Get to know Amsterdam through Literature: 7 Books for Travelers

Amsterdam is a city with picturesque canals, historic architecture, vibrant culture, and a liberal atmosphere. It has for a long time been a magnet for travelers seeking unique experiences. So, whether you’re strolling along the cobblestone streets, admiring world-class art in the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum, or if decide to taste the city’s famous culinary delights, Amsterdam offers something for everyone. But, you can bring even more richness to your trip if you read some inspiring books before you arrive.

This article wants to give you suggestions for seven books worth reading before you come to Amsterdam. Some of them are tourist literature, while other books are historical novels that will let you see Amsterdam in the old days with your inner eye. You don’t need to read all the books, but we are quite convinced that you will be inspired to read at least one or two of the books on the list if you are a book lover!

Seven books that will make Amsterdam even more interesting as you come to explore the city!

1. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s diary is a poignant and intimate account of life during the Holocaust, offering a profound insight into Amsterdam’s history during World War II. Visitors can explore the Anne Frank House, where Anne and her family hid from Nazi persecution, providing a powerful connection to the city’s past.

This might be the most famous book of them all, and it is a good read both for teenagers and adults.

2. “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

the miniaturist

“The Miniaturist” is a book about a young woman named Nella who moves to Amsterdam in the 17th century to start a new life. She marries a wealthy merchant named Johannes Brandt, but she soon discovers that her new home holds many secrets.

Johannes gives Nella a dollhouse as a wedding gift, and Nella hires a mysterious miniaturist to furnish it. However, the miniatures that arrive are exact replicas of things happening in Nella’s real life, leading her to question how the miniaturist knows so much about her.

As Nella navigates her new life in Amsterdam, she uncovers secrets about her husband, his sister, and the household staff. The book explores themes of love, betrayal, and the power dynamics of 17th-century Dutch society.

3. “Tulip Fever” by Deborah Moggach

“Tulip Fever” is a story set in Amsterdam during a time when people were crazy about tulips, which are pretty flowers. It tells the tale of a young woman named Sophia who gets married to a much older man, Cornelis Sandvoort, because her family is poor.

Sophia feels lonely in her marriage, and she falls in love with Jan, a painter hired to paint her and her husband’s portrait. Jan and Sophia start a secret affair, and they hatch a plan to buy tulip bulbs and sell them for a lot of money so they can run away together.

But things get complicated when Sophia’s maid gets involved in their plan, and the tulip market crashes, causing chaos. The story is full of love, lies, and unexpected twists.

4. “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” by Russell Shorto

amsterdam the worlds most liberal city

“Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” is a book that talks about how Amsterdam became a very open-minded place. It tells the story of the city from long ago until now.

The book shows how Amsterdam started as a small fishing village and grew into a big city. It talks about how people from different countries came to live there, bringing their ideas and cultures. This made Amsterdam a diverse and interesting place.

The author, Russell Shorto, explains how Amsterdam became known for being very liberal. This means that people there are accepting of different lifestyles and beliefs. He talks about how this openness has shaped the city’s history and made it unique.

5. “The Coffee Shop Book Club: The Best of Amsterdam’s Underground Coffee Shops” by Carroll Van West

“The Coffee Shop Book Club: The Best of Amsterdam’s Underground Coffee Shops” is a book that talks about the cool places in Amsterdam where people can go to relax, have a drink, and maybe smoke a little bit of cannabis, which is a plant that some people use for fun.

The book tells you about different coffee shops in Amsterdam and what makes each one special. It talks about the atmosphere, the drinks they serve, and the kinds of people you might meet there. It’s like a guidebook that helps you find the coolest places to hang out in the city.

Carroll Van West, the author, gives you tips and advice on how to enjoy your time in these coffee shops safely and responsibly. It’s a fun book for anyone who wants to explore Amsterdam’s laid-back vibe and experience something a little different.

6. “Lonely Planet Amsterdam”

For practical travel advice and essential tips, Lonely Planet’s guide to Amsterdam is an invaluable companion. Packed with insider recommendations, detailed maps, and up-to-date information on attractions, dining, and accommodations, this guide ensures you make the most of your time in the city.

If you are looking for a book that gives you basic information useful and interesting to a tourist, this might be the best solution.

7. “Amsterdam: A Novel” by Ian McEwan

“Amsterdam: A Novel” by Ian McEwan is a story about two friends named Clive and Vernon who live in Amsterdam. The book tells us about their friendship and the choices they make. Clive and Vernon are both successful men, but they have different views on life. One day, they make a pact, which is like a promise, to help each other if something bad happens to them.

But things get complicated when they both fall in love with the same woman, and they find themselves in a difficult situation. The story explores themes like friendship, love, and morality.

Which book(s) will you read?

Whether you’re drawn to Amsterdam’s rich history, its cultural vibrancy, or its laid-back atmosphere, these seven books offer diverse perspectives that will enhance your travel experience. From gripping historical dramas to insightful travel guides, each book provides a unique lens through which to explore and appreciate the many facets of this enchanting city.

