Holland's largest city is small and compact, compared with most other European cities, and easily explored on foot or by boat. The central part of the city is built on a network of canals and some of the attractions such as diamond factories and restaurants have a waterside entrance. Amsterdam is exciting, but also very civilised and worth spending a little extra time before or after a river cruise.
The Rijksmuseum is the national collection of fine art and has undergone a multi-million dollar refurbishment, while The Van Gogh Museum is - as the name suggests - a center dedicated to the life and art of the Dutch master and is housed in a new building. Rembrandt's house by contrast is very old and gives a fascinating insight into the life of the great Dutch painter.
Right alongside one of the major canals is Ann Frank's House, now a museum telling the story of oppression during Nazi wartime occupation of Holland from the perspective of an ordinary Jewish family.
If music is your thing, then you should make time for an evening of classical music or jazz at the Concertgebouw - the concert hall and opera house renowned for its fine acoustics and splendid classical-style interior decor - or opera and ballet at the modern Muziektheater. All these important cultural venues are close by in the city center.
The notorious Red Light district around the canals close to Amsterdam Centraal train station has been cleaned up in recent years and is a tourist attraction in its own right - with waterside restaurants and bars. City center shopping is concentrated in a small area along streets radiating from Dam Square - location of the historic Royal Palace and a site for festivals and open-air shows during the summer.