If you're planning a European trip, first read this list of reasons to include Amsterdam on your journey. You might be surprised by a few!
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You'll Get to Know an Urban Village
A cool thing about Amsterdam -- and perhaps a lesser known fact -- is that the city is small enough (roughly 740,000 locals inhabit its central area) that visitors can get a real feel for its people, neighborhoods, sights and secrets. Compared to sprawling Paris and London, this European capital is more of a village -- and visitors can see nearly all of it on a bike ride, walking tour or public transportation in just a few days. This accessibility means you'll spend your time making memories instead of making sense of an overwhelming itinerary to see too much in too little time. Likewise, it's a cinch to take the train to destinations outside Amsterdam; in as little as ten to 15 minutes, you can be in the next town or city on your itinerary.
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A Floating City is Truly Magical
Most people who've never even been to Amsterdam have at least heard about its canals. They are certainly worth seeing, as the 165 waterways create a seemingly floating city of 90 islands connected by 1,281 bridges. A canal cruise is a must-do activity in Amsterdam; and just walking the winding, narrow streets along the waters will give you a sense of the magic this city possesses. Want to take in some of the landmark canal-front architecture? Visitors can admire the city's typical canal houses from both inside and out; see a master list of monumental canal architecture, or for an interior view, check out these Amsterdam canal houses that have been converted into public museums.
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You'll Get One of Europe's Best Visual History Lessons
With more than 6,800 houses and buildings protected as monuments and dating from the 16th to the 20th century, Amsterdam boasts the largest historical inner city in Europe. The towering, sturdy warehouses and elegant homes built by wealthy merchants during Holland's Golden Age (the 17th century) line the city's canals and are perhaps its most distinguishing architectural features (see the links above), but the oldest architecture in town dates back to the medieval period; read more about Gothic architecture in Amsterdam for details. And don't think for a moment that Amsterdam has any lack of churches: from its most famous historic churches to its only basilica, the city is a trove of ecclesiastical architecture. Visitors can even scale some of the local church towers for some of the best panoramic views of the city.
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Unique, World-class Museums Abound
Take your pick: see the works of Dutch masters and treasures of a time when Amsterdam was the richest city in the world at the Rijksmuseum; learn about the styles and secrets of the man who could be considered Holland's most interesting painter at the Van Gogh Museum; or walk through the tiny annex that a group of eight called home for two years during Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in World War II at the Anne Frank House. These are among the top museums in Amsterdam, but there are nearly 50 more to teach, entertain or move you: see this thematic list of Amsterdam museums for starters. You can even save some money on multiple museum visits with one of these tourist discount cards, some of which are also valid for cities outside Amsterdam; don't miss our recommendations for must-see museums in The Hague and museums in Leiden, both conveniently close to Amsterdam.
Updated by Kristen de Joseph.