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CHAPTER 3

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam is one of the greatest small cities in the world. From Amsterdam canals to world-famous Amsterdam museums and historical Amsterdam sights, it is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities in Europe.

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RIJKSMUSEUM

The Rijksmuseum is a Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.

 

The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885.

 

In April 2013, after a ten-year renovation which cost € 375 million, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix. In 2013, it was the most visited museum in the Netherlands with a record number of 2.2 million visitors. The museum has on display 8,000 objects of art and history, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000, among which are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer.

CANALS

The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning. In the early 17th century, when immigration was at a peak, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals with their ends emerging at the IJ bay. Known as the Grachtengordel, three of the canals were mostly for residential development: the Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. The fourth and outermost canal is the Singelgracht, which is often not mentioned on maps, because it is a collective name for all canals in the outer ring. The Singelgracht should not be confused with the oldest and most inner canal Singel. The canals served for defense, water management and transport. The defenses took the form of a moat and earthen dikes, with gates at transit points, but otherwise no masonry superstructures. The original plans have been lost, so historians, such as Ed Taverne, need to speculate on the original intentions: it is thought that the considerations of the layout were purely practical and defensive rather than ornamental.

CAFES

Amsterdam has a long tradition of café culture, and nothing beats a few hours spent lounging in a grand café. Grab a magazine or newspaper, order your favorite beverage and watch the world go by outside the window. Amsterdam’s grand cafés are spacious and stylish places to unwind.

 

In the Golden Age, Amsterdam was Europe's most important port for tea and coffee trade. Perhaps this is where the Dutch love of coffee stems from. Visitors to Amsterdam soon discover that there is a distinct difference between coffee shops (which sell marijuana) and cafés, which serve beverages and light meals. Try the local coffee specialty koffie verkeerd (meaning 'coffee wrong'), which is a milky coffee similar to a latte. Besides drinks, it's common for Dutch cafés to have a table filled with newspapers and magazines for their patrons to read.

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