Before you get lost in Amsterdam!

Why is Amsterdam so great? It is hard to say exactly why, you need to live in it. The city has lots of culture, the inner city is beautiful and nightlife is -how to say- grand. Is it the coffee shops and the tolerant attitude towards sex? Part of the good thing about Amsterdam stems indeed from the attitude of the Dutch. In general they are tolerant, easygoing, liberal and open-minded. So it must be the Dutch mindset combined with Amsterdam's historical and modern attractions that might explain why Amsterdam is so exciting. Exploring the city's shops, cafes, restaurants, parks and courts is fun. The city is multi-cultural and compact and easy to travel, either by foot, bike, joint, boat, tram or bus. But definitely not by car.

In the 1960´s Amsterdam became the hippie capital of Europe. Nowadays the city and Holland have taken leading roles in liberalising roles regarding topics as homosexuality and euthanasia. Many people think that Amsterdam is still all about free love, free drugs and free everything. The city has worked hard to transform from a hippie heaven to a cosmopolitan and international business centre. But Amsterdam is still different. Amsterdammers are not easily poured into restrictive roles of trade and industry. Fortunately free living and freethinking is still highly prevalent in Amsterdam.

This City will capture you in its spell..... Quickly ! Because of its compactness and its features, old and new. Go and explore it. But perhaps the greatest asset of Amsterdam is its inhabitants. Every Dutch person seems to speak at least a couple of languages - many speak English fluently - and are friendly to visitors.

Both the city and its people will make your visit to Amsterdam a memorable experience!

History.
If you are interested in the history of Amsterdam, you can visit "The Miracle of Amsterdam" at the Cultural Centre Pompoen, (Spuistraat 2), which is only a few minutes away from the Central Station. This audio-visual presentation deals with the social economic history of Amsterdam. It is quite a spectacular experience both for the eyes and ears. We recommend you go there. It is both in English and Dutch.


Living in Amsterdam

Housing
During the last 50 years the population of Amsterdam has dropped from 835,000 to 731,000. In 1950 the city had 223,000 homes (made up of houses and apartments), By 1st January 2000 the figure had risen to 369,000. But, despite ongoing building programmes to produce new housing some 100,000 Amsterdammers are seeking a (new) home. This is a familiar picture for most big cities housing being a scarce commodity. After Word War II there was a general scarcity. For families, single people and the elderly, finding somewhere to live was difficult. Over the years, families were the first group to feel an improvement. Amsterdam built more than 100,000 homes, but many families looked for and found homes in neighbouring towns like Purmerend, Hoorn and Almere. This exodus was matched by an influx as people came here to study and work. The average number of people per home-unit in Amsterdam now stands at 1.98. (June 2000), Around half of the housing in Amsterdam is occupied by singles.

Varied housing stock.
Just over half the housing in Amsterdam is controlled by housing co-operatives. The private (for purchase) housing sector accounts for 17%. Up to the late 1980s the priority in Amsterdam was on social (low-cost) housing. As a result, many people in the middle and higher income brackets left the city. The current policy is to create a more varied housing stock. The city is sprouting a large number of new residential neighbourhoods like Sloten, the Eastern Port Area, the south banks of the IJ and IJburg. Of the new housing, 70% is for purchase or rent in the higher price categories. Existing neighbourhoods are scheduled for urban renewal over the next several years.

The Garden Suburbs
Before World War II the city planners developed schemes for a number of garden suburbs. Hence, large-scale housing projects were developed immediately following the war. These were garden suburbs like Slotermeer, Slotervaart, Geuzenveld, Osdorp and Overtoomse Veld on the western lip of the city. Buitenveldert arose on the southern edge of the city, and in the north came Nieuwendam and Banne Buiksloot. Most garden suburbs featured a large section of social (low-cost) housing. The housing co-operatives added thousands of homes to their stock. Buitenveldert was the only area with more private housing, both for purchase and rent.

Bijlmermeer
The last garden suburb to be developed was the Bijlmermeer, to the southeast of the city, in the early 1970s. The planners believed that they had designed a perfect place to live, with segregated paths and routes for pedestrians, people on bikes, and cars. This was the first neighbourhood in Amsterdam to get a metro station. And there were actually garages for cars ! The high-rise apartment buildings were surrounded by a park. However, the Bijlmermeer failed to fulfill all the high hopes. Finding tenants for the 13,000 high-rise apartments proved difficult. Rents were high, and so was competition from low-rise apartments in neighbourhoods close, but outside the city limits. And so, the Bijlmermeer became a refuge for groupings that found it hard to find a home in Amsterdam. Newcomers "camped" in the Bijlmermeer only to leave as fast as possible when they found something more suitable for them somewhere else.

