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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Amsterdam Travel Guide
Amsterdam Travel Guide and Amsterdam Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Amsterdam is a city everyone thinks that they know. Images of scantily clad women turning on those red lights and wafts of cannabis smoke are as much ingrained on the consciousness as the myriad canals and the tragic story of Anne Frank. While popular preconceptions about the Dutch capital ring true for many arriving visitors, they really only tell half the story.

Amsterdam is a real, living and breathing city, not just an oasis for tourists, those who like a smoke and men in search of some extra-marital sex. In the canals beneath the stag parties and working girls, young Internet entrepreneurs strike deals across Europe from their houseboats and just outside the old core is the RAI, one of the continent’s key conference and business hubs. As well as the chugging canal boats, the city’s waterways also increasingly play home to some massive cruise ships and cargo vessels from all over the world. Today, Amsterdam peddles tourists almost as slickly as it has peddled goods and services over the centuries.

Situated at the southern end of the Markermeer, in Noord Holland, the city has clearly come a long way since it was founded, as legend has it, by two fishermen and a seasick dog. The story goes that the dog jumped ship to deposit the contents of his stomach and the two fishermen became the founders of Amsterdam. The reality might have been slightly more prosaic, with the River Amstel being dammed in the 13th century and spawning a settlement, which took the name of Aemstelledamme.

The lifeblood of Amsterdam has long been its aquatic locale, close as it is to the North Sea and built on myriad canals, which neatly divide the city into easily navigable districts and imbue it with a small town ambience. There seems to be a canal around every corner in Amsterdam and not too surprising, considering that the city is home to a staggering 165 of them. The city is often compared to Venice but Amsterdam is no museum city, whose young people are fleeing in droves. Here, beside the tourists and visiting businessman, the tolerant locals get on with their lives. Despite the bad publicity surrounding the rise and murder of far right politician Pim Fortuyn, in 2002, Amsterdam’s tolerance is still famed. But it does not only extend to practical solutions on how to deal with one of the world’s oldest industries and the controlled use of soft drugs. The city is also a haven for many nationalities, various sexualities and people of radically different political and religious persuasions. Whatever visitors make of the sex and drugs, it is difficult not to be impressed by this live-and-let-live mentality.

As well as being a nefarious oasis, the local tourist board is keen to stress that Amsterdam boasts more museums per square inch than anywhere else on the planet. And, in a sense, the whole city is one living museum, a crucial part of Amsterdam’s charm.

Throughout the summer, all of the city’s eclectic groups come together in Vondelpark, to relax in the balmy weather. Amsterdam statistically might be one of Europe’s wettest capitals but as soon as the clouds clear and the sun is allowed to shine, its inhabitants spill out onto the streets, to sit in the numerous pavement cafés, take a cruise on a canal or even partake in that most ubiquitous of Amsterdam pastimes, ride their bicycles. Amsterdam’s winters tend to be cold with plenty of rain but this seldom seems to deter the tourists, who flock to the city all year round. Particularly cold winters also offer the unique chance for visitors to witness Amsterdamers uniting in skating across the picturesquely frozen canals.
Useful travel links
Amsterdam Tourist Office Official website for Amsterdam Tourism