The Canal Ring (Dutch: Grachtengordel) is the famous 17th-century district surrounding the Old Center of Amsterdam. The whole district is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique cultural and historical value. Its property values are among the highest of the country and its squares are the prime nightlife areas of the city.
The most convienient way to get into the Grachtengordel is by tram. From Central Station, the most important tram lines are 1, 2 and 5 which go right through the middle of the Grachtengordel, cutting the western and the southern side of it in half. Notable stops include Koningsplein, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Leiden Square (Leidseplein). The Rembrandt Square (Rembrandtplein) can be reached with tram lines 4, 9 and 14.
The other lines only cross either the western side or the southern side of the canal ring. Tram lines 13 and 17 head for the western side, with the stop Westerkerk as the most notable one as the Anne Frank House is nearby. Trams 16, 24 and 25 go through the southern side of the canal ring with the stops Keizersgracht and Weteringscircuit. East of it is tram line 4 that continues to Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Frederikplein after having served the Rembrandt Square.
Grachtengordel literally means 'canal belt', it's main attraction is the rich architectural heritage of this neighborhood. Built in the 17th Century, the merchant-based oligarchy that ruled the trading city of Amsterdam built canal houses and mansions in the most prestigious locations, especially along the main canals. The city office for architectural heritage BMA has a chronological list of the most important ones:
Singel 140-142, De Dolphijn (circa 1600).
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 14, Wapen van Riga (1605).
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 57, De Gecroonde Raep (1615), in Baroque Amsterdam Renaissance style.
Herengracht 170-172, Bartolotti House (circa 1617).
Keizersgracht 123, House with the Heads (1622).
Herengracht 168 (1638).
Rokin 145 (1643).
Kloveniersburgwal 29, Trip House (1662).
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 187 (1663).
Singel 104-106 (1743).
Singel 36, Zeevrugt (1763).
Anne Frank House (Anne Frankhuis), Prinsengracht 267, ☎ +31 20 556 71 00, . The house where the Jewish girl Anne Frank wrote her diary while hiding with her family from the Nazis. Don't let the long line (or maybe a very short line if you're lucky) discourage you; it moves quickly and the experience inside the hiding places on the top floors is moving. The museum lacks any exhibits to explain the historical context at the time of Anne's diary, however. Go in the early evening around 5PM to avoid any lines, or alternatively skip the lines entirely by reserving tickets from the official website. The Anne Frank House is open later during the summer. Museumkaart and iAmsterdam Cardnot valid.€8.50.
Cat Cabinet (Kattenkabinet), Herengracht 497, ☎ +31 20 626 53 78, . A cat museum. Housed in a beautiful restored palatial home in an upscale area street - very Masterpiece Theater. It was opened by the homeowner after his favourite cat died... and he still lives in the home. Lots of cat-related art, and two real felines. The exhibition is spread across the first floor of the house. €5.
Boom Chicago, Leidseplein 12, ☎ +31 20 530 7300, . The Amsterdam comedy institution since 1993. English language sketch and improv comedy show with extensive use of video, music and the internet. The troupe is sharp and skewers current events, trends and life and local events in Amsterdam. Perhaps the best comedy show in any city. Good food is served before the show and drink service continues all night.
Pancakes! Amsterdam, Berenstraat 38, ☎ +31 20 528 9797, . Amazing variety of both sweet and savory pancakes. Quaint atmosphere and the street side tables are great to watch people. The only downfall is that street side tables attract too many tourists asking for directions.
De Blauwe Hollander, Leidsekruisstraat 28, ☎ +31-20-6270251, . Noon-10 PM. Dutch restaurant with an extensive menu of hearty home cooked dishes like herrings, pea soup and hutspot. Unlike most restaurants in this area, this one gets local diners too, and if it gets crowded enough you may have to share tables. Pancakes served only until 5 PM.€20.
Damsteeg, Reestraat 28-32, . They specialise in fish dishes, but they also have a wide variety of meat and vegetarian meals to choose from. With bar.