Many of the apartments remained empty, and many people re-located. Over the course of the years social problems arose and crime figures climbed. Now, not even a quarter century after it was created, the Bijlmermeer is being renewed. Some 3,000 high-rise apartments are being demolished. Another 8,000 plus are being renewed and improved. And several are to be given a drastic "face lift", but - to a degree - the prices will also rise. This is necessary to establish a more varied housing stock in the Bijlmermeer, and with it, a more varied community. Low-level homes will occupy the space once taken by the high-rise apartments. Where stipulated in the planning, the strict separation of traffic types has been abandoned. To date, (June 2000), the renewal of the Bijlmermeer has progressed considerably.

New projects

New neighbourhoods developed after the Bijlmermeer are quite different in type. Low-level housing rather than high-rise apartments, or construction on several levels. There are more homes for purchase, and more in the private rented sector. To the west of the city, in the former market-gardening area of Sloten some 5,300 homes have been built in this manner. The house construction programme here is virtually complete. New homes are being built to the west of Amsterdam, in the Middelveldsche Akerpolder. This utilises the last available space for construction on this side of the city. However, new initiatives are being deployed in the old port area to the east of the city. This 19th-century port facility had run into disuse. The old port islands are being turned into construction sites. The KNSM Island has now been fully re-developed. Construction on the Java Island is still being worked and the same applies to the Borneokade and Sporenburg. Work has already started on a number of artificial islands opposite the Diemerzeedijk. This new neighbourhood, IJ-burg, with 18,000 homes will be close to the inner city. The first foundations are now being laid (2001), and the first resident should move into their new homes in 2002.

Around 1969 it had become evident that a large number of buildings in the 19th-century working-class districts failed to meet construction and housing standards. They were too small to house families and there was no space for domestic appliances like washing machines or refrigerators. Moreover baths and/or showers were absent. It was time for urban renewal. This produced good results. The basic principle was that people should return to live in their own neighbourhoods. Therefore rents would have to be affordable. Alongside the 19th century districts like the Kinkerbuurt, Dapperbuurt and De Pijp, the pre-war housing stock controlled by the housing co-operatives was to be renewed along the same lines. The focus here was on renovation rather than demolition followed by new construction. Show- pieces here are the housing blocks in the Spaarndammer district and on the Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat, built in the style of the Amsterdam School. After renovation these properties were classified as monuments of architectural importance. Now, urban renewal is making way for a new approach ; regeneration of the city. The objective here is to reinforce certain districts of Amsterdam by enhancing the quality of housing, as well as the environment. This will mean a more varied stock of bigger and smaller, less and more expensive housing. The post-war garden suburbs will also be on the schedule for city regeneration.
Allocation of housing
Today, the City Housing Service only helps people with a social or medical problem, refugees, or people with urgent requirements due to city regeneration. Anyone else seeking a place to live can contact the Amsterdam housing co-operatives directly. These bodies work together in the Woningnet Organisation to increase the available stock as far as possible, in a regional context.

 

Drugs
Amsterdam is famous for its tolerant attitude towards soft drugs. Soft drugs are not legal in Holland, as it is often thought, but a small quantity of hashish or marihuana is to be tolerated. In general it is safe to say that Amsterdam's policy on drugs is pragmatic.

Hard Drugs and Soft Drugs
Several aspects of Dutch drugs policy differ from policy in other countries. The Dutch differentiate their approach to hard and soft drugs. This differentiation has been enshrined in legislation since 1976 whereby possession of hard drugs is a crime and the possession of a small quantity of soft drugs (with a maximum of 5 grams) is a minor offence for which no legal action is taken. Amsterdam has around 300 recognised, coffee shops were soft drugs can be purchased. In 1996 the first coffee shop licence was issued. Eventually, "Coffee Shops" became legal and not just tolerated like in the past. Amsterdam - and the rest of Holland - decided that drug use is more a health problem than a criminal issue. Coffee shops are seen as a way to separate soft drugs smokers from the underworld.

The Soft Variety
More than half of the coffee shops are based in the inner city. You can enter, and buy your hashish or marihuana. A bag typically costs F25, (This price, interestingly, has almost been fixed for the last twenty five years!), and the better the stuff, the less you get. There are several types of hash and weed. Just do not let the menu scare you. Hash comes basically in two varieties: blond and black. The black variant hits a little harder. The Dutch home grown weed is usually stronger than other marihuana. You can also buy a pre-rolled joint in coffeeshops. This prevents you from any rolling hassle.

You only have to know that you have to be at least 18 if you want to buy soft drugs. When you want to buy soft drugs we recommend that you buy the stuff in coffeeshops, because buying drugs on the street is not a wise thing to do. You should also know that you need to be able to show that you are over 18 and an ID is often asked when you buy in a coffeeshop.

Coffeeshops
Coffeeshops used to be dark and unwelcoming places. But it is not like that any more. Recently a number of attractive coffeeshops have opened with friendly staff, pool tables, Internet connections, games rooms, DJ music and a variety of other attractions.

