Families happily spend all day in the zoo, but a morning may suffice to see the Jewish sites and the Verzetzmuseum with lunch by the Amstel before tackling the Hermitage.
Short for Natura Artis Magistra ("Nature is the Teacher of the Arts"), Artis was continental Europe's first zoo and is the world's third oldest. Built in the mid-19th century, the 37-acre park is home to a zoo, a natural-history museum and zoological research center, a planetarium with regular films (not just about space), a butterfly pavilion, a geological museum and an aquarium with 500 species of freshwater and saltwater fish, and a fun cross-section of an Amsterdam canal complete with eels and dumped bicycles. Several animal quarters (the poor lions...) are showing their age but Artis has redevelopment plans. It's a good family day out, and the zoo and all its museums are accessible on a single ticket. The Artis Zoo Express canal boat from Rederij Lovers combines a visit to the zoo with an (expensive) hour-long canal tour (in 15 languages) and goes from Centraal Station.
This wonderful botanical garden was originally laid out as a medicinal herb garden in 1638 by the Amsterdam City Council before the collection expanded to include exotic plants from the East India Company's forays into foreign lands. A total of 8,000 species is represented in the ornamental gardens and the three-climate-greenhouse. There's also a butterfly house. One of the treasures, perhaps the oldest potted plant in the world, is a 300-year-old Eastern Cape giant cycad. The orangery houses a wonderful café terrace—one of the most peaceful places in the city to enjoy a cup of coffee. In fact, the Hortus harbors the leafy descendants of the first coffee plants ever introduced into Europe. A Dutch merchant stole one of the plants from Ethiopia and presented it to the Hortus in 1706; they in turn sent a clipping to a botanist in France, who saw to it that further clippings reached Brazil.
From May 14, 1940, to May 5, 1945, the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. This museum looks at the population's response: who resisted and how. All forms of resistance are covered: strikes, forging documents, hiding and escape (such as the Paris route), armed resistance, and espionage. What is really great about the collections is that there's a rich context of everyday life told through personal documents, interviews, and sound fragments that not only communicate what occupied life really felt like but also engages visitors to consider their own behavior and choices today. In educational programs for children aged 10 and up, the concept of "resistance" is given a positive twist, using examples from World War II to make kids aware of the importance of mutual respect, freedom, the fragility of democracy, and their own responsibility in dealing with discrimination and persecution in their own lives. Displays also show how some of today's main Dutch newspapers and magazines, like Het Parool (Password) and Vrij Nederland (Free Netherlands), began as illegal underground newsletters.