There are not many cities that have experienced such social and political extremes in recent history as Amsterdam. In the 20th century alone, Amsterdam faced the atrocities of war for the first time in 400 years, became the radical center of 1960s social movements and witnessed a complete about-face in its core economy. Amsterdam's progressive, multicultural, conscientious and contentious attitude wipes out images of a more docile past and ranks this capital city among the top 5 for European travel destinations.
Precariously positioned on the banks of both the IJ Bay and the Amstel River headwaters, Amsterdam made an early mark on the world with its dominant seafaring fleet and colonial aspirations in the 17th and 18th centuries. Amsterdam's economy turned inward once England emerged as the seafaring superpower. Consequently, most of the enchantingly crooked mansions and townhouses alone the canals are now inhabited by eclectic stores, businesses and engaging galleries and the majority of Amsterdammers live outside of the canal belt.
Museums, Music and a Barrage of Culture
To gain a better understanding of how such a metropolitan city emerged from bogs, swamps and floodplains, visit the Amsterdams Historisch Museum. Extensive documentation covering centuries of growth spans the walls of the exhibits and a detailed segment is dedicated to modern day issues, conflicts and controversies surrounding Amsterdam's path to becoming a free and tolerant society. Then, explore Amsterdam's historic relationship with water aboard the Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum, a dry-docked ship from the East India Company. For a more refined jaunt into the past, a trip to the colossal Rijksmuseum will indulge the senses with fine art from Dutch masters throughout history.