Central Amsterdam is not huge, but the sites are spread out enough that public transportation is essential. The above-ground tram system was easy to learn.
The Amsterdam free walking tour did not disappoint us. Starting in Dam Square, our native guide provided a wealth of information as we strolled together through the infamous red light district, passing by other sites in the city center. The most imposing site on Dam Square, the 17th century Royal Palace (formerly the city hall) was worth a separate visit to gaze at the Golden Age of Amsterdam with its lavish furnishings from Louis Napoleon, period paintings, white marble floors and sculpted walls.
The Museum Quarter
With museums close together in the quarter, it was easy for us to museum hop for one full day. Housed in a beautiful and recently renovated neo-Gothic neo-Renaissance building, the Rijksmuseum’s vast collection is on par with the world’s great art museums. The English language tour was amazingly informative. With the largest collection of Van Gogh’s works, the Van Gogh Museum—through an audio tour and great signage—does a superb job to highlight his troubled life, his development as an artist through various art periods, as well as his relationships with artist contemporaries. We also toured the Stedelijk Museum, a museum of modern art, contemporary art and design. Just outside the quarter, we took the obligatory photos by the huge I AM Amsterdam sign.
Canals are a primary reason that Amsterdam is so picturesque and why it is often called the Venice of the North. On our canal cruise, we were given a good orientation of the city as we traveled below street level along the canal belts and by the rivers. The beauty of the historic canals led to their placement on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.
History and Heritage
We spent one day focused on sites of our Jewish heritage. The Anne Frank House is a must see, and the English language signage and audio tour thoroughly explained the story of the family secret hiding space and the tragic plight of Amsterdam Jews during World War 2 (with about 100,000 killed). Three other museums tell the story of Jews in the Netherlands between 1940 and 1945—the National Holocaust Memorial, the National Holocaust Museum and the Dutch Resistance Museum. One especially inspiring story explains how Dutch citizens smuggled hundreds of children into hiding when trams blocked the view of Nazi soldiers assembling Jewish families at the Hollandse Schouwburg Theater across the street from where they would be deported to concentration camps. We also spent time touring the majestic 17th-century Portuguese Synagogue.
Tulips, Tulips Everywhere
We spent a ½ day at the Keukenhof tulip and flower gardens and bulb fields. The world’s largest tulip fields feature a dazzling kaleidoscope of colors in the spring. We meandered along well-manicured paths and by ponds with about 600 kinds of tulips. As we climbed up the Groningen windmill on the grounds, we saw fields of millions of tulips and other flowers stretching out over 80 acres of land.
We definitely recommend a romantic vacation to Amsterdam and the surrounding environs. Although there is plenty to see and do, the atmosphere is relaxed and the locals are friendly. And we were happy not to be hit by a bike!
Amsterdam is a great destination for a romantic holiday.