One such place is Abraxas near the Dam Square. It is just off the Vorburgval down a little passage called Jonge Roelensteeg. You just cannot miss this place as there is an enormous neon sign over the entrance to the alley. The place itself is bigger now than it was a few years ago and it has a nice exotic atmosphere with several floors, including a DJ-room. Check their cool website: www.abraxas.tv These guys came third in the Cannabis Cup. Another good coffeeshop is the Rokerij in the Lange Leidsdwarsstraat 41, near the Leidseplein. They won the Cannabis Cup for being the best coffeeshop 1999/2000. Don’t waste your time with visiting their site…!

Smart drugs
Most drugs are either classified as soft or hard drugs, but there is a group called "smart drugs" which falls in neither category. They consist of herbs and natural ingredients and they are said to give you energy, relax you or improve your sexual performance. They are legal and smart drug shops are widely spread all over the world. This includes Amsterdam, but, as you might expect, they are a bit different. They also sell hallucinogenic mushrooms. Conscious Dreams (Kerkstraat 117),

The magic Mushroom Gallery (Spuistraat 249) and
Kokopelli (Warmoesstraat 12) are some places you could visit to satisfy your craving for these smart drugs or mushrooms.

Prostitution
In 1997 the Ministry of Justice submitted a new proposal for amendment of Article 250 bis of the Dutch Criminal Code, to the Dutch Parliament, and in 1999, after almost 20 years, the Second Chamber accepted the draft act to end the general ban on brothels. The Act came into force on 1 October 2000 as from which date municipalities may issue licenses for prostitution businesses. Holland is well known for its tolerant stance on prostitution and the decriminalisation of the prostitution sector. This pragmatic approach has led to prostitution businesses being regulated and legalised as well as possible. Amsterdam was one of the cities that enthusiastically welcomed the intended amendment to the law. Indeed, prostitution has long been accepted in Amsterdam as a big-city social reality. The ending of the brothel ban enables the city council to introduce a licensing system for prostitution. The amendment to the law has six main objectives:

> Controlling and regulating prostitution operations
> Improving counter-measures against involuntary prostitution
> Protection of minors from sexual abuse
> Protecting the position of prostitutes
> Dis-entangling crime from the sex industry
> Combating prostitution and organisation of prostitution by illegal aliens.

The prostitution sector in Amsterdam is highly diverse. The various forms are matched by considerable differences in the position of prostitutes and interests. Classification of the various forms of prostitution is based on two factors, i.e. openness and the commercial aspect. Generally speaking the more open forms of prostitution involve a greater measure of independence for the prostitutes themselves, whereas at clubs, private-houses, erotic massage parlours and SM clubs they are required to surrender a degree of independence - sometimes a considerable amount - in return for the supposed safety and anonymity of a club. Escort and home prostitution occupy a middle ground. Window prostitution is established in areas of Amsterdam including the Burgwallen and parts of the Spuistraat and De Pijp. The current policy in Amsterdam prohibits the expansion of window prostitution. With an eye to preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, prostitutes are targeted with medical information and help around such diseases. There are also low- threshold facilities such as outpatient clinics for prostitutes. Prostitution businesses are also subject to general city ordinances, including fire safety, noise nuisance, and hygiene. These factors are also included in the mandatory document stating that the holder is a fit person to run such a business, which came into operation on 1 January 1996.

Street prostitution
On 2 January 1996 Amsterdam opened a special soliciting zone for street prostitutes on the Theemsweg. This is open from 2100hrs to 0300hrs the following morning. Outside these hours soliciting for prostitution in a public place is prohibited throughout the city. Facilities in the zone include a "lounge project" where the prostitutes can meet their colleagues and relax. They can also consult with care workers from various social/health services, who are on duty. A doctor and nurse(s) from the city health service hold consultations in the lounge twice a week. The prostitutes can have free examinations for sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms are also on sale, and prostitutes can trade old for new needles. Once a week the police hold a confidential session at which prostitutes can talk with officers. The Theemsweg prostitution zone it is surrounded by gates and fences to prevent activity spilling over into a wider area. A permanent supervisor is responsible for management and maintenance. A special police team is in place every evening to ensure safety. Ideally, you need your own transport, but if you are desperate, and do not mind paying the cost incurred by hiring a taxi.....then go for it!

Red Light District
Amsterdam is widely known for its Red Light District. This famous section of Amsterdam covers a large area in the oldest part of the city. Check it out because it is quite unique! The area consists of old buildings and canals and besides prostitutes you will find loads of pubs, cafes, coffeeshops and interesting ( ! ) venues.

Of course the main attraction are the nearly naked women exposing themselves to passers-by in their neon-lit windows. The women behind the windows are all age groups and come from a wide variety of racial backgrounds also. We are sure you will find a lady to your taste!

The prostitutes, (hoertjes), are completely legal and they do have access to medical care, so rest assured on that front ! They even have their own union; the PIC. (Prostitution Information Centre). You can pay them a visit and we are sure you will find their helpful staff can answer all your questions. You can also view their exhibits and purchase condoms and lubricants.

