AMSTERDAM IS KNOWN FOR ITS SCENIC CANALS, Quality museums, vibrant art scene and opulent history
Amsterdam is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe, receiving around 20 million visitors each year. It’s also the capital of The Netherlands. Often compared to Venice, Amsterdam is famous for the many beautiful canals (over 160) which you can boat in or stroll down.
As such, you can imagine there are many cruise-theme activities you can do in the city. However, there are many more facets to Amsterdam beyond just the waterways.
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- 🚩 Top Tour Activity: Evening Canal Cruise
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- 📍 Top Museums: Rijksmuseum | Van Gogh Museum
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What Is Amsterdam Known For?
Amsterdam is famous for its rich art scene, countless museums, and opulent history. The key attractions and landmarks are often connected to famous people who resided in the city during their lifetime, such as Van Gogh and Anne Frank. Amsterdam is also known for being party central, as nightclubs are scattered around the city and several jubilees are celebrated.
History, Culture, And Traditions Amsterdam Is Famous For
The Golden Age was a period between 1588 and 1648 that shaped the Netherlands. It constitutes an essential and meaningful portion within the historical facts about Amsterdam. Much of the art, science, and trade that Amsterdam is known for began during this era. As a result, it’s considered the most important part of its history.
‘A Woman Drinking with Two Men’ by Pieter de Hooch and ‘Self-Portrait at the Age of 34’ by Rembrandt are prime examples of prominent artworks from then. They were both painted in the 17th century.
The Amsterdam Light Festival is an open-air celebration of art between November and January every year. Artists compete to create the best sculptures which then illuminate the city along the waters. Keizersgracht Canal is the usual hotspot for these artworks.
The event is themed, which helps to keep the festival dynamic from year to year. As Amsterdam is famous for its art, this aids artists in bringing their distinct talents to the scene.
City Of Canals
Amsterdam is regarded to be the ‘Venice of the North’, because of its stunning canals that take up a quarter of the city. However, they ultimately combine to over 75km, which is substantially more than Venice!
The Brouwersgracht, known as ‘Brewer’s Canal’, is considered particularly captivating. It’s found in the Jordaan district and is peaceful and scenic.
The Grachtenfestival is a music festival held annually and lasting over a week, which is held on the canals. Aspiring young musicians gather to showcase their talent, whereby their performances are watched by thousands.
One of the most significant celebrations of Amsterdam is Koninginnedag, known otherwise as ‘The King’s Day’. Depending on the monarch of the city at the time, this can alternatively be Queen’s Day as it was before, honoring Queen Beatrix.
King’s Day is held every year on April 27th, commemorating the birth of King Willem Alexander. People sail joyously on the canals, throw immense carnivals, and wear orange. A noticeable fact about the Netherlands is that orange is the color of the Dutch Royal Family.
As such, you will often see this bright shade of color all over things related to festivities, such as the Dutch pastry – Tompouce during King’s Day. The home kit for the national football team is also in Orange.
Saint Andrew was a fisherman who convinced a fellow fisherman Saint Peter to give up their livelihood and follow Jesus, hence making them the first disciples. Ultimately, Saint Andrew was executed on the cross in 60 A.D. on a similar cross to the X symbol.
The current flag of Amsterdam is three Saint Andrew crosses representing valor, resolution, and mercy.
Interestingly, this can often be confused with XXX, as Amsterdam is famous for its explicit nature too, with the red light district and all.
Districts And Areas Amsterdam Is Known For
Centrum sits in the center of Amsterdam. It’s a lively neighborhood with loud nightclubs, exciting cafes, and interesting buildings.
Furthermore, Centrum is home to some of the most famous streets in Amsterdam. For example, Nieuwe Hoogstraat is an area renowned for its fashion. There are vintage stores with retro finds and luxury boutiques with unique items of clothing.
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to explore ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’, a fascinating museum with peculiar displays.
Oost is a family-friendly destination with lots of greenery. The Oosterpark in particular is a great spot to sit and enjoy the weather by the beautiful pond, or walk around the trees. It’s also the first municipal park in the city!
