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Amsterdam see + do

If Amsterdam fell off your "must see" list after your last spring break, put it back on immediately, toward the top. Yes, the famously tolerant, liberal Dutch capital still earns its reputation for louche living with legal you-know-what (and yes, that too), but there's so much more here. The city has been evolving at warp speed over the past decade and now contains probably the highest concentration of exciting modern architecture anywhere in Europe (with the possible exception of nearby Rotterdam). For the best view of the all-new, futuristic Amsterdam, explore the revitalized harbor area, where a 50-acre redevelopment project near the Centraal Station is underway. Other centers of avant-garde design include the city's South Axis, where architects like Renzo Piano have been busy, and the Eastern Docklands, where the manmade islands of Java, Borneo, and KNSM are studies in 21st-century urban planning. Maybe Amsterdam's greatest surprise, though, for those who still envision the city as a decadent late-night orgy, is the sheer magnitude of its outdoor attractions. The massive Vondelpark, the elegant Hortus Botanicus (a botanical garden founded in 1638), the Bloemenmarkt's floating flower stalls, and outdoor markets like the Noordermarkt are the playgrounds where you'll find real Amsterdammers, the minute the sun comes out. What haven't changed, however, are the city's perennial attractions: block after block of 17th- and 18th-century canal houses in the time-warped Canal Rings, and some of the world's greatest art treasures. The Rijksmuseum exhibits the greatest Rembrandts, Vermeers, and Jan Steens—and of course everyone knows about the unmissable Van Gogh Museum.

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Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Even if you've heard the story of Anne Frank time and again, a visit to the house is a must. You'll be surprised at how emotional a walk through the secret...more

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Coffeeshops, Amsterdam

First things first: Marijuana is not fully legal in the Netherlands, although possession and consumption of small amounts are tolerated—a prime example of...more

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Concert Venues, Amsterdam

The 1888, neoclassical Concertgebouw, on the southwest side of Museumplein, is one of Europe's legendary venues for classical music, famous for the near-perfect...more

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De Pijp, Amsterdam

The city's "Quartier Latin" of 19th-century buildings is populated by a mix of cultures, especially Moroccans and Turks, plus students, hipsters,...more

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Eastern Docklands, Amsterdam

Amsterdam contains one of Europe's highest concentrations of exciting modern architecture, and the hottest hotbed is in the eastern harbor, where more than...more

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Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam

A small, smartly curated museum with global clout (and worth at least an hour's visit), Foam specializes in conceptual exhibits from both power-house...more

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Hermitage Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam

The Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg has been loaning art and historical artifacts to Amsterdam exhibitions for years, although it wasn't until 2004 that a...more

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Het Grachtenhuis, Amsterdam

The opening of the Grachtenhuis Museum coincided with the 2010 UNESCO crowning of Amsterdam's central Canal District as a World Heritage site, so the timing was...more

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Museum Van Loon, Amsterdam

If you're itching to get behind the doors of one of those stately Golden Age canal houses, Museum Van Loon is your best bet. The 17th-century house museum, once...more

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Red Light District, Amsterdam

You needn't have any interest in the red lights and what's beneath them to enjoy a stroll here. The interplay of tree, canal, brickwork, and gable here may put...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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