The small streets of The Red Light District are busy day and night. During peak evening hours - 2100hrs - 0300hrs - you might even have to wait. Please bear in mind that taking pictures of the ladies is not permitted and you will definitely get into trouble if you try. So just don't use that camera here!

Another attraction of the Red Light District is alongside most of the canals there. Here, you can find the Live Sex Show establishments. The Casa Rosso and the Banana Bar are well known examples. Theatre Casa Rosso (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 106) provides you with a choreographed, sexy show starring attractive men and women in a clean theatre. If you are in for something nastier the Banana Bar (Oudezijds Achterburgwal 37) might be your place. Here naked women alternate between filling your drinks and performing erotic parlour tricks, including a banana routine. Hidden away are a number of brothels for a more discerning clientele. Some of them have been around for ages in beautiful canal houses and a few specialise in SM (Sado Masochism), Hedonism and other kinky sex. The most famous and upscale brothel in Amsterdam is Yab Yum (Singel 295). There are also escort services that can provide you with a "date".

Amsterdam also is known for its pornography. You can literally find that everywhere in the city. Along with the usual assortment of videos, magazines, sex aids and toys, there is always something new and unusual to check out. You will find toys for straight and gay sex, but also for kinky sex including SM, bestiality and even child porn (unfortunately!) Many of the porn shops also have private cabins to watch videos.

A very busy street in the Red Light District is the Warmoesstraat and it is home to a number of gay bars and cinemas. But the street is not the exclusive place for the gay scene. Also the Reguliersdwarstraat and the small streets surrounding the Rembrandtplein are very popular amongst the gay crowd.

The Red Light District is also a very good part of the city for Chinese food, especially the streets around the Nieuwmarkt. Besides the restaurants there are other Chinese businesses including a well-stocked supermarket across from the Waag, near the Nieuwmarkt.

But do look further as a visitor of Amsterdam, because the city has many, many other attractions which make it worthwhile visiting.

Sightseeing

Dam Square
During the sixties flower power in the Netherlands was symbolised by the ´Damslapers´, a bunch of hippies camping out on the Dam square. Nowadays the square is less striking, but it is still one of the focal points of the city. This is the place where this city was born: on a dam across the River Amstel. Take a walk from the Central Station and you will be here in 10 minutes.

Arriving on the Dam Square, you will mainly see people and pigeons. Hundreds of them. Swooping down and landing on any hapless tourist who has a piece of bread readily available. What you should watch for is a crowd gathered around something you can’t see. Go and see. It may be the puppeteer who manipulates kid-sized marionettes. Or performers acting convincingly as statues. You may encounter a medieval knight in gorgeous bronze armour; a porcelain Japanese doll or a pure white stone renaissance virgin.

The Royal Palace on the Dam Square has been designed by master builder Jacob van Campen as a city hall. Which it was till 1808 when Napoleon's brother Louis Bonaparte ruled Holland for 5 years. He thought the building fit for a king. Ever since this has been the official palace for the Dutch queen or king and is used for official receptions and state visits. During summer you can take a guided tour of the palace.

The Nieuwe Kerk is famous for its beautiful exhibitions. It has become famous for its exhibitions presenting the cultural treasures of distant lands, or revealing the religious beliefs of other civilisations. This historic building stands next door to the Royal Palace. The building itself is well worth a visit. One of the oldest churches in Amsterdam, it is also used for the inauguration ceremony for the Dutch monarchs. Also, once a year the ceremony of remembrance for the war victims of the twentieth century, is held in this church. More information: www.nieuwekerk.nl (in English and Dutch)

In the centre of the Dam is the National Monument that was officially opened by the former queen of Holland, Juliana in 1956. It commemorates the liberation of Amsterdam from German occupation during World War II. On fine days people from Holland and abroad sit on the steps of this monument.

Canals
Amsterdam's inner city is all about canals and beautiful canal houses. They are one of the major attractions of the "Venice of the North". During the daytime they are attractive (especially on a sunny day), but by night they become even more enchanting because a lot of the houses and bridges are beautifully illuminated. The four centre canals of the ´grachtengordel´ are the Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. Of the smaller canals the Brouwersgracht, Bloemgracht and Leliegracht are also very pleasing.

Some history
All of Amsterdam’s history is about water. The city began in the Middle Ages as a clutch of huts along the mouth of the river Amstel. As floods regularly destroyed the settlement, it was decided to build a dam across the river. Thus began a long and ingenious process in which the city expanded, not by the building of roads, but by the cutting of channels (´"kanalen"). The most of the Netherlands is below sea level - in some places by as much as eight meters - and in Amsterdam, there is hardly any ground to speak of. It's ground is water. So systems had to be devised to construct houses that would actually stay afloat. This means that water determined not only the design of the city; it determined its scale. In the 17th century, when Amsterdam was at its peak as a world trading power, a brilliant plan was laid for expansion that still functions today in its artistry.

The best way to enjoy the beauty of the canals is, (obviously), on the water itself. You can either rent water bikes or boats. Bring your own boat, or take a canal tour with one of the many Tour Companies. If you are really adventurous, why not try a hiring a Saloon Boat for an enchanting candle-lit supper on the canals !

