What better city to visit on a river cruise than stunning Amsterdam?

Often called the “Venice of the North,” Amsterdam is one of Europe’s loveliest cosmopolitan cities with a captivating beauty and a uniquely enduring charm.

At a mere 800 years old, Amsterdam is a relatively new city by most European standards. A hub of activity during the Dutch Golden Age, Amsterdam quickly sought a way to maximise land and stimulate trade and transport and created a labyrinthine-like network of over 165 man-made canals, wrapping the city with a combined length of roughly 60 miles. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area includes 1281 bridges (including its most famous: the Skinny Bridge aka Magere Brug), 1550 so-called ‘monumental buildings,’ 2500 houseboats (and some of these structures have remarkably been afloat for over a hundred years themselves) and miles of colorful, quaint cobblestone streets.

Of course, one of the other most quintessential Amsterdam sightings is a windmill. The imagery of the windmill is so ubiquitous here – and once such an integral part of Dutch life that a holiday has even been designed to commemorate them (May 11th).

Amsterdam’s vibrant Jordaan neighbourhood is one of the most picturesque and charming in the city. Originally created as a working-class district, with cheaper rents drawing in students, artists and the less well-to-do, the development was not as structured as among those of wealthier zones. But nowadays, this haphazard planning with oddly interconnected streets and canals are one of the Jordaan’s most charming features. A leisurely stroll among its maze-like streets, colourful building façades, quaint eetcafés (similar to a Parisian bistro in sophistication and casual atmosphere), hip bars, gourmet restaurants, specialty shops and art galleries is a lovely way to spend the day. A few times a week, locals wander through lovely Jordaanese open-air markets, selling everything from organic produce to clothing.

Weave through canal and flower-lined streets and listen to the bells toll from the nearby Westerchurch (also known as Westerkerk). These are the bells Anne Frank could hear and which she would reference in her famous diary while hiding from the Nazis. Her house is also located on the edge of the Jordaan district. Another famous resident here was Rembrandt, who moved here in 1658 to take advantage of the then-cheaper rents. He was later buried at Westerkerk.

Another popular attraction in Amsterdam is the Portuguese Synagogue, which celebrates the city’s rich Jewish culture and history of tolerance. The Netherlands (and Amsterdam in particular) welcomed the Jews that were exiled during the Inquisition. The community thrived during the Dutch Golden Age and built one of the grandest synagogues in Europe at the time, housing one of the world’s largest Jewish libraries filled with original and rare texts.

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