By Briana Seftel
There are many reasons to visit the Dutch capital: delicious stroopwafel, historic 16th century architecture, and romantic canals. Still not convinced? Take a look at these nine reasons why you should visit Amsterdam.
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Amsterdam is museum nirvana! Three of the city's famous temples of art lie within the Museum District, while many others are spread out all over.
Rijksmuseum: Re-opened in 2013 after an extensive 10-year renovation, the Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands' most prestigous museum of Dutch national art including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh.
Stedelijk: Modern art lovers will revel in the international collection at Stedelijk, a contemporary museum that looks like a giant bathtub from the outside.
Van Gogh Museum: Fans of the Dutch Post-Impressionist master should make a beeline for this museum, which holds the largest works of art of the artist.
Rembrandt House Museum: See where the famed Dutch painter lived from 1639 to 1660 at this museum, which is a reconstruction of the Rembrandt’s rooms and of his workshop.
Hankering for a taste of Dutch food? In Amsterdam, you can sample all of the Dutch specialties to your heart's content. Try some of these famous dishes and snacks!
Poffertjes: These pillowy bite-sized pancakes are the ultimate Dutch sweet treat. Made in a specially crafted poffertjes pans, these delicate little morsels are eaten with powdered sugar and butter.
Bitterballen: Despite the name, these fried balls of goodness are not bitter, but in fact savory fried gravy! A popular pub snack, they pair perfectly with a glass of ice cold beer.
Stamppot: This is Dutch comfort food at its finest. Stamppot is a hearty dish of potato, carrot and onion mash served with sausage and meatballs.
Stroopwafel: The most well-known of Dutch treats, stroopwafel is a chewy waffle made from two thin layers of batter, filled with either a gooey caramel or syrup and pressed together in a waffle-iron.
Beer lovers won't be disappointed with the Netherlands, which happens to be the world's largest exporter of beer. In Amsterdam, see the home of Heineken and learn all about the well-known lager at the Heineken Experience, an interactive tour through the former brewery.
Tip: If beer isn't your drink of choice, try jenever, a juniper-flavored gin that is the national drink of the Netherlands.
Amsterdam isn't called the "Venice of the North" for nothing - the city has 165 canals spanning more than 60 miles (and 1281 bridges - three times that of Venice!) Built during the 17th century when Amsterdam was a small fishing town, the canal ring was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Cruising Amsterdam's canals, whether by private boat or traditional canal cruise, is a must-do.
Tip: A free canal cruise is included on the Amsterdam Holland Pass discount card.
5. Parks and Gardens
There are over 30 parks in Amsterdam, which means it's very easy to find a moment of peace in the busy capital.
Hortus Botanicus: One of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, Hortus Botanicus orginally was established in 1683 as a medicinal herb garden. Today, it holds a unique collection of over 4,000 species of plants.
Vondelpark: The largest park in Amsterdam, Vondelpark is centrally located near the Museum District. Popular among tourists and locals, the park has free concerts in the summer at its open-air theater and plenty of open green space for a picnic.
Sarphatipark: Just around the corner from the bustling Albert Cuyp Market, this tiny oasis of green is the perfect place to stop for a rest or just people watch.
Tip: Located just outside of Amsterdam in Lisse, Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden known as the "Garden of Europe." Open from late March to late May, the park is a spectacular sight of tulips and windmills.
6. Cafe culture
Not to be confused with coffee shops, Amsterdam's "cafes" are more like pubs rather than a place to sip a coffee. Also known as Dutch brown cafes (bruin cafes), the nicotine-stained walls and cozy wooden decor of the cafes are popular spots among locals to grab a beer or jenever, and a deep fried snack.
7. Bikes galore
Hop on a two-wheeler and ride around the most bike-friendly city in the world! With nearly 500 miles of cycle paths and bike lanes, biking in Amsterdam is by far the most popular (and efficient) way to get around. You can rent a bike from any one of the numerous bike rental companies around the city for a day rate, or you can take a guided cycle tour.
Tip: Keep in mind most bicycles in Amsterdam feature old fashioned back-pedal brakes instead of brake levers on the handlebars.
8. History & Culture
Amsterdam is chock full of historic and cultural sights, from bustling Dam Square to iconic street markets.
Dam Square: Amsterdam's central public square flanked by the Royal Palace is a popular gathering place for locals, tourists, and everyone in between.
Anne Frank House: No trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to the Anne Frank House, a museum telling the story of the Jewish diarist.
Westerkerk: Head to this Renaissance-era Protestant church where Rembrandt is buried and climb the 278-ft spire for incredible views of Amsterdam.
Royal Palace: Built in 1808, the Royal Palace is the home of the Dutch Royal family and is open to the public when the palace is not in use.
Albert Cuyp Market: Opened in 1905, this iconic street market open six days a week is great place to experience Dutch culture and try Dutch food.
# 9. Red Light District
Making up the area known locally as De Wallen, Amsterdam's infamous Red Light District isn't for the faint of heart. The area's history of prostitution dates back to the 1300s when the city was a major trading harbor. Brothels have been legal in Amsterdam since 2000, where over 290 red-lit window beckon visitors.
Another significant draw for visitors are the coffeeshops, where rather than coffee patrons enjoy marijuana. Marijuana is not exactly legal in the Netherlands, but posession and purchase of 5 grams of "soft drugs" is widely tolerated.