Official site: www.nieuwekerk.nl/en/

The Amsterdam Museum
Housed in the former municipal orphanage built in 1414, the Amsterdam Museum consists of a number of spacious courtyards where visitors can learn about the constantly changing role of Amsterdam in the country and in the world. Highlights range from prehistoric finds and the town's original charter to items from the present day, as well as displays describing how the land was reclaimed from the sea. The inner courtyards are also fun to explore and house other highlights such as the old shooting gallery. There's also an on-site café. The library possesses a rich collection of literature on the history of the city, and graphics and drawings can be viewed by prior arrangement. Address: Kalverstraat 92, 1012 PH Amsterdam -- Official site: www.amsterdammuseum.nl/en/amsterdam-museum
 
Kalverstraat and Vlooienmarkt: Shop 'til you Drop
There comes a point in every vacation when a little shopping therapy is needed. Amsterdam boasts many great places to shop, whether for high-end luxury goods, local crafts, or fun souvenirs. The best known - and usually the busiest - is the Kalverstraat with many smart boutiques, galleries, perfumeries, cafés, and restaurants. While the crush of humanity can be a little intimidating (especially on a Saturday), it's an experience you won't soon forget. For a completely different shopping experience, head over to the Vlooienmarkt, Amsterdam's famous flea market, held here since 1886. It's a veritable smorgasbord of wares, with everything from antiques and food to clothes, both new and used. Another unique shopping experience awaits at the Flower Market of Amsterdam, an amazing spectacle including every type of plant imaginable. Most of the best shopping streets fan out from the Muntplein, a city square that was once home to a sheep market in the 15th century. Rising above the square is the Munttoren (Mint Tower), which dates from 1672 when Amsterdam was the site of the mint for two years while the French occupied Utrecht.
 
The Museum of the Tropics
The Museum of the Tropics (Tropenmuseum), established in 1864, is a fascinating excursion for those with an interest in the history of the Netherlands' former colonies. Set in a cavernous hall built especially for it, the museum contains numerous displays of art and everyday objects from tropical and subtropical areas. It's fun to explore as you wander around the authentic bazaar and peek inside the houses of the Far East as well as the fully stocked oriental shop. The museum also hosts regular concerts of Eastern and Asian music using traditional instruments (English language guided tours are available). Address: Linnaeusstraat 2, 1092 CK Amsterdam -- Official site: www.tropenmuseum.nl/en
 
Butterfly at Natura Artis Magistra
Amsterdam offers a double dose of nature in the heart of the city. Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, the city's botanical garden, is one of the world's oldest. Founded in 1638, it began as a humble herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. Today, it features rare plants and trees, exotic flowers, and a large hothouse encompassing different tropical zones. Less than a five-minute stroll away, Natura Artis Magistra ("Artis"), Amsterdam's excellent zoo, spotlights creatures from around the world in a shady garden setting dotted with historical buildings. In the aquarium, you can learn about coral reef systems and take a peek under an Amsterdam canal. Other highlights include the nocturnal animal house, zoological museum, Insectarium, Butterfly Pavilion, and Planetarium. Also of interest near these fun nature-based attractions is a replica of the Normaal Amsterdams Peil, the NAP, which shows the average water level of the North Sea.
 
Hortus Botanicus -- Address: Plantage Middenlaan 2a http://dehortus.nl/en/home
Natura Artis Magistra -- Address: Plantage Kerklaan 38-40 http://www.artis.nl/en/artis-royal-zoo/
 
Heineken Experience - One of the better brewery tours with lots of interactive exhibits. Entrance on Stadhouderskade Street. Entry €18 (Dec 2014) with tickets available online. From Centraal station, catch line 16, 24 or 25 and get out at tram stop Stadhouderskade. http://www.heinekenexperience.com/
Museum Our Lord in the Attic - A secret church in a house in the Red Light District. http://www.opsolder.nl/
 
Anne Frank's House 
The original house has been expanded to the building next door. The neighborhood is very pretty with Westerkerk church just to the south along the canal. There is also a statue by the church. Take line 13, 14, or 17 to Westermarkt stop from Centraal. Entry €9 (Dec 2014) and can be prepurchased online with a small reservation fee. http://www.annefrank.org/
 
