After a wonderful week in Sweden, Stephanie and I thought it would be fun to add a few extra days to our trip to run around Amsterdam. Neither of us had ever been before, and it was right on the way since our flight had a layover there. We were so excited to check it out and explore this historic city.
Amsterdam is a city of canals lined with beautiful Dutch architecture.
We loved exploring the quiet, neighborhood streets filled with shops, homes, bakeries, and restaurants.
I could not get over the architecture! Amsterdam is famous for its historic canal houses with unique gabled facades.
Loved all the red shutters!
The city of Amsterdam grew around a dam in the Amstel river, which is where Amsterdam gets its name. The land where Amsterdam thrives today was originally just marsh and swamplands, but was made inhabitable by draining the swamps and building an intricate system of canals.
Today there are 165 canals and over 1,200 bridges in Amsterdam!
These are called the “Dancing Houses” on the Amstel river. The soil was so swampy that homes along the canals had to be built on stilts. Over the years they have settled and sunk into the mud, so now many of the canal houses in Amsterdam are tilted and leaning forward!
Although another reason many of the houses in Amsterdam lean forward is because staircases in the skinny canal homes are too narrow to move furniture or goods. The houses were built with a pulley system on the outside, and a slight tilt forward to prevent anything from damaging the building’s facade on the way up or down.
These are the famous dancing houses at Damrak. Damrak is right across from the main Amsterdam train station, so this is your first view of Amsterdam if you arrive by train. This is also where many of the canal cruises embark.
Buildings in Amsterdam are reputably narrow because they used to be taxed on how wide they were, inspiring people to build long, narrow houses to avoid high taxes.
Amsterdam is also famous for its houseboats! There are over 2,500 houseboats that line the canals of Amsterdam. We saw everything from small, simple structures to custom-built, multi-story floating homes. We were surprised to see even brick and concrete homes floating on the canals!
Most of the houseboats are residential, but there are also fully equipped houseboat hotels, vacation rentals, and even a Houseboat Museum if you just want to see what it’s like on one!
We saw boats of all kinds in Amsterdam. How fun is this floating car boat?? :) It looks like a car is just cruising along the canal, lol!
For our weekend in Amsterdam, we got an I Amsterdam City Card which gave us free entrance to most museums, unlimited public transportation, and also a free canal cruise.
A canal cruise along the picturesque Amsterdam Canals is by far one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam, and a great introduction to the city.
On the canal cruise we learned what the XXX symbol we’d been seeing everywhere in Amsterdam meant. The three white X’s displayed on a black stripe and a red background is Amsterdam’s coat of arms. The X’s are commonly known as St. Andrew’s Crosses. St. Andrew, a fisherman, was an apostle of Jesus and was said to have been martyred by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross. The unorthodox shape was supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. In the 1500s, when the city was a fishing village, this coat of arms was established as the symbol for the city and and it flew as a flag on all ships registered in Amsterdam.
One popular theory is that the X’s stand for the three chief perils that the city of Amsterdam once faced: floods, fire, and the Black Plague.
There are bikes everywhere in Amsterdam!! Almost as many bikes as people!
Amsterdam is a very bike-friendly city. They had their own lanes and traffic lights. Bikes seemed to have the right-of-way in Amsterdam. We definitely saw more bikes than cars!
Getting around Amsterdam was a breeze. It was so nice being able to hop on and off the streetcars in Amsterdam with our I Amsterdam City Card. Public transportation in Amsterdam was very easy to use and figure out, especially with the Google Maps app. With the app, you just type in where you want to go, and it tells you exactly what bus or streetcar to get on, where the bus stop is, how many stops you’ll make, and when to get off. The GPS will show you your route and where you are so you can make sure you’re going in the right direction.
We always felt very safe in Amsterdam.
A view of Amsterdam’s Zuiderkerk (South Church) from the Staalstraat Bridge.
This unique bridge has become a famous “Love Lock” bridge in Amsterdam. Whether or not you bring a lock, this view and this bridge are definitely worth seeing.
Nearby is the 800-year-old Oude Kerk. Founded circa 1213, The “Old Church” is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest church.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Amsterdam, we recommend the Mercure Arthur Frommer. It’s in a quiet neighborhood with a great central location in the Amsterdam canal ring. You’re close to public transportation and within walking distance to the city’s most famous museums and attractions.
Loved our clean, bright room! There were even easily-accessible outlets right by the bed, on both sides.
On one of our days in Amsterdam, we took a day trip to Haarlem, which is the home of Corrie ten Boom. We got to see her house and the actual Hiding Place from her biography, The Hiding Place. I can’t wait to tell you all about it in the next post.
Thanks so much for looking!
Beautiful photos! I really like Amsterdam, I have to say that it is my second favorite European capital, just after Warsaw. I recommend checking out that little forgotten polish city. Modern architecture, historical buildings, museum-it has it all! Also nightlife is amazing there
OMG, these photos are stunning =)))) What camera do you use?
Do you believe in love after love? I do! If you are a lesbian from the United States with children or pretending to be a lesbian with children. Amsterdam will play along with you and pretend that you are attractive and a real couple! Sharon Stone is a survivor and is currently filming Halloween 3D with Rob Zombie. This will be her first film with anal sex on the screen. Look for Francois Sagat in the rear! Look for Hillary Clinton to be president in 2016!
