Amsterdam is the capital of Netherlands as mandated by the Dutch constitution, though the seat of the government is at The Hague. Amsterdam is a vital part of the Randstad conurbation and a top financial city. It covers an area of 219 sq km and has a population of 805,166 in 2013.
The name of the city is derived from the word Amstelredamme, meaning a dam on the River Amstel. It was a small fishing village which was given city rights in 1300 or 1306 AD. The city flourished as trade with the Hanseatic League progressed. The 17th century was the golden age of the city as it became the center of a worldwide trading network. The city suffered a temporary decline in the 18th and 19th centuries because of political unrest, but recovered by the end of the 19th century. Today, it is a city which is home to some of the most beautiful art treasures, parks, and architectural monuments, but also has a high crime rate.
The city is located in the province of North Holland, in the western part of the country. It lies about 2 metres below the sea level. Dykes have been constructed to keep out the sea. The city is located on the banks of two water bodies – the Amstel river and the IJ lake. There are a number of concentric semicircular canals surrounding the old city. There are the four most famous canals, namely, Singel, Herengracht, Keizergracht, and Prinsengracht. The greenery and the beautiful mansions along these canals are the distinctive features of the city. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea Canal.
Amsterdam enjoys an oceanic climate because of its nearness to the North Sea and the influence of the westerly winds. Summers are warm while winters are quite cold. Frosts are common in winter.
How to reach (transport)
You can easily reach Amsterdam in the following ways:
- You can fly to the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. It is one of the busiest airports in the city and is located about 15 kms to the southwest of the city. Other alternatives are to fly to Eindhoven or Rotterdam Airports and then travel to Amsterdam.
- The Amsterdam Centraal Station is located on the IJ waterfront. Trains run to a number of stations in Europe.
- Several major highways like the A1, A2, and A12 lead to Amsterdam. A regular bus service is available from different parts of Europe to Amsterdam. You can also travel by car.
- Cruise ships regularly dock at the maritime passenger terminal near the city center of Amsterdam. Ferries from UK are also available to Rotterdam located 125 kms away from Amsterdam.
When to visit
The best time to visit Amsterdam is during the summer months. June to September is the high season. During winters, the days are too short and the temperature is too cold for comfortable travel.
Culture (Fairs and Festivals) and Traditions
The diverse culture of Amsterdam is celebrated through a vast number of events and festivals. These are:
- The Queen’s Day is celebrated on 30th April. The celebrations begin on 29th April evening itself. This is the birthday of the queen mother. People wear orange and parties are held in different parts of the city.
- The Amsterdam Dance event is celebrated in mid October. This is the biggest club festival where electronic music and dancing events are held at a number of venues throughout the city.
- The Gay pride event is held on 13th August with fabulously dressed men and women celebrating on boat tours. A number of parties and festivities are organized.
- The High Times Cannabis cup festival is held from 18th to 22nd May when you can taste a number of cannabis products in the various coffee shops.
- The Uitmarkt is a week-long cultural festival, which is held in last week of August. Music concerts, literary and theater events, and movie screenings are held.
- The Jordaan festival celebrates the local heritage of culture and music from 14th to 16th September.
- The Holland festival is celebrated throughout the month of June with performing arts like music, dance, theater, studio arts and films being displayed.
- The PAN Amsterdam held in November is a grand fair showcasing the art and antique treasures of Netherlands.
- The Museum Night is held on the first Saturday of November when the museums remain open from 7 pm to 2 am in the night and present a number of shows and activities.
Points of interest (places to visit)
The most important sights of Amsterdam are as follows:
- Keukenhof is the historic flower garden located about 60 kms away from the city covering 74 acres. Millions of tulips bloom here during spring, producing an extravaganza of colors that is unrivaled in the world.
- The canals of Amsterdam are a beautiful sight and a boat ride should not be missed.
- The Artis zoo contains animals from throughout the world. There is a botanical garden, a planetarium, and a geological museum in the complex as well.
- There are a large number of museums in the city. The Rijksmuseum is the most famous, containing works by Rembrandt and Vermeer. The Stedelijk museum contains more than 90,000 exhibits of modern painting and art, while the Van Gogh museum contains one of the richest collections of works by the artist.
Amsterdam offers a vast variety of accommodation to travelers of all budgets. The 5-star hotels include Sofitel, NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Pulitzer, Hilton, and Okura. The 4-star hotels include Arena, Roemer, Movenpick, and Dylan, while the 3-star hotels include Lloyd, Piet Hein, Ibis, Fita, and Amstel Boatel. A vast number and variety of budget accommodations are also available including Hotel Nadia, Holiday Inn Express, and The Bridge Hotel.