Monday, January 23, 2012

Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The city is in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. If you fancy visiting Amsterdam why not tie in a visit to Keukenhof at the same time, just check it is open (check out our Post on Keukenhof).

Amsterdam is a a fantastic city to visit and spend a few days wandering round enjoying the architecture, the museums and the canals. If you're lucky enough to get a sunny day be sure and hop on one of the many tourist canal trips, it's a great way to see Amsterdam from the water. 

The canal system is the result of conscious city planning known as the Grachtengordel, three of the canals were mostly for residential development: the Herengracht (where "Heren" refers to Heren Regeerders van de stad Amsterdam (ruling lords of Amsterdam), and gracht means canal, so the name can be roughly translated as "Canal of the lords"), Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal), and Prinsengracht (Prince's Canal). The fourth and outermost canal is the Singelgracht, which is often not mentioned on maps, because it is a collective name for all canals in the outer ring. 

The most important museums of Amsterdam are located on the Museumplein (Museum Square), located at the southwestern side of the Rijksmuseum. The northeastern part of the square is bordered by the very large Rijksmuseum. The northwestern part of the square is bordered by the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, House of Bols Cocktail & Genever Experience and Coster Diamonds. Also worth visiting are the Ann Frank House and the Heineken Expereience. If you manage to see the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Ann Frank House you'll have got a real flavour of all this great city stands for.

Amsterdam is a great base to explore more of the province of North Holland, which has many fine old buildings and interesting museums. Below you'll find some suggestions of places we've visited and really enjoyed.

Zaanse Schans is the tourist heart of the Zaan region. This neighbourhood has typical Zaan houses, windmills and other buildings, its a must see if you get the chance to travel outside Amsterdam.

Zaanse Schans
The town of Edam, known worldwide is also worth a visit. The town has many historical buildings as well as the Edams museum which is located in a 16th century merchant's house. During July and August you can visit the Kaasmarkt, to see how Edam's famous cheese is sold.

Enkhuizen is still one of Holland's major ports. Its many fine buildings are evidence of the wealth of whats know here in the Netherlands as the Golden Age. Enkhuizen is home to the Zuiderzee Museum, a combination of an indoor museum (Binnenmuseum) and an outdoor museum (Buitenmuseum). The latter is a unique reconstruction of an old Zuidersee town,

Zuiderzee Buitenmuseum