Canal bikes
Rent a pedal boat called ´canal bike´ and pedal your way around the canals. This is a fabulous way to see those wonderful old canal houses and uses up a lot of energy. The ´bike´ seat four and have canvas awnings in case of rain. There are four rental locations: in front of the Westerkerk, at the Leidseplein, in front of the Rijksmuseum and on the Keizersgracht (near the Leidsestraat bridge).

Canal cruise
In case you don't want to pedal your way around the canals, take a canal tour. When you take the canal boats at night, you’re in for a real treat. The bridges over the canals and Amstel river are lit up with hundreds of lights. Canal tours are available from the dock across from the Central Station, the Damrak or Rokin. Mind you though: taking a canal boat trip is a very, very touristic thing to do!

If you are in the mood for a less commercial approach, try the Saint Nicolaas Boat Club. A small non-profit organisation dedicated to maintaining two small open-air boats. They only seat 11 people and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments. They show you these parts of Amsterdam where no other tour boats ever go. You can get more information at the Leidseplein Theater, Leidseplein 12.

Begijnhof
Just off Amsterdam's main shopping street (Kalverstraat) you can find the Begijnhof. A secluded courtyard with old houses, an inner garden and the English Reformed Church. The place is a quiet refuge in the middle of a bustling city. The Begijnhof was founded in 1346 by Saint Ursula and used to house devout laywomen, who did religious work for the adjacent nunnery. During the 17th and 18th century most of the houses were renovated. The only original medieval wooden house that is still in existence, is number 34. Nowadays the Begijnhof still houses the elderly. Go and see this place! You can reach it through a doorway on the Spui or from the adjacent Amsterdam's Historisch Museum. This museum (Kalverstraat 9 / Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357) is housed in the 17th century building of a former orphanage. And it provides you with loads of historical facts about Amsterdam. The collection is diverse and the museum has interesting exhibitions. You may visit their web site, but it is in Dutch only: www.ahm.nl

Leidseplein
The Leidseplein is one of the liveliest squares in Amsterdam. Here you find lots of bars, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, but also the Stadsschouwburg (Amsterdam Theatre), cinemas and cultural centres. During the summer half of the square is filled with terraces while on the other part street performers entertain the public.

Closely located to the square are the two venues for contemporary music and culture: the Melkweg (Lijnbaansgracht 234a) and Paradiso (Weteringschans 6-8). Both venues are worth visiting and are housed in architecturally interesting buildings. Paradiso is a former church and the Melkweg (Milky Way) used to be a milk factory. Their web sites will tell you exactly what is going on at the moment. Bear in mind though that you often have to book in advance if you want to be sure of getting a ticket

www.melkweg.nl (in English)
www.paradiso.nl (in Dutch only)

For a drink cultural centre The Balie (Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10), cafe Eilders and Reynders are amongst our favourites. When you are cool and hip, you might want to try Lux. A late-night bar with live DJ´s from Wednesday till Sunday. It's close to the Leidseplein, at the Marnixstraat 403. A bit further down this street you can find De Koe (The Cow) with a cafe upstairs and a restaurant in the basement. The public is a bit more alternative. The food is good. So why don't you give this place a go? When you are into comedy, you should pay a visit to Boom Chicago. A Boom Chicago show is a mixture of scripted scenes and improvisations that are funny. And moreover: it's in English! You will find their theatre at the Leidseplein 12. Interested? Surf to their web site: www.boomchicago.nl

Visit the AUB Uitburo, under the Stadsschouwburg, for any kind of information on cultural things to do. They have loads of flyers and agenda's on cultural events. You can also buy tickets here. See as well: www.aub.nl

Rembrandtplein
Another "entertainment" square in Amsterdam's inner city is the Rembrandtplein. It is a bit seedy here and there. On the other hand, you find here all sorts of cafes, restaurants, bars, coffeeshops and more. Just hang out in one of the bristling cafes or check out the fairly new DJ-cafe SOL. Cafe de Kroon (the Crown) is a beautiful grand cafe. So when you are a stylish type, go there. Our favourite spot at the Rembrandtplein is cafe Schiller with a beautiful, but somewhat scruffy, art-deco interior. This square is also a good starting point for clubbing activities, both straight and gay. Amsterdam's biggest Saturday night is Chemistry (at the Escape, Rembrandtplein 11) with top DJ´s. If you are willing to line up, you'll have a chance of getting in. Sinners in Heaven (Wagenstraat 3) is a good place to show off. Club iT (Amstelstraat 24) will provide you with some gay clubbing extravaganza. Their web site is pretty cool and tells you what exactly is going on:
www.it.nl

Just off the square is the Halvemaansteeg a small street packed with gay bars. Close to the Rembrandtplein is the Reguliersdwarsstraat full with nightlife activities. The street is a mixture of up market gay bars, restaurants serving expensive food and night clubs for a slightly older crowd of businessmen and local celebrities.

