Archaeological finds in Amsterdam date from Roman times, but there is no evidence of a substantial settlement. About 1100 AD Amsterdam's fist permanent settlers, dambuilders, farming and fisherman, tamed the marshlands around the Amstel with ditches and dikes. The city grew rapidly after 1300 becoming a trading center between the North and Baltic Seas and Mediterranean Europe. The city prospered beyond expectations but due to the wealth of the merchants and craftsmen and with the Reformation, Calvinism sweep Amsterdam's citizenry, with its emphasis on sobriety, hard work and community-based worship. William of Orange and these Calvinists took on the imperial power of Spain's Catholic Philip II, and in 1578 they captured Amsterdam. The following year Amsterdam plus seven northern provinces declared themselves the independent republic of Holland. Amsterdam's golden age (1580-1740) began after Antwerp was captured by Spain and its access to the sea restricted. By 1600, Amsterdam's ships dominated maritime trade and fishing in Europe and by 1700 Dutch interests expanded overseas.
Amsterdam restyled itself during the industrial revolution as an industrial center; rail links were established; steel production thrived and the population expanded. As capital of a neutral Netherlands, Amsterdam managed relatively well in WWI and the boom years of the 20's. All changed during WWII when Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940. The occupying forces, often with the complicity of local authorities, desiccated Amsterdam's Jewish Population – 1 in 16 of Amsterdam's Jews survived the war, the highest proportion of Jews murdered anywhere in Western Europe. Postwar Amsterdam prospered quietly until the early 1960s when the younger generation along with immigrants made the city the radical heart of Europe. By the early the '90s the inner city became a very pleasant melange of pubs, coffee shops, restaurants and hotels. The ethnic makeup of the city is 30% Surinamese, Moroccans, Turks and Antilleans.
Today with it's history, canals, fleets of bicycles, and architecture, Amsterdam is the stuff of storybooks (notwithstanding the XXXrated zones). Revered cultural institutions plus a great sense of social responsibility, tolerance and artistic expression make this one livable energetic city – though a very expensive on.
Population: city, 735,511; Area: 220 sq km, Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1 or Central European Time.
Flight times: Chicago-8.4 hrs., London-.5 hrs., Los Angeles-11 hrs., NYC-6.5 hrs.
Average temperature: 68°F (20° C) in summer and winter 36°F (2° C), Heaviest precipitation is November through January.
Average Daily High/Low Temperature:
• March - May: 60°f / 38°f, 16°c / 3°c
• June - Aug.: 71°f / 53°f, 22°c / 12°f
• Sept. - Nov.: 58°f / 44°f, 20°c / 7°c
• Dec. - Feb.: 42° / 25°f, 6°c / -3°c
Schipol is one of the most important transportation hubs in Europe. A train station below the airport, immediately transports you to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and most cities and towns in Europe. http://www.schiphol.nl/schiphol/main/home.jsp (Go to English button at the top of the page)
The airport is 18km (11mi) southwest of the city. All prices in US dollars, Euro exchange rate is 1.2 to .8 depending upon economic conditions.
Taxi to the city center (30 minutes): $25.
Trains to Centraal Station (at 15 minute intervals): $3.
Public transit is excellent. Its hub is Centraal Station, where trams, buses and other metro lines converge; the system is both metropolitan and national – from Amsterdam you can reach most destinations within 2 hours by train.
Water Taxis (622-2181), Canal Buses (623-9886)
Amsterdam has over half million bicycles so if you want to be like the locals – happy pedaling, however Amsterdam is best experienced on foot.
The gateway to Amsterdam's museum quarter is the Rijksmuseum, the country's premier art museum and an easy place to overdose on old masters. As well as works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Steen, there are dollhouses, delftware, Asiatic art, changing displays of prints and drawings and special traveling exhibitions. The Van Gogh Museum nearby houses about 200 paintings by Vincent, including famous works like The Potato Eaters and The Yellow House in Arles. Japanese prints which influenced the old ear-slicer are also on display. The Stedelijk Museum next door focuses on art from 1850 to the present. It's one of the world's leading museums of modern art and has an eclectic, provocative collection. Attractions listed below are open daily and charge admission, unless otherwise noted. A Museum Boat (622-2181) stops near almost 20 museums, and offers discounts on museum admission.
