#AtoZ

Amsterdam A-Z

It’s hard not to fall in love with Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands, this world-famous city has everything – a fascinating history, fantastical architecture, a buzzing culture, and fun and friendly people. Wherever you wander along its picturesque streets and peaceful canals, it’s impossible not to stumble upon new treasures and delights, with museums, cafes, bars, and everything you can imagine.

As one of our favourite destinations in Europe, we’ve decided to celebrate Amsterdam by choosing something great about it for every letter of the alphabet.

Here’s a quick flick through, but read on to find out more about each letter that we’ve highlighted!

A is for... Anne Frank's House

A – Starting with probably the most famous historical attraction in the city, Anne Frank’s House is naturally not one to be missed. You can see the rooms where the Frank family lived – and hid – along with Anne’s diary, preserved in a glass case in her reconstructed bedroom, telling a story of heart-breaking optimism in one of the darkest times in the city’s history. Find out about tickets and opening times: http://www.annefrank.org/en/Museum/

Photo RNW.org

B is for... Bicycles!

B – Amsterdam is also home to 800,000 bicycles, which is more bikes than there are people in the city!  Cycling is a way of life for the locals, whether it’s getting to work or meeting friends. There are lots of bike rental shops throughout the city, and for as little as €5 you can hop on and explore the city with ease.

C is for... Canals, Cheese & Clogs!

From canals to cheese and clogs, just to list the Cs that are iconic for the Netherlands. If you want to take a day trip out of Amsterdam, you could combine these two Dutch symbols with a visit to the Clara Maria Cheese Farm and Clog Factory – yes, it is a genuine place, built 160 years ago, with guided tours and demonstrations to tickle your tastebuds and your feet. Staying in the city, you could explore the Albert Cuypmarkt to see what cheesy delights you can find, and possibly some genuine wooden clogs too.

D is for... Dam Square

A Dutch D could easily be ‘dams’, but specifically Dam Square. This open space forms the historical heart of the city, and was actually built as a dam in 1270. As the dam was gradually widened, it allowed for a city square to form on top of it, where markets and public gatherings became commonplace. It’s also home to the grand Royal Palace, which was originally built as the town hall before being converted into a residence by Louis Napoleon, the king of Holland and brother of the famous Napoleon.

(Photo credit: Christopher Lancaster)

E is for... Eye Museum

Moving on to E, we come to the EYE Film Institute, the premier place for everything film in Amsterdam. It’s an easy place to spot thanks to its striking architecture, in an angular white building that looks like a landed space ship. Inside you’ll find both Dutch and foreign films with over 37,000 titles, as well as thousands of posters, photographs, and books starting from 1895! Find out more here: https://www.eyefilm.nl/en

F is for... Foodhallen

We’ve already looked at cheese, a very important food group, but if you want to sample a whole world of flavours and cuisines you can’t do better than the Foodhallen market hall. This stunning place in the Oud-West neighbourhood brings together street food vendors from restaurants and kitchens all over the city, giving you an unbeatable variety to tempt your tastebuds.

(Photo credit: Franklin Heijnen)

G is for.... GO DUTCH WITH US!

We’re only up to G on our A-Z tour, but if you’ve already been inspired to make a trip to the Dutch capital, then a mini cruise gives you the ideal way to get there. The DFDS Go Dutch offer gives you a passage for two people from Newcastle to Amsterdam, where you can enjoy an overnight voyage with a private cabin and lots to experience onboard. You can either spend a day exploring the city before your return crossing, or you can extend your stay with a hotel and really get to see what Amsterdam has to offer on our 2 for 1 Amsterdam mini cruise deal!

H is for... Heineken (hiccup!)

Amsterdam has a well-deserved reputation as a party city, but it’s also great for those with a more serious attitude to their beer. Several names spring to mind when one thinks of Dutch beer, such as Amstel, Grolsch, and Heineken. The Heineken Experience gives you a look at how their beer is made in a factory tour, with tastings on offer too. Or you can explore the many local delicacies in bars and pubs all over the city. Just remember when the Dutch say ‘café’ they really mean pub, and there are many different types, from historic bruin (brown) cafes, to grand and theatre cafes.

I is for... I amsterdam!

