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Why Does Amsterdam Continue to Be One of Europe’s Top Cities?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 20:17
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Why does Amsterdam continue to be one of Europe’s top cities?

In the 17th century, Amsterdam was one of the most important trading centers in the world. Its busy port attracted business from all over Europe and as far away as India and China. A rich, outward-looking culture grew up there as a result, at a time when Dutch culture was in its heyday, producing art and architecture still celebrated today.

However, what’s really impressive about this city is its staying power. Over the centuries since it has remained at the forefront of contemporary life, and it remains a fascinating place to visit.

What’s happening in Amsterdam?

In the modern world, Amsterdam may no longer stand out as a place where one can buy anything – though there are certainly a few things on sale here that would raise eyebrows elsewhere – but it still has a great deal going on.

Despite its relatively small size (there are just two and a half million people in the Metro region), it’s a major destination for cultural events, from touring operatic productions to performances by the likes of Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga.

It’s home to top European soccer club Ajax and ice hockey stars Amstel Tijgers, and it has an amazing ice rink popular with speed skaters. Festivals like Koningsdag, Gay Pride and Uitmarkt attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, with giant open air events including free concerts, poetry performances and exhibitions by up and coming artists. This is a city where there’s always something going on.

Must-see sights

Amsterdam is a thrilling city for art lovers. The Van Gogh Museum is a must, with an unrivalled collection of the artist’s works, and the Rijksmuseum has a superb display of Rembrandt paintings. The Stedelijk Museum is essential for those who admire modern art. There are many more art galleries and museums throughout the city, and visitors can also see important historical sites like the house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis while writing her famous diary.

Then there are those parts of the city’s heritage that are very much alive today. It has long been famous for its diamond jewelry and visitors can tour the diamond-cutting studios as well as admiring some of their greatest creations. Amsterdam’s culinary heritage is there to be discovered in its myriad cake shops and specialist chocolatiers, and when it comes to dining, the city has restaurants from literally dozens of different countries.

A city for all seasons

Amsterdam is often thought of as a summer city, with its outdoor events, its street tables outside cafés and bars, and the large, spontaneous social gatherings in its parks, but this is a place where there are things happening all year round. It looks enchanting in winter when snow falls on the low-gabled houses and lines the rails of the bridges.

Although it isn’t often cold enough to skate on the canals, there are sometimes outdoor skating rinks in the parks, and afterwards one can warm up in a bar with hot mulled wine or the spicy cocoa drink known as zopie, which sometimes contains run or cognac for an extra kick. Spring and fall, meanwhile, are the best times for serious exploring in the city, when the sun isn’t too hot and the canal boats are not too crowded.

Making the most of an Amsterdam experience

One of the best things about Amsterdam is that it’s really accessible. It’s easy to find short term apartments to rent in Amsterdam, even at the last minute, and there are direct flights there from all around the world.

Once there, travelers are often amazed by the friendliness of the local people and by how easy it is to get involved in things. At lunchtime, people gather in or outside bars to eat bread, cheese and sausage and drink tea or beer. At night, the city is full of lively clubs, with music playing until three or four in the morning. The trams make it easy to get around, with passes available so users can hop on and off, making it easy to plunge right into the busy life of the city and explore at leisure.

Stunning historic buildings, bustling shops and marketplaces and charming cobbled streets make it easy to fall in love with Amsterdam, but the real strength of the city lies in its ability to keep on changing and adopting the best things from the cultures that surround it over time. It’s this that is likely to keep it among the world’s most exciting destinations for centuries to come.

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