Just Traveling Thru Amsterdam, Netherlands

A Guide to Exploring the Dutch Capital

Just to make sure that everyone understands where Amsterdam is located, note that the Netherlands are also known by a number of names, ie; Holland, Dutch, the Low Country, etc. The official name of the northwestern European land of tulips and windmills is "Koninkrijk der Nederlanden," or Kingdom of the Netherlands. This was our fourth stop on a trip that we called Fjords, Windmills, Mountains & Lakes where we visited seven countries in three weeks.

Amsterdam was on our list because we wanted to experience the Netherlands, the city’s canals, museums, history, culture and learn more about the Dutch world renowned water management skills.

Travel Tile

We did the touristy things; took a canal tour, visited the Van Gogh museum, took a Windmill tour and walked the city and... yes... we visited one of the infamous coffee shops… what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam.

We were amazed at their ability to manage waterways and learned a lot about it on a day trip we took to Zaanse Schans. We found the food varied and wonderful with different ethnic choices and some touristy favorites. We ate Portuguese food and sampled the apple pie at the famous Cafe Winkel 43. We couldn’t pass up the stroopwafels during a day trip excursion. We tried to experience all we could in the few days that we had.

There are a number of ways to get around the city, ie; walking, tram cars, buses, canal boat taxi or canal boat "hop on/hop off" boats and, of course, bicycling. Bicycling is a way of life in the Netherlands and bike rentals can be found all over the city. We combined walking with the tram car system because it allowed us to fully explore the city at our leisure (we could sit or explore any time we felt like it) and nothing in Amsterdam is very far from either a tram car or a canal boat!

Amsterdam Coat of ArmsImage is the property of Wikimedia Commons
Amsterdam Pass

If this is your first time to Amsterdam, you can save money by using a City Pass like this. Take a look at what is available and what you can save by going to one of the links below.
Rebranded in 2022 as the "Go City" card. Click the image to explore your options where you can select an "All-Inclusive Pass" or "Explorer" pass.
Choose from a 1-day to a 5-day pass and save up to 55% - check out the All-Inclusive Pass itinerary
Or see how easily you can save 55% - check out the Explorer Pass itinerary

Some Interesting Amsterdam Facts   Map
  • Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague.
  • Amsterdam has a population of 851,373 within the city proper, 351,587 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area.
  • Amsterdam is much younger than other Dutch cities such as Nijmegen, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. In October 2008, historical geographer Chris de Bont suggested that the land around Amsterdam was being reclaimed as early as the late 10th century.
  • Amsterdam was granted city rights in either 1300 or 1306. From the 14th century on, Amsterdam flourished, largely from trade with the Hanseatic League.
  • The 17th century is considered Amsterdam's Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the western world.
  • In the early years of the 21st century, the Amsterdam city centre has attracted large numbers of tourists: between 2012 and 2015, the annual number of visitors rose from 10 million to 17 million.
  • The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest stock exchange in the world and is located in the city center.
  • Amsterdam is one of the world's most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented.
  • A land of giants, the Netherlands is the loftiest nation on Earth: the average height of a Dutch man is 182.5cm; a Dutch woman 168.7cm. By comparison their American counterparts measure 177.1cm and 163.5cm respectively.
Amsterdam Central Station

Catching a train into the city from Schiphol is extremely simple, as the Schiphol Airport Train Station is actually underneath the main airport terminal. You collect your luggage, walk into the main hall and look for the train signs, and go downstairs. The train requires approximately 10 to 15 minutes to reach the Amsterdam Central Station.

Since this was our initial view of the City of Amsterdam, we took a look around the station. Construction started in 1882 and the station opened in 1889. New underground construction has been in progress since 1997; new underground passages, metro station and various renovations to accommodate the new North-South line which will open in 2018.

Once we arrived at Amsterdam Central Station, we had multiple options for transportation; other trains to other destinations, trams and buses are found in front of the station, etc. All we had to do was walk to the front of the Station and we could see the trams & buses area in front of the building. We knew that we could take either the #4 or #9 tram car to where our VRBO rental was located.


This image is the property of Slaunger via Wikipedia. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Hiker Dudes ImageDon't take an expensive taxi from Schipol Airport into Amsterdam, the airport is immediately above a train station where you can catch an express train to the Main Amsterdam Train Station. Once you arrive at the Main Train Station, you have a choice of Trams, Buses or Taxis.
Our City Walking Route

You will see us describe in this Blog Post that we found Amsterdam to be very walkable, and this map provides you with one of the routes that we followed to visit the locations talked about on this page. This route is only 7.2 kilometers (approximately 4.3 miles) in length, all on city sidewalks, through some beautiful parks and crossing some of the city canals.