When we looked at the letter I we immediately thought of I amsterdam, the city’s tourism slogan, which you can find literally written on its streets. Currently located on Museumplein round the back of the Rijksmuseum, it’s the perfect spot for a selfie with the city. Just make sure you stand well back to get it all in.

J is for...Jordaan

Not far from the I amsterdam sign you’ll find the neighbourhood Jordaan, a vibrant and trendy area in the west of the city, stuffed with pubs, boutiques, and markets. If you fancy an afternoon exploring away from the big tourist attractions, you really can’t do better than the quaint streets and lanes of the Jordaan. Find out more about the neighbourhood in Amsterdam: http://blog.dfdsseaways.co.uk/amsterdam-neighbourhoods/

(Image credit: Anas Balushi)

K is for...Kings Day!

If you visit Amsterdam in the spring, specifically around April 27th, you might hear of national holiday called Koningsdag. King’s Day in English, this celebration marks the birth of the current Dutch monarch, King Willem-Alexander, and is all about fun, festivities, and national pride – so expect a lot of orange. One of the biggest events of the day is a city-wide street sale, the vrijmarkt (free market), where everyone is allowed to set up their own stall to create what is essentially one of the world’s largest car-boot sales.

L is for... Light Show!

At the other end of the year there is another fantastic celebration – the Light Festival. In December every year the city becomes even more magical than it already is with thousands of stunning light displays. From the canals to the city squares, glittering sculptures and neon figures adorn every surface, created by artists from all over the world. One of the best ways to see it is on a special canal cruise, where you can see light sculptures suspended over the waterways. Find out more detail here: https://www.amsterdamlightfestival.com/en/

M is for... Museumplein

For M, the obvious choice is Museumplein. The I Amsterdam sign we mentioned earlier is set in the middle of a host of world-class museums and art galleries, including the jewel in the crown, the Rijksmuseum. This famous and imposing building houses the finest collection of artwork in the country, and one of the best in the world, with the work of Dutch superstars such as Rembrandt and Vermeer along with 7500 other masterpieces on show. As if that weren’t enough, nearby you’ll find the wonderful Van Gogh Museum, and the Stedelijk Museum of modern art with its bathtub-like entrance.

N is for...Negan Straatjes

N is for Negen Straatjes, or The Nine Streets, a quirky and photogenic neighbourhood of the city straddling some of the grandest canals. It’s famous for its unique collection of shops, which includes vintage stores, designers, and specialist boutiques, as well stylish and cosy cafes. The area has a fascinating collection of street names too, giving a hint of what trades and activities used to take place there. There’s Wolvenstraat, Berensraat, and Huidenstraat for example, which translate to ‘wolves’, ‘bears’, and ‘hides’ streets!

(Image credit: Canadian Pacific)

O is for...Oude Kerk

When you want history in Amsterdam, you can’t do much better than the Oude Kerk. Oude means ‘old’ in Dutch, which is an apt name considering this is the oldest building in Amsterdam – 800 years old to be precise. You can find it, slightly bizarrely, in the red light district, which also happens to be one of the oldest parts of the city. The church has been renovated and altered many times over the years, but it still retains its stunning hand-painted wooden roof.

Photo credit: Bart Flickr

P is for...Parks

After you’ve spent a good deal of time exploring the city streets you should take a break in one of Amsterdam’s beautiful parks. You’ll find them all around the edge of the city centre, and are the perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon. There’s the small but perfectly formed Sarphatipark with its grand fountain, or there’s the ever-popular Vondelpark and nearby Rembrandtpark, both offering open green spaces, waterways, and beautiful tree-lined pathways.

 

Photo credit: Guilhem Gellut

Q is for Quality of Life

One of Amsterdam’s main attractions, and something that is true of the whole of Holland, is its quality of life. The country is ranked 7th in the UN’s World Happiness Report 2016, and also places 7th in Numbeo’s current quality of life rankings. It could be down to all the beautiful flowers, or the friendly people, or the liberal lifestyle, but it’s also due to low inequality, decent education, and a high life-expectancy. So an all-round great place to live and visit!

