A city of diamonds for some, a forbidden paradise for others, Amsterdam welcomes a variety of tourists who, surrounded by bicycles, tulips and the idiosyncratic wonders of the city, just wish that they had another pair of eyes to be able to see all that there is to see. The canals, the architecture, the coffee shops, the art and literature - this is a city rich in culture, which is both traditional and modern.
Although the rhythm of the city moves at a slow and gentle pace, much like its river and bicycles, Amsterdam will never leave you bored.
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As Amsterdam is a fairly small city, one of the best ways to explore is by bicycle. There are over 800,000 bicycles in the city so it is said that visitors shouldn't leave without experiencing the famous bike culture. With a fantastic network of cycling paths, you can easily find your way through the city streets, pass attractions and enjoy the route along the canal.
To discover the city from the water, Amsterdam is famous for its canal bikes (or pedal boats). Take a leisurely trip down the canal and get lost amongst the thousands of bridges and flower-covered canal boats.
For some on foot exploring, take a stroll through the Jordaan area, a tangle of small streets filled with cosy pubs and cafés, quirky pop-up street markets and both trendy and traditional art galleries.
Spend a sunny afternoon in Vondelpark, an enchanting part of the city, with a range of ponds, lakes, snaking paths and wooden footbridges. Perfect for a picnic on a sunny day or to pass through on your bicycle.
On top of Amsterdam's relaxed daytime culture of strolling or cycling the streets and sitting in cafés or the more raucous nightlife, it is also a city brimming with culture in its art and museums.
Beginning at the Van Gogh Museum, which is one of the most popular museums in the world, you can trace the artist's fascinating life back through time. The museum allows you to track the artist's artistic and personal developments during his life through hundreds of his masterpieces, drawings and letters. Make sure to pre-book or get there early to avoid the queues and crowds.
Another essential to see when visiting Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House which shows where she lived with her family during World War II. The museum draws in millions of tourists to get an insight into their life there, and her famous diary is on display. It is a powerful experience for visitors and one of the city's must-sees.
Other key sights include: the Rijksmuseum, which holds thousands of famous paintings from Rembrant to Vermeers and significant Golden Age works, the sculpture gardens which surround it, the Royal Palace which is in the heart of the Medieval city dating back over 500 years, and the Albert Cuypmarkt, which is the largest market in the city selling local fresh fruit and vegetables, handmade clothes, souvenirs and delicious street food (try the caramel-filled Stroopwafels.)
A trip to Asmterdam must also include, of course, a tour of the red light district. It may have a reputation which leaves nothing to the imagination, and is filled with "adult" clubs and sex shops, but the world-famous lewd neighbourhood is also a bustling, bubbling experience with its late-night cafés and bars. It is certainly worth a visit, but perhaps be careful which bar you pop into!
Before taking a taxi, ask whether the meter is switched on. Also remember that the city is fairly small and that it costs ?10 (about £8) for roughly a 5 minute drive, so it may be advised to find cheaper forms of transport.
The tram system in Amsterdam is a good alternative and the fastest way to get around the city. They are distinctive in blue and white colours ringing out a loud bell to let you know they are coming. If you are only visiting for a few days, you can buy a 1-hour, 24-hour or 48-hour pass to keep the costs down.
Despite being a city where smoking cannabis is legel, be careful because it is actually illegal to smoke in the streets. To avoid getting in trouble stick to the coffee shops
Do not attempt to take cannabis back with you when you leave, it is illegal and many control checks are carried out on trains, buses and planes.
Avoid walking around alone at night in the red light district, particularly if you are a woman.
A the capital of Gouda cheese, Amsterdam offers a wide choice of cheeses. Make sure to taste some ripe Amsterdam Gouda, it is truly excellent.
Pickled herring, in sauce or grilled, is another delicacy that can be found everywhere, and Alkmaar cabbage soup and cheese soup are traditionally served as starters.
Dutch sauerkraut and smoked eels or 'Stamppot', which is mashed potatoes with cabbage or chicory, served with smoked sausages and pork loin strips.
As for the local drink, it is of course beer, and the choice is wide.
Do not attempt to bring bakc the famous Amsterdam ?hash? as it is illegal to do so and you cannot take it through customs.
There are many souvenir shops where you can buy souvenirs from clogs to blue Delftware pottery, from cheese to I <3 AMSTERDAM adorned trinkets. Head over to the flower market to find tulip bulbs for sale, which are famously Dutch and make an original gift.
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