Thoughts of Amsterdam conjure up iconic windmills and rolling fields of tulips. Referred to as the “Venice of the North,” with approximately 165 canals (versus Venice’s 177) criss-crossing through the town. Full of houseboats and bicycles abound with over 1,500 bridges leading to magnificent museums and surrounding architectural and natural beauty.
Amsterdam’s blend of 17th century historic charm, yet modern urban flair, gives it a comfortable quality. It is a relaxed and welcoming city, preserving a “girl next door” non-pretentious familiarity as well as a cosmopolitan congeniality - an almost irresistible combination.
Amsterdam is known to have more bicycles than inhabitants with roughly 900,000 bikes compared to over 820,000 residents. The city is also known for its coffee culture. It is estimated that the city hosts over 165 coffee shops. With so many canals laced through Amsterdam like a finely spun web, a main attraction of Amsterdam is the over 3,000 houseboats.
Amsterdam holds an allure to it, an atmosphere and almost untouched quality to its historic city center (one of the largest in Europe). The labyrinth of streets—left remarkably unscathed after World War II—are unchanged from their original pattern.
Two-wheeling is a way of life here, and certainly the best way to experience the city like locals. Between the small-scale village-like buildings and the compactness of its lanes and squares, the possibility of stumbling upon new treasures is inevitable. Whether a hidden garden, a jenever gin distillery, an old monastery-turned-classical music venue, a gabled building straight out of a Golden Age painting, or a quintessential café.
At the same time, Amsterdam has a lively nightlife scene, and an incomparably rich cultural wheelhouse. Amsterdam has the highest museum density in the world, ranging from Dutch masterpieces to eclectic showcases. One can barely walk a mile without bumping into a cultural highlight, be it the Van Gogh Museum, the restored Rijksmuseum, the Museum het Rembrandthuis, the moving Anne Frank House, or the truly blockbuster Hermitage Amsterdam - an outpost of Russia’s famed Hermitage that borrows from its three-million-piece collection to mount massive exhibits.
There are more museums packed into Amsterdam than any other city in the world, from the Rijksmuseum to the Anne Frank House. You might visit a hidden tasting room in a 1679 liqueur distillery and learn the proper way to drink jenever, or see what is thought to be the world’s narrowest house, with a façade just 3’3” wide.
It’s not all about looks though, as Amsterdam hosts world-class museums including the Rijkamuseum with more than 8,000 pieces of art. The Van Gogh museum celebrates the life and work of one of the country’s most famous artists and in case you thought the city wasn’t keeping pace, the Stedelijk museum houses an impressive collection of modern and contemporary art.
Amsterdam is also the center of the Dutch football world. Ajax has continuously played in the top-tier Dutch football competition, Eredivisie, since the league's establishment in 1956. As the most successful club in the nation, nicknamed the “Sons of the Gods” have won 34 Eredivisie titles and 19 KNVB Cups, which is more than any other club in the Netherlands.
The beautiful football style developed by Rinus Michels, is an attacking philosophy based primarily on placement, fitness and general technical skills. This strategy grabbed hold of football in the 1960’s, when a teenage phenom, Johan Cruyff, entered the world’s line of sight. It is known as “Total Football,” and it forever changed how the game is played.
During this era, the Netherlands seemed to be yearning for change. Not merely in politics or theater, or arts, but also in football. Cruyff proved the catalyst. At the heart of the style’s success was an emphasis on controlling space. The mantra: Without the ball, compress the pitch; with the ball, make it wider and bigger. Executed to its best, it made for a visual treat. It was not merely beautiful, but also aspirational. In addition to Cruyff, some of the best players in history came from Ajax youth system: Van de Sar, Neeskens, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Van Basten and De Boer.
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