Amsterdam Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Amsterdam

The Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam is the largest and most populous city in the country. Famous for its unusual life rhythm manifested in the air of cannabis, coffee shops, the Red Light District and many other elements, the city keeps drawing annually over 5 million international visitors. Amsterdam's nightlife and festival activity are also well known throughout the world and largely contribute to the city's status as one of the most multicultural metropolises – home to more than 170 nationalities.

Originated as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century and subsequently established itself as the leading center for finance and trade. Other legacies of that era include great artistic heritage, elaborate canal system and narrow houses with gabled facades. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded further with many new neighborhoods and suburbs planned and built during the period.

The name “Amsterdam” derives from Amstelredamme, and is indicative of the city's origin around a dam in the river Amstel. Amsterdam is also colloquially referred to as "Venice of the North" due to its large number of canals – nowadays declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other than the historic canals, Amsterdam's attractions are plentiful and include the Anne Frank House, the Amsterdam Museum, the Royal Palace, and the Red Light District, to mention but a few. Here are some of our suggestions on the top-rated tourist attractions of this extraordinary city.
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Amsterdam Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Amsterdam Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Netherlands » Amsterdam (See other walking tours in Amsterdam)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
Author: kane
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Centraal Station
  • Oude Kerk (Old Church)
  • Dam Square Area
  • Madame Tussauds Scenerama
  • Royal Palace
  • Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)
  • Magna Plaza
  • Tulip Museum
  • Anne Frank House
  • Amsterdam Museum
  • Kalverstraat
  • Rembrandt House Museum
  • Waterlooplein Flea Market
1
Centraal Station

1) Centraal Station (must see)

When in Amsterdam, you are bound to visit the Centraal Station, one way or another, at least once. With over 1,500 trains pulling in here daily, this is one of the busiest transportation hubs of the city, serving nearly 250,000 commuters per day. In this sense, this is a true heart of Amsterdam!

The Centraal Station began service at the end of the 19th century. Designed by architects P.J.H. Cuypers and A.L. van Gendt, it symbolized the rebirth of the country's once ailing economy.

An interesting fact about this station is that it was built on three man-made islands and its current location is not the one originally chosen. To erect the structure as massive as a railway station on the muddy soil, it took precisely 8687 wooden piles to support the structure. The entire project seemed like a huge blunder and was promptly condemned by many experts, but in the end, the architects managed to pull it off and proved the skeptics wrong.

Today, the Neo-Gothic building stately rises over the banks of the river IJ delighting the numerous beholders, much as the commuters using it daily to get to/from Amsterdam, with its colossal presence and the engineering genius behind its creation.

Why You Should Visit:
A mass transit and cosmopolitan fever hotspot, harmoniously blending neo-Renaissance architecture and modern technology.

Tip:
There are several (free) ferry trips through the canals running from here every 5 or 15 minutes which are very worthwhile. You can cruise right back to the station on the boat if you want to.
2
Oude Kerk (Old Church)

2) Oude Kerk (Old Church) (must see)

The Oude Kerk (“Old Church”) is the oldest parish in Amsterdam and is surprisingly located amid the area of vice – the vastly popular Red Light District of De Wallen. Old itself, the church is also home to the city’s oldest bells, dating back as far as 1450. The Oude Kerk is a Roman Catholic temple and its patron is St Nicholas.

Built in the early 14th century, it was originally a modest wooden cemetery chapel, attesting to which fact are a number of gravestones found on the floor. Beneath laid to rest are more than 10,000 Amsterdam denizens, some of whom are quite famous personalities, including Jacob van Heemskerck – a naval hero, Frans Banning Cocq – the central character of Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” painting, as well as the Dutch composer Jan Sweelinck. Eventually, the Oude Kerk took up the Gothic appearance visible today.

Matching the exterior is the equally elegant and surprisingly spacious interior, featuring three naves with a ceiling made of wood and covered in magnificent paintings depicting saints and Biblical scenes – a sort of “time portal” capable of transporting visitors centuries back.

Why You Should Visit:
Unlike the Niewe Kerk which is bigger and more ornate, the Oude Kerk is very old and has a great sense of history to it.

Tip:
Wonderful views from the tower (note the fee payable with credit/debit cards only); coffee and snacks in a charming garden.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 1pm-5:30pm; Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
3
Dam Square Area

3) Dam Square Area (must see)

Dam Square lies in the historical center of Amsterdam. The surrounding architecture and frequent public events taking place here make it one of the most important locations in the city. The word “dam” in the name derives from the place's original function – damming the Amstel river. As the matter of fact, it also relates to the name of the city itself – Amstelredamme. Built around 1270, the dam formed the first connection between settlements on the banks of the river.

