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A Day in Amsterdam

By: Cityseeker
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De Nieuwe Kerk

The Nieuwe Kerk is a 15th-century building, partly destroyed and refurbished after several fires. Located in the bustling Dam Square area of the city, this historic church has held a prominent place in the country's political and religious affairs over the centuries. It has been the venue for coronations of kings and queens, and also plays host to an array of exhibitions, concerts and cultural events. Admire its Gothic architecture, splendid steeples, glass-stained windows and ornate detailing.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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Royal Palace of Amsterdam

Amsterdam's Royal Palace is the crown jewel of the city's cache of architectural marvels from the Dutch Golden Age. The palace was originally constructed in the 17th Century as the new Town Hall, designed by Jacob van Campen as a symbol of the Netherlands' far-reaching influence and its hefty stake in global commerce at that time. The palace is an embodiment of opulence and lavish taste, generously adorned with marble sculptures, vivid frescoes and sparkling chandeliers that illuminate rooms of palatial proportions. Within, are numerous symbolic representations of the country's impressive economic and civic power in the realm of world politics in the 17th Century, including a larger-than-life statue of Atlas. In 1806, Louis Napoleon, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, was named King Louis I of Holland, transforming the former Town Hall into his Royal Palace. Today, the historic abode is one of the three palaces granted to the Dutch Royal House by an Act of Parliament. The Royal Palace hosts visiting heads of state and serves as a venue for Royal Receptions and other events.

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Amsterdam Museum

The Amsterdam Museum is nestled in a 14th-century building, which was originally an orphanage. Through its artworks, maps and models, this museum narrates the expansion of Amsterdam through seven centuries. The Civic Guard Gallery is among its most popular features, replete with historic group portraits dating back as far as the 16th Century. Do not miss their exhibits such as The Little Orphanage and Amsterdam DNA. Visitors can also enjoy a cup of piping hot coffee at the Café Mokum or shop for memorabilia at the Athenaeum Museum Shop on-site.

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Begijnhof

With origins that date back to the 14th Century, Begijnhof is Amsterdam's oldest hofje, or inner courtyard. The Medieval Courtyard was originally laid-out as a Beguinage, or dwelling for the Begijntjes - a Catholic sisterhood of single women. When the practice of the Catholic faith was deemed illegal in the 16th Century, the Beguinage was forced to surrender its chapel. A "hidden church" was built in its stead, concealed behind residential facades. This chapel still exists and is a cherished place of pilgrimage. Most of the other buildings that fringe the Begijnhof were built in the 17th and 18th Centuries, except for the Houten Huys. Constructed in 1528, this medieval timber house is Amsterdam's oldest and offers a glimpse into the city's architectural past. The courtyard also hosts the medieval home of the English Reformed Church and several historic stone plaques. Isolated from the bustle of the historic city center, the Begijnhof remains shrouded in an air of mystery, a rare, hidden gem that has survived the march of time. The entrance to the secluded courtyard is located at Spui.

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Anne Frank House

The story of Anne Frank is one that is known the world over; an emblematic personal account of the Holocaust that is now preserved at the Anne Frank House. Born in Germany, Anne Frank moved to Amsterdam, where she spent the majority of her truncated life, upon the advent of the Nazi Regime. Spurred by the German occupation of the Netherlands, and the subsequent persecution of Jewish community, Anne went into hiding with her family on July 6, 1942. The family sought refuge in a series of concealed rooms hidden behind a bookcase in the building where her father worked. Here, they lived in isolation for over two years with the help of sympathetic aids until they were discovered by the Gestapo in 1944, just a few months before the fall of the Nazi regime. Over the course of these two years, Anne maintained a diary detailing life in the Annex, her hopes, and dreams; a moving account that was eventually published by her father. Although the German occupants removed all the furniture from the Anne Frank House when the inhabitants were detained in 1944, films and other sources, including Anne's diary, present a vivid picture of what life was like during those trying times. The museum opened on May 3, 1960, and the enormous visitors' center was constructed in the 1980s.