These books will bring Amsterdam to life before you arrive, and you will see, hear, and feel so much more as you walk up and down the actual streets and along the canals of Amsterdam.

Do you have other book recommendations for those coming to Amsterdam? Write a comment and let us hear from you!

Seven Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a destination that attracts millions of visitors each year. From its picturesque canals and historic architecture to its liberal atmosphere and cultural treasures, Amsterdam offers a unique and unforgettable experience. However, tourists can make some common mistakes. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, here are seven mistakes you shouldn’t make in Amsterdam.

Seven mistakes you shouldn’t make in Amsterdam

Ignoring Bicycle Etiquette.

Amsterdam is renowned for being a bike-friendly city, and you’ll quickly notice that locals rely heavily on their bicycles to get around. As a visitor, it’s essential to respect bicycle lanes and signals, as they have the right of way. Avoid walking in the designated bike paths and be cautious when crossing the roads. Familiarize yourself with bicycle hand signals to understand the cyclists’ intentions and prevent accidents.

If you ever drive a car, it is also imperative to always pay attention to the bicycles surrounding you, as they often show up next to your car without much warning.

bicycles amsterdam

Many tourists rent a bicycle themselves. That is awesome, but pay close attention to the traffic, especially trams, as you use your bicycle in Amsterdam. Another important thing is to park your bicycle only where it is allowed. There are dedicated areas where you can park your bike and many locations where you cannot leave your bike. If you still park your bicycle in such a location, it will quickly be removed and you will need to spend a lot of time and pay a certain fee to have it returned.

Underestimating Walking Distances.

While Amsterdam is relatively compact and walkable, some travelers may need to pay more attention to the distances between attractions. The best way to explore Amsterdam is on foot as you will see lots of details impossible to discover from canal boats, cars, or as you ride a bike.

Even though Amsterdam might look small on the map, the distances are still worth considering. If you live near Amsterdam Centraal (the railway station), you must walk 3km to reach the famous Van Gogh Museum at the Museumplein. If you’d rather visit the zoo (Artis Zoo), the distance between the railway station and the zoo is 2km.

van gogh museum
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

What is the conclusion? Bring good shoes, and if you worry about the distances, consider buying a day pass for public transportation or renting a bike instead.

Don’t be rude. Behave nicely!

Politeness and good manners are highly regarded in Dutch culture. Always greet locals with a friendly “Hallo” or “Goedemorgen” (good morning) and thank them with a “Dank je wel” (thank you) after receiving assistance. Being courteous will undoubtedly create a more positive experience during your visit.

Nobody expects you to learn Dutch, but learning a few words will make life so much easier, and you will make a good impression on the locals.

You can read more about it further down in this article, but a part of following the Dutch manners also deals with behaving nicely in the street and trying to make life for locals as quiet and peaceful as possible.

Disregarding Cannabis Laws.

Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops, where you can legally purchase and consume cannabis products. However, remember that some rules and regulations apply.

For instance, you must be 18 or older to enter a coffee shop and consume Cannabis in designated areas only. Public smoking of Cannabis is illegal and can lead to fines, so be mindful of where you’re allowed to partake.

cannabis plant
Source: Pixabay

In other words, don’t expect to see people smoking Cannabis on every corner of the city. That is not what you will see because smoking on the street is illegal, meaning you shouldn’t do it, nor should anyone else.

Don’t expect Wild Parties Everywhere.

Amsterdam has a reputation of being a party city. It is partly true, but the town itself is fighting this reputation. Why is that?

Amsterdam has for years struggled with tourists causing more harm than good. Many tourists come to the Dutch capital to party. As a result, they drink a lot of beer, smoke Marihuana, and sometimes combine it with other drugs. Ultimately, they are stoned and in no control of their behavior. The story often ends up causing harm to the interior of restaurants and bars or with visits to hospitals nearby.

Not only is it destructive for the economy and the city, but it disturbs the locals who want to have tourism banned from the city due to crowds of tourists behaving in this manner.

Amsterdam is trying to protect the locals from the extreme behavior of tourists. If you behave nicely, the city will more likely welcome you with open arms in the future!

Behave with respect in the Red Light District.

People come to Amsterdam with very different imaginations about the Red Light District. No matter what you expect, behaving with respect as you walk in the area is important. First of all, the Red Light District is not all of Amsterdam, but instead certain areas in the center of Amsterdam. You can easily end up walking around the Red Light District without looking for it. No matter how you end up in the Red Light District, here are some mistakes you shouldn’t make while walking around the area.

  1. The people working in the Red Light District is doing so legally. Just like you expect to be treated with respect for your job, these people deserve your respect (and not disgust or condemnation).
  2. Don’t take photographs of people working in the area, nor of the windows where girls offer their services, without permission.
  3. Even though it is a party area, you should walk the streets quietly, respecting the locals and the people working there.
  4. Don’t be tricked into scams. People try to fool tourists everywhere, including in the Red Light District. At the same time, watch out for your belonging and your own safety, especially at night.