Gradually, the dam grew wide enough to accommodate a town square, which proved a core of the town's further development. Dam Square, as it's seen today, evolved out of what was originally two squares: the actual dam, called Middeldam; and Plaetse, the adjacent plaza to the west. A large fish market appeared near the spot where ships moored at the dam to upload and download their cargoes. The area eventually became the center of not only the commercial but also the administrative activity (Amsterdam's Town Hall).

Traditionally busy and crowded, Dam Square is grand in terms of shopping. Here, among numerous boutiques, one will easily spot the famous Dutch department store De Bijenkorf.

Why You Should Visit:
A perfect place to feel the pulse of the city, explore different cuisines, shops, enjoy music or sit by the fountain...
As it is well linked to other parts of the city, you'll have a wealth of choices getting to your next destination after strolling through the square.

Tip:
Free, clean toilets available at the De Buenkork shop, 5th floor.
4
Madame Tussauds Scenerama

4) Madame Tussauds Scenerama (must see)

After taking a good look at the works of some noted figures in Dutch history in various museums in and around Amsterdam, how about taking a look at their life-size figurines? The experience is quite surprising and it is for this very experience that people all over the world come to Madam Tussaud’s.

The space is filled with life-size figurines of artists, craftsmen and famous personalities from the Dutch Golden Era. Along with the various stars of yesteryears, the highlight of the museum is the plethora of global personalities ranging from present-day movie stars, politicians, members of royal families and many more.

With each passing year, the wax models seem more like their subjects than they were before. Capturing a moment with your favorite celebrity from the present or the past is what Madam Tussauds strives to offer to every visitor.

Tip:
Worth climbing to the top floor for a brilliant view of Dam Square!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-8pm
5
Royal Palace

5) Royal Palace (must see)

The Royal Palace of Amsterdam – sitting on the west side of Dam Square at the heart of Amsterdam, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk (“New Church”) – is one of the four palaces in the Netherlands still left at the disposal of the Dutch Royal Family and Queen Beatrix in particular. Built in the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age, it was originally designed to house Amsterdam's city hall. After 150 years, circa 1808, the building was taken over by Louis Napoleon, brother of the more well-known French Emperor. Five years later, it reverted back to the Dutch and has since served as the royal palace for the House of Orange through to our day.

Visitors to the Palace are immediately struck by the grandeur of the central hall (Burgerzaal), whose high ceiling, spacious design, high columns, chandeliers and marble floors, complete with two maps of the world with a celestial hemisphere, attest to the Dutch influence and opulence of that period. As if to enhance this feeling further, the grand hall is dominated by that statue of Atlas standing with the world on his shoulders.

In many ways, this historical and architectural landmark illustrates the progression of the Netherlands as a nation. As a town hall, it highlights the importance of democracy and how it contributed to the life of the Dutch, whereas its transformation into a royal property speaks to a time when Holland was in a state of transition. Today, the Royal Palace demonstrates the Netherlands' place in the world: a beautiful, culturally rich nation attractive to many as a place to visit and live.

Why You Should Visit:
If you love opulence, loads of chandeliers and lavish ceiling decoration, this palace won't disappoint.
Very affordable for families; free entrance for under 18s plus senior and student discounts.

Tip:
Check online for opening times beforehand, as the palace may be closed for royal events.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

6) Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) (must see)

The Nieuwe Kerk or “New Church” is a 14th century temple located on Dam square in Amsterdam, next to the Royal Palace. This church was built to accommodate the growing number of parishioners after the Oude Kerk (Old Church) was no longer able to cope with the task. Repeatedly damaged by fire in 1645, it was rebuilt and assumed Gothic style.

With time, the building acquired some early Renaissance features, while remaining tower-less. The beautifully decorated stained glass windows depict historic events associated with the church, such as the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina. The interior's highlights include admirable altar, great pipe organ, sepulchral monuments with the tomb of Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, a Dutch naval hero, and more. In 1578 the church became Protestant, upon which many of its treasures were removed and frescoes painted over.

After being declared the National Church in 1815, it has been the site of royal weddings and inaugurations. Dutch Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima married here in 2002.