Dimitrij, Prinsenstraat 3. Offering dozens of interesting sandwiches and salads. Dimitrij is a must for at least one lunch, and it's on a street which is packed with an ever-changing line-up of fun boutiques.
Akbar, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 15 (Near Leiden Square), . Indian restaurant, Muslim (halal) / Hindu (no beef). Good quality dishes from different regions of India. Main courses €15-20.
La Margarita, Reguliersdwarsstraat 49 (Near Rembrandt Square and the flower market), ☎ +31 20 623 07 07. Daily 5PM-11PM. This Caribbean restaurant offers a huge range of plates, including three different vegetarian options. Every dish comes with ample sides of white rice, black beans, plantains, and vegetables. In addition to having great food, the restaurant is decked out with a range of fantastic and magic-realist art. If you like your food hot, be sure to ask for the special home-made hot sauce. Reservations accepted.€20-30 per person, with drinks..
Proeverij 274, Prinsengracht 274, ☎ +31 20 421 18 48. Daily 6PM-10PM. Small, cosy restaurant at one of the main canals. Business but also romantic dinner. Small menu, new Dutch cuisine with classic french influences. The menu features mainly organic regional produce. Personal service, nice wineadvises and fresh seasonal food in a relaxed environment.
Amsterdam Jewel Cruises, Singel 235 (Near Dam Square), ☎ +31 20 422 13 85 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Exclusive Dinner Cruise / Sailing Restaurant. A la carte dining while cruising the famous canals of Amsterdam.Cruise and 3 courses dinner €115-125.
Nightlife in Amsterdam mostly revolved around two squares: Leiden Square (Leidseplein) and Rembrandt Square (Rembrandtplein). Close to the latter is the Reguliersdwarsstraat, the gay street of Amsterdam.
In between these squares are plenty of other smaller bars, which are also fun at daytime.
Bars and pubs
't Arendsnest, Herengracht 90 (Intersection of Herenstraat and Herengracht), ☎ +31 20 421 20 57, . Su-Th 4PM-midnight, F-Sa: 4PM-2AM. Excellent biercafe serving only Dutch beers and liqueurs, including jenever. Around 30 beers on tap, 17 or so which change regularly, and over 100 bottled. Very friendly bartenders who know beer well and give great recommendations. Try the €8 sampler, which gives you 12cl samples of 3 beers with a glass of water and some crackers.
Dan Murphy's, Leidseplein 7, ☎ +31 20 422 32 85, . One of the many Irish pubs in the city. People from all over the world meet here and watch football, rugby and typical Irish sports like hurling and Gaelic football while drinking a pint of Guinness.
Feijoa, Vijzelstraat 39 (Rembrandt Square, corner of Vijzelstraat and Reguliersdwarsstraat), ☎ +31 6 53 726 137. Cocktail bar with a lovely atmosphere, pleasant music and friendly staff, including one of the Netherlands leading cocktail barmen. Will make any cocktail you ask for.
Hard Rock Cafe, Max Euweplein 61 (Max Euwe Square, close to Leiden Square), ☎ +31 20 523 76 25. This is close to, or right next to the Holland Casino also close to the Leidseplein. Great service, great food, and plenty of drinks.
Mulligans Irish Music Bar, Amstel 100, . The oldest Irish bar in Amsterdam, Mulligans has live music most nights. This is where the traditional music crowd gathers.
l'Opera, Rembrandtplein 27-29 (Tram: Rembrandt Square), ☎ +31 20 620 47 54, . A friendly spot for coffee, a beer, or something stronger. You may at first only notice the outside seating and the enclosed terrace, but there is also an elegant, (usually) quieter indoor area. Food, too, but you don't see many eaters.
Whisky Cafe L&B, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 82-84 (Tram: Leiden Square), ☎ +31 6 245 541 62, . If you like whisky, this small, laid-back and friendly cafe is the ideal place to visit. Many unusual whiskies from independent bottlers and closed distilleries are available. The menu stretches along one wall and is about 2 meters in height, the cafe having had 1001 whiskies available since they opened. Just be warned the stairs to the toilets are pretty steep!
