The Netherlands and Amsterdam
The Netherlands is situated in Western Europe, bordering Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. To its north and west is the North Sea. Although The Netherlands is the country's official name, people often call it Holland. The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its 34 square kilometers and 21% of its population located below sea level. With almost 17 million people, The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Although the seat of the Dutch government is in The Hague, Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands. It is also the country's largest city, with a population of more than 820,000, and the most visited, with over 3,5 million foreign visitors a year.
Amsterdam has a broad spectrum of recreational and cultural sights that range from fascinating old buildings as well as modern architecture. Amsterdam is home to some of the most famous museums in the world with especially the newly opened Rijksmuseum as the number one. The Rijksmuseum has been under construction for over 10 years and this spring it was re-opened and the international press was very impressed by the new museum, which houses among others the famous Nightwatch (Nachtwacht) by Rembrandt. A month after its re-opening, 300.000 visitors have already experienced the art and history housed in the Rijksmuseum. The number of canals has led Amsterdam to become known as “The Venice of the North”. And thus, a trip to Amsterdam is not complete without a boat cruise. A canal tour can be both fascinating and relaxing by day and enchanting and romantic at night when many of the houses and bridges are illuminated. The four main city center canals are Prinsengracht, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Singel. There are also numerous smaller canals in the neighbourhood of Jordaan, of which the Brouwersgracht, the Bloemgracht and the Leliegracht are especially pleasant. The Dam Square (de dam) is the very centre and heart of Amsterdam, although there are arguably prettier sights in the city. As an historical site however, it is fascinating and worth taking the time to appreciate. The Dam has seen many historical dramas unfold over the years, and was for example, the reception area for Napoleon and his troops during the 1808 take-over of the city. The impressive history of the square is well documented in the Amsterdam Historical Museum. The Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) which dominates the square, was originally used as the town hall and its classical facade and fine sculptures were intended to glorify the city of Amsterdam and its government. In contrast to its turbulent history, the square is now a peaceful place and is home to hundreds of pigeons and tourists resting their tired feet. The Begijnhof is a narrow, vaulted passageway leads to this charming garden surrounded by old houses. The houses in the courtyard were once occupied by devout celibate Béguine nuns and are still home to single women today. In the centre of the lawns is a medieval church and at No.34 stands the oldest house in Amsterdam. The entrance is on the Spui and is indicated by a carved sign. Entry is free, but you must be quiet! The Magere Brug or “Skinny Bridge” is one of Amsterdam's 1280 or so bridges, and the most famous. It is a traditional double-leaf, Dutch draw-bridge connecting the banks of the river Amstel. Approximately every twenty minutes, the bridge opens to let boats through. The original bridge was built in 1670, but as the traffic on Amstel increased, a wider bridge was built to replace the narrow one. Once a working class area, Amsterdam’s Jordaan has become greatly sought after. The converted warehouses are especially popular, and the Jordaan is now inhabited by a colorful mixture of students, well-to-do businessmen and creative professionals. The Jordaan oozes atmosphere with its narrow streets, picturesque canals, brown cafes, art galleries and unique shops. You can easily lose yourself in a pleasant stroll in through the enchanting streets that connect the 3 main canals. Rembrandtplein is lined with pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels and is thus a tourist magnet. A popular centre for nightlife, it also includes traditional Dutch pubs which play real Dutch music. The Leidseplein is another of Amsterdam's most popular centres for nightlife. With many restaurants, clubs, coffeeshops, cinemas and theatres in the area, the Leidseplein is vibrant and colorful. Red Light District with its beer and party atmosphere, sex for sale, offers limitless people-watching. The stores are full of hardcore videos, magazines and sex toys. The Red Light District is somewhat of a sexual amusement park and often not taken too seriously by the hordes of tourist who frequent it. The famous red window lights are striking against the quaint, old canal houses and even the fairy lights that line the bridges at night are colored red. Although it is generally considered to be a very safe area, care should still be taken when walking through the quieter streets of the area. There is a strict “no photography” policy.
The currency in the Netherlands is the Euro ( € , EUR), which is used in almost all countries within the European Union.
The weather in Amsterdam in October is characterized by overcast skies and temperatures from 7°C to 12°C during the day. Rain is not uncommon in October!