In the center of the lively Kalverstraat and Spui area is a hidden oasis: the Begijnhof. Concealed by the numerous houses and other buildings surrounding it, the area boasts a tranquil courtyard and charming chapel. Escape the busy city life and take a breather. The Begijnhof, which dates back to the fourteenth century, was originally home to a group of unmarried religious women called Beguines. These women were associated with the English Reformed Church (Engelsekerk). The last Beguine died in 1971. The church proudly displays panels that illustrate the Miracle of Amsterdam. Additionally, you can receive Eucharist at the chapel Monday through Saturday at 9:00 and Monday through Friday at 17:00. Sunday's service at 10:00 is in Dutch and the 11:15 one is in French. Whether you are religious or not, the Begijnhof is worth a visit.
The Netherlands has a long and rich history with the Jewish people. Take some time to learn about the religion and heritage at The Jewish Historical Museum in the Amsterdam Jewish quarter. From paintings to artifacts and photographs to 3D displays, the exhibited items are only five percent of the museum's entire collection. What makes the experience even more special is that the museum is housed in four former Ashkenazi synagogues. The museum is truly a blend of history and culture. If you are visiting with children, make sure to explore the Children's Museum. The entire family can learn all about Jewish traditions and history through fun activities such as braiding bread, making music or learning Hebrew. Stop by the café before you leave, so you can try a few Dutch-Jewish classics, such as Fish Cakes and Pear Kugel.
The Amsterdam Museum is a fun and interactive way to learn about Amsterdam. From ancient times to modern day, the museum aims to help people of all ages explore the city and its story. The museum caters to all learning abilities, featuring artwork, historical artifacts, clothing, videos, graphics and more. As the exhibitions are continually changing, it's one museum that never gets old. If you need a break, stop by the Mokum Museum Cafe and relax in the courtyard. The museum is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00. Allow at least two hours. Be aware that the museum has two entrances and exits.
Travel back to a time when it was illegal for Catholics to hold open masses in Amsterdam. One Catholic man had a plan. During the Reformation period, Jan Hartman created a hidden church in the top floors of his canal house, now Ons' Lieve Heer Op Solder or Our Lord in the Attic in English. Unless one knew otherwise, from the outside the naked eye could not detect that there was a church set-up inside. At the time, authorities did know the church existed, but they simply ignored it. It's definitely a place you should see for yourself. Plus, it allows you to see a historic Amsterdam canal house. The audio tour, available in seven languages, is included in the entrance fee. From October to April, stop by on the first Sunday of the month at 11:00 to experience an Attic celebration. Please note, no photography or recordings are allowed.
Visit the Royal Palace on Dam Square to get a glimpse into what it's like to be royal. Both the interior and exterior are absolutely exquisite. The building, originally constructed as the town hall, is in use today by the Royal family. The Royal Palace is mainly used for award ceremonies, receptions and other functions but is also crucial for special occasions, such as royal marriages and abdication and succession of the throne. The building has seen many significant historical moments. For instance, King William I signed off on the sovereignty of the Netherlands in this building. Inside, you can also see former resident Louis Napoleon's exquisite Empire furniture. Check the calendar and opening times before you visit. The Royal Palace may be closed if there is an event going on. If there is an event, you may catch a glimpse of someone famous as they enter or leave.
Get a glimpse behind the scenes of the famous Dutch painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. Visit The Rembrandt House, where you can explore the place he called home, as well as a studio, from the years 1639 and 1658. This historic building is made up of memories and is a place where numerous pieces of art, including several of his more famous masterpieces, were created. The interior has been refurnished to appear similar to how it would have looked in Rembrandt's time. Plus, you'll see some of Rembrandt's etchings on display (they rotate). Don't forget to admire the fantastic works of art, both from Rembrandt and his teacher, pupils and contemporaries. Last but not least, you have the chance to learn about the etching technique and how to prepare paints.
The Red Light District, also known as De Wallen or Rosse Buurt, dates back to the fourteenth century. It was a place sailors would come if they required female companionship. Today, the Red Light District is home to coffeeshops that sell cannabis, prostitutes, sex shops, live sex shows, bars and various museums. You'll know when you enter the area; you'll see short pillars with red lights. If you miss these markings, you'll get the hint when you see scantily clad women standing in red neon-lit windows. You may be in for a bit of a culture shock. Make sure to visit the information center if you have any questions. The Red Light District is not recommended for children. Women, you could be mistaken for a prostitute if you walk unaccompanied. Instead, find a friend that's willing to explore with you or travel in a group.
De Oude Kerk, located in the infamous Red Light District, has its name for a reason. This church was built around the year 1300 and was originally known as Sint-Nicolaaschurch (St. Nicholas Church). It adopted the name The Old Church when the De Nieuwe Kerk (The New Church) was built on Dam Square. Sailors initially visited this place of worship to pray for a safe journey. It later acquired a reputation as also being a meeting point. There are approximately 10,000 people buried here, and several are worth mentioning: Rembrandt's wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, naval hero Jacob van Heemskerck and organist Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. When inside, look for a few special stained glass windows: the Mary Windows, the Mayors Windows and the Treaty of Munster Window. From April to September, you can also climb the tower with a guide and enjoy the scenic view.
The Bloemenmarkt is the worlds only floating flower market. Located on the Singel canal, the market is situated on several houseboats. It's the perfect place to admire the flowers, smell the scents and bring home a piece of the Netherlands in tulip form. Even in the winter, the Bloemenmarkt is still nice to visit, as the vendors often sell Christmas trees. If you love flowers, be sure to also step into the flower wonderland at the Keukenhof, only open March through May. You can visit by car or bus. Flora Holland, the flower auction, is also an experience that will wow you. If you only have a day in port, though, just stick with the Bloemenmarkt. You will not have enough time to visit the Keukenhof or Flora Holland if you are only visiting the city for one day.
Experience picturesque Amsterdam from the waterways. Especially when the sun is shining, there is no better way to see the sights than by boat. Wind your way through Amsterdam's canals and appreciate the attractions from the water. With a multitude of options, you can pick the one that suits you best. Purchase a hop-on, hop-off ticket, so you can visit some of the museums or attractions along the way. Combine the tour with food and drinks. Depending on your choice, prices vary. For instance, a day ticket costs 22 EUR with Canal Company. Also check into other operators, such as hotels and venues, as they offer tours, too.