Amsterdam's Historisch Museum (Amsterdam Historical Museum) Kalverstraat 92; 523-1822. Former 16th century orphanage displays city's mercantile and maritime history through arms, armor, furniture, and other artifacts dating from the 13th century. Closed New Year's Day. Anne Frank Huis
Anne Frank House, Prinsengracht 263; 556-7100. 1635 canal house that sheltered Anne Frank during WWII. Displays of family history and Jewish persecution, as well as present-day anti-Semitism and racism.
Heineken Brouwerij (Heineken Brewery) Stadhouderskade 78; 523-9239. Tour focuses on history of beer and brewing of Heineken, made here 1868-1988, including fermentation tanks and malt silo. Free beer after tour. Closed weekends and holidays.
Hortus Botanicus (Botanical Garden) Plantage Middenlaan 2A; 625-8411. Established as a medicinal garden in 1638. Contains more than 6,000 species of flora, primarily from the Southern Hemisphere, including herbs, palms, and desert plants. Closed New Year's Day.
Koninklijk Paleis (Royal Palace) Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 147, Dam Sq.; 624-8698. Official residence of the House of Orange-Nassau, used for special occasions by royal family. Open June-early Sept. and some holidays.
Museum Amstelkring, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40; 624-6604. Only remaining attic church of 30 or more clandestine Catholic chapels existing after Reformation. Below, 17th- and 18th century period rooms depict a merchant’s home.
Museum “het Rembrandthuis” (Rembrandt House Museum) Jodenbreestraat 4-6; 624-9486. Restored home of 17th century Dutch master. Houses all of Rembrandt’s original etchings, as well as paintings by his contemporaries.
Nederlands Filmmuseum (Netherlands Film Museum) Vondelpark 3; 589-1400. Daily screenings from collection of over 35,000 Dutch and foreign films. Small exhibit of film stills from the 1910s. Charge for films. Free outdoor screenings Sat. evenings June-Aug.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) Dam Sq.; 626-8168. Built in 1408 and fully restored in 1980, with carved altar and immense 17th century pipe organ. Used for recitals, exhibitions, and state occasions, including crowning of Queen Beatrix in 1980.
Oude Kerk (Old Church) Oudekerksplein; 624-9183. Amsterdam’s oldest church, built in 1306. Painted wooden roof, Gothic and Renaissance facade. Frequent recitals on carillon and organ built 1738-42. Tower open June-Sept.
Rijksmuseum (National Museum) Stadhoud-erskade 42, Museumplein; 673-2121. Netherlands’ largest national museum. Dutch paintings; decorative arts including Dresden china, delft porcelain, sculpture, and tapestries. Closed Mon. except holidays and New Year’s Day.
Rijksmuseum Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum (Netherlands National Maritime Museum) Kattenburgerplein 1; 523-2222. Chronicles Dutch seafaring history from Roman times to present with ship models, cannon, vessels, and other exhibits. Closed Mon. mid-Sept. to mid-June except holidays.
Sexmuseum Amsterdam “Venustempel” (Sex Museum) Damrak 18; 622-8376. Assortment of erotica, from tasteful to tasteless.
Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art) Paulus Potterstraat 13, Museumplein; 573-2911. Amsterdam’s best collection of modern art, including works in new media such as film and video and by the Dutch De Stijl group and many post-WWII artists. Closed New Year’s Day.
Van Gogh Museum Paulus Potterstraat 7, Museumplein; 570-5200. Contains extensive collection of the works of this 19th-century Postimpressionist, including paintings, drawings, correspondence, and works by his contemporaries. Closed New Year’s Day.
Vondelpark (Vondel Park) Entrance on Zandpad, near Leidseplein. Contains an open-air theater, cafés, and the Nederlands Filmmuseum. Free.
Westerkerk (Western Church) Prinsengracht 281; 624-7766. Crown-topped neoclassical tower dominates skyline. Queen Beatrix was married here, and Rembrandt was buried in graveyard. Tower closed Sept.–May.