Canals, flowers, a rich historical heritage and a liberal outlook on life all combine to make Amsterdam a wonderful city to visit. Its cultural attractions include fine architecture and some of the world's best museums. For those who enjoy a walkabout town, the canals and open air flower markets provide a fine backdrop to a day's ambling. Of course, Amsterdam is also a destination for many because of its liberal regulations.
The canals are one of Amsterdam's most notable features. Narrow and lined by leafy greenery, they radiate out from the city center in a concentric network. The best way to see them and to observe Amsterdam from a different perspective is to take a tour on a canal boat, of which there are many. Be sure not to miss the pride and joy of Amsterdam, the Hortus (botanical garden), located right in the city center. It began as a herb garden in 1638, and over the centuries evolved into a living museum with specimens from every corner of the globe.
While one could fill volumes with Amsterdam's many attractions, three in particular stand out--the Royal Palace, the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum. Originally designed as a city hall, Amsterdam's 350 year old Royal Palace is a large, imposing stone building, with ornate reliefs as well as beautiful paintings and sculptures on the inside. Also well worth seeing is the Anne Frank house, where the young girl spent two years of her life in hiding during World War II, penning her famous diary.
If you are an art lover, the Rijksmuseum, with its five different sections and numerous masterpieces, houses one of the world's greatest art collections. Most famous of all, and not to be missed, is Rembrandt's masterpiece, The Night Watch. All in all, Amsterdam is generally a very pleasant place to visit, and unless you seek out the seedier aspects or areas, their presence should not negatively impact your visit.