Although still used for recitals, the Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for services and instead represents a popular exhibition space. The themes of exhibitions held here are varied and include some rather peculiar ones, like the Buddhist art of ancient Bactria. Postcards, books and gifts are sold at a museum store within the church. A popular cafe adjoining the building, called the Nieuwe Café, has a large outer terrace.

Why You Should Visit:
Worth seeing if you like old buildings and history in general, but don’t expect a religious experience.

Tip:
Feel free to step inside the lobby to marvel at the beautiful giant stained glass panes.
Exhibitions can be a little overpriced but good value with the I Amsterdam card.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
7
Magna Plaza

7) Magna Plaza

Magna Plaza is an elegant 19th century building, currently housing one of the few shopping malls in Amsterdam, located directly behind the Queen's Palace on Dam square. Built in 1895–1899, the building features a mix of Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styles, and has been a rijksmonument – a listed national heritage site (one of the Top 100) of the Netherlands – since July 9, 1974. The brick exterior is heavily and variedly decorated with dimension stone, including window and door framings. Across the roof edges there are a large number of dormers, each with their own crow-stepped gable. Due to the pear-shaped crowns on top of the towers, the building is colloquially referred to as “Perenburg” (English: pearburg).
8
Tulip Museum

8) Tulip Museum (must see)

Located in the picturesque Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam, this small but rather fascinating museum is dedicated to the most notorious flower in the history of the Netherlands – the tulip. This flower has played such an important role in shaping the country that it is only natural to have a museum solely dedicated to telling its tale; the Tulpenmuseum (Tulip Museum) does exactly that!

Tulips came to the Netherlands and the rest of Europe in the middle of the 16th century from the Ottoman Empire. This delicate flower soon caught the attention of the nobility and was brought for cultivation on the Dutch soil. The flowers gained huge popularity, especially with the elite, and became symbol of a high social status. The rarer the color of the flower was, the more precious was its bulb. Variations in color, petals, and other facets pushed the market upward to unprecedented highs. In some instances, records say, people were eager to pay up to 10 times(!) their annual income for a single tulip bulb. The so-called “Tulip Mania”, as it's known today, peaked in 1637 and caused severe damage to the Dutch economy.

Why You Should Visit:
Small but informative museum packed to the brim with everything you need to become a tulip addict.

Tip:
The gift shop at the entrance is cute and has plenty of interesting souvenir options.
Also known as one of the few places that have "certified" bulbs for the USA & Canada.
Location-wise, it is right near the Cheese Museum so you can get your fill of cheese at the same time!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
9
Anne Frank House

9) Anne Frank House (must see)

The name Anne Frank rings bell to many across the Netherlands and is that of a 13-year-old Jewish girl who, together with her family, fled their native Germany after the Nazis took over, seeking refuge in the Netherlands. Little did their expect that the Nazi terror would soon spread into the neighboring countries as well.

The Anne Frank House on Prinsengracht Canal is the place where the Franks spent over two years in hiding along with the Van Pel family. The house was built in 1635 and, throughout its existence, had served many purposes, including a residence, warehouse, stable, and office. In 1940, Otto Frank, Anne’s father bought it as an office for his spice business. Soon the office became a hideout from the German troops who were rounding up Jewish families and sending them to concentration camps. The Anne Frank House is a haunting, tragic and overwhelming experience that gives you a glimpse of how the inmates tried to live their lives in the midst of horror.

Today the premise has become a museum, which gives the viewer a peek into the lives of those in hiding. A definite recommendation whether or not you have read Anne Frank's diary.

Why You Should Visit:
Does a great job preserving Anne's and her family's memory, while also teaching about the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Tip:
Make sure you book early; also, be aware that there are lots of stairs and no pictures allowed in the house.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-10pm
10
Amsterdam Museum

10) Amsterdam Museum

Set in the heart of Amsterdam, this historical museum, recently known as the Amsterdam Museum, relays the story of a small medieval town that has evolved to become one of the most influential metropolises in the world.

The exhibited artifacts bring to life the story of the city depicting its growth, downfall and revival. The compelling exhibits, complete with archaeological findings, shed light upon the Medieval and Dutch Golden Age periods, presenting vivid illustration of the rich history of the Netherlands.

This 16th-century building was enlarged and remodeled in 1634 by renowned Dutch “Golden Age” architect duo Hendrick and Pieter de Keyser, who gave it the eternal classic look. Occupied by an orphanage until 1960, the property passed to the museum five years later; the museum ultimately took its shape in 1975.

