Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of The Netherlands. It has an urban population of over one million and a metropolitan population of over two million.
Amsterdam is known as “Venice of the North” because of its historic canals that criss-cross the city, its impressive architecture and more than 1,500 bridges.
There is something for every traveller’s taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city.
The Netherlands is a world leader in terms of liberal policies towards and public acceptance of the LGBT community. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1811. The first openly gay bar opened in 1927 in Amsterdam.
One of the world’s first gay rights’ organizations, the COC, was founded here in 1946. In 1993, an Equal Rights Law outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in areas such as housing and public services.
As early as the mid ’80s, a group of gay rights activists asked the government to allow same-sex couples to marry. The law was changed on 1 April 2001 and The Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Dutch law requires either partner must have Dutch nationality or reside in the Netherlands. The marriageable age is 18, or below 18 with parental consent. The law is only valid in the European territory of the Netherlands and does not apply to the other constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Considered the gay capital of Europe and the birthplace of gay rights, Amsterdam is obviously one of the top destinations for gay tourism.
There is a strong LGBT community, and numerous gay-owned or gay-friendly hotels, nightclubs and cafés. Nowhere else in the world will you find so many gay attractions per square meter as in the city centre of Amsterdam.
There are several major gay areas. Reguliersdwarsstraat is rather mainstream and particularly popular at weekends. Nearby, the area around Amstel street with its many gay bars in traditional Dutch offer style and vibe. Kerkstraat is home to a few gay hotels and some gay venues, and finally there is the Warmoesstraat with infamous gay cruise clubs and fetish shops.
Annual gay highlights in Amsterdam are New Year’s eve, the Queen’s Day on the 30th of April, the Amsterdam Gay Pride with the canal parade in August and the Leather Pride weekend in October.
The massive Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, located 15 km southwest of the city, is served by major carriers from around the world. When leaving Amsterdam, allow yourself enough time to get to your plane and through security. Schiphol is a large airport, so be there at least two hours in advance.
The best way to reach Amsterdam from the airport is to take a direct train to Central Station. There are 4-5 trains per hour in peak times. Trains run all night, although between 1am – 5am only once an hour.
Alternatively, take local bus 197. The journey time is about 30 minutes and proceeds directly to the southwest of the center of Amsterdam. Do not use a taxi unless there is no alternative as taxi fares from Schiphol are very expensive.
The shared Connexxion Hotel Shuttle serves over 100 city centre hotels and departs about every half hour between 6am and 9pm. It is more convenient than the train if you have heavy luggage and still cheaper than a taxi.
Amsterdam’s centre is fairly small and almost entirely flat, so you can get to most tourist destination on foot within half an hour. The alternative public transport options include:
Tram – The main form of public transport in the central area.
Metro – There is a four-line metro including a short underground section in the city center that serves neighborhoods to the southeast.
Bus – Just like the tram and metro, local buses are operated by the GVB.
Boat – There are several free ferry services to Amsterdam North. The most frequent runs every 7 minutes. They all leave from a new jetty on the northern side of Central Station.
Bicycle – A nice way to cover a lot of ground is to ride a bicycle. The city is very bike-friendly with separate bike lanes on most major streets.
Taxi – Metered taxis in Amsterdam are plentiful but expensive. Cheaper tuk-tuk’s are available and priced according to zones.
Car – Use a car only if you are going to an obscure location many miles out that is not served by public transport.
Prinsengracht – one of the three major canals, along with Herengracht and Keizersgracht, that shape the city.
Anne Frank House – a museum with a story – the hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her diary during World War II.
Van Gogh Museum – the world’s largest collection from the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh featuring more than 200 paintings and 600 drawings.
The Jordaan – charming neighborhood in Amsterdam’s Greenwich Village, with narrow alleys, leafy canals lined with 17th-century houses.
Concertgebouw – home of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, known for outstanding acoustics.
Tuschinski Theater – Amsterdam’s most famous theatre for cinema built in 1921 in art deco style.
Rembrandt’s House – 17th-century house which today is a museum that pays tribute to the artist’s life and career.
Emperor’s Canal (Kaizersgracht) – area with fascinating history and beautiful houses.
Vondelpark – Amsterdam’s most famous park designed and built in 1850.
Rijksmuseum – world-class museum with a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Age.
De Negen Straatjes – neighborhood of “nine little streets” full of quirky stores selling clothing, books, art, food and more.
The Netherlands is within the Schengen visa area. If traveling from outside Europe, check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
The currency used in the Netherlands is the euro expressed as EUR or €. There are many places to change money in town. Post offices usually give the best rates. However, you shouldn’t need to change money if you have an ATM card. Debit cards are widely accepted in shops, restaurants and hotels.
Credit cards are not as widely accepted in the Netherlands as in other countries. Always ask first if you want to pay by credit card.
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