IJmuiden (Amsterdam), NL
Amsterdam, the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ capital, is a sprawling city laced with 17th Century canals, which in themselves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was one of the world’s most important ports during that century, known as the Dutch Golden Age, and remains highly ranked globally to this day in terms of livability, innovation and multicultural diversity, with over 175 nationalities represented. Canal tours are a preferred means of exploring the city and getting one’s bearings. The distinctive architecture of the canal-front merchant’s homes tends toward tall, narrow facades (houses were taxed according to their width) topped with ornate crow-stepped gables and equipped with overhanging hoists for lifting merchandise from the canal to the storage loft. The city possesses a wealth of carefully preserved architecture from its entire history, from the 14th Century West Kerk through the Art Nouveau period. The national Rijksmuseum is one of the world’s most famous art museums, renowned for its collection of works by Amsterdam native Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer, as well as Early Dutch masterworks. Located nearby on Museum Square are the Van Gogh Museum, with the world’s largest collection of works by him, and the Stedelijk Museum of contemporary art. The Anne Frank House is also a popular attraction, preserving the home and attic hideaway where the young Jewish diarist was sequestered during the Nazi occupation during World War II. The city is also renowned for its variety of galleries offering art from around the world; for its globally-influenced culinary scene and for the notorious Red Light District where the sophisticated Dutch liberalism is given free rein.