The Prinsengracht is the fourth and longest of the main canals in Amsterdam, and we walked north along it from the Anne Frank House to Winkel 43 and then south alongside it while we walked to the Van Gogh Museum at the Museumplein. This is the kind of walk that really provides you with the full flavor of Amsterdam; bicyclists, shoppers, tourists, pedestrians, canals, canal boats, and on the day we were there - some beautiful weather.

Our Rembrandt Square Apartment

We used VRBO to rent an apartment at Rembrandt Square in Amsterdam, which required us to exit the train station, and catch a #9 tram south.

We were a little worried when we first arrived because the apartment was located directly above 2 bars. We weren’t sure what to expect at night but we were pleasantly surprised. The apartment was bright and comfortable and the noise from the bars was tolerable… even the occasional smell of marijuana made for a pleasant evening. We were in Amsterdam afterall.

Image # 1 (left side) is of a statue dedicated to Rembrandt in the square, and although you cannot quite see it, the local Starbucks is right behind the statue.

Although not visible in image # 1 (left side), our VRBO rental was just to the right of those buildings on the right side of that picture, and 1/2 block away from Rembrandt Square on Thorbeckeplein. Image # 2 (right side) displays some of the pubs and "smoke shops" on the south side of the square. Yes "smoke shop" is probably everything you've heard about Amsterdam - and most of what you have heard is very true.

Image # 3 is the famous "Night Watch" statues in the square. That image is the property of Hippolyte via Wikipedia Commons. The statue was sculpted by Alexander Taratynov with Mikhail Dronov in 1956.

Prinsengracht Canal

This is the Prinsengracht canal in front of the Anne Frank House Museum.

Walking the Prinsengracht canal from the Anne Frank Museum, you can see how popular bicycle riding is here, and since it was a beautiful day, a lot of people were riding and enjoying the weather.

Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of grachten (canals), about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht), were dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel.


Image # 2 (right side) is the property of Diliff via Wikipedia. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC unless otherwise noted.

Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank Museum gets very busy during the day. We ended up not being able to visit because we didn’t plan ahead. If you want to see it get your tickets at least a few weeks in advance. To acquire online tickets click here to get your own tickets

During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of this 17th-century canal house (image # 1 - left side), known as the Secret Annex (Dutch: Achterhuis). Anne Frank did not survive the war but in 1947, her wartime diary was published. In 1957, the Anne Frank Foundation was established to protect the property from developers who wanted to demolish the block.

NOTE: There have been a number of movies, several books and among those books is the one her father first published based upon Anne Frank's diary (Amazon search for Anne Frank media) it is ultimately a heart breaking story, but is something we should all read lest such a tragedy happen again in the world.


Image # 2 (right side) is the property of Massimo Catarinella via Wikipedia. All other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

 Additional Information for the Anne Frank Museum 
Amsterdam Canal Boat Tour

We took a canal boat tour around the city, so we could see Amsterdam from the "canal perspective". Although this is touristy, if this is your first trip to Amsterdam then a boat tour is worth doing. The canal boat tours are an informative and scenic way to see Amsterdam in a unique way and to learn a lot about the city before you tackle it on foot or bicycle (and some of the canal boat tours allow "get on & get off", you have to read their information).

Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant   Map

Image # 1 (left side): The Sea Palace Chinese Restaurant is a 3-story floating pagoda-style restaurant on Lake IJ serving Cantonese, Sichuan & Beijing dishes.

Image # 2 (right side) is looking west past the Sea Palace Restaurant, that is the Central Train Station off in the distance on the left side of that image.

Even though Amsterdam is a very walkable city, the water taxis can be utilized as an "on again/off again" system to get about the city easily. Most of the more interesting city sites & buildings are generally close to a canal, so you can plan your day around how you want to get to each location.

NOTE: This is the largest floating Restaurant in Europe.

Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum

This museum displays how shipping has shaped Dutch culture. There are over 500 years worth of Dutch maritime history in various interactive exhibitions. You can even visit a real VOC (Dutch East India Company) ship or make a trip on the famous icebreaker the Christiaan Brunings.

