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Amsterdam

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Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands, located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country. The city, which had a population of 1.36 million (with suburbs) on 1 January 2008, comprises the northern part of the Randstad, the 6th-largest metropolitan area in Europe, with a population of around 6.7 million.

Its name is derived from Amstel dam, indicative of the city’s origin: a dam in the river Amstel, where the Dam Square is today. Settled as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age, a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading center for finance and diamonds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city expanded and many new neighbourhoods and suburbs were formed.

The city is the financial and cultura capital of the Netherlands. Many large Dutch institutions have their headquarters there, and 7 of the world’s top 500 companies, including Philips and ING, are based in the city. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world is located in the city centre. Amsterdam’s main attractions, including its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam. Anne Frank House, its red-light district, and its many cannabis coffee shops, draw 4.2 million tourists annually.

Geography

Amsterdam is part of the province of North-Holland and is located in the northwest of the Netherlands next to the provinces of Utrecht and Flevoland. The river Amstel terminates in the city center and connects to a large number of canals that eventually terminate in the IJ.

Amsterdam is situated 2 meters above sea level. The surrounding land is flat as it is formed of large polders. To the southwest of the city lies a man-made forest called het Amsterdamse Bos. Amsterdam is connected to the North Sea through the long North Sea Canal.

Amsterdam is intensely urbanized, as is the Amsterdam metropolitan area surrounding the city. Comprising 219.4 square kilometers of land, the city proper has 4457 inhabitants per km2 and 2275 houses per km2. Parks and nature reserves make up 12% of Amsterdam’s land area.

Tourism

Amsterdam is the 5th busiest tourist destination in Europe, receiving more than 4.2 million international visitors annually. The number of visitors has been growing steadily over the past decade. This can be attributed to an increasing number of European visitors. 41,743 beds were located in 19,400 rooms in 351 hotels as of 2007. Two thirds of these hotels are located in the city’s center. Hotels with 4 or 5 stars contribute 42% of the total beds available and 41% of the overnight stays in Amsterdam.

The room occupation rate was 78% in 2006, up from 70% in 2005. The majority of tourists (74%), originate from Europe. The largest group of non-European visitors come from the United States, accounting for 14% of the total.[59] Certain years have a theme in Amsterdam to attract extra tourists. For example, the year 2006 was designated “Rembrandt 400”, to celebrate the 400th birthday of Rembrandt van Rijn. Some hotels offer special arrangements or activities due to these years. The average number of guests per year staying at the four campsites around the city, range from 12,000 to 65,000.

Retail

Shops in Amsterdam range from large department stores such as De Bijenkorf founded in 1870 and Maison de Bonneterie a Parisian style store founded in 1889, to small specialty shops. Amsterdam’s high-end shops are found in the streets Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat and Cornelis Schuytstraat, which are located in the vicinity of the Vondelpark.

One of Amsterdam’s busiest high streets is the narrow, medieval Kalverstraat in the heart of the city. Another shopping area is the Negen Straatjes: nine narrow streets within the Grachtengordel, the concentric canal system of Amsterdam. The Negen Straatjes differ from other shopping districts with the presence of a large diversity of privately owned shops. The city also features a large number of open-air markets such as the Albert Cuypmarkt, Westermarkt, Ten Katemarkt, and Dappermarkt.

Fashion

Fashion brands like G-star, Gsus, BlueBlood, 10 feet and Warmenhoven & Venderbos, and fashion designers like Mart Visser, Viktor & Rolf, Marlies Dekkers and Frans Molenaar are based in Amsterdam. Modelling agencies Elite Models, Touche models and Tony Jones have opened branches in Amsterdam.

Supermodels Yfke Sturm, Doutzen Kroes and Kim Noorda started their careers in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has its garment center in the World Fashion Center. Buildings which were formerly housing brothels in the red light district, have been converted to ateliers for young, up-and-coming fashion designers.

Culture and entertainment

During the later part of the 16th century Amsterdam’s Rederijkerskamer (Chamber of Rhetoric) organized contests between different Chambers in the reading of poetry and drama. In 1638, Amsterdam opened its first theatre. Ballet performances were given in this theatre as early as 1642. In the 18th century, French theatre became popular.

Opera could be seen in Amsterdam from 1677, first only Italian and French operas, but in the 18th century, German operas. In the 19th century, popular culture was centred around the Nes area in Amsterdam (mainly vaudeville and music-hall). The metronome, one of the most important advances in European classical music, was invented here in 1812 by Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel.

At the end of this century, the Rijksmuseum and Gemeentelijk Museum were built. In 1888, the Concertgebouworkest was established. With the 20th century came cinema, radio and television. Though most studios are located in Hilversum and Aalsmeer, Amsterdam’s influence on programming is very strong. Many people who work in the television industry live in Amsterdam. Also, the headquarters of SBS 6 is located in Amsterdam.

