red light district
| Albert Cuyp
Amsterdam's most famous day market, with stalls lining both sides of the Albert Cuyp street. Like all other daymarkets, in part due to stronger legislation regarding the sale of perishables, this icon of Amsterdam street trade sees a shift towards the sale of cheap textiles. It still retains some of its old charm though, and especially on a sunny day the Albert Cuyp is a bustling multicultural street filled with the famous Amsterdam humor. Don't miss the fish vendors, and if you're lucky you might witness a cunning hawker trying to sell you the latest in potato peelers. Open Mon-Sat 8am-6pm (closes earlier in winter, and can close early due to bad weather).
Just off Amsterdam's main shopping allee you'll find the Begijnhof, a secluded court of almshouses with a quiet innergarden and the English Reformed Church in their midst. Dating from the 14th century, the Begijnhof used to house devout lay-women who did religious work for the adjacent nunnery, mostly in education and nursing. Most of the houses were renovated during the 17th and 18th century and only one of the original medieval wooden houses remains (no 34, dated 1475). True to tradition the Begijnhof still houses the elderly poor, and this island of tranquillity is certainly worth a visit. The Begijnhof can be reached through a doorway on the Spui, or from within the Amsterdams Historisch Museum.
[See also: history]
The canals of course are one of the major attractions of the 'Venice of the North'. By daytime already very charming, by night they become even more enchanting because a lot of the canal houses and bridges are beautifully illuminated. The four main city center canals are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel, and of course there are numerous smaller canals, of which the Brouwersgracht, the Bloemgracht and the Leliegracht are especially pleasant.
You can sample the canal views by taking a canal tour with one of the shipping companies on the Damrak or Rokin. A basic tour will cost around €14 with special arrangements like 'candle light cruises' available. Another option is to take the Canal Bus (sponsored page), with stops at the major museums and attractions. You could also try the more adventurous pedal boats; rental outlets are at strategic points in town, including the Anne Frank house and the Rijksmuseum (see Canal Bike sponsored page). Life on water is very different from life ashore, and if you care to venture into the canals on your own you'll soon find out that it's difficult to get your bearing while afloat. Bring a good map! You can also order a watertaxi (tel 535 63 63) to get you from A to B in a pleasant though more expensive way.
During the sixties flower power in the Netherlands was symbolized by the famous Damslapers, a 'bunch of hippies camping out on Dam square'. Nowadays the square has lost a lot of it's former easygoing charm but it's still one of the focal points of the city. Not surprising, as Dam square is the physical center of the city ever since the dam was built to keep the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) out. In the midst of the square is the Nationaal Monument, dedicated to the Dutch soldiers and members of the resistance who died during World War Two. To the west the square is flanked by the Royal Palace.
The Eastern Docklands are artificial peninsulas laid out between 1874 and 1927, as home base to the large passenger and cargo ships that left for the former Dutch East and West Indies. In the last decade of the 20th century the Docklands have been converted to residential areas. Architectural beauty and urban allure were declared important, existing harbor basins were to be preserved and existing harbor buildings to be re-used. This has led to internationally widely acclaimed urban architecture, which draws much camera-toting visitors. The Docklands have quickly become a popular area for locals as well however, mainly due to the booming nightlife with a good selection of bars, restaurants and clubs to sample.
A former working class area which has become very sought after. Especially the expensive converted warehouses are popular, and the Jordaan is now inhabited by a colorful mixture of original 'Jordanezen', students, and well-to-do businessmen and creatives. There aren't any major sights to see here, it is the Jordaan area itself which is remarkable: easygoing and peaceful, with lots of bars, restaurants and interesting little shops. The Noordermarkt hosts a flea market, joined on Saturday mornings by alternative farmers selling their produce out of the back of their cars. Just a great area to stroll around for a couple of hours.
During the sixties when Amsterdam was divided between Nozems (greasers) and Provos (hippies) the Leidseplein was the major Nozem hangout, and thus a very cool place. Nowadays the area has deteriorated a bit, with an abundance of fast food, travel agencies and money changers. Nonetheless, the Leidseplein itself is a pleasant enough small square, flanked on three sides by bars and with a large tree-shaded terrace in the middle. During summer the square comes alive with street performers; everything from jugglers and fire-eaters to percussionists, mime players and clowns.
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