The name of the Netherlands stems from the fact that two-fifths of the territory are below sea level, sheltered by natural sand dunes and especially by artificial dams. At the center of the village is the Randstad, literally a city on the edge, a large conurbation on a roughly shaped ring that includes the three major cities of the state of Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe, Amsterdam, the constitutional capital, and the Hague, the seat of government. At the center of this circle is still rural areas.
Amsterdam. It is a beautiful city that deserves to be appreciated in itself with the extraordinary number of canals and bridges. Here, too, the excursion on the canals is critical: we choose the boats they make the ride longer and who are also visiting the port. The lodges files mostly seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with facades overhanging gabled curious, flanking on one and on the other side of the oldest channels, are, along with some old bridges, the most seductive thing in town.
The town is very vibrant and full of worldly attractions, recreation and entertainment but not all suitable for the ladies, who perhaps should avoid going alone on certain central streets. Highlights of the visit are the Rijksmuseum, one of the largest museums in Europe, with masterpieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer of Delft, the Rembrandt House, the other museums, the old and the new church and the wonderful, rich zoo.
Amsterdam deserves at least some laudatory line. Especially when it starts to set in again the desire to see her again. So here I give you some practical advice to reach there and make the best of it!
First, I want to recommend the Amsterdam City Pass, a card that allows you to explore the city for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours and thanks to which you will have access to more than 40 museums.
How to get to Amsterdam
Movement is easy from Schiphol airport to the city center because it is guaranteed by fast trains arriving in Leidseplein, the main station of the city. Trains are every 15 minutes, and takes about 20 minutes. If you prefer the convenience, you can book a taxi from Schiphol Airport to the hotel.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
Find where to sleep in Amsterdam is not difficult, but when you ask the question a couple of days before departure you will find all the hotels seem to have already booked. So book early.
What to see in Amsterdam
If, unlike me, you booked the Amsterdam hotel before departure, you will not lose half a day to look for a stay and you can use the entire day for traveling if flight schedules permit. The ideal is to start with a walking tour of the city center to get an idea of distances and to become familiar with the place. The central starting point could be the Dam Square, with the hustle and bustle of tourists and locals located just 5 minutes from the central station that can be reached along the Damrak. Here you will find the Royal Palace, the Nationaal Monument, the obelisk stone dedicated to the victims of World War II, the New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) and the wax museum of Madame Tussauds.
Moving a little further is Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein. The first, Leidseplein, is one of my favorite places, where many locals spend the evening. Nightlife is good even around Rembrandtplein, where stands the bronze statue of the greatest Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
The second day could be dedicated to what characterizes Amsterdam of tulip flowers, canals and painters. In the morning you can take a ride to Bloemenmarkt, the Dutch flower market. Here are colorful flowers of all kinds and is the only floating market in Europe. The morning goes on with a ride on the canal in a boat, which are vital to the city since its origin. There are more than 165 and were created centuries ago to promote trade and transport. They are so beautiful and characteristic that in 2010, UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site. Tours are available in several languages and depart from several points of the city.
The afternoon can be dedicated to the Van Gogh Museum in Museumplein because you cannot be in Amsterdam for two days and not just visit it. Buying your tickets online in advance is a great move and I recommend it, as also you should not get there late because otherwise you have no time to enjoy fully. If you have time, and is not already dark you can take a trip to Vondelpark, one of the green lungs of the city.
We move to another area of the city and go to the Red Light District or Rossebuurt in Dutch. We are in libertine Amsterdam, where almost everything is possible. This area is always very crowded, so watch out for pickpockets and also avoid improper behavior. This area is definitely known for entertainment, but the fact remains that it is also important artistically. This is where you find the beautiful Oudekerk (Old Church) in Gothic style and a real Chinatown with many Asian restaurants.
The walk can continue up to Nieuwmarkt (Pesa), one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Not far away is Montelbaanstoren, a bell tower built in the sixteenth century on the Oudeschans canal and one of the favorite subjects in Rembrandt's etchings. If you still want to walk, you can reach the NEMO by Renzo Piano, the largest science center in the Netherlands where you can appreciate the strange shapes of the profile.
The afternoon awaits another cultural event, this time with Rembrandt and the enormous Rijksmuseum in Museumplein for typical souvenir pictures. If you want to get out of town, there is the Keukenhof, a park of 32 hectares well covered with flowers! One idea would be to combine this tour with a cruise on the canals.
We are still missing a bit of interesting things so do not let your guard down and enjoy this fourth day. We are still missing the Heineken Factory Museum and a ride to the outdoor market in Via Albert Cuyp in the De Pijp district for some retail therapy in one of the oldest markets in Europe.
And then there would still be the channels to the West, those in the Jordaan, one of the most picturesque quarters of Amsterdam. Here you will find the museum house of Anne Frank Huis, the Westertoren and the adjacent Westerkerk church and the Noorderkerk. If you are real fans of beer you can book the Heineken Experience.
Getting around Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city where almost everyone move in bicycles and is easy to succumb to the charms of cycling, especially as everywhere rentals for bikes sprout like mushrooms. The other most common way to get around Amsterdam is walking, since the city is flat and pedestrians are well respected. And then while walking you will not lose a single detail!
Even with regard to public transport, the integrated public service of bus, tram and metro is efficient and widespread.
Aja in Dutch is called Den Haag and is a quiet and noble residential town, with elegant and huge green spaces neighborhoods. It has a lovely seaside neighborhood, Scheveningen, which is the location of the busiest sea by the Dutch, a suburb halfway between the elegant seaside resort with a long sandy beach and the fishing harbor and every summer Friday there is a show of fireworks.
The ancient Binnenhof, the complex of parliamentary buildings, is interesting as well as the art gallery called Mauritshuis which houses a unique collection of Rembrandt, surrounded by hundreds of other paintings of the highest level. More towards the sea, to the south and west of a wide expanse of parks, are stacked a number of unusual museums. Interesting aquarium in Scheveningen.
The highway between The Hague and Utrecht touches Gouda, a stop not to be missed: in addition to the pipe and to the cheese market, are the Saint Janskerk with seventy famous stained glass windows and the collections of art in Stedelijk Museum.
Rotterdam, at a key point of the delta Meuse-Rhine system, is the largest port in the world: its gigantic extension you can do a detailed idea by boat, or by synthetic tower Euromast (already the first floor, with restaurants, is 100 m in height). Already old and beautiful city, was razed by the Germans with a merciless bombardment.
The reconstruction followed an admirable master plan, which includes some of the most famous modern buildings in the world. Very interesting boat trip in the great river port. For lovers of the past suggest a visit to the endless Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, rich in pottery, silverware, nineteenth-century and contemporary art.
Other Dutch cities of particular interest are the Utrecht, with its magnificent Gothic cathedral, hertogenbosch, with another really beautiful cathedral, also Gothic. Haarlem, the historic residence of the counts of Holland erected on the banks of the river Spaarne, Leyden, became in 1575, at the behest of William I, the seat of the first Dutch university.
And yet Deft, Nijmegen, Groningen, with their ancient buildings, museums, silent canals, Maastricht, with its unique landscape of hills and valleys, the labyrinth of caves, the magnificent Romanesque churches, and finally Arnhem, modern after the destruction of war, but interesting for the National Park and the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, isolated within the Park, art collection of extraordinary interest, for the works of Van Gogh.