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Amsterdam

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HIGHLIGHTS

CITY TOUR

About Amsterdam

Whatever you are looking for, Amsterdam will surely be able to satisfy your tastes and your dreams.

Lying along its canals, the Venice of the North is a small and - at the same time - a great city, buzzing with entertainment, and shining with cultural and historical hot spots. With a so big spectrum of sights, you just have to decide how long will you stay there, in order to discover all of its treasures. Even though it is not the seat of Netherlands government, Amsterdam is the nominal capital, with a history and a character of its own, as a result of having been either shelter for people who enjoyed freedom of belief in a time during which Europe was being ravaged by religious conflicts (16th Century), or the center of world's economy in the 17th Century, when ships sailing from Amsterdam had won control over the Oceans. If Amsterdam retains a lot of old time charme, as if time had stopped flying by, recorded in the architecture of its Golden Age, visible in its horseshoe shaped historical center - among others -, modern life competes with this "stillness", offering good transports (even though, thanks to its canals, road traffic is never elevated) shopping centers, boutiques, international cuisine, and the world famous Red Light District. More than fifty museums compete for tourists' attention, along with canals, churches, windmills, parks and coffeeshops.

So said, if you wish to visit the city, you will have the chance to spend time outside, either with a relaxing and lazy afternoon in the Vondelpark, strolling by the Oude Waal Canal, Albert Cuyp Market, or sitting by the cafés in Leidseplein. Surely worth a visit is the Magere Brug, whose name is said to derive from the Mager sisters, who were supposed to live on the opposite sides of the Amstel, and currently needed a "connection" in order to see each others (the more probable truth, is that the name derives from mager, a word to say skinny). Summer and spring are worth a visit to the windmills too. If some are in the country, nestled among fields of tulips and...cheese markets, the picturesque constructions - well known image of the Netherlands - can be either found in the heart and outskirts of Amsterdam itself. They too, are an important heritage, of a bygone era, where 10'000 of them helped the Dutch in the fight against water shortages. Unmissable, are the canal boat cruises, which will permit you to view the city from another perspective. But, if you are willing to try something different, Amsterdam Segway Tours will permit you to visit the Red Light District, that among the peculiarity of hosting brothels and sex shops, has the characteristic of being the oldest part of the city, with important sightseeing as the Oudkerk. Even if you could think that this part of the city is the most sordid, and maybe the most dangerous, the contrary is said to apply, since police is always mounting guard.

But you should not wait for a rainy day, in order to pay a visit to some museums. Van Gogh Museum is surely a must for every art addicted, since it houses a permanent collection of the art works of Vincent Van Gogh, other artists of the same century and - in the meantime - ongoing exhibitions of art history. Neither Rijksmuseum can not be side stepped. Rembrandt's most famous works can be found among its walls, and for those who read and/or watched "Girl with a pearl earring", written by Tracy Chevalier, a visit to the original copies of Johannes Vermeer is a must...but the collection isn't over, since - inside the museum - Delft ceramics, sculptures and other artworks stay to testify the Golden Age of the nation. On the Oosterdok, the Science Centre Nemo,awaits for kids and grown ups, in order to teach sciences and...play with it. The Hermitage Museum, a formerly home for old women in need, is inside the Amstelhof building, a stylish example of the architecture that can be found in Amsterdam. Inside, it offers small temporary exhibitions coming from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Amstelkring, a.k.a. Our Lord in the Attic, is among the oldest museums in Amsterdam and, once you enter, you will be astonished, discovering - inside a 17th century house, a hidden church. If your are looking for something more...profane, just head for the Sex Museum, the Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum, or the Heineken Museum, where the beer was produced until 1988, when the production - in order to satisfy the request - had to move to a bigger brewery.

A visit to a city isn't over without some shopping - at least - if you have to satisfy the need to go home with some souvenirs. De Negen Straatjes is among the most delightful areas in which you will find designer boutiques, bookshops, gift shops. If you're looking for a gift, in order to satisfy your partner, remember what Marilyn Monroe said "diamonds are a girl's best friend", and do not forget that Amsterdam is one of the major centers for diamond cutting. On a low budget, otherwise, try for something different and go for the Bloemenmarkt. And, if you're looking for something hotter, try the Condom shop Het Gulden Vlies.

Finally, if you're looking for a different evening, either try a movie to the Tuschinski (and be sure to arrive on time, in order to appreciate the building!) or - alternatively - try for a coffee shop. There are a lot in Amsterdam, since soft drugs are tolerated, and you will recognize them without any big effort: the marijuana leaf, is unnmistakable. But, please, either remember that you cannot take it out of the country and, specially, do not take the remark as an encouragement. And yes...it could well be that, after too many beers or too many joints, what you will need is some spiritual assistance. The Beguines are nearby...

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