Visiting Amsterdam

Amsterdam… A city I always wanted to know. It always seduced me and spiked my curiosity, an irreverent, relaxed and eccentric city. Of course this much interest carries high expectations with it, and they were in all exceeded!

Everything is pleasant in the Dutch capital, the canals, the bike rides, the boat-houses, the bohemian neighborhoods, the art and most of all the free and relaxed lifestyle.
The city has few more than 750 thousand inhabitants, with a pretty small center, being possible to walk through it in half an hour.

Travelling a bit in time, Amsterdam was born in the river mouth of the Amstel River, a region with extensive lakes and swamps located below the average level of the sea. The city was originated around 1200, when a small fishing community was established in the place where nowadays the Dam square is. In the following centuries it became one of the main commercial ports of Europe.

The beautiful bridges, the Amsterdam Opera and the Moses and Aaron church in the background

Workers coming from everywhere, since artisans, merchants, negotiators, gathered in the city and gave it life thanks to the commercial trades.

Amsterdam is different since the beginning, in other words, unlike its European neighbors with a feudal past, with influential nobility and clergy, here reigned social consensus and mercantile capitalism, and it was this history, this difference, that probably served as booster to one of the most irreverent and distinct cities in the world.

It is a tolerant and open minded city that realized it is not possible to put an end to some things, it is best to accept them and at least “watch” them. Therefore, prostitution is legal since the XVII century, marijuana consumption in coffee shops is free and legal, euthanasia is also legal and gay marriage is legal since 2001.

Here lives a genuine tolerance and openness spirit and the belief in individual freedom. In the end, I think this is what fascinates me so much in this city!

Well, let’s now take a walk around the city. You can do it by walking, riding a bicycle or using public transportation. If you choose to walk be aware that the chances of getting hit by a bike are very high, there are hundreds of them, and they name the rules, the city has laws that discourage the usage of cars, and everyone rides their bike. It is confusing, but very pleasant and much less polluting.

Amsterdam’s Central Station 

There are many museums in Amsterdam, more than 50, and of all kinds, so choose the ones that interest you the most.

In the occidental part of the city we can find one of the most important houses of the history of the World War II, Anne Frank’s House, where the 13 year old Jewish girl lived hidden in the attic along with her family during the persecution and Hitler’s anti-Semitic politic, and where she wrote on her diary for two years, until she and her family were discovered and taken to concentration camps, the most translated diary in history. Do your visit in the morning to avoid long lines.


Next to the house there’s a church, Westerkerk, which bell was one of the few external references the family had while living in isolation. On the interior we can see frescoes from Gerard de Lairesse’s evangelists, one of Rembrandt’s students, whose remains were buried here in an unknown place.

There are at least 3 museums I consider that cannot be missed in Amsterdam, one of them is Rijksmuseum.

It is the most important museum in the country and was designed by Petrus Cuypers in 1885. It is an imposing palace made of red bricks, mostly of Dutch neo-Renaissance style but with a few neo-Gothic appointments and holds an unparalleled Dutch art estate. The jewel of the crown is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.

To visit Rijksmuseum you need a lot of time and the lines are long, but it is totally worth it.

 Rembrant’s “The Night Watch”

Another museum not to be missed is the Van Gogh Museum that holds the biggest collection of his works in the entire world, this genius that started to paint at the age of 27 and committed suicide 10 years later.

There are more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings from several phases of the artist, besides the letters he wrote to his younger brother, Theo, an art negotiator in Paris.

The jewel is the famous The Potato Eaters.

The museum has also works of his “modest” friends Gaugin, Monet, Bernard and Pissarro.

We also find in this city filled with art, one of the most important contemporary art museums in the world, Stedelijk Museum, that was first created to house the particular art collection of Sophia de Bruyn that was donated to the city, works of Matisse, Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Picasso and Monet were part of the collection.

