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Amsterdam Awaits

"Live and let live"-that seems to be the motto of prosperous, boisterous, endearing Amsterdam. From the racy Red Light District to the brown cafes to the lively squares to the fabulous museums, this city exudes a brash charm all its own. First-time visitors should not be put off by the pseudo-hippie reputation of Amsterdam over the years. The Amsterdam of the twenty-first century is crisply sophisticated and positively charming.

Start with a tour of the canal houses, those architectural gems dating from the 17th century, once homes of well-to-do merchants and now again much sought after real estate. The best views are seen from the canal itself or strolling along its banks. It's really amazing when you think that much of Holland is under sea level, and in Amsterdam these seventeenth-century architects came up with an ingenious circle of canals to get around.

Notice the houseboats along the way (there are more than 2,300 moored throughout the city's canals) as well as the narrow, gabled houses in a variety of colors. Regular canal boat tours leave from key locations around town including the Damrak and Prins Hendrikkade near Centraal Station, on Rokin near Muntplein and near Leidenplein (during winter months the tours leave every 45 minutes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

The glass-topped "museum boats" are also a great way to get around and view life in the historic center as well as hop from sight to sight on a day pass. The neo-Gothic Rijksmuseum (Stadthouderkade 42; 31.20.674.7000; www.rijksmuseum.nl), just behind Museumplein, is a good first stop. It contains the world's largest collection of Dutch masters including Rembrandt's famous 1642 "The Night Watch" as well as many other surprises. You could get lost here viewing works of the Amsterdam Impressionist movement, a meticulously crafted 17th-century dollhouse (which reveals little-known details of domestic life from that time), as well as the beautiful delftware of Holland.

Het Museumplein, the large plaza leading up to the Rijksmuseum, is also home to the elegant modern art museum, the Stedelijk Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 13; 31.20.573.2911; www.stedelijk.nl) where art lovers will find some American masters sprinkled in with pop art, minimal art, color-field painting, nouveau realisme, and more. Make time for the impressive Van Gogh Museum (Paulus Potterstraat 7; 31.20.570.5200; www3.vangoghmuseum.nl), refurbished just a few years ago, which houses more than 200 paintings.

Visitor information is available at Schiphol Plaza in Schiphol Airport or at the Holland Tourism Information office inside Centraal Station, the main train station. Regular cultural updates and items of interest can be found on www.goholland.com.

Weather

January 36°F Rain
February 36°F Cool
March 41°F Cool
April 46°F Rain
May 54°F Sunny
June 59°F Sunny
July 62°F Warm
August 62°F Warm
September 58°F Cool
October 51°F Some rain
November 44°F Bright but cold
December 38°F Rain

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Netherlands Board of Tourism
355 Lexington Ave., 19th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (888) GOHOLLAND
Fax: (212) 370-9507

www.goholland.com

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