Things to do in Amsterdam
The Old Centre and Canal Ring are an absolute must. You can walk across 400 bridges to 90 islands, taking in more than 7,000 listed buildings along the way. At the Begijnhof, you can see two of the city's only surviving wooden houses, dating from the 1400s, and the famous flower market is one of the city's iconic sights. The Oude Kerk dates from 1306 and is the city's oldest church, while the Anne Frank House recounts the teenager's harrowing experience of hiding from the Nazis during the Second World War.
The main shopping streets of Amsterdam include Heiligeweg, Kalverstraat, Leidsestraat and Nieuwendijk. They run from the Leidseplein to Central Station, offering a wide range of mainstream shopping. For more upmarket shopping, try Hoofstraat, by the Rijksmuseum. You will find interesting independent stores down the sidestreets of the main canals and Jordaan also has a selection of small, quirky stores. For designer shopping, head south to the Fashion & Museum District in Amsterdam Zuid. Javastraat offers the best ethnic shopping in the city. Open air markets are a common sight and can be found across the city centre.
The colonial past of Amsterdam has inspired a huge range of ethnic eating in the city. Jordaan has a wide range of restaurants, centred around Tweede Tuindwarsstraat. These include Mantoe, the city's only Afghan restaurant. Most of the Asian restaurants are to be found around Nieuwmarkt, and the little tokos shops fill the air with smells of eastern spices. Indonesian restaurants are a particular highlight. Local specialities include cheese, herring, bitterballen meatballs and Ossenworst, a kind of spiced beef sausage.
The city is a haven for culture lovers. The main art gallery is the Rijksmuseum, which holds a truly world class collection. This includes works by Dutch masters like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals and Steen. It also displays work by international artists, with a particular focus on Asian art. The Van Gogh Museum is a huge celebration of the Post-Impressionist's work, with the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world. The Museum of the Amsterdam School celebrates the city's architecture and the EYE Film Institute has a museum of cinema.
Amsterdam has a exciting and varied nightlife. Traditional pubs are called bruine bars, or brown bars, so named for their traditional dark wood paneling. Typically they sell beer in small schooners, apparently to keep it fresh. Some of the best bruine bars are around Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein. The same areas also hold many of the city's best nightclubs, such as Melkweg, Paradiso and Sugarfactory. The city is, of course, also famous for its Red Light District, which is generally well-policed and rather safe. A guided tour is a good option for visitors.