Vondelpark
The Vondelpark is Amsterdam's most famous park; a magnificent and spacious green area close to the city centre. It does not only have trees but you will find meadows for sitting in the sun, lakes and bubbling fountains. The park was founded in 1864 by rich citizens and was named after Joost van den Vondel, an important Dutch Renaissance poet. It begins off Amsterdam’s busy Leidseplein and stretches, further than the eye can see, into the beautiful southern neighbourhoods of the city. The park has many entrances.

Cultural events
It was founded in 1864 and from the start all kinds of performances have been organised here. Since the 1950´s music, theatre and dance performances were being organised on a big stage. During the seventies hippies and flower power children from all over the world flooded the park. They even spend the night in the park. Together with these youngsters free music entered the park on a large scale. The spontaneous happenings on the bandstand attracted the attention of a large audience. 1974 saw the start of a free accessible program: The Vondelpark Open Air Theatre. Every summer a diverse program is being offered, which includes theatre, jazz, classical music, pop and world music. Children's theatre and stand up comedy are also part of the program. The unique atmosphere of the open-air theatre attracts both devoted fans and accidental passers-by from the Netherlands and abroad. Because of the varied arrangement of the program there is something for everyone. The Vondelpark Open Air Theatre is being held in summer, from June till August. For more details check out their website: www.openluchttheater.nl

Sports
The park also is a good playground for walking, biking, horse riding and skating. All year long you will find people cycling or walking through the park. Mind you, in summer traffic might be a bit hectic. On a Friday evening you might find thousands and thousands of skaters in the park, as the Blauwe Theehuis is the starting- and finishing point of the Friday Night Skate. If you are not an experienced skater, but you would like to become one, the Vondelpark is a good spot to take some lessons.

Some more culture
The Blue Teahouse (Blauwe Theehuis) is an excellent spot in the middle of the Vondelpark to have a drink or some food. The location is fantastic, and many trendy Amsterdammers have already acknowledged that. The heated terrace is open even in winter! And if you are in for some funky good dj-music this is also the place to be, because every Sunday there is a DJ-lounge.
Check out their website at: www.blauwetheehuis.nl (Dutch) Another cultural place in the Vondelpark is the Filmmuseum and its cafe Vertigo. The Filmmuseum is the place to be if you are a fan of "good old movies" and on Thursday evening you can enjoy a movie on its terrace (only during the summer though). A somewhat arty crowd often frequents the spot. For more information you can visit their excellent website (only in Dutch): www.filmmuseum.nl

At the moment the park is being under reconstruction. Its underground is rather sloppy and work is in progress to preserve the park from a breakdown. Don't let this put you off visiting the park, still loads of good things are going on here. Other grand parks worth visiting are the Westerpark, Beatrixpark and Rembrandtpark.

Museumplein and Concertgebouw
When you are a lover of classical music the Concertgebouw (Concertgebouwplein 2-6) is definitely the place for you. It is closely located to the Museumplein and on a good day you can easily walk it from the city centre. Otherwise take tram 16 from the Central Station or Leidseplein. For an overview of their program visit the website, that is in both English and Dutch: www.concertgebouw.nl

Events in Amsterdam tend to be relaxed and informal. So wear what you like visiting a concert in the Concertgebouw. You may see everything here from blue jeans to business suits, classical hairdos till punky hair. Timing is important, though. Concerts begin promptly at 8:15 in the evening. Be there ahead of time, which gives you a chance to have a drink in the lounge or check out the interior of the building itself. As for the Concertmaster, he's most likely practicing on stage when you get there. Hold your applause for the conductor and soloists, who enter from a door at the top of a long stretch of stairs rising up behind the Orchestra. It's a splendid sight.

Museumplein
The Museumplein stretches out in front of the Concertgebouw and it is only a few minutes walk to a couple of the famous art museums of the city: the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum en Stedelijk Museum. The Museumplein has recently been redone and it is a good hangout for everybody who is in for a moment of relaxation. You will find vast grass lands, a fountain and skating track here.

The Rijksmuseum (Stadhouderskade 42) houses the largest collection of art and history in the Netherlands. This museum is worth visiting if you are a lover of 17th century Dutch painting. Including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals and Jan Steen. But the museum contains other things as well like a collection of silver, delftware, dolls houses and Asiatic art. Also the building itself is worth checking out. It was designed in 1885 by the Dutch architect Cuypers, who was also responsible for the Central Station. For further information visit: www.rijksmuseum.nl (in Dutch, English, German, French, Italian and Spanish).

Another great museum near the Museumplein is the Van Gogh Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7). Don't miss this newly renovated museum, chock full of stunning Van Gogh paintings. For background about Van Gogh's life and times check out the website: www.vangoghmuseum.nl
(in Dutch and English).

Next to the Van Gogh Museum is the Stedelijk Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 13), a great exhibition space for modern and contemporary art. The museum closely follows developments in art, particularly those of the second half of the 20th century. The collection includes paintings and sculptures, drawings, prints, photography, graphic design, applied arts and new media. More information can be found on the website: www.stedelijk.nl (in English and Dutch).

