En español | There are so many sides to Amsterdam, it “can make your head whirl,” says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the Frommer guidebooks. “It’s all jumbled together in a vivid mash-up, and even visitors on a short getaway come away feeling like they’ve had a real experience here.”
Drop off your bags at your hotel. Find a quiet spot like Hotel Seven Bridges, a charming hotel in a 300-year-old canalside house with double rooms often less than $200 — not exorbitantly priced for the luxury it offers. Then go exploring the waterways that ring Amsterdam on a boat tour that leaves regularly from docks by the train station. Now you can either raise a green bottle at the Heineken Experience, a brewery tour devoted to one of the world’s most famous beers, or imagine lifting a paintbrush at the Rembrandt House Museum, where it feels like the master has just left. For dinner, try Indonesian, a popular cuisine that reflects the country’s historic trade connections with the East, at Restaurant Blauw.
If you've planned well, you reserved a tour of the Anne Frank House months ago, because the lines can be long. (Or check online nightly, when additional tickets are released.) For anyone who read Anne’s diary recounting her family’s experience hiding from the Nazis, a visit is a chilling pilgrimage. Afterward, learn more about Amsterdam’s once-vibrant Jewish community at the city’s Jewish Historical Museum and candlelit 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue. Or wander the Dutch Resistance Museum to discover how the country fought Nazi occupation. For dinner, try classic Dutch cuisine at the homey Moeders (Mothers) restaurant.
As one of the world’s richest cities, 17th-century Amsterdam supported a community of artists. The recently renovated Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s top museums, showcases the masters. Although large, it’s easily navigated with free smartphone tours. Then honor another local artist at the Van Gogh Museum. If the weather’s nice, you can break up the visits by renting a bike to explore the cycle-friendly city and its sprawling Vondelpark greenspace. Tonight, consider a tour of the red-light district. Once a dangerous part of town, it’s now a tourist attraction with walking tours, packed restaurants and partying crowds. Here and elsewhere in the city, you’ll also see “coffee shops” selling marijuana, hashish and other drugs. The Scandinavian country’s liberal attitudes are welcoming to some and off-putting to others, but part of the city’s character.
On your last day, if you have time, head out of the city. If you start early, a visit to the Royal FloraHolland flower auction is mind-boggling. Tram drivers zoom around one of the world’s largest buildings, delivering just-sold tulips, sunflowers and other showy plants to wholesalers. Or grab a train to the city of Delft, a mini-Amsterdam that looks like it was painted by native son Vermeer. It’s easily toured on foot or bike. But you may want to have free hands to carry back souvenir Delft pottery, which is still made on site.
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