This charming and compact city is easily explored on foot, by bike or aboard a canal-boat tour that follows a circular route, stopping at many attractions along the way. Amsterdam, 'Venice of the North', first of all is known all over the world for its infamous Red Light District, where prostitutes display themselves invitingly in glazed doorways. The canals certainly are one of the major attractions of Amsterdam as well. There seems to be a canal around every corner in Amsterdam - not too surprising, considering that the city is home to staggering one hundred and sixty five of them (more than Venice). Canals add unique beauty to the city and are ideal for boat excursions in Amsterdam. They are already very charming during the daytime, but by the night they become even more enchanting, as the canal houses and bridges are beautifully illuminated.
However, the city's attractions extend well beyond these two sights and include some of Europe's finest places of interest and museums. The Dam Square is a good starting point for excursions in Amsterdam. The Dam is a symbolic heart of the city. On one side stands the National Monument, which sculptured human figures represent freedom from tyranny. On the other side you will find the Royal Palace and the main shopping streets, stretched beyond it (Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk). Further there are the bustling Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein quarters, where street performers and tourists jostle for space. The Leidseplein itself is a pleasant enough small square, flanked on three sides by bars, and with a large tree-shaded terrace in the middle. Locals gather here to enjoy the theatre, cinema or spend some time at one of many popular nightclubs and bars.
Visiting Amsterdam, take a ten-minute walk from Leidseplein and get to the Museum Quarter (Museumplein), a conglomeration of Amsterdam's finest museums. The west of the centre is the picturesque residential area, known as Jordaan and originally built to house Amsterdam's working class in the 17th century. It is an area of interest, where excursions in Amsterdam usually take place. Built in 1612, it has become a popular district for students and young professionals. The infamous Red Light District (De Wallen), mentioned above, is located to the left of the Dam Square, bordered by the canals Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal. A little farther you will find the city's oldest church, the Oude Kerk. Many of the churches in the city have bell-towers with carillons and their music can be heard playing above the hum of the traffic.
Pijp is an exciting area for excursions in Amsterdam, as it reveals the city's cultural diversity and gives tourists an opportunity to relax in one of the many pubs, sited in the street corners. Finally, when you want a break from the bustle of the city, visit the beautiful Begijnhof courtyard, an oasis of tranquility. The church in the centre was once a spiritual home of the Pilgrim Fathers. Alternatively, you can get a breath of fresh air in the city's 'green lung', the forty nine hectares of the Vondelpark. It is close to the city centre and easily reached via the gate on Stadhouderskade.