Click here to go to the Maritime Museum Website to go to their website.
Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam

A 5 star hotel directly across the harbor from the Sea Palace Restaurant at Prins Hendrikkade 108, 1011 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Click here to view their website
The Leaning Houses of Amsterdam

See how far that house is tilting? This is due to the high water table near the canals. Any building in Amsterdam has water table problems, but the closer you are to a canal, the worse the problem becomes.

The water table is a constant engineering challenge in Amsterdam, impacting not only building construction, but also impacting the metro subway construction. For example, to minimize impacts on surface buildings, many of the Amsterdam metro lines are built directly underneath canals.

Quick Water Table Info: The water table under Amsterdam is high. If you were to dig a hole anywhere in Amsterdam, it will fill up with water pretty quickly. The soil itself is simply too soft to support a building, let alone transportation infrastructure. Even the first small, wooden houses built along the Amstel kept sinking into the boggy ground.

In Amsterdam, you need to dig down 400 meters to hit rock. On the way down, there are alternating layers of clay, peat and sand. As any engineer will tell you, clay and peat cannot support the weight of a building.

The Amsterdam solution? Wooden piles (beams of timber driven into the earth). The foundations of most buildings in Amsterdam are supported on piles 12 meters deep that are anchored in the first layer of sand. The piles of larger buildings are even deeper, reaching to the second layer of sand at 20 meters or to the third at 50 meters deep. Altogether, there are more than a million piles under Amsterdam.

Click here to read the complete article on the "medium.com" website. This is a good article about the construction difficulties that Amsterdam has faced, describes the history of the Amsterdam Metro System, etc.

The Westerkerk Church  Map
Image is the property of Kamanasish Debnath via Wikimedia Commons
Image is the property of XRay via Wikimedia Commons
The Westerkerk Church

This large church in the right center of image # 1 (left side), is just a few doors away from the Anne Frank House, and in fact, Anne described the chiming of the carillon as comforting. A memorial statue of Anne Frank is located outside the church at Westermarkt.

Click the map link above to see how close the Church is to the Anne Frank House (75 meters).

Rembrandt's Original House

Image # 1 (left side): The second building from the right is Rembrandt's original house, he would create various works of art here and he also taught art classes here. He taught classes because his art works were not yet as famous as they are today.

The Rembrandt House is maintained as it would have appeared when he was still living there. In fact, he lived in this house for nearly 20 years, between 1639 and 1656. Rembrandt went bankrupt in 1656 and all of his possessions (including the house), were sold to satisfy his debts. You have to keep in mind that he was not as famous then as he is today, and so his income was barely sufficient to make ends meet.

Rembrandt spent the last years of his life in the Jordaan district, on the Rozengracht canal. He was buried in the Westerkerk church.


Image # 2 (right side) is the property of Spider via WikiMedia, all other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

Canals of Amsterdam

Amsterdam has more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of grachten (canals), about 90 islands and 1,500 bridges. The three main canals (Herengracht, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht), dug in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age, form concentric belts around the city, known as the Grachtengordel. Alongside the main canals are 1,550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, contributing to Amsterdam's fame as the "Venice of the North".

Van Gogh Museum

The Museum website has a great set of images & video showing a lot of the Van Gogh art. And by the way, this is the world's largest collection of Van Gogh works!

Click here to see how the museum is located within the Museumplein complex, which contains several other museums and a very nice park.

Quick Facts: The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is one of the most popular museums in the world, attracting visitors from every corner of the globe. Naturally, this is in large part due to it housing the largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh – more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters. Having originally opened on the Museumplein in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum has been expanded and modernised over the years, ensuring it's a truly cutting-edge exhibition and visitor space.

You can see how large the crowd was, we were glad that we had already obtained entry passes online! The crowds here can easily be large enough to where you might not even be able to enter. Get your museum passes online and you will be able to bypass the crowds!

Amsterdam Hermitage Museum

We rode a water taxi to the Hermitage Museum, mostly because the museum is adjacent to the Amstel River (and a number of canals intersect the river) and also because we wanted to experience a water taxi ride. This is not a huge museum, but it has a nice layout and some interesting exhibits. The exhibits change occasionally, so you have to look at their website to see what is currently being displayed.

Amsterdam Hermitage Museum Quick Facts: The Hermitage Amsterdam is a branch museum of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia, located on the banks of the Amstel river in Amsterdam. The museum is located in the former Amstelhof, a classical style building from 1681. The dependency displayed small exhibitions in the adjacent Neerlandia Building from 24 February 2004 until the main museum opened on 19 June 2009.


