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About The 'Dam

Amsterdam is a top contender in Europe's beauty pageant, it's right up there with Venice and Paris.  But Amsterdam will never win it. It's too busy in funky and mellow bars, and 'exploring' life. Amsterdam has always been like this, ever since the Golden Age, when it led European art and trade. Centuries later, in the 1960s, it again led the pack – this time in the principles of tolerance, with broad-minded views on drugs and same sex relationships taking centre stage. Wander the 17th-century streets, tour the iconic canals, stop off to enjoy a masterpiece, discover a funky shop and taste cuisines from all over the world. Amsterdam is a top contender in Europe's beauty pageant, it's right up there with Venice and Paris.  But Amsterdam will never win it. It's too busy in funky and mellow bars, and 'exploring' life.

From Centraal Station the streets radiate across the huge network of canals. The Dam is the heart of it all, a 10-minute walk from Centraal Station. Leidseplein is the centre of (mainstream) Amsterdam nightlife, and Nieuwmarkt is a vast cobblestone square with open-air markets and popular pubs.
Rijksmuseum  boasts a collection valued in the billions, including a couple of Vermeers and the crowning glory, Rembrandt’s Nightwatch (1650). 

The outstanding Van Gogh Museum houses the world’s largest Van Gogh collection. Trace the artist’s life from his tentative start though to his Japanese phase, and on to depression and the black cloud that descended over him and his work.

The Stedelijk Museum features around 100,000 pieces including Impressionist works from Monet, Picasso and Chagall, and pop art from Warhol and Lichtenstein. Until renovations are complete (possibly early 2010) a few select works are on display around town; check the website for details.

Vondelpark is an English-style park with free concerts, ponds,lawns, thickets, winding footpaths and three outdoor cafes. It was named after the poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel, the ‘Dutch Shakespeare’, and is popular with joggers, skaters, buskers and lovers.

The Red Light District (aka the Wallen) with its cacophony of sex shops, coffeeshops, souvenir vendors and more retains the power to bewilder, even if near-naked prostitutes propositioning passers-by from black-lit windows is the oldest Amsterdam cliché. 

The Anne Frank Huis, where Anne wrote her diary, lures almost a million visitors annually with its reconstruction of Anne’s melancholy bedroom, and her actual diary, with its optimistic writing tempered by quiet despair. Crowds are lightest in the early morning or evening. 

FOAM  is an airy gallery devoted to painting with light. Two storeys of changing exhibitions feature world renowned photographers such as Sir Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibovitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson.New for 2009,

The Heineken Museum is the much– gussied up reincarnation of the brewer’s old brewery tour. Now there are multimedia displays, rides and plenty of gift shops in the old brewery. 

Amsterdam abounds in food choices. Happy streets for hunting include Utrechtsestraat, Spuistraat and any of the little streets lining and connecting the west canals such as Berenstraat.

Dining 

Pancakes !

A great place to sample Dutch pancakes in an atmosphere free of clogs and other kitsch – and there are just as many locals here as tourists.

Van Dobben 

Open since the 1940s, the venerable Van Dobben has white-tiled-walls and white-coated counter men who specialise in snappy banter. Trad Dutch fare is the speciality: try the pekelvlees (something close to corned beef) and the best kroketten (croquettes) and pea soup in town.

De Bolhoed 

An old-school vegie eatery, De Bolhoed has been dishing up generous helpings of Italian, Mexican and Middle Eastern dishes to Amsterdammers for decades. Enjoy the tables among plants by the canal.

’Skek 

Run by students for students (ID gets you one-third off), this friendly, fun cafe-bar is a nice place to get some tasty Mediterranean fare. Bands occasionally perform at night.

Tempo Doeloe 

 One of the most respected Indonesian restaurants in the city, this tiny place is also more formal than most. It’s the place to go if you’ve never enjoyed a rijsttafel (rice table).


Drinking and Dancing 

 

Doelen


On a busy crossroad between the Amstel and the Red Light District, this cafe dates back to 1895 and looks it: carved wooden goat’s head, stained-glass lamps, sand on the floor. During fine weather the tables spill across the street for picture-perfect canal views.

Hoppe


This gritty bruin café (brown cafe) has been luring drinkers for more than 300 years. Journalists, bums, socialites and raconteurs toss back brews amidst the ancient wood panelling. Most months the energetic crowd spews from the dark interior and onto the Spui.

In De Wildeman


An oasis in the otherwise grim tourist ghetto south of the station. There are seats outside on the quiet street and a good selection of beers inside.
Escape
 
Amsterdam’s biggest, glitziest club has managed to keep the bass pumping since the ’80s; it got a recent major tech revamp. Long lines get longer when a big-name DJ mixes.

Odeon


Set in a skinny canal house, the Odeon has been a creative party spot for decades. Glam but accessible, its club nights cater to a veteran crowd.
Sugar Factory 

One night it’s Balkan beats; another, it’s a 10-piece soul band – the Sugar Factory has all kinds of live entertainment. Equally important, the vibe is always welcoming and creative. It’s an excellent midsize space, with a smoking lounge upstairs.


Recommendations

Our guide was great, and really knew the best places to hang out.

Danny, USA