You can also check out the Tropenmusuem, an ethnographic museum that Amsterdam is famous for thanks to its architecture. Inside you can find a luxurious entrance hall, carved-out walls, and intricate designs. The pieces originate from Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Zuid is nicknamed the Museum Quarter for very obvious reasons. It’s home to the Rijksmuseum, which is the largest in the country and features Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Here you can also find the Van Gogh Museum, which has a huge collection of his work. All of these as well as the Stedelijk Museum is a triad of exhibition halls located in the public square – Museumplein.
As Zuid is considered one of the more affluent districts, it has some of the best things to do in Amsterdam. Aside from museums, you can visit the Concertgebouw, a music hall that has hosted some of the most famous operas. Beer lovers will love the interactive tour at the Heineken Experience where you can enjoy a pint as well!
Noord is a trendy cultural neighborhood with several fun things to do with family and friends.
The biggest flea market in Europe, IJ-Hallen, is found in Noord. Vintage gems like clothes, jewelry, and even furniture are sold at discounted prices, which makes for the perfect souvenir.
Additionally, it’s worth visiting the A’DAM Tower. This 22-story landmark serves as an observation deck with a panoramic view of the surroundings. For the more adventurous, there’s a swing attached to the roof, which offers a thrilling experience.
One of the best attractions that Amsterdam is famous for is the Cheese Museum located in Jordaan. Gouda and Edam are just some of the cheeses invented in the Netherlands. The museum aims to educate on the history of cheesemaking while providing some delectable samples to try!
Similarly, Jordaan is known for its restaurants and food scene. La Oliva is a perfect example of this, which serves Spanish cuisine and wines in the center of the district.
Landmarks And Architecture Amsterdam Is Famous For
Van Gogh Museum
The Vincent Van Gogh Museum is one of the most famous places in Amsterdam in terms of the art scene. It houses 200 permanent paintings solely by Van Gogh, in addition to drawings and letters. This ranges from oil paintings to canvas exploring a variety of themes.
In addition to this, the rotating exhibits often feature famous counterparts such as Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard, who were close friends with the renowned painter. It is one of the key attractions in the Netherlands.
The Rijksmuseum is an arts and history museum with an impressive collection. This is one of the many things the Netherlands is proud of. Found in the 18th century, it remains a national gem and is home to some iconic creations.
Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Johannes Vermeer are amongst some of the best painters that the museum features. You can spend a whole day here and not get through everything, particularly if you really want to explore in detail.
The first ever piece bought by the museum is The Swan, an elegant oil painting from the Golden Age.
One of the best ways to really cover the highlights with significant insights is through a guided tour. This is definitely a destination that’s worth having that extra knowledge.
Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House on the Prinsengracht Canal is a museum dedicated to Anne Frank. The young girl was a German Jew who hid for two years during the macabre genocide ordered by Hitler.
This meaningful museum is located in the exact house that Frank was trapped in, which elicits a stark feeling of grief in visitors. It’s one of the most famous places in Amsterdam because, amongst the various exhibits, there’s even the exact diary she wrote in.
But if you want a more complete timeline behind the story of Anne Frank and the Jewish Quarter, make sure to take the popular Anne Frank WWII Walking Tour.
The Centraal Station of Amsterdam is a major landmark due to its stunning Gothic and Renaissance Revival architecture characteristic of the time it was built in 1891.
The building is constructed from a distinctive red brick and has a cast iron roof and eye-catching turrets. It’s one of the busiest stations, with both national and international lines to Brussels and Berlin.
The designer Pierre Cuypers is also famed for designing the Rijksmuseum, and many Catholic Churches. It’s so obvious and visually imposing that you cannot miss it.
The Royal Palace of Amsterdam is located on Dam Square. It’s a lavish 17th-century structure that has been used by some of the most significant royals. This includes King Louis Napoleon of France and the Dutch King William.
Whilst the exterior of the palace was originally a pure white color, it has since darkened due to its age. Nevertheless, it’s monumental in size, and the turquoise dome and clock tower remain intact. Inside are bronze chandeliers, white sculptures, and oil paintings.
This is one of the many palaces and castles in the Netherlands that you should check out, particularly if you are keen on medieval history.
Food Amsterdam Is Known For
Bitterballen is a popular street food in Amsterdam that’s especially prevalent in pubs and parties. They’re a great side dish but can also be created into a hearty meal when eaten with mash or fries.
Essentially, these are balls of meat covered in a roux and fried. They pair well with mustard, which gives them a fiery taste.
