Amsterdam Centrum refers to the main city center of the city of Amsterdam. Many of the main attractions (restaurants, coffeeshops, bars and clubs) are concentrated in a small area of canal belts spreading out from Central Station, the main train station. Here we embark on a walking tour around Amsterdam Centrum, taking us through the most popular sights.
Arriving at Central station after the 35-minute journey from Schipol airport, you are greeted by the large covered glass roof overhanging several platforms serving journeys to and from other regions of the Netherlands as well as further afield in continental Europe. We depart Central Station and emerge on Damrak.
Damrak is the main strip leading from Central station to Dam Square. Pedestrians, trams and bikes heavily populate it — cars are restricted to only a single lane. You can find a multitude of cheap restaurants and snack bars, hotels, souvenir shops and bureaux de change. Nearly all the stores on Damrak exist to serve the tourist trade and you can find pretty much anything you need here.
Parallel to Damrak is the main high street, Kalverstraat. This has your typical fare – local versions of global brands. Whether you are looking for fast food, women’s clothes, sports gear, cell/mobile phones or travel agencies — the names will look new to you but somehow the street will have a familiar feel to it!
At the end of Damrak, maybe 300 or 400 meters walk, you will find Dam Square. Dam Square is considered to be the center of Amsterdam. It is so called because a Dam was constructed here over five hundred years ago. Over the years, it has played host to regular new years celebrations and also political demonstrations and carnivals. Opposite the monument in Dam Square, you can see the imposing Koninklijk Palace, or Royal Palace. Don’t hang around for hours on end waiting for a glimpse of the Queen though as the Dutch Royal family no longer live here!
East of Damrak and Dam Square is the famous Red Light District of Amsterdam. Tourists and locals alike cut through this area or wander around looking at the obvious sights — ladies ply their trade in the windows offering a whole range of services at different prices. You don’t have to buy if you just want to look, indeed most tourists are simply here for the sights. Although often missed, the Red Light District contains some beautiful sights, such as picturesque canals at night and old architecture. The Oude Kerk or Old Church was built in the 13th century but various parts of it have been rebuilt due to damage or fire over the years.
Leidseplein, south-west of Dam Square, is a popular tourist spot. Away from the hustle and bustle of Dam Square and Damrak, Leidseplein is a little more relaxed and offers many things to do. To get there, you cross four of the most famous and picturesque canals in Amsterdam — Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht, Herengracht and Singel. Here, you can find nearly fifty restaurants — whether you like Indonesian, Italian, Japanese or any other cuisine — you can find it here. You can also find some coffeeshops, bars, clubs, comedy venues and tourist shops. Many hotels are situated near here and, unlike the Red Light District and surrounding areas, there are very few, if any, beggars in this area.
Amsterdam Centrum is only a small part of what Amsterdam has to offer. Further afield is the museum quarter, Ajax `ArenA football stadium and the outlying towns.