Albert Cuyp Market
The Albert Cuyp Market is Amsterdam's most famous day market, with stalls on both sides of the street. You can find cheap clothes here, bric-a-brac, food from all over the world, flowers and much more. Don't miss the fish vendors and when you are in for a sweet Dutch delight, go and buy a fresh stroopwafel (syrup waffle) here. Especially on a sunny day the place is a bustling multi-cultural street filled with Amsterdam humour.

The Albert Cuyp Market is located in De Pijp (The Pipe) a former working class area stemming from the 19th century, now a multicultural living quarter. The area is nice enough for a walk, and you will find here shops, eating places and cafes of all sorts. The Ferdinand Bolstraat is the main shopping street, but is not that attractive in an architectural way. When you are interested in architecture, De Pijp contains some buildings by Berlage and the Amsterdamse School.

Berlage and Amsterdamse School
The 19th century living quarters for the working class (De Pijp, Staatsliedenbuurt, Dapperbuurt and Kinkerbuurt) consisted of cheap and crowded houses. These areas lacked living space and greenery. With the start of the 20th century, some architects wanted to build proper living quarters for both the rich and working class. In 1915 architect Hendrik Petrus Berlage (designer of the famous stock exchange - De Beurs - in the city centre and some bridges) came up with a plan for a new southern expansion. A kind of mini city with living quarters, public transport, parcs and sports grounds. These ideas were changed slightly by the architects of the Amsterdamse School. Who built wonderful examples of living areas, with the intention to put beauty in the life of the working class. The buildings can be described as "sculptures in brick".

South of De Pijp, the Churchillaan and Vrijheidslaan will show you some good examples of the Amsterdamse School buildings .

The most beautiful example of this building style can be found in the Spaarndammer area, where architect Michel de Klerk built some astounding housing blocks and post office in the Zaanstraat. Go see this, because it is wonderful!

Jordaan
The Jordaan is one of the most attractive parts of Amsterdam, with its small streets and hidden "hofjes" (courtyards). The Jordaan used to be the living quarter of the working class. But a lot has changed. Nowadays the area is the favourite living quarter of artists, students, young entrepreneurs and some old inhabitants as well. The place is architecturally pleasing but it has much more to its advantage. When you are interested in small shops that sell diverse things, ranging from second hands clothes, buttons and Spanish earthenware, the Jordaan is certainly a good spot. Besides all this it hosts some markets and houses very nice restaurants and bars. Just a great area to stroll around for a couple of hours.

The Jordaan is scattered with small restaurants and cafes. They are all pretty good and the clientele ranges from artistic people to students. Just wander around and check one of these places out........ you might be surprised !

As well as the famous hofjes, the Jordaan is the place to see delightful little Dutch houses. They were built from the 17th century onwards by the rich for the old and needy. Have a quiet look at some of them, most are open to the public. In the Lindengracht are the Lindehofje (at no 94-112) and the Suykerhofje (at no 149-163). In the Dwarsstraat (at no 3) leads an alleyway into the Claes Claez Hofje. Other little hofjes can be found in the Palmgracht: the Rapenhof (at no 28) and the Bossehofje (at no 40).

At the edge of the Jordaan you can find the Anne Frank House (Prinsengracht 263). The hiding place where this Jewish girl wrote her famous diary during World War II. The house is a museum now, where the diary is an integral part of the exhibition. When you want to go there, bear in mind that you have to line up before entering. But believe us, it is worth it! More info: www.annefrank.nl (in English, Dutch, German and Spanish)

The Westertoren is close to the Anne Frank House. This 85 meter high tower is accessible during the summer. From its first balcony you have a splendid view over the city.

The Jordaan doesn't have a club circuit, but close to this beautiful old city-part are two of the most famous clubs of Amsterdam: Mazzo (Rozengracht 114). They put on good DJ´s, have fair entry prices and no dress restrictions. They are open from Wednesday-Sunday. Opposite Mazzo you find the new and classy Club More (Rozengracht 133) featuring different party organisations with their own music during a specific night. Want more information? www.mazzo.nl and www.clubmore.nl

Waterlooplein
The Waterlooplein is a good spot for bargains (second-hand clothes, jewelry and bric-a-brac). It is situated closely to a modern, round edifice overlooking the Amstel River, the Stopera.

Take your time checking out the Waterlooplein. It is the mother of all flea markets. The numerous stalls, with their colourfully hung wares may catch your eye first. But look at the ground. This is because most of the really interesting stuff is, literally, at your feet. Crusty junk dealers, with vast experience of life, lay out their latest findings exactly so you can walk amongst them and choose that strange item crying out to be saved. You can also find a very good second hand clothes shop here; Episode (Waterlooplein 1). Their items are reasonably priced and you often find very beautiful items here. A must for bag lovers and belt freaks.

