Amsterdam canal side
Commercial capital of the Netherlands
Founded as a fishing village in the medieval period, Amsterdam has grown to be a flourishing northern European city of around 750,000 people. Today the heart of the city is based around a network of canals and bridges with distinctive houses surviving from the 16th century and onwards. It is particularly easy to get to as the city's airport at Schiphol is a main hub for Air France KLM with connections throughout the world. The easiest way from there to Amsterdam itself is by train - a 20 minute journey.
Amsterdam canal bridge
Amsterdam is a city dominated by bicycles and trams. The tram network is extensive in comparison to the metro and the bus service. Get an OV-chipkart from the tourist offices outside Amsterdam Centraal train station for an economic way of travelling around the city by all three services. Swipe the credit card-sized chipkart when you get on and off. Watch out for the enormous number of cyclists, none of whom wear helmets and many ignore any kind of right of way for the pedestrians.
Hotels are plentiful but expensive - particularly those along the canals. Because the city looks so different - depending on your perspective, tram, walking, canal - it is worth taking one of the numerous canal cruises leaving near the central station.
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Useful on rainy days and full of interesting exhibits. The Rijksmuseum and the Vincent van Gogh museum are among the most popular with extensive collections of the best Dutch art.
A number of restored houses are available to visit, including the house where Anne Frank hid during the war, Rembrandt's house and less famous but equally interesting period homes.
Travelling to the Netherlands can be a fascinating experience. The fast train network can take you to Antwerp, the Hague, Rotterdam and many other cities. The European network also links to destinations beyond such as Brussels and Luxembourg.