Image # 2 (right side) is the property of Fentener van Vlissingen via WikiMedia, all other images are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

Why is the Hermitage Museum Important?

It is the largest art museum in the world by gallery space. It was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky.

The Good Ship "Amsterdam"

Replica of an East Indiaman of the Dutch East India Company/United East Indies Company. This ship (named "Amsterdam") is in the Amsterdam Harbor area. We were on a canal boat tour when we passed by this ship.

Quick Ship Facts: The Amsterdam was an 18th-century cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company. The ship started its maiden voyage from Texel to Batavia on 8 January 1749, but was wrecked in a storm on the English Channel on 26 January 1749. The shipwreck was discovered in 1969 in the bay of Bulverhythe, United Kingdom, and is sometimes visible during low tides. The wreck site is protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act since 1974. Some of the findings from the site are in The Shipwreck Museum in Hastings.

Museumplein Area

This is the Museumplein area, where the Van Gogh Museum is located. A beautiful park setting with frisbee players, fountains, people having a picnic, etc.

Quick Facts The Museumplein is a large public space in the Museumkwartier neighbourhood of the Amsterdam-Zuid borough in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Located at the Museumplein are three major museums – the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum – and the concert hall Concertgebouw. This data extracted from Wikipedia, click here to view the complete Wikipedia Article.

Hotels near the Museumplein Amsterdam: Click here for a Google Search Results page of all hotels near the Museumplein.


Above image is the property of Elekes Andor via Wikipedia Commons using the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Zaanse Schans Windmills
Click image to view a larger Google Map

Our next day's adventure was a tour bus trip to Volendam, a small village northeast of Amsterdam because we found that this tour also would take us to Zaanse Schans where the famous windmills could be seen.

We used a bus tour from Amsterdam City Tours (NOTE: They no longer seem to be in business, try the Viator Website). Their tour buses pickup the tour groups near the Amsterdam Central Train station, which made it simple for us to take a #9 Tram car there. The tour bus method allowed us to continue to avoid a rental car until later in this trip, plus we could then enjoy the drive without having to worry about traffic, directions & parking!

Touristy? Of course, but it gave us a relaxing look at the countryside outside of Amsterdam, plus an opportunity to see the windmills up close & personal.

Windmill City !

Just 20 kilometers from Amsterdam, the Zaanse Schans Windmills are an interesting day trip to something of a living museum area. Besides the windmills, there is a cheese factory, various shops and a pewter foundary.

Zaanse Schans Village

Touristy? Yes of course it is, but if you want to visit some "real" windmills and learn how they function then you are going to have to visit this kind of place. Our point of view is always based upon "lets really learn" about an area, see as much as possible, and have all the fun we can generate on every day of our trips!

What do Windmills do?

Have you ever wondered what a windmill's purpose is? If so, this is the kind of tour you will enjoy, because you get an "up close & personal" introduction to how windmills work, how they grind, etc.

Turns out that the windmill is the "engine" for a mill grinder inside the building that houses the windmill. During the tour, we were given an exhibition of how the windmill is used to grind various local crops.

Volendam Main Street

The tour bus then took us to Volendam. It is a Dutch town on the Markermeer Lake, northeast of Amsterdam. It’s known for its colorful wooden houses and the old fishing boats in its harbor, which is lined with seafood vendors.

This is the Noordeinde Street, which parallels the village on one side and the Markemeer Lake on the other side.

Volendam Quick History Lesson: Originally, Volendam was the location of the harbor of the nearby Edam, which was situated at the mouth of the IJ bay. In 1357, the inhabitants of Edam dug a shorter canal to the Zuiderzee with its own separate harbor. This removed the need for the original harbor, which was then dammed and used for land reclamation. Farmers and local fishermen settled there, forming the new community of Vollendam, which literally meant something like 'Filled dam'. In the early part of the 20th century it became something of an artists' retreat, with both Picasso and Renoir spending time here. The majority of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, which is deeply connected to the village culture. Historically, many missionaries and bishops grew up in Volendam. Today there is the chapel of Our Lady of the Water, which is located in a village park.

The above data extracted from Wikipedia, Click here to view the Wikipedia Article.

Volendam Harbor

We took a walk down along the street in front of where the big boats tie up. You can see what a very pretty little village this is, with a row of restaurants & pubs facing the Markemeer. The businesses that line the street are all adjacent to the harbor, adding a nautical feel to the entire village.

