Is Amsterdam in the Netherlands or Holland? It can get confusing.
The answer is both. The official name of the country in which Amsterdam is located in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Within the Netherlands, there are 12 administrative provinces, two of which contain the name Holland.
Amsterdam lies towards the bottom of Noord-Holland or North Holland, which is the northwestern-most province of Amsterdam. Suid-Holland, or South Holland, is approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Amsterdam, while the province of Utrecht—not considered Holland—is directly south of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, though major government buildings are located in The Hague, which is the official seat of government. Sometimes, someone may use "Holland" as a term to describe all of the Netherlands and although this is not technically correct, it is generally understood. Although Holland refers to one region of the Netherlands, historically Holland was the region that made the biggest contribution to trade and wealth. It is also the home of many of the typically Dutch cultural touchstones like windmills, cheese, clogs, and tulips.
People from the Netherlands, and the language they speak, are called "Dutch." This comes from the Old English word to refer to the country, but Dutch people call themselves "Nederlanders" and the language is "Nederlands." There are also many dialects within the Netherlands such as West Flemish, Brabantian, and Limburgish. Some of these dialects are also spoken in the northern parts of Belgium, where Dutch is an official language in addition to French and German.
Amsterdam is a draw for art history buffs. The museums such as the Rijksmuseum, whose permanent collection includes the best of Dutch and Flemish masters, is a must-see. The famous Rembrandt's "De Nachtwacht," and other 17th-century masterpieces are housed there. Also, in the museum quarter, you can visit the Van Gogh Museum dedicated to one of the most famous Dutch painters. This museum features many of his self-portraits, landscapes, and still lifes, such as Irises, Bedroom in Arles, and Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers.
Amsterdam is also famous for its canals, barges, and bridges. Amsterdam has retained 165 of its historic canals, and you can take a canal boat tour. You can also take a more modern boat for your tour around the Canal Belt, four semicircles that loop around the historic area of Amsterdam. Seeing the old homes and architecture from the water is an ideal way to orient yourself to this historic city.
Not far from Amsterdam is Keukenhof Gardens. You can take a tour or even a city bus to get there. Keukenhof is exceptionally beautiful in spring when the tulips are blooming, but you can visit the bulb gardens at other times of the year. Daffodils are usually blooming in February.
Cannabis and Coffee
Stop into one of Amsterdam's coffee shops, and you may be surprised to find people smoking a joint and sipping their coffee. Amsterdam is a place where it is legal to sell and buy cannabis. Some visitors go to Amsterdam because of the cannabis coffee shops, and quite a few visitors step into a coffee shop at least once on their trip.
Anne Frank House and World War II Museums
Amsterdam was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1945, and so Amsterdam is an ideal place to get a sense of how the country dealt with the occupation and World War II. You can visit the Anne Frank house and museum where Anne Frank wrote her now world-famous diary. The Dutch Resistance has been awarded the "Best Historical Museum in the Netherlands" designation. The Jewish Historical Museum also has much to offer for those wanting to learn more about Europe during World War II.