Escape, Rembrandtplein 11 (Rembrandt Square). Famous and conviently located on the main clubbing square, the Rembrandt Square. It is large and attracts the more or less wannabe hip people of the city. The second hall upstairs has a completely different audience, mostly hiphip and R&B enthusiasts. At some events Escape is split in two, which means you can use the backside entry at Amstel for a different party.
Jimmy Woo, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18 (Leiden Square), . The most glamorous club in Amsterdam offers a selection of house and r&b, with a spectacularly lit dance floor downstairs. Entry policy is strict so dress sharp to get in.
Melkweg, Lijnbaansgracht 234 (Leiden Square), . A former milk factory, now it's one of the best clubs of Amsterdam. It's special effects or interior is not as good as Escape, but the atmosphere feels more relaxed. Popular among students and younger tourists, it's a great place to go out till the sun gets up.
Paradiso, Weteringschans 6 (Leiden Square), . Sometimes referred to as a nightclub, it feels more like a nightly music venue. It's interior is phenomenal, being in a beautiful former church, but the main room has relatively bad acoustics. But there are plenty of rooms with plenty of bands performing at the same time. It's mostly rock music, but can really be anything: don't be surprised to be dancing on Russian troika music with thousands of people. Gets fairly packed, even on weekdays and especially after 1AM.
Sugar Factory, Lijnbaansgracht 238 (Tram: Leiden Square), ☎ +31 20 626 50 06, . Bit of a remarkable place that integrates art, music, culture, theater and club into one. It has a relaxed atmosphere with an eccentric artisty audience.Around €10.
The Cave Rockclub, Prinsengracht 472 (Tram: Prinsengracht), ☎ +31 20 626 89 39, . Cozy metal bar with friendly barstaff and interesting regulars, with live performances by touring metal bands on weekends.
Waterhole, Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 49 (Tram: Leiden Square), ☎ +31 20 620 89 04, . Light rock/funk jam sessions in a dingy but atmospheric bar with pooltables. Live bands play.
Blue Moon Bed & Breakfast, Weteringschans 123A, ☎ +31 20 428 88 00, . Bed & Breakfast in the centre of Amsterdam opposite the Rijksmuseum.From €105 to €165.
Hotel de Paris', Marnixstraat 372, ☎ +31 20 623 75 24, . Three star hotel.From €99.
Hotel La Boheme, Marnixstraat 415, ☎ +31 (0)20 624 2828, . Two star hotel with very friendly staff. Clean rooms and free wi fi.
Jewel Canal Apartments, Singel 235, ☎ +31 6 244 575 93, . Two canal side apartments in the center of Amsterdam, close to the Dam Square. Suitable for holiday and business stays. Free high speed internet.From €109 to €179.
Marnix Hotel, Marnixstraat 382, ☎ +31 20 664 6111, . 2 star hotel with dorm beds. Prices from €20 a bed and €60 for a room..
Seven Windmills Bed & Breakfast, Kerkstraat 369, ☎ +31 64284 4533, . Fully furnished vacation apartment in quiet, safe area. Free high speed internet. Continental self catering breakfast included.from €95.
Eden Amsterdam American Hotel (A member of Summit Hotels and Resorts), Leidsekade 97, ☎ +31 (0) 20 5563000, . Listed as an Art Nouveau monument, the hotel is right in the heart of Leidseplein Square. Both Café Americain and Bar Americain are in the hotel, famous for celebrity and VIP spotting.€100-200.
Hotel Ambassade, Herengracht 341, ☎ +31 20 555 02 22, . Four star hotel on one of the main canals. Writers that stayed here left signed copies of their books in the hotel's library. €195.
Hotel Pulitzer, Prinsengracht 315-331, ☎ +31 20 523 52 35, . 25 restored 17th and 18th century canal houses overlooking two of the city's most picturesque canals, Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht, and made famous in Ocean's 12.€259.
CoffeeCompany offers free Wi-Fi at Leidsegracht, the walking street from the Old Center to Leiden Square.