Frankie's Verdict on cultural Amsterdam
A city of neighbourhoods. Too few visitors to Amsterdam explore outside of the Red Light District and the three main ring canals – Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht and Herengracht – and that's a great shame. In Amsterdam's old neighbourhoods – helpfully referred to as Old West, Old South and Old East – you'll find some of the city's best restaurants, bars and shops, full of local character. Once a much neglected part of the city, Amsterdam-Noord is home to more concept stores, converted warehouse music venues and other hotspots than Amsterdam's young trendies can keep up with. Best of all there's a free boat that will take you there from Centraal Station.
Get on yur bike It's hard to deny the charm of Amsterdam's cobbled streets, miles of flat cycle paths and yes, the ease with which you can criss-cross the city on a bike. There are, however, a few ground rules visitors to Amsterdam should know before they start pedalling. Keep right, keep on cycle paths and watch out for trams as well as cars when crossing traffic. You'll also notice that the Dutch cycle as though they are invincible; this doesn't mean you should do the same!
Architecture. It's hard not to fall in love with the facades of the 17th- and 18th-century houses that line Amsterdam's canals, and there's plenty of charm in the 19th- and 20th-century red-brick homes in the inner suburbs. What many forget, however, is that Amsterdam is home to a number of much-admired examples of post-modernist architecture, including the exotic sounding Java Island which used to serve as shipping docklands. And don't overlook the Amsterdam School of Architecture, a style found in abundance in the Riviereenbuurt and Diamantbuurt of Old South.
Food, fashion and families. Amsterdam has great potential to surprise those who assume there's no foodie scene to be found. From "huiskamer" neighbourhood restaurants to "gezellig" (cosy) corner eetcafés and one of the city's 12 Michelin-starred restaurants, come to Amsterdam with an appetite and you won't be disappointed. Nor should you forget your wallet; from the flea markets at Waterlooplein and IJ-Hallen to the boutiques lining the 9 Streets, Amsterdam is a shopper's paradise. Having said all the above, it's fair to mention how family-friendly the Dutch capital is; children are welcome in restaurants, most museums have excellent children's guides and you'll often find small parks and play areas hiding in most residential areas.