The city of grachts (canals) is the largest (800,000 population) of the Netherlands, and was first settled by fishermen on
the Amstel River in the 12th century.
Now it is the cultural, financial, and industrial capital of the country.
In the 17th century Amsterdam became the wealthiest city of the world, as its harbour served the north and all the countries around the Baltic Sea, and the south all the way to Portugal and Spain. Merchants became very wealthy and acquired the largest share of both the Dutch East Indian and Dutch West Indian companies. Both competed successfully with the English East India Company in the east and west.
Prosperity declined in the 18th century. Colonies the Dutch civil servants administered and Dutch companies exploited later on in the 20th century created many ethnic problems within the country.
Amsterdam’s extensive canal system is the result of conscious city planning. It consists of four concentric half circles and ends emerging at I J Bay.
Canals served to defend the city and supplied water. Construction started in 1613 and continued well into 1656. Today, they must be maintained to be functional. Several companies offer sightseeing tours in specially designed flat glass-domed boats and transportation companies use them for distribution of bulky items.
attracts close to five million tourists mainly Europeans, but also hundreds of thousands of North-and South Americans for shopping, visiting the many museums and enjoying the city’s vibrant night life.
The airport is linked by fast public transportation to the city centre.
The Netherlands is a small country with a very high population density. Everything here is small, including houses and gardens.
It is best to walk downtown, as traffic in the narrow streets can be overwhelming, and parking represents a major headache. You can also rent bicycles and ride. Te city has an extensive network of bicycle paths.
The best time to visit the country in general, Amsterdam in particular is June to September, although other months can be relatively mild.
The square Museumplein is surrounded by the most important museums, i.e Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum.
The House of Bols offers a tour of their production facilities and a visit to their cocktail lounge. Bols is one of the largest liqueur and spirit manufacturers in the country, and exports to many countries.
If you are interested in diamonds, you can visit several establishments to see how these precious stones are cut and polished by experts.
For those interested in classical music, the Symphony orchestra, at its home in teh Concertgebow, is worth a visit.
Other tourist sites are Anne Frank House, Heineken Brewer’s tour, Wynand/Focking Distillery and downtown, especially the Red Light district where prostitution is legal, but well controlled. The interesting aspect of the Red Light district is that it is residential also there are several restaurants.
Public transportation consists of streetcars, buses and a small subway system (It is very expensive to build subways in Amsterdam due to canals and water containment problems). Tourists can buy travel passes fro 24 – 168 hours and use the system.
Cannabis is illegal, but tolerated in the many cafes of the city. You can but cannabis by region of origin, or smoke it in the café while enjoying your preferred drink.
The city has some 400 hotels 50 of which offer the best prices, 50 – 150 of them are medium-priced, and 150 represent luxury operations.
Dutch cuisine is rich based on seafood, butter and other comestibles. Rijstafel (an Indonesian specialty) is offered in many restaurants. You must allocate at least a few hours for “rice tafel” experience as everything must be cooked a la minute, and condiments portioned in small containers.
If interested you can go to Delft for original “blue china”, or in season visit Keukenhof to behold beautifully laid out tulip garden, or travel to Rotterdam on a day trip or the political capital of the Netherlands The Hague, the seat of the International Court where dictators, world-class criminal politicians are tried.