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What to do in Frankfurt, Germany – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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What to do in Frankfurt, Germany – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Frankfurt am Main commonly known simply as Frankfurt, is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth-largest city in Germany, with a 2008 population of 670,000. The urban area had an estimated population of 2.26 million in 2001. The city is at the centre of the larger Frankfurt/Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region which has a population of 5.3 million and is Germany’s second largest metropolitan area.

In English, this city’s name translates into “Frankfurt on the Main” (pronounced like “mine”). A part of early Franconia, the inhabitants were the early Franks. The city is located on an ancient ford on the river Main, the German word for which is “Furt”. Thus the city’s name receives its legacy as being the “ford of the Franks”.

Situated on the Main River, Frankfurt is the financial and transportation centre of Germany and the largest financial centre in continental Europe. It is seat of the European Central Bank, the German Federal Bank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and the Frankfurt Trade Fair, as well as several large commercial banks.

Frankfurt Airport is one of the world’s busiest international airports, Frankfurt Central Station is one of the largest terminal stations in Europe, and the Frankfurter Kreuz (Autobahn interchange) is the most heavily used interchange in continental Europe. Frankfurt is the only German city listed as one of ten Alpha world cities. Frankfurt lies in the former American Occupation Zone of Germany, and it was formerly the headquarters city of the U.S. Army in Germany.

Among English speakers the city is commonly known simply as “Frankfurt”, though Germans occasionally call it by its full name when it is necessary to distinguish it from the other (significantly smaller) “Frankfurt” in the state of Brandenburg, Frankfurt (Oder).

Population

As a major center of international commerce, Frankfurt is a multicultural city, home to people of 180 nationalities. In addition to the ethnic German majority, the city contain sizable immigrant populations fromTurkey, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Pakistan, Italy, Spain, North African countries, Iran, and Lebanon. The Frankfurt area is also home to the second-largest Korean community in Europe, and to Germany’s largest Sri Lankan Tamil community.

For a long time Frankfurt was a Protestant-dominated city. However, during the 19th century an increasing number of Catholics moved to the city. Today a small minority of its citizens are Catholic. According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, there are 7,300 Jews affiliated with Judaism in Frankfurt, giving it the second largest Jewish community (behind Berlin) in Germany.

Geographic location

The city is located on both sides of the River Main in the south-west part of Germany. The southern part of the city contains the Frankfurt City Forest (Frankfurter Stadtwald), Germany’s largest forest within a city. The centre of Frankfurt is located on the north side of the river.

Neighbouring communities and areas

To the west, Frankfurt borders the Main-Taunus-Kreis (Hattersheim am Main, Kriftel, Hofheim am Taunus, Kelkheim (Taunus), Liederbach am Taunus, Sulzbach (Taunus), Schwalbach am Taunus and Eschborn); to the northwest the Hochtaunuskreis (Steinbach (Taunus), Oberursel (Taunus), and Bad Homburg); to the north the Wetteraukreis (Karben and Bad Vilbel); to the northeast the Main-Kinzig-Kreis (Niederdorfelden and Maintal); to the southeast the city of Offenbach am Main; to the south the Kreis Offenbach (Neu-Isenburg) and to the southwest the Kreis Groß-Gerau (Mörfelden-Walldorf, Rüsselsheim and Kelsterbach).

City divisions and districts

The city is divided into 46 Stadtteile or Ortsteile which are again divided into 118 Stadtbezirke. The largest Ortsteil is Sachsenhausen-Süd. Most Stadtteile are incorporated suburbs (Vororte), or previously separate cities, like Höchst. Some like Nordend arose during the rapid growth of the city in the Gründerzeit following the unification of Germany.

Others were formed from settlements which previously belonged to other city divisions, like Dornbusch. The 46 city divisions are combined into 16 area districts or Ortsbezirke, which each have a district committee and chairperson.

History of incorporation

Until the middle of the 19th century, the city territory of Frankfurt consisted of the present-day Stadtteile of Altstadt, Innenstadt, Bahnhofsviertel, Gutleutviertel, Gallus, Westend, Nordend, Ostend, Riederwald and Sachsenhausen. After 1877, a number of previously independent areas were incorporated into the city, see list of current districts of the city.

Airports

The city is accessed from around the world via the Frankfurt Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt am Main) which is located 12 km (7 mi) from the city centre. The airport has three runways and serves 265 non-stop destinations. It ranks among the world’s top ten airports and is the biggest cargo airport in Europe. The airport also serves as a hub for German flag carrier Lufthansa.

Depending on whether total passengers or flights are used, it ranks as the second or third busiest in Europe alongside London Heathrow Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Passenger traffic at Frankfurt Airport in 2007 was 54.2 million. The airport can be reached by car or bus and has two train stations, one for regional and one for long-distance traffic. The S-Bahn lines S8 and S9 (direction “Frankfurt (Main) Hbf”, “Offenbach Ost or “Hanau”), departing at the regional traffic station take 10–15 minutes from the airport to the Central Station and the city centre, the IC and ICE trains departing at the long-distance traffic station take as well 10–15 minutes.

