Life is not easy, so they say. There are struggles that are so hard that you can’t help but give up and lose hope. Then again, life is also full of happy moments, making it more exciting and remarkable.
We spend every single day trying to make life happen, devotedly doing our routine activities and working hard to meet our family’s needs.
We become so busy that one day we wake up realizing that the year has already ended. Then we look for something better to do, some new place to go to and spend the New Year in. Yet the question still remains: where to go?
Amsterdam is the capital of the Kingdom of Netherlands and is situated in North Holland. Although the city simply started out as a and small fishing village, the Dutch Golden Age placed Amsterdam on the map and made it famous as one of the most essential trading centers in the world. Since then, the city flourished and expanded, making it popular to other nations.
For first time visitors who want to know the city better, it is always best to start the tour with a visit to the famed canals that have been part of the city’s landscape since the 17th century. Amsterdam boasts of three major canals: the Herengracht or the Lord’s Canal which was named after the rulers of the Dutch Republic; the Prinsengracht or the Prince Canal named after William of Orange who ruled the Dutch revolution against the Spaniards; and the Keizersgracht or the Emperor’s Canal, the widest waterway among the three and named after the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.
Among all the canals in Amsterdam, Keizersgracht is considered the favorite since it is only a short distance away from the city’s different museums such as the Anne Frank Museum and the Van Gogh Museum. Apartments, residences and shops are built near it to cater to the sheer number of tourists from all over the world. The canal is best seen at night when city lights illuminate the area, capturing its nightly splendor and elegance.
Another famous attraction in Amsterdam is the old city gate located at the end of the path from Amsterdam to Haarlem. Amsterdam Gate is the last standing gate among the twelve ones that were built around the city. Constructed in 1355, the gate once served as the entrance for bringing goods and products from Haarlem to Amsterdam. From almost being demolished, the gate has been declared as one of Netherlands’ national monuments and its top attraction. Near the gate different shops and boutiques are open for people to enjoy.
Of Ships and Water Taxis
Amsterdam is a city surrounded by water. Naturally, some of its main transportation are ships and water taxis that bring travelers to the different parts of the metropolis.
Canal buses and ferries are accessible to visitors who want to go around the city through the main and minor canals. Travelers can choose between the four routes which stop at the main attractions like the Anne Frank House, Rembrant House, City Hall, and Amsterdam Museum.
With the growing number of tourists who visit every year, the city now holds a grand nautical event showcasing massive ships which are moored in the city harbor for people to roam in. Hosted every five years, the event was first held in 1975 to mark the 700th anniversary of Amsterdam.
SAIL 2010 itself was packed with people as the event was opened with a stately parade of ships from the North Sea canal heading to the city proper. Musical performances and dance shows displaying the city’s culture and traditions were some of the highlights.
Venice of the North
Just by cruising along the artificial waterways of Amsterdam, one can already see a variety of structures and artifacts that are unparalleled by other countries. Three of these majestic edifices are the Basilica of St. Nicholas, Montelbaanstoren and the Munttoren.
Located in the old center district, the Basilica of St. Nicholas is a neo-renaissance church built in 1887 in light of the increasing number of Catholics in the city. Dominated by two towers, the facade is decorated with red and white marbles, stained glass and a statue of St. Nicholas, the city’s patron saint.
While the basilica’s dome is seen through the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, Munttoren or the Mint Tower is best seen through the Singel canal. The tower was once part of the Regulierspoort, one of the gates protecting the city. During the 17th century, it was used as a building for minting coins during the war; thus its name Mint Tower.
Another tower that looms along the banks of the Oudeschans Canal is the Montelbaanstoren, which was built to protect the city from invaders. Reminiscent of the late medieval Amsterdam, the tower once housed the city’s military army acting as spies to an approaching enemy. Dutch sculptor and architect Hendrick de Keyser added the tower’s spire and a clock that rang at strange times, gaining the nickname “Silly Jack”. Today, it is used as the office of Amsterdam’s Department of Sewage and Water Management.
From water to land
If water sceneries are not really your thing, Amsterdam also offers striking views of the city at the heart of the metropolis. Take a train ride in the Central Station, Amsterdam’s main transportation hub.
The edifice was designed by architect Pierre Cuypers who also designed the Rijksmuseum. The station was built along the IJ River with an exterior made up of red stones as well as intricate carvings and spires. Its prominent features are the clock towers, one of which serves as a clock while the other serves as a read-out for the wind vane.
At present, the station now has over 1,500 trains transporting both locals and tourists to the different parts of the city. Different stores, boutiques and restaurants are also found in the station for visitors who want to experience an ultimate Dutch treat.
For shoppers who want to buy branded products and visit an old structure at the same time, the Magna Plaza offers a lavish way of accomplishing these. Once used as a post office during the end of the 19th century, Magna Plaza is now an indoor shopping mall situated behind the Royal Palace. The building was designed by government architect P.C. Peters who is famous for his ornate, neo-gothic and neo-renaissance buildings.
With glass domes and gothic towers and neo-renaissance interior, this destination will definitely take your breath away and give you a great shopping experience. There are almost 40 stores and restaurants inside as well as Rembrandt’s collection of paintings.
Of windmill and filmuseum
Before leaving the city, one should not miss the opportunity to visit the city’s famous windmill. Since Netherlands is popular for its windmills, visiting the De Gooyer Windmill will bring every visitor back in time when windmills were essential for their survival.
Also known as the Funenmolen or “The Mill on the Funen”, De Gooyer is the tallest and the oldest windmill located between Funenkade and Zeeburgerstraat. Today, the vicinity is now home to enticing breweries where people can enjoy a quite drink and quick snack inside a traditional wooden structure fully decorated with wooden chairs and tables.
Another place that should not be missed is the EYE Film Institute situated in the Overhoeks locality of Amsterdam. Founded in 1952, the EYE celebrates the life and works of different artists famous in the field of cinematography and photography. It aims to preserve their legacy for future generations to see. The collection exhibited in the museum includes various film titles, posters and photographs dating back since 1895.
Your Ultimate Dutch Vacation
For some of us, New Year means new beginnings, new discoveries and things to try; to some it means new struggles and hardships. Whatever the year 2014 symbolizes, we should always put ourselves up for something better in the future as life only happens when we least expect it.
Recharge, take a break and release all the negative vibes that the year 2013 brought. But before we enter the New Year, let’s not forget everything that we have learned from the last one. That for all our mistakes and sufferings, always keep in mind that we can start over again.
Start your year happily and have a perfect Dutch Vacation in Amsterdam.