Amsterdam has one of Europe's largest historic city centres. It dates from the 17th century, when a series of concentric, semi-circular canals was dug around the old city centre. Houses and warehouses were built along the canals, which still define the city's layout and appearance.
Amsterdam is famous for its free-spirited liberalism, diversity and tolerance. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and red-light districts are clearly marked on maps. Coffee shops are allowed to sell small amounts of high quality cannabis and by-products.
Culturally, Amsterdam has plenty to offer, including the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, Rembrandt House Museum, the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank House. Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam's symphony orchestra, is world-class.
Once you see how many people commute by bicycle, you realise it's definitely the easiest way to get around. The flat terrain is very welcoming for sometime-cyclists and bicycles have right-of-way over cars. You can take in much of the local scenery, but you do have to keep an eye out for thieves. Around 80,000 bicycles are stolen every year in Amsterdam.
If you're short of time, a visit to De 9 Straatjes the Nine Streets is a good way to spend it. In the heart of Amsterdam's canal district and just two minutes from the Royal Palace, these pretty streets straddle the 17th-century canals from the Singel to the Prinsengracht.
There are bars, cafés and restaurants to visit between shopping or having a beauty treatment. Discover designer shoes and bags, art deco, Japanese clothing, vintage clothing, jewellery, accessories and perfumeries.
According to locals, Loekie is the best delicatessen in Amsterdam. There is a marvellous array of delicious food and their sandwiches have people queuing.
Free tours of Amsterdam's canals run from St Nicholaas Boat Club. There are two tuindersvelt Athena and the Ome Jan which were once used to move goods around the city. While the cruises are free, a donation towards the vessel's upkeep is always welcome. Your boat captains know all there is to know about Amsterdam and provide entertaining commentary.
You can book your space on a cruise at Boom Chicago, a comedy institution which has been operating for over 13 years.
The capital of the Netherlands.
DriveAway Holidays has car rental starting at $62 a day, based on seven-day hire.
Prices quoted are correct on October 26, 2006.
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Mike's Bike Tours Amsterdam
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