Despite the name, Frankfurt Hahn Airport (Flughafen Frankfurt-Hahn) is not located anywhere near Frankfurt but is instead situated approximately 120 km (75 mi) from the city in Lautzenhausen (Rhineland-Palatinate). This airport can only be reached by car or bus. An hourly bus service runs from Frankfurt Central Station, taking about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Last year over 4 Million Passengers used this airport in order to use Low Cost Airlines like Ryanair.

Frankfurt Egelsbach Airport is a busy general aviation airport located south-east of Frankfurt International Airport, near the town of Egelsbach.

Roads

The streets of central Frankfurt are usually congested with cars during the rush hour. Some areas, especially around the shopping streetsZeil, are pedestrian-only streets. There are numerous car parks located throughout the city.

Frankfurt is a traffic hub of the German Autobahn system. The Frankfurter Kreuz is an Autobahn interchange close by the airport where the Autobahnen A 3 (Cologne-Würzburg) and A 5 (Basel-Hannover) meet. With approximately 320,000 cars daily it is the most heavily used interchange in Europe. The A 66 connects Frankfurt with Wiesbaden in the west and Fulda in the east. The A 661 starts in the south (Darmstadt), runs through the eastern part of Frankfurt and ends in the north (Bad Homburg). The A 648 is a very short Autobahn in the western part of Frankfurt.

Railway stations

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (or short Ffm Hbf) is the largest train station in Germany by number of platforms and railway traffic. Regarding daily passenger volume it ranks second together with München Hauptbahnhof (350,000 each) after Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (450,000). It is located between the Gallus and the Bahnhofsviertel, not far away from the Trade Fair and the financial district (Bankenviertel).

It serves as a major hub for long-distance trains (ICE) and regional trains (all Rhine-Main S-Bahn lines, two U-Bahn lines, several tram and bus lines). Local trains are integrated in the Public transport system Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the second largest integrated public transport systems in the world. Only the Berlin integrated public transport system (VBB) is larger.

Frankfurt Airport Long Distance Station connects Frankfurt International Airport to the main rail network, most of the ICE services using the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line. It is one of two railway stations at the airport, the other is for local S-Bahn (lines S8 and S9) and regional trains, called Frankfurt Airport Regional Station.

The two major stations in the city centre are Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, both located on Frankfurts most famous shopping street, the Zeil.

Public transport

The city has two underground railway systems: the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn, as well as an above-ground tram system. Information about the U and S Bahn can be found on the RMV website.

Nine S-Bahn lines connect Frankfurt with the Rhine Main Region. All lines have a 30 minute service during the day but the majority of the routes are served by two lines thereby offering a 15 minute schedule. All lines, except line S7, run through the Frankfurt city tunnel and serve the stationsOstendstraße, Konstablerwache, Hauptwache, Taunusanlage and Frankfurt Central Station. When leaving the city the S-Bahn travels above ground. It provides access to the Frankfurt Trade Fair (S3-S6), the airport (S8, S9), the stadium (S7-S9) and nearby cities such asWiesbaden, Mainz, Darmstadt, Rüsselsheim, Hanau, Offenbach am Main, Bad Homburg, Kronberg and smaller towns that are on the way.

The U-Bahn has seven lines serving the city centre and some larger suburbs. The trains that run on the line are in fact lightrails as many lines travel along a track in the middle of the street instead of underground further from the city centre. There is only one line (U4) that is completely underground. The minimum service interval is 2.5 minutes, although the usual pattern is that each line runs with a 7.5-10 minute frequency which combines to approx 3–5 minutes on the city centre sections served by more than one line.

Frankfurt has 9 tram lines, with trams arriving usually every 10 minutes. Many sections are served by two lines, combining to give a 5 minute frequency during rush-hour. The tram runs only above ground and serve more stops than the U-Bahn or the S-Bahn.

A number of bus lines complete the Frankfurt public transportation system. Night buses take over the service of the U-Bahn and tram at 1:30 am to 3:30 am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Taxis

Taxis can be found outside most S-Bahn or U-Bahn stations and major intersections. The normal way to obtain a taxi is to either call a taxi operator or go to a taxi rank. However, although not the norm, one can hail one on the street.

Bicycles

Deutsche Bahn also rent out bicycles to the public. One finds them at many major road intersections and railway stations. All one has to do is make a phone call to hire them for €0.06/min or they can be hired per day for €15,-. The bicycles are a bit heavy but they do haveshock absorbers to ensure a smooth journey. The silver-red colour of the bikes with their unique frame make them easily visible and difficult to steal.

The public can now use a velotaxi which involves the operator using a tricycle with a sheltered passenger cab. There is room for two people and the service covers all of the city centre.

Frankfurt has also a network of modern cycle routes throughout city. Many of the long distance bike routes into town have dedicated cycle tracks. A number of city centre roads are “bicycle streets” where the cyclist has the right of way and where motorised vehicles are allowed access if they do not disrupt the cycle users.

Every first Sunday in the month there is a Critical Mass cycle event which starts at 2 pm at the Old Opera.


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