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Westerkerk

The Netherlands' most renowned church has been the source of inspiration for many musicians. The famous tower was completed in 1638, its bells manufactured by the renowned François Hemony foundry in 1658. Though the Protestant community owned Westerkerk, the tower was the property of the local authorities and served as a lookout. This marks the site of Rembrandt's burial, as well as the marriage of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus. For Anne Frank, whose hidden annex is located just a few doors down, the ringing of the clock was a beacon of hope during World War II.

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Centraal Station

Amsterdam's Centraal Station dates to the year 1889, when it was first used for the transport of goods. Today, besides being Amsterdam's largest and busiest railway station, it is a rijksmonument (Netherland's national heritage site) and an important tourist attraction in its own right. The designer of Rijksmuseum, P.J.H. Cuypers, was the chief architect during its construction. Its magnificent facade is a blend of Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival styles of architecture. The building's foundation consists of 8687 wooden piles while its roof made from cast iron stretches for 40 meters (131.2 feet). The original construction has been rebuilt more than once due to rapidly expanding traffic and rail transport. With an influx of more than 250,000 passengers everyday, it ranks among the top three busiest railway stations in the country.

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The Jordaan

One of the city's oldest neighborhoods, the Jordaan traces its roots to the 17th Century as an area built for the working class. Unchecked immigration and neglect over the years led to it being one of the poorest areas of the city. The neighborhood has since been revived and has transformed handsomely into an upscale quarter. Today, the Jordaan is a harmonious blend of the old and new, with charming historical courtyards, stellar art galleries, and great dining options. Of particular interest are the markets regularly held at Noordermarkt, Lindengracht and Westerstraat, the Jordaan Museum, and the Westerkerk with its lofty bell tower. Over the years, the neighborhood's diverse makeup has also given rise to a distinctive musical style that is still celebrated through performances at the Jordaan's many bars and cafes. Down the streets and along the canals of Jordaan, quaint historic homes and contemporary attractions vie for the attention of passer-bys.

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Museum of Bags and Purses

Eccentric bags, unique bags, or famous bags; every bag you can imagine can be found housed in a beautiful 17th-century building at the Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassenmuseum Hendrikje). From Chanel Versace and Vuitton to antique bags and everything between, you can see them here. Regularly there are also exhilarating exhibits displaying the work of Dutch designers. Don't forget to stop by the cafe for a bite.

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Skinny Bridge

This bridge, as it stands today, was constructed in 1934. Its history, however, goes back all the way to 1691, when it was a 13-arch bridge known as Kerkstraatbrug. Renowned for its limited width, it began to be called magere brug, or "skinny bridge." Situated centrally in Amsterdam, this bridge over the Amstel River was given its present form in 1934, and its final touches in 1969. One of the city's most famous landmarks, the Skinny Bridge has been featured in movies such as Diamonds are Forever. It is particularly beautiful in the evening, when 1200 lightbulbs exude a wonderful glow.

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Science Center NEMO

Housed inside a huge green hull, Science Center NEMO is located in the center of Amsterdam. Inaugurated by Queen Beatrix in 1997, this five-story museum has interactive exhibitions and workshops that makes science and technology intriguing for all ages. Whether it is the mysterious world of DNA, the secrets of the human brain or the powers of physics, the discoveries are fun filled, innovative and informative. NEMO is not only a architectural wonder but also a great place to explore and learn more about the world around us.

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Natura Artis Magistra (Artis Zoo)

Founded in 1838, Natura Artis Magistra or Artis is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands. This bewitching menagerie houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a geological museum and a zoological museum in its premises. There is also a huge library on the history of zoology and botany. Surrounded by luscious greenery, of which many are exotic plants, stroll on winding paths and spot the many wild animals that have made this place home. Visit the historic Wolf House and Masman Garden House to learn about 19th-century architecture. If you want to get closer to nature without leaving the city, then come explore the enthralling Artis.

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