Dutch Icons

Amsterdam – A Holiday to Remember

Many iconic images make up the Amsterdam’s portfolio of cultural attributes; cheese, clogs and windmills being just a few. This full-proof, comprehensive guide gives you the rundown of Amsterdam’s icons.

Cheese

This dairy based delight is a culinary favourite nationwide. However, as the capital Amsterdam certainly has a densely packed list of places to visit for a taste of Dutch cheese.

Don’t know what to try? If you’re a novice, opt for Edam, Gouda or Maasdammer. Their light, easy flavours make them easy to enjoy. If you feel like branching out you can always choose a more aged option which will add a richer flavour.

 

Cheese-lovers, go for Geitenkaas, a hard goats cheese, or Boerenkaas, a farmers cheese made from unpasteurised milk. You can also find a Dutch blue cheese in the form of Bleu de Graven.

The Dutch love cooking with their cheese, too, so if you’re looking for a bite to eat, go for kaassoufflés, kaasblokjes or kaasstengels. Basically look for anything with ‘kaas’ in (Dutch for cheese).

 

To purchase these cheeses, you’ve got a range of options to choose from city-wide. There’s a dense amount of cheese shops on the Bloemenmarkt. Filling the 17th century merchant houses parallel to the floating flower market is the Golden Age Cheese Store, the Henry Willig store and the Cheese & More shop.

 

The Reypenaer Tasting Room is a centrally located attraction offering cheese tasting at various prices, some even include canal cruises for a true Dutch experience.

 

Finally, there’s the Cheese Museum. Here you can learn how cheese is made, as well as the history of cheese making. You can take a look at the world’s most expensive cheese slicer, and even dress up like a cheese farmer.

Clogs

Dating back near a millennia, this Netherland-native shoe now comes in all shapes, sizes and designs, and you can see them all in Amsterdam.

 

Pick up your own at the Rembrandt Hoeve store. This clog and cheese shop pairs together two of Holland’s favourite things. From basic clogs to eccentric designs, this is your best stop for clogs in the city. You can even get a personalised pair to take home.

 

Watch clogs made first-hand at Zaans Schans. This quirky workshop just outside Amsterdam is one of the only places you’ll see clogs made by hand. It even has its own clog museum which boasts one of the biggest clog collections in the Netherlands including clogs for animals, fashion clogs, even roller-clogs.

 

If clogs weren’t a novelty in themselves, how about climbing into the giant yellow one that sits just off Dam Square? It’s the ideal photo to capture your time in the capital.

Brown Cafes

Brown cafés are a perfect representation of the Dutch term ‘gezellig’, roughly translating to that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you’re all cosy and surrounded by friends. These centuries’ old establishments can be found across Amsterdam. Named rather literally, they are decorated with dark wood, low lighting and stained walls and ceilings (some of which is merely the work of hundreds of years of smokers). They’re small, quaint and charming and draw in both locals and tourists for their history. They do serve beers and wines, but if you’re feeling up for it why not try a Jenever? Like gin, this strong spirit is sure to put some hairs on your chest.

 

Just a few of the best brown cafés include Café Chris situated in Jordaan and dating back to 1624. Café Hoppe, built in 1670, is open 8am-1am so you can come here for anything from breakfast to a nightcap. Proeflokaal Arendsnest serves only beer brewed in Holland, with staff that are prepared to pour you a glass of whatever they think will suit your palette best, just let them know what you like.

Historical Figures

The Anne Frank House is a poignant and sombre museum dedicated not only to Anne Frank but also the 7 people that lived in the annex with her during WWII. Discover the hideaway where Frank spent over 2 years. The changing exhibitions allow an insight into this tragic yet immortalised part of history.

 

Rembrandtplein, a busy, centrally located square is named after famed Dutch Master, Rembrandt. The statue that sits in the middle of the square sees the artist atop a pedestal, perhaps a metaphor for the status with which this painter is held. The golden statue, symbolic of Holland’s Golden Age is protected by a number of smaller statues of soldiers. You can also find almost all of Rembrandt’s artistic collection in his museum, less than 10 minutes’ walk from the square.

 

The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the artist and his contemporaries in the beautiful Museumplein. Interactive exhibitions provide a multimedia experience and allow you to interact with the famed artwork.

 

Bikes

Did you know that there are over 400km of cycle paths across Amsterdam? Did you also know that there are more than 881,000 bikes in the city? This serves to highlight Amsterdam’s role as one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world.

 

See the city on two wheels and hire a bike for yourself. They’re readily available to rent at spots across the city. However, why not combine it with a guided tour of the city? It’s a quick and convenient way to get from site to site, allowing you to transport yourself like a local, too. There’s plenty of bike tours to choose from, too, including Jordaan by bike and the annual Light Festival bike tour.

Windmills

A symbol of Dutch culture, you’ll find eight windmills in and around the Dutch capital. The country decorate their windmills for special holidays, and even have a National Windmill Day. It’s 11 May if you’re curious.

 

Windmills here almost have a life of their own and act as a timeline of Amsterdam’s architecture from the Golden Age, with windmills from the 17th century. De Otter is a national monument which dates back to 1631, and Riekermolen was built in 1836. The windmills provide an architectural commentary on the relationship between the Dutch and their often temperamental waterways. They utilised both the power of water and wind to produce bread and mustard, even paints and oils.

Canals & Bridges

Designed in the 17th century to improve mobility in the city, there’s over 100km of canals in total in Amsterdam. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, this ‘Venice of the North’ boasts even more bridges than Venice, itself, with an impressive 1281 bridges across the capital.

 

Amsterdam even derives its name from the Amstel River that passes through it, as well as the dam built in the city in the 13th century. This demonstrates the influence the Dutch waters have had on both the country, and its capital.
Perhaps the most popular bridge in the city is Magere Brug, or Skinny Bridge. It is said to takes its name from the original bridge that was built there circa 1690. Apparently this bridge was so skinny that it could not even fit two people on at once.

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