Beaches and Parks
Zandvoort is the primary beach destination for anyone living in and around Amsterdam. When summer starts and the weather warms, people from all over flock to this wonderful resort. If you happen to be in Amsterdam when the weather is pleasant, visiting Zandvoort is an absolute must. Vondelpark is a recreation area conceptualized in 1865. It was designed to be a Walking and Riding Park, which would stretch out to be twenty-five acres. As its popularity grew, the park expanded to a splendid 120 acres. The fields and ponds found inside the park are dazzling, and the area in general is exploding with life. When the weather is ideal, musicians, lovers, friends, and passersby fill the grassy knolls and sit underneath the trees daydreaming. The Rose Garden is magnificent, and roller-skating and tennis facilities have been set up as well. Jazz bands, acrobats, and many other artists perform daily, some of them enormously talented. An open-air theater exists here as well, and from June through August, performances are held throughout the weekend. A sculpture donated by Picasso in 1965 can be seen in the park's center. The entertainment building that was constructed in the 19th century has been revamped to serve as the Netherlands Film Museum. Vondelpark is located at Vondelpark 3 (020/589-1400).
 
Eating Out
Amsterdammers love to eat, and there are many restaurants here that will delight your taste buds and make your day. D'Vijiff Vlieghen (Spuistraat 294-302, 020/530-4060) is an elegant, traditional dining establishment with outstanding entrees and sparkling ambiance. Artifacts and old mementos ranging from Rembrandt etchings to music boxes to old liquor kegs) are placed throughout the five-house complex. It is a fabulous dining experience highlighted by such dishes as the grilled halibut and pig cutlets in a flaky pastry. Excelsior is located at Nieuwe Doelenstraat 2-8 (020/531-1705) and overlooks the Amstel River. It features excellent soups and desserts. The lobster bisque is sure to make you say "HOT (Amster)DAM!"
 
Getto is a burger bar with a difference: each burger is named after a drag queen who performs there – keep an eye on the website if you're keen to catch an act. It describes itself as "an attitude-free zone, for gays, lesbians, bi, queers and straights". Relaxed and friendly, the bar staff mix great cocktails, and the interior has a chilled vibe. The burgers don't disappoint: try the Jennifer Hopelezz beef burger with guacamole and bacon, or the Dolly Bellefleur lamb burger with tzatziki and grilled courgette. They're served with chunky seasoned wedges and a mayo-heavy salad. And try the Gettopolitan – a cosmo made with Dutch Jenever liqueur. Warmoesstraat 51, +31 20 421 5151, getto.nl, mains from €10. Open Tues-Thurs 4pm-1am, Fri-Sat 4pm-2am, Sun 4pm-midnight
 
Van Kerkwijk -- Tucked down the Nes – what looks like a back alley running south of Dam square – Van Kerkwijk is unprepossessing from outside, but inside it's habitually packed with customers at small wooden tables. They don't take reservations, so get there early and have a drink while you wait. There's no menu (in the ink-on-paper sense) so expect your waiter to recite a list of dishes. These range from French and Italian classics such as steak tartare and carpaccio, through to north African tagines and Indonesian curries. To start, try their house pâté, which is coarse, gamey and full of rustic French flavour. Van Kerkwijk's meat is generally good, with mercifully undercooked, well-seasoned steaks and generous, chunky chips.
• Nes 41, +31 20 620 3316, caferestaurantvankerkwijk.nl, mains from €15. Open daily 11am-late
 
De Zotte - Don't go to de Zotte if you're teetotal. This "brown cafe" is a mecca for Belgian beer lovers, with several good brews on tap and scores more in bottles. To stop you getting too sozzled, a simple but filling menu is on offer. It's classic brown cafe fare: steaks with pepper, blue cheese or mushroom sauces, grilled lamb or chicken simply prepared. Non meat-eaters are also in for a treat: try De Zotte's hartige tart – essentially a deep-pan quiche. The filling changes, but generally involves some kind of cheese and green vegetables. It's huge, filling and feels like a hug on a cold day. Try it with sweet, dark bokbier on an autumn evening and breathe a contented sigh. Raamstraat 29, +31 20 626 8694, dezotte.nl, mains from €10. Open Sun-Thurs 4pm-1am, Fri, Sat 4pm-3am
 
