Amsterdam basics

Each year Amsterdam Netherlands welcomes around 3.5 million city break visitors. It's a convivial, friendly - even cosy - city that welcomes tourists, but on its own terms. And those terms come with a live-and-let-live tolerance hard to match anywhere else. The best Amsterdam architecture is domestic, its best sites glimpsed in leafy, cobbled streets and its best moments are often found in the small pleasures of life - sipping beer in a street cafe bar, applauding a fine street entertainer or simply taking off on a bike. And nowadays Amsterdam is just so easy to get to for a city break with cheap flights to Amsterdam available at any time of the year.

Amsterdam and Netherlands history

Amsterdam Netherlands may now be one of the world's great city break tourist destinations but, 900 years ago, the city's site was just a swamp. The poor fishermen on the River Amstel thought 'dam it', and they did - and 'Dam on the Amstel' was born. The city's wealth grew on herrings and beer. Its glory days were in the 1600s and Amsterdam's city centre canals, gabled buildings and great art date from its long years as a major centre for world trade. World War II brought the darkest hours. Amsterdam escaped the bombing that destroyed Rotterdam, but suffered Nazi occupation and the mass deportation of the city's Jews. Modern-day Amsterdam is a liberal minded city, soft on drugs and prostitution. But there are growing racial tensions - half of Amsterdammers have non-Dutch parents. Amsterdam city centre gets packed too - it's now one of Europe's major city break destinations.

Dutch language

Demand for good holiday accommodation has never been higher. Get Ready Rentals offer a range of Amsterdam apartments to match your taste and budget. Dutch is the national language but most Amsterdammers will speak English better than you can. This is just as well, as the native language is a phonetic throat strangler, full of growling r's, gutteral g's and coughing ch's. Nevertheless, a few key phrases in the local language will always be appreciated by residents, so it's worth learning a few.

Money in Amsterdam

Amsterdam dropped the guilder for the euro in 2002 and is generally less expensive than other European cities. However, you may have to fork out more for accommodation. ATMs are outside most banks, at Centraal Station and at Schiphol Airport. Exchange booths are all over the city centre but commission charges tend to be high.

Amsterdam medical matters

There are no compulsory vaccinations for Amsterdam but up-to-date immunisation for tetanus, polio and diphtheria are always recommended. For minor ailments and anything more medicinal than toothpaste find a chemist (drogist) or pharmacy (apotheek). There is a 24hr medical centre 0900 503 2042 that will find you a doctor, dentist or pharmacy if you need one.

Amsterdam telephones

Amsterdam has a reasonably priced phone network and phone booths are plentiful. It's best to get a phonecard as calling from a cafe or hotel usually costs more. To ring abroad dial 00, the country code, area code without the leading 0 and the number. The country code for the Netherlands is 31 and Amsterdam Netherlands area code 020. Mobiles use GWM 900/1800; but remember, long drunken phone calls back home could cost you dearly.

Amsterdam tourist offices

The Amsterdam Tourist Office has outlets inside and outside Centraal Station and just off Leidseplein as well as Schiphol Airport. They have good city maps but most publications cost money and there are commission charges for hotel bookings. Amsterdam's Uitburo, on Leidseplein, has information and tickets for almost all entertainment related events.

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