Amsterdam is the largest Dutch city, its capital, home to numerous museums, monuments, churches, palaces, canals, shops, hotels, trams and bicycles. Not to mention about a million people. As any big city, it attracts its share of crank heads, which means you have to be a bit more alert than in other places, especially when it is the football season. If you are traveling with children, be sure to pay attention to your immediate surroundings. There are shops which sell marihuana, sex shops and night clubs. They are not situated in some special district, but are part of the general scene. When you get out of the central (Centraal) train station, you see a lot of beautiful buildings, and a large tram station is right in front of you. Depending on what your interests and inclinations are, you may ask which tram goes to the museums; they are conveniently situated at Museums Plein. After visiting Rijksmuseum to see Rembrandt’s “Nightwatch” (I will not even attempt to describe it!), you may wish to relax a bit, and visit theDiamond Museum right across the street. It’s free, there are wonderful exhibits, you may observe jewelers at work, stare at the displays in the museum shop. If you wish, you may also go into a private room to choose a trinket. Remember that at first glance, the price may look like a cell phone number!

Alternately, you may simply walk from the train station in the same direction as the trams go, along the canal on your left. If you wish, you may go on a boat trip and enjoy the sights. Or you may continue walking, past the old Bourse and some hotels. In a few minutes, you will reach a square, with a tall monument to your left, and the palace to your right. Turn left, into a side street, walk along until you see a sign to your right which says Rembrandt Huis (pronounced “haais”). It is a beautiful museum building with the date, 1609, on it. The famous painter, born in Leiden, lived in Amsterdam since 1631.

When you backtrack to the square, you may wish to walk all along the main shopping streets, which are to the left and to the right of the palace. There are also many markets in various side streets, as well as endless gift and souvenir shops. Do not buy packs of “tulip bulbs” or any bulbs, they are completely useless. Buy those cute blue & white clog shoes, fridge magnets, and any other souvenirs that may take your fancy. Be sure to look inside every church that you see on your way. Imagine, in Amsterdam, there is Oude Kerk (Old Church) dating back to the 13th century, whereas Neuwe Kerk was built in the 15th century. Old and new, in all senses of the words, co-exist beautifully in this amazing metropolis.

(c) gretag

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