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A guide to the sightseeing highlights of each district of Amsterdam. Covering tourists places well known and less so.
Take a Canal Tour
A canal cruise is probably Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attraction, and there is good reason why that is. A boat cruise on Amsterdam’s canals is both fascinating and relaxing. But most importantly, it gives you a great opportunity to see the city’s most beautiful spots from a unique point of view. The majority of the tours takes you through the old centre of the city, and thus allows you to see elegant mansions, carillon-crowned churches, and picturesque bridges.
Tip: There are many options to choose from, ranging from a hop on hop off tour to a night cruise that includes drinks or diner. Naturally some options are more expensive than others, but if you can spare the money a wine and dine cruise is definitely worth it.
Walk Through the Tulips
Every tulip season (usually around April and May) thousands of visitors flock to the Keukenhof gardens to walk through the vast seas of multi-coloured tulips. Keukenhof, located in Lisse (about an hour trip from Amsterdam), is arguably one of the world’s most spectacular gardens. More than seven million flowers create a glorious décor for amazing photos and feel the air with enchanting fragrances. But that is not all the Keukenhof has to offer: in addition to the booming flowers, there are art displays, bike and boat tours, as well as a flower parade.
Opening Times: the gardens are normally open daily from 8 am till 5.30 pm from March 22nd until May 20th
More information: www.keukenhof.nl
Tips: As the tulip growth depends on the weather, it can be a bit unpredictable. For example, if the winter has been cold, early visitors may see nothing more than closed blooms and lots of leaves (still a pretty sight, but not as great as the garden in full bloom). So, you may want to plan your visit around the middle of the season. Also, the best time to visit the garden is early in the day, or a few hours before it closes, as it attracts large crowds.
If you miss the tulip season, you may want to visit the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam, which is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world.
Visit www.en.dehortus.nl for more information
Visit the Royal Palace
Built in 1665 the building, which is now know as the Royal Palace, served as Stadhuis (Town Hall) until 1808, when Louis Napoleon (King of the Netherlands at the time) declared it his personal residence. Today, the Royal Palace is used for state visits, New Year receptions and other official functions. But, when not in use by the Queen or members of the Royal House, the palace is open to the public and features a series of exhibitions throughout the year. Visitors have access to 17 recently renovated rooms, halls and galleries that feature Empire-style furniture and decorative artifacts, as well as hand-painted ceilings, grand marble floors and epic sculptures and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Opening Times: June - August: daily 11 am – 5 pm September - May: Tuesday - Sunday 12 am – 5 pm
Location: Dam square
More information: www.paleisamsterdam.nl
Attend a Concert at the Concertgebouw
The famous Amsterdam Philharmonics Hall is called Concertgebouw (Concert Building). It gives multiple series of classical music concerts with a yearly attendance of more than 800.000 spectators, making it the second most popular concert hall in the world (after the Parco della Musica in Rome). The magnificent classicist building was completed in 1886, and it has exceptional acoustics (especially in the big concert hall – Grote Zaal). If you do not have the time (or money) to attend a concert, you may visit the philharmonic building, and take a peak behind the scenes, on a guided tour that takes place before all Sunday Morning Concerts.
Tips: Tickets may be purchased at the box office, but also online (up to three months in advance).
Apart from classical music concerts, jazz and pop performances are held in the Concertgebouw.
Location: Concertgebouwplein 10 (facing Museumplein)
More information: www.concertgebouw.nl
Spend a Day at the Artis Zoo
Founded in 1838, the Artis Zoo is the oldest in Holland. It consists of four main areas: Zoo, Planetarium, Botanical Gardens and Geological and Zoological museum. The zoo itself is home to animals from more than 900 species. In addition, a unique aquarium shows you the animals that roam Amsterdam’s canals. In the peaceful gardens, you can find many old trees and statues of contemporary artists, as well as a truly impressive, tropical rainforest greenhouse, where you can walk in the company of colorful butterflies. The Planetarium offers a trip trough the universe and the Geological museum illustrates the planet’s evolution over the past 4 billion years.
Opening Times: November to March: daily from 9am - 5pm. April to October: daily from 9am - 6pm.
Every Saturday during June, July and August the zoo is open until sundown.
Location: Plantage Kerklaan 38-40
More information: www.artis.nl
Tips: Every day the zookeepers will tell you all about their animals, and you can see some of the animals being fed. Check the Artis website for a timetable of the zookeepers’ talks.
Although many of the shows in the Planetarium are in Dutch, there are some in English as well.