Restaurant Azmarino -- East African food isn't widely represented in Amsterdam, but where it is, you can expect generosity and pride in the cuisine. Azmarino's decor is cosy and kitsch, with a convivial atmosphere to match. The food is served in giant sharing platters, the base of which is formed by a layer of the slightly sour, spongy pancakes that are typical of the region, with a further pile of the pancakes on the side to mop up the juices. Dishes are hot, sour, sweet and spicy all at the same time: marinated, juicy chicken drumsticks, slow-cooked lamb, and lentil-based sauces. Small piles of salad dotted around the platter offer welcome cool relief from the chilli. 2e Sweelinckstraat 6, +31 20 671 7587, azmarino.nl, mains from €9. Open Tues-Sat 5pm-11pm
 
Something of a lunch institution, Singel 404 has the best sandwiches in Amsterdam. Not surprisingly, a lot of locals (especially students) know this too, so tables are hard to come by after noon. If the sun's shining, tables spill out on to the pavement next to the canal, improving your chances of scoring a seat. Try the broodje (a generic name for sandwiches, made with your choice of bread) with avocado, smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and melted brie. If perfection took the form of bread, this would be it: salty, smoky, creamy, with a touch of tartness. And big enough to fill you up until late afternoon, when it's time to return for a coffee and a slice of cake … Singel 404, +31 20 428 0154, sandwiches from €5. Open daily 10.30am-6pm
 
Poco Loco -- With a terrace overlooking the Nieuwmarkt and all-day opening, Poco Loco is the kind of joint you can pop into for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, beer and tapas after work, or dinner. At lunchtime, think pimped-up club sandwiches with smoked chicken, crispy bacon, Dutch cheese, salad and sauces with a kick. The tapas are superb, and deviate from the Spanish norm with Italian bruschetta and Dutch croquettes. The main courses are also international, with recent dishes including fajitas and a skewer of mixed grilled meats. Traditional Dutch white beer and glühwein are on offer till late, and the interior is all funky 70s oranges and browns. Nieuwmarkt 24, +31 20 624 2937, diningcity.nl/pocoloco/, mains from €12. Open Sun-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri-Sat 10am-3am (kitchen closes 10.30pm)
 
Yam Yam is the Dutch translation of "yum yum" – the sound you make when you try their Tartufata pizza. This house speciality involves Italian ham, rocket, parmesan and (most importantly) truffle sauce. The dough is thin, crisp and nutty with ever-so-slightly charred edges; the toppings are fresh, authentic and generous, and the truffle is plain addictive. There is an array of other pizzas, as well as bresaola, buffalo mozzarella, bruschetta and other classic Italian antipasti. Despite (or possibly because of) its off-the-beaten-track location, Yam Yam has a local, neighbourhood feel and is always busy.
Frederik Hendrikstraat 88-90, +31 20 681 5097, yamyam.nl, pizzas from €11. Open Tues-Sat 6pm-11.30pm, Sun 5.30pm-11.30pm
 
Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs -- You must try Dutch pancakes, or pannenkoeken. Thick and filling, with savoury or sweet toppings, they make perfect hangover food and are reasonably priced. At Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs, you have to climb the most vertiginous staircase ever. At the top, the restaurant has just four or five tables, nestled amid hundreds of eclectic teapots, dangling from the ceiling and on any inch of available space. The pancakes are not the cheapest, but they're worth it for the location alone. Try the pancake with bacon and stroop – like maple syrup without the maple. Or switch the syrup for cheese. Either way, arrive hungry because a dinner plate-sized pancake will leave you full all afternoon.  Grimburgwal 2, +31 20 626 5603, mains from €6. Open Fri, Sat noon-6pm, Sun noon-5pm
 