In addition to this, bitterballen are commonly washed down with beer. In Amsterdam, Heineken is usually the drink of choice. Alternatively, the Brouwerij ‘t IJ is a local brewery the locals adore, found inside an old windmill!
The stroopwafel is a dessert in the Netherlands that’s consumed worldwide. It’s so popular that you can find them in supermarkets, bakeries, and cafes. Originally, it was invented in the city of Gouda in the north of Holland in the early 18th century.
A stroopwafel is a thin, round cookie patterned with tiny squares on top. It’s chewy and tastes like syrup, which is unique and unlike any other dessert.
Amsterdam culture dictates stroopwafels should be placed over a steaming cup of freshly made coffee, to make them soft and warm. If you have never tried this indulgent Dutch snack, make sure you grab some! They are also great souvenirs to take home.
Gouda is one of the most popular cheeses in the world, accounting for over half of the world’s consumption.
It’s commonly assumed that this magnificent cheese was discovered in the city of Gouda, but shockingly, this is where it was first distributed, along with Edan. The cheese itself was created in many small Dutch villages around the Netherlands as early as the Middle Ages.
It has a sweet yet nutty flavor and a firm texture. This makes it ideal for spreading on crackers or toast.
You may not believe it, but one of the most famous foods in Amsterdam is raw fish.
And you can find this unique delicacy on every corner as it is a popular street food.
Herring has a strong flavor and so it can be eaten by itself without needing condiments. On the other hand, it can be enjoyed in a bun together with pickles and fried onions, like a hot dog. Vlaggetjesdag, otherwise known as ‘Flag Day’, marks the official season of the herring. It’s a Dutch celebration that takes place every year!
There are plenty of Dutch cuisines and food that you can try while exploring the city. It’s both a tasty and cultural experience.
Famous People From Amsterdam
Amsterdam is famous for birthing Johna Cruijff, who’s considered to be one of the best athletes of all time. He was a footballer and subsequently coach, who had played the sport since his tenth birthday.
His most valuable accomplishment is no doubt winning the Ballon d’Or three times throughout his career.
He also played for the Amsterdam club Ajax and represented the Netherlands. Cruijff had an international career. This included participating and joining Spanish teams like FC Barcelona and Levante.
You can actually get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Johan Cruijff stadium which is named after this legend.
Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh was mentioned multiple times, and even has a museum dedicated to his masterpiece; it comes as no surprise that he is one of the most famous Dutch personalities.
Vincent Van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in the 1850s. Throughout his life, he lived in many cities but spent much of his early adulthood in Amsterdam. He adored the museums, especially the Rijksmuseum, and gained inspiration from the painters who resided there at the time.
The painter was renowned for his post-impressionistic style which used bold colors and emphasized shapes. However, he only received this clamor after his death.
Van Gogh dedicated two of his paintings to the city: De Ruijterkade in Amsterdam, and View of Amsterdam from Central Station.
Anne Frank was a diarist who used an autograph book she was gifted as a way to document her experience in Amsterdam for two years, beginning in 1942. She hid from the Nazis at Prinsengracht 263, a 2-mile canal running through the heart of the city.
Devastatingly, Anne was captured and ultimately died of typhus fever. The house where she and her family hid is now a museum and serves as a piercing reminder of The Holocaust. You can also find her original diary there.
Rutger Hauer was a famous Dutch actor who grew up in Amsterdam. He was proclaimed to be the ‘Best Dutch Actor of the Century’, an award he won in 1999.
Hauer was best known for his roles in ‘Bladerunner’ and ‘The Hitcher’, which were global successes. However, he also starred in many Dutch movies, mainly toward the beginning of his career. His top Dutch movie, ‘Turkish Delight’, won an award at the Netherlands Film Festival and was also nominated at the Academy Awards.
Discovering More Things Amsterdam Is Known For
From the Museumplein to the distinctive and intriguing neighborhoods, Amsterdam is famous for its many attractions that are recognized worldwide. There are plenty of landmarks and activities here that appeal to a variety of interests.
Is this a touristy city? Sure, but it’s certainly not a tourist trap. There is a reason why Amsterdam continues to draw plenty of visitors each year, and it’s well worth a visit at least once.
If you like to avoid insane crowds, plan to visit outside of the peak season instead. In addition, don’t overlook the surrounding countryside. Take the metro out of the city center and you will find a rather different, tranquil scene from the bustling hotspots.