R is for Rembrandt

Who else but Rembrandt for our letter R? One of those few special artists who we remember by their first name, Rembrandt van Rijn is one of the world’s most important and famous painters, and was part of the Dutch Golden Age of art and culture. You can find some of his best work in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, but you can also visit his lavish home in the city, filled with period furniture that reflects the success he enjoyed during his career. The Rembrandt House Museum also contains its own collection of Rembrandt paintings and prints.

S is for Stroopwafel

For something sweet that begins with S we chose the stroopwafel. This classic – and delicious – Dutch treat is made from two thin layers of dough with a caramel syrup filling. First made in the city of Gouda, these delicious waffles can now be found all over Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The story goes that they were invented at the start of the 19th century by a baker using up leftover dough stuck together with syrup. If you want the best, head to Lanskroon, a historic canal-side bakery where they’re made fresh every day.

T is for Tulips

It’s impossible to think of Holland and not think of tulips.  Every year the Dutch grow over 4 billion tulip bulbs, turning fields into vast rainbows of colour. One of the best places to appreciate tulip season is at the famous Keuknehof gardens, one of the largest flower gardens in the world. Every spring this beautiful parkland bursts into colour and magic with the arrival of the tulips, with a different theme presented each year. You can also find a stunning array of tulips and other flowers in Amsterdam’s Bloemenmarkt, which floats on the canal in barges, reminiscent of the days when flowers would arrive by boat every day.

U is for UNESCO Heritage Site

U is for UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amsterdam’s canal district is a designated World Heritage Site, reflecting its huge importance to the history of urban planning and architecture. The city was once surrounded by a port in medieval times, until the nearby swampland was drained and the town extended with the series of canal rings we know and love today. The beautifully laid out streets and waterways were used as a model of city planning for centuries after, and of course are still much admired.

V is for Vondelpark

We’ve already mentioned parks, but Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest park, deserves more attention. This lush, green space is visited by over 10 million people every year, and is loved by locals and tourists alike. You’ll find people jogging, dog-walking, roller-skating or just lying down in the grass people-watching. If you’re lucky you might be able to listen to a free concert at the bandstand or in the open-air theatre, or you can visit the elegant Pavilion and enjoy a bite to eat in Café Vertigo.

W is for Windmills

What else could W be other than windmills? Probably the most famous symbol of the Netherlands. You’d think most windmills would be found far away from a city like Amsterdam, but it was actually once home to thousands. You’ll notice that they’re not quite so prominent today, but there are still eight windmills in and around the city. Every year these windmills get decked out with flowers and Dutch flags for National Windmills Day, another fantastic celebration of Dutch heritage and culture. You can visit most of these windmills throughout the year, many with fascinating living museums showing the mill industry in action. One of the most prominent inner-city windmills is Brouwerij t’IJ, a bar and brewery in the former site of a windmill.

Photo: gags9999

X is for XXX, Amsterdam's Coat of Arms

X is for XXX. No, it’s not what you think. These three Xs are from the official flag of Amsterdam, and are actually three Saint Andrew’s crosses. They sit on a black and red background, the colours coming from the city’s coat of arms which also shows the three white crosses. Their origin is said to from the 1st century saint Andrew who was martyred on an X-shaped cross, and not, as some people assume, anything to do with the red light district.

Photo: Aditya Patawari

Y gives us an opportunity to look at yesteryears, and some of the great events that Amsterdam has hosted in recent history. In 1928 Amsterdam was the host city for the 9th Olympic Games, beating a rival bid from Los Angeles. Amazingly, these were the first games where an Olympic torch was lit, and was the first time the parade of nations started with Greece and ended with the host nation, a tradition that continues to this day. They also started the practice of a 16-day games rather than stretching over several months as they used to, something we can all be thankful for.

Z is for Zoo

One of Amsterdam’s most popular attractions, Artis Royal Zoo is our final pick. It’s located right in the middle of the city, and is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands, first established all the way back in 1838. Today it’s home to around 750 different species, including zebras, giraffes, and elephants, as well as beautiful landscaped gardens with over 300 different types of tree. The zoo provides natural environment enclosures for its animals, recreating realistic habitats from all over the world, including an aquarium with a stunning coral reef.

Enjoyed reading through our A-Z of Amsterdam – why not experience it for yourself? Enjoy a mini cruise or hotel break to Amsterdam to soak up all the Dutch capital has to offer.

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