When in the Netherlands, you will instantly notice the country is home to many scenic attractions, including tree-lined canals. The Canal Ring area in the capital city of the Netherlands is a UNESCO World Heritage site. That is also one of the reasons why it is recommended to tour Amsterdam city, which is rife with history and makes an ideal destination to explore.
There are many hotels situated within walking distance of the Amsterdam Centraal station. One of the best and affordable ones for a stay is the NH Collection Amsterdam Barbizon Palace.
A Dive into the Medieval Times
Adjacent to the 5-star hotel is Schreierstoren tower, which takes people back to the city that it once was. For medieval history fans, here is a piece of information – the explorer Henry Hudson once set sail for the US from here. He was actually searching for a shortcut route to get to Spice Islands, but he landed on Manhattan instead.
The European settlement in Manhattan coincided with the Golden Age of the Dutch, and there is no better destination to explore that period than the Rijksmuseum. It is one of Amsterdam’s most visited museums, showcasing artworks by period artists such as Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Vermeer, and many others. In addition, you can check out other items in the museum too, such as household objects and furnishings, similar to those carried across the Atlantic Ocean by people who hailed from New Amsterdam.
To put the artworks you have seen in context, it is also advisable to take the short tram ride to Amsterdam Museum, which traces the history of the city from a fishing village to its present. However, the ideal way to get the true feel of the 17th Century Dutch capital is to explore its narrow streets and canals, the same settlers in New Amsterdam would have known once.
Do not be mistaken by the nomenclature, New Amsterdam was actually a 17th Century settlement. Even at its peak, the settlement was actually a small place; the wall that the Dutch built back then and inspired the name “Wall Street” marked the northern border of the city. Now, a short trip by the subway will take you to the midst of Haarlem, the old farming village then called Nieuw Haarlem. Else, go by NS, the efficient National Railway, which takes people from the Amsterdam Centraal station to old Haarlem’s heart more quickly.
A few minutes’ walk from it takes you to the Grote Markt, Haarlem’s pedestrian-only square. The town hall still has a medieval façade; opposite to it are a medieval church called Grote Kerk, and the building Vleeshal that held the leather markets of the town in the past.
What is now known as Brooklyn was actually a series of Dutch towns, comprising Breukelen, which is named for a Dutch village that lies on a rail line amid the capital city and Utrecht. In case you are heading to the Dutch municipality by NS Sprinter train, you might need to go to Breukelen first for a look around. It takes half an hour to reach there from Amsterdam Centraal.
A few minutes’ ride by taxi from Utrecht can take you to a medieval church named Pieterskerk. Just behind it, shops and restaurants line the Kerkbrink street, and a simple walk along the Brugstraat takes you to a crossover path above the river Vecht – Breukelen Bridge, call it if you will.
Note that Breukelen is not much of a touristy area, so you are better off re-boarding a train for Utrecht, the best preserved old city in the nation. Stroll along the Dutch canals, featuring both lower and upper levels, and explore DOMunder, where underground trips trace the town’s history.
All for the History Buffs
From the Royal Palace in the Dam Square and Nieuwe Kerk to the Rembrandt House Museum, reminders of the Golden Age can be seen everywhere in Amsterdam. Oddly named Nieuwe Kerk, which translates to “new” church, it also offers a glimpse of the 15th Century city to those on private day tours Amsterdam.
In case you did not get enough of the Dutch Masters’ works at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, then go to Frans Hals Museum. Even though it was rebuilt, the windmill De Adriaan is also worth checking out for its picture-postcard views when you tour Amsterdam.
Your final stop should be The Hague city, the seat of the government of the Netherlands. The legislature, called Staten-Generaal, rhymes with Staten Island in New York City. The train takes around one hour from the central station. Then, it is a short walk to The Hague’s Binnenhof, the complex of buildings housing the Dutch legislature. It was in here that Adrian Van der Donck once persuaded Staten-Generaal to give Manhattan natives a limited type of self-government, which made New Amsterdam America’s first chartered city.