Sawaddee Ka -- There is plenty of Thai food in Amsterdam, but Sawaddee Ka distinguishes itself by being consistently good and inexpensive. Located near the popular Leidseplein, it's an ideal option for a post-shopping or pre-clubbing dinner. The menu is long and features the usual Thai suspects, including curries, noodles, fish cakes and soups. Main dishes come in silver pots balanced on tiny candle-lit burners, while rice comes in large, silver urns. Try the Neua Phad Namman Hoi: beef in oyster sauce with broccoli, mushrooms, and spring onion – the savoury, umami flavours of the oyster sauce and beef make a mean mouthful with the freshness of the broccoli and the tang from the spring onions. Overtoom 49, +31 20 612 7537, sawaddeeka.nl, mains from €10. Open daily 4pm-11pm, last orders 10pm, Sat 10.30pm
 
Café Het Paleis is conveniently located just to the west of Dam square, making it the perfect place for a break between seeing the tourist sites of the city or shopping in the nearby Kalverstraat – more of a recommendation for lunch or an afternoon coffee than for dinner. No visitor should leave Amsterdam without having a slice of appelgebak (apple tart), and Paleis's is one of the best the city has to offer: thick, buttery pastry, soft, cinnamon-flecked apple and a big helping of gloriously indulgent whipped cream. An absolute treat after a day's sightseeing. Paleisstraat 16, +31 20 626 0600, facebook page, sandwiches from €4.50, mains from €12.50. Open Sun, Mon 9.30am-midnight, Tues-Thurs 9.30am-1am, Fri, Sat 9.30am-2am
 
Melkweg, found at Lijnbaansgracht 231a (020/551-8181), is a hot nightclub in Amsterdam where the locals go to dance their troubles away. A spacious floor and great drinks make this a popular spot. Kadinsky is an enjoyable bar that is located at Rosmarijnsteeg 9 (020/624-7023). The cocktails are strong and the lively crowd will make you feel right at home.
 
Shopping
Whether you're searching for the best souvenir, a unique vintage dress or the latest designer handbag, Amsterdam has the perfect shop for you! Hunt for antiques, score some limited-edition trainers or sample local Dutch delicacies: you can find it all in Amsterdam. Besides the main shopping streets the Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat, home to all the shops you would expect to find in a large European city like H&M and Zara, Amsterdam has a lot to offer to the luxury shopper. Amongst the best spots in town are department store De Bijenkorf, shopping street P.C. Hooftstraat with luxury boutiques and designer stores and the exclusive shopping centre Magna Plaza. Looking for antiques? Visit the Spiegelkwartier, within walking distance from the Rijksmuseum, or if you are a more budget conscious shopper, do not miss out on one of the neighbourhood markets!
 
Amsterdam is an old city - almost the whole center dates from the 17th century and while towns were much smaller centuries ago and even the biggest Europe’s capitals as Paris or London had only one million inhabitants, Amsterdam kept its previous scale and remained until today a small metropolis. Sometimes people call it the smallest of the big cities. That makes shopping in Amsterdam fun, because you may do it all walking. Amsterdam is also full of small shops, with unique import contacts - their choice of products in Amsterdam will be different from any other big city. Here are the best shopping streets of Amsterdam:

Kalverstraat
KalverstraatProbably the busiest of all shopping streets of Amsterdam, goes across the city center. Kalverstraat is usually crowded with many shops selling competitively priced products. As often in Europe, no car traffic there, just shoppers. Two big shopping malls are located directly at or nearby the Kalverstraat - Kalvertoren and Magna Plaza and several big department stores - Bonneterie, V&D and not far from the Kalverstraat, at the Dam – the Bijenkorf. North East section of the Amsterdam main shopping street continues from the Dam square, but then it is called differently Nieuwendijk, which makes a sharp curve left and after a crossing falls into yet another interesting shopping street – Haarlemmerstraat.

Leidsestraat
Leidsestraat connects always crowded with tourists Leidesplein square where many cafes, prestigious BMW Mini showroom and Apple Store, several cinemas, theaters and clubs are located, with the city main commercial street – Kalverstraat. Attractive shops as Abercrombie & Fitch, Metz Co.(presently
renovated) and Camper shoes attract shoppers. Trams ride in the middle of the street, carefully making their way through the walking crowd connecting Leidsestraat with other parts of the city.

