Amsterdam has been dubbed the "Venice of the North" by many, and its picturesque canals draw an increasing number of travelers each year. While the official language is Dutch, many locals speak English, making tourism a breeze throughout the country. Are you wondering how to get around while you're exploring Amsterdam? It's a very walkable city, but you can also use public transportation or really blend in by renting a bicycle. Just make sure you learn all the laws. If you're planning a Europe cruise that includes a visit to Amsterdam, here is what you need to know about exploring this iconic European city.
Important Dutch Sites in Amsterdam
There are so many famous and important sites in Amsterdam. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is spread out over 70 islands. It has around 100 bridges and 60 miles of canals. You can take a walking tour and visit numerous places like Dam Square and its Baroque-style Royal Palace or the floating flower market. Some other not-to-miss attractions in Amsterdam include:
- Anne Frank House: The Anne Frank House is one of the most visited spots in the city, as it's where Anne Frank and her family hid in a concealed apartment during World War II. They were ultimately caught by German forces, and today the building has been turned into a museum to commemorate both the Franks and other Holocaust victims.
- Jewish Area of Amsterdam: There is a Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, and you can explore the Jewish area, which includes the Hollandsche Schouwburg theater. It is now a monument to pay respects to the 104,000 Jewish people who never returned to Amsterdam after WWII. On the outskirts of the city, you'll find the Portuguese Synagogue, founded in the 16th century when many Portuguese Jewish families were fleeing to Amsterdam.
- Van Gogh Museum: Vincent van Gogh is one of the country's most celebrated painters, and this museum pays homage to his works. Since it opened in the early 1970s, the collection has grown. Many of the works were donated by Van Gogh's family members. You'll find over 200 paintings, 700 letters written to and by family and friends, 500 etchings, and more.
- De Oude Kerk: Dating back to 1306, this is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam and is said to be the oldest surviving building in the city. Today, you'll find the Red Light District surrounding the church.
- Rijksmuseum: This museum was founded in 1809 to house Holland's impressive collection of rare antiquities and art. Today, it has approximately 7 million artistic pieces. There are 250 rooms featuring thousands of paintings, while the library has over 35,000 books and manuscripts.
Day Trips Outside of Amsterdam
Perhaps you've been to Amsterdam already, or you want to explore some of the other historic spots in the country. There are a number of day-trip options that will take you to some other iconic and historic spots but still get you back in plenty of time to board the ship. Here are some of the day-trip options from Amsterdam:
- Delft: The city of Delft is known for its Delft blue ceramics. You have time to visit a Delft ceramics factory and learn more about the iconic Dutch product. You'll have time to do a little shopping as well, so you can bring back your own Delft blue pottery.
- Edam: Food travelers will want to visit the charming 17th-century town of Edam, which is renowned around the globe for its signature red-wax-covered balls of Edam cheese. If you've traveled in Mexico's Yucatan region or parts of Central America like Belize, you've likely eaten something with "Dutch Cheese" on it. In most cases, it's the cheese from Edam.
- The Hague: If your tour includes a stop in the Hague, you can see a number of important Dutch government buildings, including the famous Peace Palace where the International Court of Justice sits.
- Zaandam: The village of Zaandam will take you through the recreated town of Zaanse Schans, a popular attraction due to its concentration of windmills.
Dutch Foods to Try in Amsterdam
Even if you only have one day in Amsterdam, you can still try a number of Dutch delicacies. Be sure to try some of these signature eats:
- Kroket: The Dutch love to snack, and one of their favorite snack foods is the kroket, which is a deep-fried and breaded roll filled with a meat ragout.
- Bitterballen: Another popular Dutch snack is the bitterballen, which is similar to a kroket, but in the shape of a round ball. They usually have meat inside and are served with mustard. The Dutch love ordering these with beer, so be sure to try a local Dutch beer when you order some bitterballen.
- Hollandse Nieuwe: For the more adventurous eaters, consider Hollandse Nieuwe (soused herring). This iconic Dutch food is essentially raw herring served with chopped raw onions and gherkins. You are supposed to pick it up by the tail, lift it in the air, and then take a bite facing upwards. Official ones are only made with herring caught between May and July.
- Stroopwafels: To satiate the sweet tooth, nothing beats a fresh Stroopwafel in your hand. These super thin waffle cookies date back to the late 18th or early 19th century and have a thick and sticky syrup inside, which is the "stroop."
Amsterdam is historically important, culturally rich, and filled with an endless number of ways to explore the city on your Norwegian Cruise Line vacation. Even though you will likely only have a day here, you can still see, do, and eat a lot during your visit to the "Venice of the North."