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Seven Ways to Enjoy Amsterdam

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who has been to Amsterdam? They just absolutely love that city, don't they? Have you been there, yourself? If you have, I'd love to hear what you thought about it. If you have not, you might be wondering what the hype is about and what sorts of sights, sounds and activities make it so mesmerizing for visitors.

Well, I am positive that books have been written about Amsterdam, so I will not duplicate that effort here, but I can give you some ideas for things you might do. As you can imagine, this is not a comprehensive list, so when you're ready to go, you know where to find me to help customize your trip, your way. Hint: there is a green button below that you can click to magically get on my calendar. Or you can simply hit "reply" and magically make your way to my mailbox.

1. Explore the canals. Amsterdam is famous for its network of canals that crisscross the city. You can admire the picturesque bridges and houses that line the waterways, or hop on a boat tour to get a different perspective. You can also rent a bike or a pedal boat and explore the canals at your own pace. There are many canal museums you can visit when you need a break from pedaling: the Canal House Museum, where you can see how wealthy merchants lived in the 17th century; or the Museum of the Canals, where you can discover the history and engineering of the canal system.

2. Visit the Anne Frank House. This is a MAJOR attraction in the city; it is one of the most moving and popular attractions in Amsterdam where the young Jewish girl and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. You can see the secret annex where they lived for two years, and learn more about their story and the history of the Holocaust.

3. Enjoy the art museums. Amsterdam has a rich cultural heritage and boasts some of the world's finest museums, where you can admire the works of Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum is the largest and most famous museum, with a collection of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that span 800 years of Dutch history. The Van Gogh Museum is dedicated to the life and work of the troubled genius, with over 200 paintings and drawings. The Stedelijk Museum is the place to go for modern and contemporary art, with works by Picasso, Mondrian, Warhol, and more. The NEMO Science Museum, which offers interactive exhibits and experiments for kids and adults alike. If I go on about the museums, we will soon have that book I'm trying not to write.

4. Experience the nightlife. Amsterdam is known for its lively and diverse nightlife, with something for every taste and mood, whether you want to dance, drink, listen to music or watch a show. You can enjoy a beer at a cozy brown cafe, a traditional Dutch pub with a warm atmosphere and wooden decor. You can dance the night away at one of the many clubs that play all kinds of music, from techno to salsa, then catch a live show at one of the theaters or concert venues that host local and international artists. There are many cultural events and festivals that take place throughout the year, such as Amsterdam Dance Event,

which is one of the biggest electronic music festivals in Europe.

5. Taste the local cuisine. This is a given, because you've got to eat right? Amsterdam's multicultural heritage is reflected in its food: everything from typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen (deep-fried meatballs), and stroopwafels (thin waffles with caramel filling), to some of the ethnic cuisines from Indonesia, Suriname, Turkey, or Morocco. Restaurants and cafes, markets and food halls cater to every budget and preference, from fine dining to street food: Albert Cuyp Market, the largest and most famous street market in Amsterdam, sells everything from fresh produce to clothes and souvenirs; Foodhallen, a former tram depot converted into a food court; or De Hallen, a former industrial complex that has been transformed into a cultural hub with a cinema, a library, a hotel and a food hall. Multi-use for sure.

6. Shop 'til you drop. Amsterdam is a shopper's paradise with a variety of options for every style and need. You can browse through some of the famous shopping streets and areas, such as Kalverstraat, the main shopping street in the city center wtih many chain stores, boutiques and souvenir shops; Leidsestraat, another shopping street that has more upscale and exclusive brands and stores; De Negen Straatjes, which means "the nine little streets" and is a charming area of narrow streets that has many vintage, antique and designer shops; or De Pijp, which is a trendy neighborhood that has many ethnic shops, cafes and bars. Don't miss the quirky and unique shops that are scattered around the city, such as The American Book Center, one of the largest independent bookstores in Europe; The Otherist, a curiosity shop that sells varied and unusual items such as taxidermy, fossils, jewelry and art; or The Frozen Fountain, which is a design shop that showcases contemporary Dutch design and craftsmanship. You can also find some of the best vintage and edgy second-hand shops, and Kiloshop, which is a thrift store where you pay by weight instead of by item.

7. Learn about the culture and history. Amsterdam's rich and fascinating history dates back to the 13th century, and influences its present-day identity. Different museums cover different aspects of Amsterdam's past and present. Undoubtedly you'll pass through Dam Square, which is the heart of the city and where you can see the Royal Palace; the National Monument, which is a pillar that commemorates the victims of World War II, and the Nieuwe Kerk, which is a Gothic church that hosts exhibitions and ceremonies. For history buffs, The Resistance Museum, which shows how the Dutch people fought against the Nazi occupation during World War II is a must-do, as is The Jewish Historical Museum, which traces the history and culture of the Jewish community in Amsterdam from medieval times to today. Oh, and The Amsterdam Dungeon recreates some of the dark and gruesome aspects of Amsterdam's history with live actors, special effects and interactive shows.

Have fun at the city's attractions. Amsterdam has plenty of fun and exciting attractions that will make your trip memorable. It is a city of green spaces where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy nature, ponds, playgrounds, sculptures, and cafes...all in a park. Its vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own character and charm, invite you to wander around its landmarks, art galleries, cafes, restaurants and courtyards; you'll even find yourself in the city's famous Red Light District.

Many of the city's highlights are definitely for tourists. However, there are at least as many hidden gems and secrets waiting to be discovered by curious travelers. You can find hidden courtyards, lush gardens, churches, and museums that are off the beaten path and offer a glimpse into another side of Amsterdam. If I name them here they won't be secrets any more; we'll simply have to build them into your vacation.

'til next week.


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