One of Van Gogh’s self-portraits in Rijksmuseum

Besides this places we can find a lot more, Rembrandt’s House, the Jewish Museum, The Heineken Experience for those passionate about beer, Marijuana’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, The Museum of Sex (could not fail the list), Erotic Museum… There are a lot of things to do. Definitely you can’t just go a unique time to Amsterdam.

Other amazing places are the plazas, Dam, for example, place where the city was born, highlight for Koninklijk Paleis, or royal palace and Niuwe Kerk.

Koninklijk Paleis

Speaking of plazas we can also talk about gardens, like Vondelpark, one of the most wanted in the city, with artificial lakes, lawn and wavy paths between the trees.

In the center of the city we find one of the places that I was most curious about (me and any tourist that comes for the first time), the Red Light District!

Red Light District before rush hour

It is without doubt a very different place, irreverent and where you see a bit of everything, the windows with the curtains and the red lights show women that are thin, fat, very fat, young, mature, blond, redheads, and brunettes, all of them practically naked! When they are not available the curtains are closed.

This neighborhood exists since the XIII century when sailors arrived to the port, needing female company. Prostitution grew and settled so hard that after several frustrated attempts to eliminate it, the profession ended up to be accepted and later being legalized.
Everyone is attracted to this street, everybody looks, and everybody sharpens their curiosity. Besides the windows/showcases the street has also sex shops, coffees, erotic museums, explicit sex shows and restaurants.

The famous Dam plaza

Besides this irreverence we also have another one in Amsterdam, the Smoking Coffee Shops (that give an aroma to the city).
These are not the typical coffees where you usually go during a trip to have some rest and recharge you batteries. Minors can’t even go on these ones. These are the famous bars where marijuana and hashish are freely sold. And to those that don’t smoke you can also consume it in the form of cookies and cakes. The amount of feed-stock they’re cooked with is always unknown so don’t get too excited!

Amsterdam is many times named as the Venice of the North because the canals are equally beautiful and give a unique charm to the city.

Herengracht Or Gentelmans Canal is one of them and is surrounded with exuberant tall and narrow mansions (to minimize taxes, because once they were charged in terms of width). Singel is another beautiful canal, next to the floating flower and organic products market, Bloemenmarkt.

Beyond these great canals we have many others, some smaller, other bigger with around 2500 boat-houses and with several bridges.

In terms of Gastronomy, the city also has a few highlights, running from the many French fries places that seem like a plague, we can find amazing artisan bakeries, cheese stores, biologic markets and restaurants that show the spirit of the city.
This city is unique, irreverent, relaxed and above all bohemian and joyful. There is so much to see and live in Amsterdam, to all ages and all the tastes! Go with time, or just like me, mark the return!

“The Night Watch” transformed into a statue in a plaza in the city

Outside of town
You can also, if you have the time, make a tour outside the city, through the roads of the Netherlands, with the landscapes full of windmills and flowers (for that choose a sunny time in the year – between April and June). If you have a few extra days make a visit to the Alkmar and Haarlem vilages. The first one has one of the oldest cheese markets in Europe, with origin in the XVII century. And Haarlem is a city that maintains its structure from the XVII century with historical buildings, patios and interior gardens, with unique antique stores.

Where to stay
Hotel Dwars
Sofitel Legend The Grand Hotel

Where to eat

L’Amuse (Stadionweg 147), is the store for cheese fans, there you can find the best examples of the most varied cheeses of Europe chosen by Master Betty Koster.

The Hartog’s (Ruyschstraat 56/cnr. Wibautstraat) is the most famous bakery in the city, with everything being handmade, even the flour.

In terms of restaurants, Amsterdam is well served, with spaces with Michelin Stars like Ciel Blue (2 stars), elegant restaurants like De Kas, located in an old ward, or the relaxed Ron Gastrobar, from the famous Chef Ron Blaauw. It is also possible to find a great diversity of spaces with Thai food, Japanese Food and of course in Chinatown you can find the most traditional that the Chinese cuisine has to offer.

Text: Cíntia Oliveira


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