P.C.Hooftstraat
HoofstraatThis is the Rodeo Drive of Amsterdam: modest architecture and the best shops in town. This small street in a close neighborhood of the Rijksmuseum, Stedelijk and the Van Gogh Museum, parallel to the Paulus Potterstraat where the two last are located, is not to be missed. Expensive and posh, but the choice is good: world’s biggest brands, luxury clothes, shoes and cosmetics. You will hardly see anywhere in Europe a small street with so many good cars parked one by another. P.C.Hooftstraat is the street with its own website: www.pchooftstraat.nl

Cornelis Schuytstraat
Cornelis SchuytstraatIn a short walking distance from the P.C.Hooftstraat, a side street located behind the Concertgebouw. This is a shopping centre for the people who live in that expensive area of town with everything you might need – best quality food, cosmetics, wine, but also best in Amsterdam flower shop, several design and gadgets shops and good café where you may have your lunch. Christie’s auction house is nearby and Amsterdam Hilton, famous for the Yoko Ono and John Lennon stay, just two hundred yards further. It looks like they made a mistake remaining all the time in bed.

Utrechtsestraat
A busy street that goes out of the Rembrandtplein and has several shops, which are so good on their field that shopping there is fun. Best for the design items, gadgets, but also shoes and clothes with probably the best records shop in town in the middle. With very narrow sidewalks, trams passing in the middle and noisy traffic, but the shops there are quiet, interesting and close one to another. Several good restaurants and excellent wine shop are located at the Utrechtsestraat.

Beethovenstraat
An elegant street in the South Amsterdam (Amsterdam Zuid). Built in the 30-ties of the 20th century, more modern and convenient to visit than the Amsterdam old streets, with wide sidewalks and big shop windows. Good shopping street for clothes, wine and chocolates. Several informal places where you may have your lunch with authentic Japanese deli shop Medi-Ya know for the best sushi in town, and a good Dutch cheese shop with excellent sandwiches (Dutch: broodjes).

The 9 Small Streets – De 9 Straatjes
9-nine-little-streets-amsterdamThis part of the Amsterdam Canal district in the Old City is probably most interesting shopping area in town: the 9 small streets which are in fact three paralel streets led across the main canals of the city – from the Singel, through Herengracht and Keizersgracht to Prinsengracht. But with each crossing of the each canal the new name was given to each street section. So here we have the 9 Small Streets shopping paradise – in Dutch: De 9 Straatjes Area. These are: Reestraat, Hartenstraat, Gasthuismolensteeg, Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Oude Spiegelstraat, Rijnstraat, Huidenstraat, Wij de Heisteeg. Each of these small streets hosts tens of the best fashion shops in town, plus cafés, bookshops, design shops, small food and wine store. Enjoy walking there, because you will never find so many interesting shops cramped into such a small area of the Old Town

Westerstraat in the Jordaan
Fens Decor in amsterdamUsually a sleepy wide street, known before only for its Monday market, became last years the whole area in the Jordaan very popular for shoppers because of the design stores as Moooi and Anno, several decoration shops in the Westerstraat and at the nearby Noordermarkt and a short section of Prinsengracht just behind the corner with unique Fens Decor and exceptional Pompon Florist selling flowers and plants. Growing popularity of the Saturday’s Farmer’s Market on the Noordermarkt also made Westerstraat an interesting street for shoppers.

Jodenbreestraat
Just a short wide street parallel to the lively Waterlooplein flea market, with all standard Dutch stores like Albert Heijn, Blokker, Zeeman, Gall&Gall and Etos, is known for the Rembrandt House located at number 4. Jodenbreestraat name means in Dutch ‘Jewish Broad Street’ and it was one of the important streets of the Old Amsterdam Jewish quarter. Historically the street has not been so wide as today, but its Northern side has been demolished in 1970’s with some daring freeway plans in mind, happily later abandoned. Very much under influence of the nearby market, Jodenbreestraat has also some excellent shops with vintage clothing and accessories such as ‘Episode’.

Cornelis SchuytstraatHaarlemmerstraat
Probably the youngest of the trendy shopping streets in town. Less expensive but with the big variety of shops, many of them new trying to propose new consumer products and the new shopping formula. In this street, the public is also young. Haarlemmerstraat may feel long, especially if you walked through already the Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk, but it is worth it. Clothes, design, cosmetics but also several utility stores, which will surprise you with their products. Many informal cafés and bars where you may take a pause.


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