The Stopera at the river Amstel is an abbreviation for stadhuis (town hall) and opera. The building houses both the town hall and the Music Theatre. In 1986 this building was opened. The modern architectural style was highly controversial. Walk in and check out what’s going on. This is the centre for opera, dance and groovy multimedia stage works.

Close to the flea market you can find the Rembrandthuis (Jodenbreestraat 4). This museum consists of 2 parts. The recently refurbished house of the world famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn, who lived and worked here from 1639 until 1658. And a new museum wing, in which you will find the exhibition rooms for the permanent collection of almost all of Rembrandt's etchings and for temporary exhibitions. More information: www.rembrandthuis.nl (in English and Dutch)

The Jewish Historical Museum (J.D. Meijerplein 2-4) is a good place to learn more about the religion, culture and history of the Jews in Amsterdam. The museum consists of a New Synagogue, a Great Synagogue and galleries.

For more information surf to: www.jhm.nl (in English and Dutch).

East of the city-centre Hortus Botanicus
This garden is the oldest in Amsterdam and one of the oldest in Europe. Its Latin name - Hortus Botanicus - is a sign of its early origins as a site for research into the medicinal properties of plants (Plantage Middenlaan 2a). Slowly this investigation led to careful observation of the plants themselves. Hortus is a place where much has been learned about growing things. Enter the Hortus and you are in a world the size of the 17th century with a density of growing things that is enormous. And the paths that wind through the garden allow many moments of exquisite pleasure. There is a lovely café as well, with tables in the sun and in the shade. For more information: www.hortus-botanicus.nl

Not too far away from the Hortus you will find the Tropenmuseum (Mauritskade 63). This museum is dedicated to ´peoples of the world´ and is a great building with excellent collections of musical instruments and masks, as well as reconstructions of life in different countries. The museum is kid friendly and fun for older kids. For more information: www.kit.nl/tropenmuseum

Artis Zoo
(Plantage Kerklaan 38-40) is even closer to the Hortus. The zoo is okay (there's nothing spectacular about the collection) but it's a nice place to go. The complex includes an aquarium, geology museum and planetarium (show is in Dutch). There is an excellent kid's playground area with sandbox and climbing structures. More information: www.artis.nl

Biking
Biking is a good way to get around Amsterdam if you want to go a little further than the inner city proper. There are plenty of bike lanes and in general car drivers are aware of bikes. But take care, because the roads may be different from what you are used to. There are up to 7 different sections of the road, at least for main roads. There is a sidewalk on each side for pedestrians, there are bike lanes in both directions, there are car lanes in both directions, and there is a centre section for the trams. For canal roads, there are only two sections: pedestrians, and everything else including pedestrians (note that most canal roads are one-way on each side of the canal).

How to get a bike
If you're just visiting for a few days or a week, you should rent a bike. There are lots of bike rental places. For instance Tweewielercentrum ´De Beurs´, MacBike or Rent-A-Bike. The only problem with such a rental bike is the rent-a-bike sign on it that announces that you are not a local! To enjoy the pleasure of a no-sign bike, go to Utrechtse-dwars-fiets in the Utrechtsedwarsstraat 105 and feel like a local. Check your bike before you take off , because it is not always in pristine condition! When you stay a bit longer then buying a second hand bike is a good option. Generally you will find a second hand one for around F 275,- and you will also need a good lock (F100,- at least). When you are smart you should buy a lock before the bike. Go to one of the markets (e.g. Waterlooplein, Albert Cuyp Market) and you will be able to get a good lock for only half the price! You might be tempted to buy a second hand car of a junky, because you can get one for cheap (around F 25,-). We advise you not to do so, because bikes sold by junkies are always stolen ones. Buying a bike like that, would make you a healer. And healing is a crime, for which you can be punished!

Do it the safe way
Follow the rules below, if you want your biking experience to be a safe one:

> Stop at red lights. You'll see other cyclists running red lights. This is very dangerous to do until you understand the system.
> Treat green lights and uncontrolled intersections as yield signs.
> Always, always watch for cars, bikes and pedestrians.

Do it the Amsterdam way
The people of Amsterdam don't follow any of the above rules. Many do not even have working bells on their bike, so they cannot even have the fun of ringing it at pedestrians (instead, they get enjoyment from seeing the tourists jump as their bike brushes by them at high speed)
So here's a list of rules for how to ride like a native. Follow them at your own peril...

> A green light means GO. So go for it.
> A red light means slow down but proceed through the intersection without stopping. It is a sign of weakness to have to stop.
> Find a route that minimises traffic lights, since if the traffic is bad, you might have to stop.

It's not easy to ride like the Amsterdam native. In fact, the traffic lights make it very difficult, since it takes a long time to figure out when you can go because the lights at different intersections are very different.

Biking in Amsterdam isn't as dangerous as the above may make it sound. You should be careful, but it's probably the best way to get around. Two last warnings: Take a map, you'll need it. And always, always lock your bike.

Copyright 2015 Lost in Amsterdam