I went there back in February and fell in love..thanks for sharing and bringing back happy memories! Everyone should visit this gem of a city! :-)
Amanda, I’m fascinated and maybe a bit fixated now on the whole houseboat scene in Amsterdam. I had no idea! And houseboats like none other. What a charming aspect to the city. I also love the mention of the I Amsterdam City Card. What a time saver! Especially when you are visiting a place for such a short time, you could be spending most of it queuing and buying tickets. Definitely ‘bookmarking’ that for future trips to Europe…..I’m dying to stay on a cute houseboat now.
The bridge is a bridge designed to be a bridge not a public trash heap for misguided love struck couples leaving a lock to rust and diminish all that beauty. Honestly, all the money spent on a lock could have been donated to a charity to feed and clothe the less fortunate. This is not the only image I have seen on a blog of this public works maintenance issue– when the man with the bolt cutters is tasked to remove the locks I hope the scrap metal vendor pays a decent rate as to equal the time and labor the taxpayer shells out to deal with the matter. Thanks for sharing I hope this helps.
These are fabulous photos! I especially love that house with all of the red shutters. And I absolutely agree that the I Amsterdam Card is great. It is worth it for both visiting the attractions and using public transportation to get around.
love “joining” you on you travels! AND I love the post production work on your photos! You have done this before! Please share with us what you do! I love the look! thanks for all your posts!
Your photos are absolutely stunning! I love taking public transportation when I travel because it makes it so much easier when I am somewhere new. The I Amsterdam City Card would be a must for me if I were in Amsterdam. (Hopefully someday I will get to go there.)
Hi Amanda, love your blog and all the cool places you get to visit! Like the previous commenter, I would love to know how you edit your photos to make them so vivid. Do you have a set of Photoshop actions you use, or something else?
I loved this blog post. Photos are great. You clearly do some creative post production work. Would love to know what software you use to get such a painterly look.
Also, the car/boat in the photo is an Amphi-car. They were produced for about three years in the 60s I think. Can’t recall. They are collector’s items now because there are so few of them. It’s really fun when they have a rally and you see a bunch in a body of water together……that has happened where I live in Michigan. It’s a hoot. I saw one once on a house boat in the Seine. Now I watch for them.
I think we like the same kinds of experiences. You might enjoy my bog (DesignDestinations.org). I’m a retired newspaper writer (fashion and home and garden) who blogs for the pure fun of it and thoroughly enjoy seeing blogs like yours. Keep it up! You are doing a great job of connecting People to Places.
I haven’t been to Amsterdam in 20 years (accept for the airport). Your blog post really makes me want to go back!
Oh Amanda! Every photo looks like a postcard. Now I want to visit Amsterdam… its been years!
You have written the article in a great manner like text is perfectly blending with the colorful, wonderful Amsterdam city images..
I have been to Amsterdam many years before and after watching those lovely photos posted by you are calling me to visit Amsterdam city once again.
WHOAAAAAAA im fallin in love with that floating car! so cute!
honestly, im fallin in love with everything you snapped there. :”)
Hi Amanda! Loved reading about your Sweden and Amsterdam trips. You are so lucky with good weather!
I’m not saying this to criticize, but there is an error. You say, “Nearby is the 800-year-old Oude Kerk. Founded circa 2013, The “Old Church” is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest church.” Did you mean 1013? I ask because I do want to know.
How great is it when a city you are visiting has good public transportation! Makes everything so much easier. These pictures are amazing – definitely putting Amsterdam on my must see list.
Thanks so much for sharing these photos. I just finished reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton that took place in Amsterdam in 1686 so imagine how surprised I was to see this in my inbox this morning! Now I have a brand new appreciation for where the book took place and where the characters lived.
Ok, I love everything about this post! So interesting! I especially found it interesting how the buildings lean forward. And the I Am Amsterdam card? Brilliant! What a great way to be able to see many things!
The photos are like paintings – the colors are gorgeous. Reminds me of our Pink Ladies here in San Francisco. I can’t imagine what it must be like to furnish some of those homes that are leaning! Our house shifted a little and our sliding shower door won’t stay closed – I bet they have come up with some genius systems for taking care of that! I have always wanted to do a house boat trip, except for France, I can’t think of a better place to do it!
I’ve now officially added Amsterdam to my “someday” list. Thank you for an amazing photo tour.
I never had a desire to visit Amsterdam until just now! That architecture is absolutely breathtaking, yet charming at the same time. And that red car-boat, oh my gosh I want that!
Love love love what you did with the photos – couldn’t imagine such brightness! The I Amsterdam City Card sounds good too – I’ve been using these cards in several cities, pretty good savings over paying for individual attractions – I’m still new to the idea but sold. Good way to get me out and make sure I see everything too.
LOVE all these colorful photos. We only had 2 days in Amsterdam and it rained both days. We missed all these gorgeous colors! Will definitely have to go back.
Thanks for this post. I learned a lot of the capitol city of my country! ;-)
Looking forward to the Corrie ten Boom story.