The collection is spread over three floors comprising paintings, sculptures and archaeological findings, covering various aspects of the city's life including religion, culture, folklore, prostitution, etc.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
11
Kalverstraat

11) Kalverstraat

Kalverstraat is probably the busiest shopping thoroughfare in Amsterdam, stretching across the entire city center. The street is named after the calves market ("kalvermarkt") that was here until the 17th century. A number of high-end and medium-class stores establish their presence on Kalverstraat including Mango, Esprit, Zara, WE, and H&M. The street is also home to the Kalvertoren Shopping Center – a big brash mall with 45 stores, cafes and restaurants, as well as the department store Hema.
12
Rembrandt House Museum

12) Rembrandt House Museum (must see)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (or Rembrandt for short) is a 17th-century Dutch painter deservedly regarded as one of the most prominent artists of the Dutch Golden Era, a period when the Dutch Empire was at the peak of its power and fame. Above the many talents Rembrandt possessed, he was an exceptional painter whose main specialization were portraits, self-portraits, battle- and biblical scenes. Throughout his life, Rembrandt had created over 300 pieces of art including paintings, sketches, etchings, and drawings.

The house-museum of Rembrandt is a well-preserved building on Jodenbreestraat in Amsterdam, a home in which the artist had lived and worked for almost two decades, creating some of his most notable masterpieces. It is within these walls that Rembrandt was commissioned to make his magnum opus “The Night Watch”. The mansion was built in 1607 and, prior to Rembrandt, had housed a number of artists and merchants; Rembrandt himself acquired the property in 1639.

Complete with a vast collection of Rembrandt's etches, paintings and drawings, the preserved furniture and ambiance of the building allow visitors a glimpse into the artist’s daily lifestyle. Moreover, the frequent demonstrations (paint mixing and print-making) make the visit extra special and educational.

***JEWISH QUARTER WALKING TOUR***
Although Rembrandt himself was not a Jew, the paintings often reflect his life among the Jews in the city – scenes from the Old Testament and many faces and figures of Amsterdam's Jewish community.

Why You Should Visit:
A home, a studio, a museum, and a great insight into the master and extremes of his life.

Tip:
Reserve some time to step into the little shop inside the museum. You can find some really nice, good quality souvenirs at reasonable prices, and most likely, you will want to buy something for yourself!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
13
Waterlooplein Flea Market

13) Waterlooplein Flea Market (must see)

No trip to a city is usually complete without visiting the local bazaar and/or street market. The Waterlooplein Flea Market in Amsterdam is one such destination not to be missed. By far one of the most interesting places in Amsterdam, this is also one of the oldest markets in the city. With patience, you can find almost anything under the sun here – from trendiest attires and old military uniforms to jewelry, antiques and electronics. You can even get yourself a great deal on a tattoo as well – there is nothing this flea market doesn’t have.

Built in the early 19th century, this was a renowned successfully operating Jewish market until the Second World War when the Jews were banished. After the War, the market was revived and thenceforth has been a popular pit stop for tourists and locals alike. The market is crude and gives a perfect bazaar feel. Here you can shop, haggle or just look over the displayed merchandise.

With over 300 stalls, this flea market is quite large to browse through quickly and, with a wide array of items on offer, it is rather difficult to make a speedy choice. Therefore, make sure to allot yourself sufficient time for the visit.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place for an afternoon stroll, cultural immersion and treasure hunting (if you have the inclination and patience).

Tip:
If money-saving is valued, do a walk-around of the market before buying.
Many items (like hats and sunglasses) can be found at numerous stalls, and prices vary from stall to stall.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9:30am-6pm; closed on Sundays

Walking Tours in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Red Light District Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

Jewish Quarter Walking Tour

Amsterdam has been the center of the Dutch Jewish community from the 16th century up until the Second World War. Once crowded with open-air stalls, smoking factories and tenement buildings, the Old Jewish Quarter still retains several moving reminders of the Jewish community that was torn apart during the war. Follow this self-guided walk to explore several key sights in the area, which have much...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
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Amsterdam Food Walk

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From top tastes such as raw herring to indulging in an infinite range...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Churches Walking Tour

Churches Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Jordaan Walking Tour

Jordaan Walking Tour

The Jordaan is a district of the city of Amsterdam. It was originally a working class neighborhood, but in recent years it has become quite upscale and home to many museums and art galleries, particularly those focused on modern art. The district is also dotted with specialty shops, markets and restaurants. This tour is a perfect opportunity to see the main attractions of the district of Jordaan.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Museum Quarter Walk

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.7 Km or 0.4 Miles

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