We had time to spare for lunch, so we ate at the Restaurant Cafe de Dijk and had an enjoyable meal.


Image # 2 (right side) is the property of Hullie via Wikipedia. All other images (unless otherwise noted) are the property of Just Traveling Thru, LLC.

After lunch we went to Woltjes Winkel and had a stroopwafel - incredibly good and we highly recommend trying it if you are in Volendam (stroopwafels can also be found in Amsterdam)
On to Marken

After a good lunch in Volendam, the next stop on the day trip was Marken, it is a peninsula in the IJsselmeer, in the Netherlands and a former island in the Zuiderzee, located in the municipality Waterland in the province North Holland. It is the namesake of the Markermeer, the body of water which surrounds it - and - it was only a short boat ride from Volendam.

Marken Wooden Shoe Shop

They had "try on shoes" for many sizes of feet, and if you liked how they fit, they would gladly sell you a pair! This wooden shoe shop was an interesting stop, as they demonstrated how wooden shoes are constructed, the shop technician actually made a wooden shoe as we watched.

Recommended Amsterdam Restaurants

Before I complete this part of our blog, I have to point out that we had the good fortune to visit three really good restaurants while in Amsterdam.

Cafe Winkel 43

Click here for their website; located just about 1/2 mile down the canal from the Anne Frank House. We had read about the apple pie here, and decided that we would have apple pie & cappuccino for our lunch, before walking to the Van Gogh Museum. By the way, everything we read was true! Take a look at this Google Images page for more pictures of Winkel 43 and their food offerings.

Just for the record, we've read some ugly statements people have made about Cafe Winkel, about how they felt the apple pie was "ordinary" and that the price was too high. We found the apple pie to be quite good and the prices were in line with what we had seen at other Amsterdam restaurants. Your mileage may vary, but we liked the place.

Black and Blue Restaurant

Click here for their website; also a block from the Anne Frank House and we were lucky enough to be in the area and walked right past it. Turned around and came back after we got a whiff of the good smells coming from this restaurant.

We were very glad we gave this restaurant a try, the food was very good, good wine list and a comfortable dining area.

Click here to view a Google Images set for this restaurant.

Restaurant Portugalia

Click here for their website. This restaurant is owned by a Portuguese family and the food and service were top notch. The owner's mother is the chef, so the Portuguese dishes were authentic, the wine list was fantastic and even though they were out of Douro, they offered to have a new bottle brought to the restaurant.

They are located very near to Rembrandt Square where we were staying, so getting here was very easy. Check out the restaurant pictures on a Google Images Page.

Central Amsterdam Train Station - Next Stop Belgium

As is the case with all good visits, our final day in Amsterdam came around far too quickly. We had decided that we would take a train from Amsterdam to Bruges, Belgium. We did this because European trains are very comfortable, they are very fast, and they are relatively inexpensive as compared to auto travel.

We arrived at the Amsterdam Central Train Station a few minutes early, and had to wait for the Thalys Train to arrive.

The Thalys TGV took us to Antwerp, where we changed to a "local area train" that took us to the Bruges Train Station. The train trip required 2 hours and 45 minutes, 253 kilometers in length.

Suggested links for more Amsterdam Information

Amsterdam is an interesting place to visit, however it is important to plan your trip there in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Here are some informative links for you to perhaps utilize while you are planning;

  • Amsterdam Article on the I am Amsterdam Site
  • History of Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam Article at the Holland Site
  • 50 Best Things to do in Amsterdam from the Tourism Netherlands Site
  • Amsterdam Article on the Rick Steves Site
  • 29 Fun Things to Do in Amsterdam on Hostel Geeks Site
  • The Amsterdam Bucket List on the Thrill List Site
  • Amazon Search Results List for "books about Amsterdam"
  • Youtube Search Results List for Amsterdam
  • Things to do in Amsterdam on the "Get Your Guide" Site
  • Unusual Attractions in Amsterdam on the Atlas Obscura Site
  • Google Search Results List for "accommodations in Amsterdam"
  • Google Search Results List for "restaurants in Amsterdam"
  • Google Search Results List for "Fun Things to do and see in Amsterdam"
  • Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
  • Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
  • Amsterdam City Card
  • Wikipedia List of Museums in Amsterdam
  • Visit our Youtube Channel
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Lake Como, Italy



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