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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore: Sights to see, things to do & where to shop

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Strategically located on the Zuider Zee, Amsterdam has a long history as one of Europe's major centers of trade and transportation. In the 17th century, Dutch exploration reached its zenith and wealth poured into this tiny country from around the world. Designed for foot traffic, Amsterdam is easily toured by walking, rented bicycle, or via tourist boat along its many canals.


Taxis meet cruise ships at the sleek, modern Amsterdam Cruise Port and offer transportation for touring or a ride into the city center.  Only a ten-minute walk away, the bustling, ornate Centraal Station has frequent trains available to outlying areas for exploration. Picturesque Marken, Volendam, Haarlem, and Delft are just a few popular tourist destinations. Working windmills in the Molenmuseum (windmill museum) on the river bank opposite Zaandijk are lovingly maintained and run by people who live in the mills and wish to keep the old milling skills and traditions alive. 

Independent touring in Amsterdam is simple--just pick up a map in the Cruise Terminal and head for Centraal Station and the Museum Boat.  For about $11 you'll get a short narrative and can hop on and off as many times as you like when the boat reaches such stops as the Maritime Museum, flea market, flower market, Anne Frank House, and Rijksmuseum. 

The Anne Frank House is one of Amsterdam's most popular sites and there is often a long line to view the small apartment where Anne and her family hid from the Nazis during World War II. It was here she wrote her diary before the family was discovered and taken to a German concentration camp. For young and old alike, it is a very moving experience to visit her girlhood home and hiding place.

Some of Amsterdam's most popular museums are located in Museumplein.  Rijksmuseum, the State Museum, houses works of 16th- and 17th-century Dutch masters, such as Rembrandt's magnificent Night Watch. The Van Gogh Museum houses the world's largest collection of his paintings and sketches.

Amsterdam's "red light" district is world famous and one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. The "ladies" of the district are displayed in windows and doorways in a variety of poses and stages of undress. 

If you choose to walk, make your way to Dam Square where you'll find the former baroque style royal palace (Kroninklijk Paleis), the World War II monument, Nieuwe Kerk (the site where Queen Beatrix was crowned), and a cornucopia of street performers.

For a delightful view of the city's gabled buildings and many bridges, relaxing canal boat tours are available near Centraal Station at Prins Hendrikkade.


English is widely spoken in Amsterdam and many merchants accept major credit cards. ATMs and currency exchanges are everywhere.

Shops along the Damstraat contain a variety of goods, including popular blue and white Delft pottery and even wooden shoes. Other notable buys range from diamonds to cheese and flower bulbs. Just behind the Koninklijk Paleis is the old post office where trendy shops are now housed in a mall-like setting. Facing the palace, the two narrow streets on either side are pedestrian shopping streets (Nieuwendijk and Kalverstraat) where the latest fashions are found. De Bijenkorf, on Dam Square is Amsterdam's top department store.

Should your cruise begin or end in Amsterdam, check out the great duty-free shopping in the airport.

Back to Europe, Baltic Ports of Call

For a Cruise Diva perspective, follow the Baltic Capitals Cruise Diary

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