Would you like to learn more about the Red Light District? Many walking tours give you insight, tips, and information you will not find elsewhere. You can read more about different Red Light District tours here.

red light secrets
Red Light Secrets – A museum about prostitution in the Red Light District.

Plan your trip, and book your tickets beforehand!

Amsterdam is a city full of cultural delights. Take the time to visit museums like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House. Attend a classical concert at the Concertgebouw or experience contemporary art at the Stedelijk Museum. But, do not forget to plan ahead!

The Anne Frank House is one of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam. Many people plan to visit the museum/house, only to discover that no tickets are available.

If you don’t really care about whether or not you can visit a museum or exhibition, then you don’t need to pay attention to this. But, if an essential part of your stay is a visit to the Anne Frank House, a guided tour to a special location, or a temporary exhibition in the Rijksmuseum, you should definitely do your planning and buy your tickets in advance.

Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House

No tickets left for the Anne Frank House during your stay? Do you want to learn more about the girl, the neighborhood, and about the destiny of thousands of Jews in Amsterdam during the Second World War? Several tours are available dealing with Anne Frank and the Jewish history in Amsterdam. You can read more about Anne Frank-related tours in Amsterdam here.

In conclusion, Amsterdam is a city of surprises, and avoiding these common mistakes will help you make the most of your time in this captivating destination. By respecting local customs, being mindful of your surroundings, and embracing the cultural experiences available, you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime. So, pack your bags, research, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure in Amsterdam!

The three museums all history lovers should visit in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam is an extraordinary city and there are a long list of museums worth visiting as you walk up and down the streets of the Dutch capital. But, which are the top three museums in Amsterdam for history lovers? Here you have our top-three list!

To make your itinerary planning easier, we have compiled a list of the top three best museums in Amsterdam for those who love history – including the history of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Europe in general. If you want even more, we even have some bonus recommendations for you!

The top-three museums in Amsterdam for history lovers!

1. Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is one of the Netherlands’ most important and visited museums. The museum is dedicated to Dutch art and history and it houses some of the country’s most famous works, such as “Rembrandt’s Night Watch” and Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”. Aside from the art, the museum also has an impressive collection of historical objects, relics, and documents from the Dutch history. You can learn about the history of the Netherlands from the Middle Ages to the present day, through objects such as historic ships, furniture, and scientific instruments.

the dutch history in the rijksmuseum

2. Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam and it documents the life of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who hid in a secret annex in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. The museum is located in the building where Anne Frank and her family hid for more than two years and where she wrote her famous diary. Visiting this museum takes you on a journey through the life of Anne Frank, the Nazi persecution of Jews, and the experiences of those living in hiding.

anne frank museum amsterdam

3. Amsterdam Museum

The Amsterdam Museum, formerly known as the Historical Museum of Amsterdam, offers a comprehensive overview of the city’s history. It covers the development of Amsterdam from its humble beginnings as a fishing village to its rise as a major trading hub during the Dutch Golden Age. The museum explores various aspects of Amsterdam’s history, including its architecture, trade, social developments, and cultural heritage. It employs interactive exhibits, multimedia presentations, and historical objects to engage visitors in the city’s past.

amsterdam museum

Want even more? Here you have some additional recommendations!

Bonus 1: Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum is a must-see destination for art lovers and anyone interested in the life of the famous Dutch painter. The museum houses an incredible collection of over 200 paintings, including some of Van Gogh’s most famous works such as “Sunflowers” and “The Potato Eaters”. The exhibit also includes letters he wrote to his family and friends, revealing insights into what inspired him to paint. You can also learn about Van Gogh’s life, emotions, and rise to fame, through interactive exhibits.

van gogh museum in amsterdam

Bonus 2: Museum of Prostitution

Legalized prostitution is one of the things Amsterdam is most known for. Would you like to learn more about the history of prostitution, and also what life is like for a prostitute? At the Museum of Prostitution, you can gain insight into something hidden and banned in most other parts of the world.

Museum of Prostitution - Red Light Secret

At the museum, you will gain information about the Red Light District in Amsterdam, see rooms and what the interior looks like where sex workers do their job, and you can also see what it is like to stand in a window and look at the people passing by as many sex workers on normal days.

No matter what kind of history you are interested in, Amsterdam has fantastic museums waiting for you! If you want more information about programs, activities, attractions, transportation, and about upcoming events in Amsterdam, look around in our Amsterdam Guide.

What is the distance from Anne frank museum to Haarlem?

What is the distance from Anne frank museum to Haarlem?

Hello, and thank you for the question!The distance from the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam to Haarlem is about 20km. There are several ways of getting there, but one of the easiest ways is to walk from the Anne Frank museum to the Central station and just jump on a train that will take you to Haarlem. It is easy, quick and should work perfect.